The Jews Did It!

by Jonah Goldberg

I’m of the school that adding comments to National Review Online has been a mixed bag. In the decade-long internal discussions about it, I was always more in the pro-camp, but I wanted a system that made it possible for the NR family and reasonable visitors to discuss things while keeping the trolls, cranks, and jackwads at bay. We’ve tried, but if you’ve visited the Internet, you know no one has really cracked that nut. Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time. 

In the comments section of my column today, we have a fairly typical example of the downside of comments. Someone with the handle “Jewish-treachery” remarks that Constantinople was brought down by — no really, wait for it — “Jewish treachery.” Whouda thunk it? It’s like that old joke about Lou Gehrig dying of Lou Gerhig’s disease, what’re the odds!? When Mr. Jewish-Treachery is presented with the fact that Jews had nothing to do with the fall of Constantinople his response is, “why do you read fraudulent books published by Jews? your parents did not do a good job.”

And there you have the essence of anti-Semitism. When the facts contradict the slander, it’s only proof that the facts are proof of the conspiracy. He goes on with his crazy talk, but you get the point. Why am I bothering to respond to such a wretched buffoon? Procrastination is surely part of it. Also, when you get as much anti-Semitic garbage in my in-box, it’s always interesting to see something new (I gather this theory stems from the tale of the door of the Kerkoporta gate being open during the siege — though none of the histories suggest this had anything to do with the Jews. No matter, open the door to blood libel and some bigots will go through it). But I also think it’s worth calling attention to this sort of swill from time to time. 

Which brings me to this MoveOn.org petition which asks folks to stop Israel from “literally controlling” the U.S. government. Now, I don’t think the MoveOn folks are members of the same coprophagic​ phylum as my comment-troll, but they suffer from a related form of delusion. If Israel is really controlling the U.S. government, you’d think they be doing a better job of it.

There’s an argument for the existence of God that goes by the shorthand “God in the gaps.” Whenever there is something science doesn’t understand, atheists and others complain, some people insist that these unknowns or mysteries can only be explained by God. Maybe God is the explanation, but the absense of an explanation doesn’t prove it. Anyway, my aim isn’t to wade into all of that. I just think there’s an anti-Semitic argument that has a similar structure. Whenever an obvious explanation for an event — or even despite one — is lacking, a shockingly large number of people assume human will must be the culprit. When that event is unwelcome a somewhat subset of these people leap to the conclusion it must have been the Jooooooooooooze.

It must be such a comfort to have a ready-made explanation for everything that is confirmed by any effort to disprove it.