Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:6
The October 27 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that killed eleven Jewish worshipers and injured four police offices is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. In its aftermath, it has become fashionable for some conservative commentators and Trump supporters to publicly proclaim their anti-antisemitism. In the world of social media, these proclamations have taken the form of – what else – a temporary Facebook profile frame.
Virtue signaling on social media has been elevated to an Olympic sport, and taking umbrage at that signaling is its own competition. Neither event deserves much attention. Yet the Right’s claiming of anti-antisemitism is particularly detestable, as it ignores their very real complicity in creating a climate in which antisemitism thrives.
The mother of all conspiracy theories
In recent years the far Right has embraced the rhetoric of “false flags,” the idea that current events which may cast them or their favored policies in a negative light are not real, but rather covert operations launched by political opponents. Simian poop machines like Alex Jones labeled the Las Vegas, Orlando, and Sandy Hook massacres false flags, designed by the Left to mobilize support for gun control.
These days, false flag allegations are no longer limited to splotchy-faced snake oil salesmen. On October 26, one day before the Pittsburgh shooting, police in South Florida arrested ardent Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc for sending pipe bombs to more than a dozen prominent Democrats and opponents of President Trump. Sayoc plastered his van with decals supporting the President, and pictures of rifle cross hairs over the faces of Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Michael Moore. In the hours before and after Sayoc’s arrest, the nation’s most prominent right-wing extremists claimed the bombings were a false flag, perpetrated by Democrats to help their midterm election prospects. Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, and the President of the United States all used the attempted bombings as opportunities to fight alongside Mr. Jones in the army of the unhinged, because who cares about truth when congressional seats are at stake?
Alas, this it not the first battle the President has fought on behalf of baseless conspiracy theories that undermine our faith in politics. In February 2017, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters that, during a discussion about increasing threats to Jewish community centers, Trump stressed to Shapiro “a number of times” that recent antisemitic attacks around the country might have been perpetuated by Jews themselves.
No matter how many Jewish relatives Trump has, this accusation is one of the oldest and most common iterations of antisemitism, a millennia-old ideology of hatred exemplified by dehumanizing allegations about the power of Jews, myths about a world Jewish conspiracy, and accusations that Jews are responsible for real or imagined wrongs. Historian Jeffrey Herf argues that, “The core of every conspiracy theory is the basic notion that the world is governed by small groups of people who operate behind the scenes and are enormously powerful and enormously evil.” According to Herf, conspiracy theories are uniquely threatening to Jews because their logical conclusion is antisemitism. “I can’t think of a conspiracy theory that at some point or other doesn’t bump into the most famous conspiracy theory, that the Jews run the world.” The most common manifestation of this poison is the Right’s hateful George Soros propaganda; Fox News labeling the 88 year-old holocaust survivor the “Dr Evil of the whole world of leftwing foundations,” Trump claiming Soros was behind the Kavanaugh protests, and Congressman Matt Gaetz “asking” whether Soros was paying Hondurans to “storm the US border.” This last allegation is especially relevant and deadly, considering evidence the alleged Pittsburgh shooter blamed Jews for helping Central American asylum-seekers make their way to the U.S..
Standing apart from Joseph Morgan
Lest we think the the Old Pueblo is not plagued by these demons, we need only look to one of the Arizona Daily Star’s regular columnists to disabuse our naiveté. Joseph Morgan was added to the Star’s editorial page presumably to provide the paper with a conservative point of view. His pieces tend toward doctrinaire conservatism, and a recent one even feinted to bi-partisan moderation. In that piece Mr. Morgan called for increased voter turnout as an antidote to highly charged wave elections that undermine our democracy.
Thus, increasingly, to manufacture voter involvement, the two parties engage in ever-increasing pejorative labeling of their opponent while issues get swept to the side. Rage has become the fuel for political “waves” for each party. The problem with this approach is that anger must continuously be ginned up, division continuously promoted, and our communities are none the better for it.”
As the Vietnamese say, the mouth prays to Buddha, but the heart is full of shit.
Hours after Mr. Sayoc’s pipe bombs were discovered, Mr. Morgan had no problem engaging in “pejorative labeling” of his Democratic rivals. He immediately decried the attempted mass murder as a false flag, put the burden of proof on the reality-based community to prove the bombings were real, and – just for giggles – vilified the gold standard antisemitic bugaboo, George Soros.
After Mr. Sayoc was arrested, and people began to criticize Mr. Morgan for his initial comments, he once again took to social media. In a yawningly predicable post he employed – and conveniently numbered – all of the standard talking points alt-truth tellers deploy when on the defensive.
- What I initially said was not offensive, and if you thought it was it’s your fault for not understanding me in the first place.
- I was just voicing my opinion!
- Fine I may have been wrong, but it really wasn’t a big deal to begin with.
- WHAT ABOUT…???!!!
- I wasn’t really wrong to begin with.
- I was right all along.
All of this should be beneath our notice; just one more hate-monger using social media to spread deeply subversive conspiracy theories that exacerbate antisemitism. Unfortunately, after the October 27 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Mr. Morgan escalated his rhetoric to a new and disgustingly hypocritical level.
Nope. We aren’t together, bubba. You don’t get to play around with libelous false flag allegations that just happen to involve the world’s most demonized Jew one minute, then claim you are against antisemitism the next. Want to stand together? Disavow your baseless conspiracy theories. Recognize that every time you talk about false flags, and accuse George Soros of corrupting our country, you are actively engaging in the oldest and most rancid antisemitism. In case you are curious, you’re not the first person to accuse an elderly Jewish man of controlling events to the detriment of the rest of us.
Of course none of this history and analysis will affect Mr. Morgan in the slightest. He will remain convinced of his moral rectitude, and willfully blind to his role in making our country a more dangerous and antisemitic place. Mr. Morgan may take umbrage at these accusations, and claim his staunch support for the state of Israel is sufficient proof his heart is pure. (Note: beware non-Jewish conservatives who looove Israel. Their world doesn’t pan out well for us Jews in the end.) This is his right, of course. Just as it is my right not to stand together with him and his hateful bile. You’re no friend of ours, Mr. Morgan. We have seen you coming for millennia. You never forget the sight of your oldest foe.
– Joel Feinman