When I think of leftists, college professors protected from reality by the ivory tower come to my mind. But we are all limited by our own experience if we are not careful. Facebook is a wonderful means to take journeys through parts unfamiliar. That’s if you have the time, of course. I spend a good deal of last week taking a trip into the land of the special kind of American leftists who are obsessed with Zionism, Israel and its misdeeds, real or imagined. It was a worthwhile experience.
I could reproduce the whole exchange but then, I would be fairly obligated to comment and it would take me more time than I am probably willing to devote to this ethnographic study. So, here are the points of this week-long exchange that are the most salient for me.
The multilog took place on the Facebook of a Tennessee sometimes-politician and sometimes-radio show host. His name is John Wolfe. You can easily find him on Facebook. Mr Wolfe obviously subscribes, in general, to commonly accepted standards of rationality; he is generally courteous, and he does not make direct anti-Semitic statements although some of his Facebook followers do.
His narrative of Israeli-Palestinian relationships is not frankly at an angle from what I know or think I know. Rather, his narrative is well off to one side. Yet, it falls within the parameters of how one might interpret known facts if one were strongly motivated. Here is an example:
Last week, Judge Goldstone, denounced a big chunk of the report named after him: The “Goldstone Report” The report had accused Israel of a number of war crimes and atrocities on the occasion of its 2009 military attack on Gaza. Judge Goldstone, of course, is a man respected for his immense courage on the occasion of South Africa’s transition from apartheid. Goldstone retracted himself on a specific point: He declared that it was not the case that Israel had deliberately, targeted civilians during its attack on Gaza. The difference between deliberate killing and collateral damage really matters to me personally. The US Air Corps bombed an area close to where I was living in Paris as a baby, thereby risking my life. In the one case, they were terrorists, in the other case, liberators. Well back to Mr Wolfe: When I pointed out the Goldstone retraction to him he replied with a reference to Judge Goldstone’s “fellow Zionists.” He never said why he thought Goldstone is a Zionist. Goldstone has a Jewish name, that’s for sure. That’ enough for left-wing Mr Wolfe to identify him as a potential enemy, erasing a lifetime of Judge’s Goldstone courageous service to liberal causes
Worry not, I think. Those people eat their own. They have done so since Stalin, in the mid 1920s.
I am an old roué. I always think I know everything, have heard everything. Well I am always wrong, it turns out. Here is the most arresting thing Mr Wolfe told me during our exchange on Facebook. I can only paraphrase but I am not worried about distorting what he said. (I am giving Mr Wolfe every chance to correct the record anyway.):
The Israeli attackers tried to disrupt the Palestinians’ genetic make-up by using depleted uranium bullets and phosphorous ammunition during their attack on Gaza.
What foresight, I say with admiration. They not only kill their enemies today, they mess up with their ability to reproduce and to produce more enemies tomorrow!
This is the kind of mental world many leftists in America live in. Their facts are defensible: It’s quite possible that Israeli soldiers used depleted uranium. We do it all the time. Same with white phosphorous although I am a little more skeptical there. (I would want to know how much, where. I would want to know what Humans Rights Watch has to say about it.) So the problem is not the simple facts they use. It’s the twisted, absurd, frankly if deviously insane way in which they weave them together. Unfortunately, this all sounds kind of familiar to me as the host of a conservative radio show. We have our own over-interpreters. I fend them off though. I make them think again or I make them cry. I sure as hell don’t feed their private fantasies.
The second salient statement of the week came from one of Mr Wolfe’s followers, “Bill.” He broke briefly into the fairly rational dialog between Mr Wolf and me with the following:
This is all I need is an elitist with a traditional education wanting to give advice to all who will listen and to many who will not.
He was referring to me of course. Of course, also, I never told anyone on Mr Wolfe’s Facebook about my truly enviable and downright mind-boggling academic achievements. Bill just intuited somehow that Wolfe’s adversary had benefited by a college education.
I thought of the bitterness, of the bile behind Bill’s impromptu remark. I looked him up on Facebook. He graduated from high-school in the early 80s. That makes him nearly fifty. Yet, he has a portrait of a fat Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan tin-pot, military crypto- communist dictator of Venezuela on his Facebook profile page, like an overexcited college sophomore. So, Bill’s pathetic little outburst (that I swatted distractedly with one hand) served as a reminder. Leftie Bill is no college professor leading a comfortable and protected life behind the fabled ivy walls
Many Americans feel that life has passed them by. Some blame this abstraction “society,” for ending up in dead-end jobs, living mediocre lives with no hope whatsoever. Some of them might even be right although it’s difficult for this immigrant to understand how that can be. Such societal losers will always be attracted by magical explanations involving diverse conspiracies. Some will blame bearers of a “traditional education,” like me, although we obviously exercise no power, except that we vote in large numbers and except, perhaps, as purchasers of goods. Some will be attracted to conventional communist explanations simply because they have not heard how real communism, as practiced, has vilified all communist explanations of reality. Others will, as many German losers did in the 1920s, fall back on the simplest possible explanation: The Jews did it!
Because it’s now easy to not be completely ignorant, their leaders, like Mr Wolfe, will herd them away from open expressions of anti-Antisemitism The leaders know anti-Antisemitism was spoiled by the damn Germans in the forties. They know it’s not acceptable in polite society. They know it makes you sound downright stupid. So the hopeless malcontents will be steered by their left-wing thought masters toward “anti-Zionism,” a round condemnation of every action Israel may take except lie down and die, if that. The poorly educated left-wing followers will grasp quickly the paradigm of anti-Zionism:
Jews:Bad/Arabs:Good; Killings by Israelis: Horrible/ Killings by Arabs: Understandable; Jewish Blood: Poison/Arab Blood:Sacred.
I am not describing a conspiracy here but a simplistic, primitive tribal culture.
All of which does not mean that it’s illegitimate to criticize Israeli policies. All of which does not mean that one is morally obligated to consider the creation of the Israeli state an act of immaculate conception. (Look up the term; it’s probably not what you think. You will thank me!) Personally, I think its foundation involved a sin against the small, ignorant, ill-represented Palestinian population. But a cat is a cat. You have to be drinking something funny to keep affirming it’s a coyote or a raccoon.
My radio show, “Facts Matter” comes on on Sunday on KSCO Santa Cruz, 1080 AM. It’s from 11 am to 1 pm. You can catch it on-line while it’s going on.