The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Familiar Smell

All of us are shaped by our times and places. How could it be otherwise? When I was growing up (in America), the anti-Semitism of the Right was generally a thing of the past. We were aware of it, of course — but chiefly as an historical phenomenon. The Left was fast becoming the locus of anti-Semitism. And it seemed to begin in Moscow.

Later, there was the “BDS” movement, targeting Israel. It became increasingly hard to distinguish criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism, plain and simple. Paul Johnson told me once, “Scratch someone who is anti-Israel, and you won’t have to dig very far until you reach the anti-Semite within.”

Right and Left often switch places, or seem to. I discussed this several years ago with Ed Koch (who was always a fantastic interviewee). What I mean is, we discussed Left, Right, and anti-Semitism. For that interview — filmed — go here.

In my Impromptus today, I have a variety of items, as usual, including one on Nigel Farage, the UKIP man in Britain (and campaigner for likeminded people around the world, including Alabama’s Roy Moore). On his radio program, he made some head-scratching remarks about the “Jewish lobby” in America. Perhaps he was not at his clearest-thinking.

Another item in my column goes like this:

A man posing as a Washington Post reporter was trolling around Alabama. He was offering cash in exchange for dirt on Roy Moore. Between $5,000 and $7,000! He was trying to discredit the Post’s reporting, of course.

And what was he calling himself? “Bernie Bernstein.” Interesting. Wonder if the name was chosen at random. Could just as easily have been “John Smith,” right? Or even “Lucy Hickenlooper.”

(This was the real name of Olga Samaroff, the pianist who married Leopold Stokowski, the conductor, who was also married to Gloria Vanderbilt, who is Anderson Cooper’s mother.)

“Never look at the comments,” some say. It’s true that there is a lot of the smelly, to go with the sweet. (Like life itself?) I peek in now and then, to see what’s up. I appreciate the sweet, naturally. I appreciate the reasonably critical. I even appreciate some of the artful, or piquant, smelly.

But today there was this, re “Bernie Bernstein”:

Don’t you think the fact he would use that name might warrant not criticism of him, but rather self reflection among the Jewish elites and perhaps even some concern that Leftist Jews have gone so far that normal people simply expect any member of the Lügenpresse to have a Jewish name?

Lügenpresse, of course, is that old Nazi term, recently revived. It means “lying press.” It is a version of “fake news,” or “FAKE NEWS!!!!”

For decades, the founder of our magazine, William F. Buckley Jr., worked his tail off to divorce conservatism from anti-Semitism. It was one of his (many) mitzvahs, so to speak — one of his good deeds. In recent years, I have seen an explosion of anti-Semitism on the right, and “seen” is the right word, for there is no doubt it has always been there, only submerged. The social media coax it out of the woodwork. (The social media, it’s true, coax everything out of the woodwork.)

What do “Left” and “Right” mean, really? More and more, I find those terms confusing, or slippery. What is Putin? What camp does he belong to? He’s an enduring KGB officer, yes, but looked up to by rightist movements everywhere.

Earlier this week, I did a “Stockholm Journal” and touched on a party, the Swedish Democrats:

They have their roots in Nazism. They are nationalist and populist. They are anti-EU and anti-NATO. Generally, they are considered right-wing. But are they left-wing? Does it matter?

There is a point at which Left and Right join . . . 

Anti-Semitism and other ugly, often murderous isms, we will always have with us, apparently. I suppose the only answer is to keep them at bay — eternal vigilance, which may be tiring, but which is less costly than inattention.

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