Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: antisemitism (page 1 of 1)

Ken Burns’s ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ – Dara Horn:

Burns has a soft spot for Franklin and Eleanor, the subjects of one of his prior films, and here he treats them with kid gloves, blaming most of the missteps on State Department antagonists. The series makes a point of establishing the bigoted, racist atmosphere of the U.S. at the time, showing Nazi rallies in New York, clips of the popular anti-Semitic broadcaster Father Charles Coughlin, and colorized footage of a Nazi-themed summer camp in New Jersey. But the film goes out of its way to outline the pros and cons of Roosevelt’s decisions, leaving his reputation intact. To be clear, Roosevelt is an American icon and deserves to remain one. The problem with this approach is less about Roosevelt (there are plenty of convincing arguments in his favor, not least that he won the war) than about how it contradicts the rest of the film’s premise. The goal of the series is seemingly to reset America’s moral compass, using hindsight to expose the costs of being a bystander. But every bystander, including Roosevelt, can explain his choices. The film’s refusal to judge the commander in chief plays into a larger political pattern: offering generosity only toward those we admire.

Or whom we perceive to be on Our Team. The whole essay is excellent, but I especially appreciate the unpacking of this point: “Democracies, for all their strengths, are ill-equipped for identifying and responding to evil.” 

Antisemitism and Evidence

Freddie deBoer’s critique of Conor Friedersdorf’s post on European antisemitism is too careless. Freddie:

Friedersdorf spends the requisite amount of time showing Grave Concern about the increasing threat to Europe’s increasingly threatened Jews, who are threatened, at an increasing level. Near the end, he helpfully includes the caveat: “The degree of danger that Jews in Europe actually face is beyond my knowledge.” Or to paraphrase, the phenomenon that is the sole justification for my piece may or may not be occurring, I just don’t know. It’s an excellent little bit of postmodern maneuvering: I’ll take my Muslim-throngs-are-advancing-across-Europe clicks, please, but don’t take my word for any of this.

If you’re interested in looking at some actual facts about the constantly-expressed fear that Europe’s Muslims are creating an atmosphere of stifling anti-Semitism, rather than just read the assertion one more time, you might start here.

If you follow Freddie’s link you’ll see that that it’s to a piece about antisemitism in Britain and only in Britain, whereas Conor’s post is about Europe as a whole. Antisemitism could be a non-issue in Britain and still be a serious Europe-wide problem.

Moreover, Freddie’s simply wrong when he says that Conor merely asserts that antisemitism is rising in Europe. Conor links to this article which in turn links to several studies indicating significant upturn in antisemitic events in various parts of Europe. Conor even links to one of those studies as well. So Conor provides considerably more evidence by which one could assess these questions than Freddie does.

If you follow up those links, you’ll get the impression that antisemitic actions and attitudes vary considerably within Europe. All of the studies are relatively localized — at best national in scope. It is this variability that leads Conor to say “The degree of danger that Jews in Europe actually face is beyond my knowledge.” There’s not enough evidence at this point to make a continent-wide judgment — or if there is then neither Conor nor I know about it.

Antisemititic attitudes and actions are clearly real, and given what happened to Europe’s Jews less than a lifetime ago, it makes sense to be concerned about it — to investigate it further, to gather information, to study the information that has already been gathered. Freddie’s sneering about “Grave Concern” and “Muslim-throngs-are-advancing-across-Europe” is a sophomoric response to genuine suffering. And you know, compassion isn’t a zero-sum game: caring about Europe’s Jews doesn’t prevent us from caring about others who are also hated not for what they’ve done but for what they can’t help being.