The right wing is in attack mode now that the #occupywallstreet movement has made it to the mainstream press. Gone are the days of labeling “the left” as a bunch of idealistic communists. These days, the right wing’s modern twist is associating Democrats and Democratic principles with the far right wing ideology of Nazism. A recent example is Hank Williams Jr.’s appearance on Fox and Friends during which he compared the President of the United States to Hitler.
Their latest claim that #occupywallstreet is anti-Semitic is another component to validate their demonization of people who don’t pass their ideological purity test. Recently, a video emerged on Fox news, and various other places, including You-Tube. In the video, a younger man is arguing with an older man at the #occupywallstreet protest. The older man, wearing a Yarmakuh, is Jewish, perhaps an Orthodox Jew. The younger man attacked him with anti-Semitic comments. Based on the comments of this one individual, the right wing is trying to associate anti-Semitism with the Occupy Wall Street protest.
I am offended by the younger man’s comments and I am more than willing to condemn them on the public record as I would when anyone makes an anti-Semitic statement. Doing so does not mean that I abandon progressive ideals and embrace the Tea Party or the Republican Party nor does the fact that this individual made anti-Semitic comments mean that the issues that made Occupy Wall Street necessary are anti-Semitic. There are all kinds of people, including Jews, who object to the greed and corruption associated with Wall Street.
Opposing Wall Street’s greed and corruption is not anti-Semitism. In order to embrace this argument one would have to be anti-Semitic themselves and assume the anti-Semitic sentiment that Wall Street barons are predominantly or exclusively Jewish. The logical extension would be “the Jews” are to blame for America’s economic misfortune.
The right wing’s effort to smear the left in general, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in particular with baseless accusations of anti-Semitism is as offensive. This isn’t the first time, that it has been necessary to address this issue and I suspect it won’t be the last.
In September 2010, Glen Urquhart, a Tea Party candidate for Delaware’s House of Representatives , asserted that the Separation of Church and State originated with Hitler.
“Do you know, where does this phrase ‘separation of church and state’ come from?” Urquhart asked at a campaign event last April. “It was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. … The exact phrase ‘separation of Church and State’ came out of Adolph Hitler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they’re Nazis.”
Glenn Beck is another high profile individual with ties to the Tea party. Frequently during his former program on Fox, Beck tried to establish a nexus between the President of the United States and Nazism. In 2009, Media Matters reported the unusual frequency that Beck drew this comparison on his program. Beck’s frequent efforts to associate liberals, progressive organizations, and anything that isn’t Tea Party as Nazi was well documented by Media Matters.
Now to be fair, to Fox, their “liberals are Nazis” campaign did not start with President Obama. It started earlier, when Glenn Beck compared Al Gore to Goebbels.
The ADL’s press release in response to the Goebbels comparison explains why Fox’s brand of showing Jews the love is not only unwanted, it is outright offensive.
Glenn Beck’s linkage of Hitler’s plan to round up and exterminate Jews with Al Gore’s efforts to raise awareness of global warming is outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive. Unfortunately, his remarks are just the latest example of a troubling epidemic on the airwaves, where comparisons to Hitler and the Holocaust are becoming all-too facile.
It has become almost commonplace for talk-show pundits to use comparisons to the Holocaust and Nazi imagery to attack people whose views they disagree with, whether the issue is global warming or immigration, as we witnessed when CNN’s Lou Dobbs recently suggested on his program that immigrant rights groups use tactics similar to those of Nazi propagandists.
The six million Jewish victims and millions of other victims of Hitler deserve a measure of respect. Their deaths should not be used for political points or sloganeering. Every time a radio or television personality takes that unique event in history and twists it for their own political agenda, it cheapens the public debate and distorts and trivializes the Holocaust.
When Hank Williams Jr. compared President Obama with Adolf Hitler ESPN publicly denounced him and publicly disassociated itself with him. Therefore, ESPN is not anti-Semitic. As in the case of Glenn Beck, Fox didn’t publicly denounce Hank Williams Jr. So what does that say about Fox? What does that say about Fox given it’s history with Glenn Beck, and it’s reaction to Glenn Beck’s anti-Semitism?
In 2010, Glenn Beck asserted that George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, was a Nazi. Right wing bloggers exploited the opportunity to reinforce the “liberals are Nazis” meme, with the same fiction upon which Beck based his assertions. Indeed, Beck’s claims were seen as offensive from Jews who may disagree with Soros’ politics, but were appalled by Beck’s effort to paint him as a Nazi. Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation Leagues, reacted to Beck’s assertion, as reported by the Huffington Post.
Glenn Beck’s description of George Soros’ actions during the Holocaust is completely inappropriate, offensive and over the top. For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say – inaccurately – that there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, as part of a broader assault on Mr. Soros, that’s horrific.
While I, too, may disagree with many of Soros’ views and analysis on the issues, to bring in this kind of innuendo about his past is unacceptable. To hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant.
The Holocaust was a horrific time, and many people had to make excruciating choices to ensure their survival. George Soros has been forthright about his childhood experiences and his family’s history, and there the matter should rest.
Fox responded with a defense of Beck’s statements, as reported by Think Progress:
Yet despite this condemnation from major Jewish groups, Fox News continues to stand by Beck. A spokesman said yesterday that “information regarding Mr. Soros’s experiences growing up were taken directly from his writings and from interviews given by him to the media, and no negative opinion was offered as to his actions as a child.” In reality, when he was 14, Soros was protected from the Nazis by pretending to be a Christian boy, and was once present when a Jewish family had their possessions taken.
Michelle Goldberg explained the motive behind Beck’s assertion, a motive that continues to resonate in today’s efforts by the right wing to associate liberals with Nazism.
To inoculate himself against charges of anti-Semitism, Beck hurled them at Soros, pointing out that he’s an atheist and a critic of Israel. He accused Soros of helping Nazis steal Jewish property as a teenager and of feeling no remorse about it.
Attacks such as Glenn Beck’s against George Soros are not about left vs right, conservative vs. liberal. They are anti-Semitic in nature, as explained by Goldberg.
It’s entirely possible that Beck has waded into anti-Semitic waters inadvertently, that he picked up toxic ideas from his right-wing demimonde without realizing their anti-Jewish provenance. Early on Wednesday’s show, Beck cited the “Prime Minister of Malaysia” on Soros’ villainy. As Media Matters pointed out, he was almost certainly talking about former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Maybe he doesn’t know that Mohamad also said, “We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews, but in reality it is a Jew who triggered the currency plunge, and coincidentally Soros is a Jew.
Let’s begin with the logical flaws in the claim that the left attributes racism to the Tea Party based on the sentiments of one individual. The public record on racist comments and attitudes among the more high profile supporters and leaders of the Tea party reveals that, at the very least, there is a xenophobic element within the Movement. Moreover, that xenophobic element has existed from the earliest days of the current “Tea Party.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, stormfront.org planned to recruit from the Tea Party as early as 2009.
Here are some of the posts made by stormfront members, that the ADL found on stormfront.org’s website.
Posts to Stormfront:
- “We need a relevent [sic] transitional envelope-pushing flyer for the masses. Take these Tea Party Americans by the hand and help them go from crawling to standing independently and then walking toward racialism.”
- “We intervene to shape the new pro-White grassroots agenda from within the crowd. We intervene for active effect at the event, for advancement of White racial consciousness and solidarity, and for the growth of the organized grassroots White mass movement and the most perceptive racially aware activist element.”
- “I also agree that spreading the WN message at these events is a good idea-it’s time already,we’ve gotta do it!! Carefully, of course.”
- “A big crowd of irate White folks protesting the government seems like the perfect time and place for us WN’s to promote our cause, at least to my way of thinking.”
- “I distributed WN literature at the last Tea Party in Phoenix. I will be doing it again in July. This is the time and the place. For those on a budget, I would suggest printing business cards with the web address of your group or organization. Keep it simple.”
- “I think they’d be ideal for spreading WN literature and gaining recruits in large numbers, more quickly.”
In 2009 the ADL also reported there was at least one Tea Party organizer who was . . . sympathetic to white nationalists. Billy Roper, who claimed to be a Tea Party organizer in Arkansan, wrote a post in the White Revolution blog, that he would be sending White Revolution “representatives who will be witnessing and converting lost souls at Tea Parties from North Carolina to Arizona. (emphasis in the original.)
In January 2010, the “Tea Party’s” beloved Sarah Palin made her infamous blood libel comment during an 8 minute video on her Facebook Page: “journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”
This is of particular interest for several reasons. First, Sarah Palin is not just a random member of the Tea Party. As a former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin has a fair amount of public speaking experience. Moreover, this was a video that was put on her Facebook page. That means she had the opportunity to consider the comments she made before the video was released in that public forum. If she didn’t know what blood libel meant, which I find hard to believe, surely she had the resources to find out. Just like with Glenn Beck, Fox didn’t denounce Sarah Palin’s views either.
Playing the Anti-Semite card is, in reality, consistent with the far right’s meme that people to the left of the far right are Nazis. One could argue #occupywallstreet has similarities with Nazi Germany as it is about being angry with big finance, just like the Germans were made to believe that the Jews controlled the money and were therefore to blame. One problem with the far right’s claim is that they are in reality, dog whistling the anti-Semites among them, utilizing anti-Semitic rhetoric and projecting it as a view of the left.
This appears to be the motive in a series of tweets by Andrew Breitbart last night before last.
Despite some associations with white supremacists, along with anti-Semitic comments made by Tea Party Leaders, Breitbart attempts to inoculate the Tea Party and himself by asserting that the comments of one individual at the Occupy Wall Street protest reflected the views of the organizers, the participants and everyone on the left.
If we accept that the views of one individual, who does not hold any official capacity with Occupy Wall Street, as reflective of the protesters views, that of each individual participating, and of everyone on the left, what happens if we apply the same standard to the Tea Party? After all, the Tea Party’s financiers, some of its organizers and more than one of its high profile personalities have been associated with anti-Semitism or have made anti-Semitic comments, which to date, the Tea Party has not denounced.
Adalia Woodbury is a part-time legal researcher and publisher of Nuts and Dolts
You can find her on twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/CitizenWonk
Adalia Woodbury is a political blogger