Connect with us


The exhausting, never-ending job of debunking antisemitic conspiracy theories



(JTA) — A few days after the comedian Dave Chappelle appeared to justify the never-ending appeal of Jewish conspiracy theories, this sentence appeared in the New York Times: “Bankman-Fried is already drawing comparisons to Bernie Madoff.”

I’ll explain: Sam Bankman-Fried is the 30-year-old founder of FTX, the crypto-currency exchange that vaporized overnight, leaving more than 1 million creditors on the hook. Bernie Madoff, is, of course, Bernie Madoff, the financier who defrauded thousands of investors through a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme and died in prison.

It’s a fair comparison, as a former regulator tells CNN: “Bankman-Fried, like Madoff, proved adept at using his pedigree and connections to seduce sophisticated investors and regulators into missing ‘red flags,’ hiding in plain sight.”

Nevertheless, seeing these Jewish figures lumped together, I braced myself for the inevitable: Nasty tweets about Jews and money. Slander from white supremacists. Plausibly deniable chin-scratching from more “mainstream” commentators.

What comes next is a familiar script: Jewish defense groups issue statements saying conspiracy theories traffic in centuries-old antisemitic tropes and pose a danger to the Jews. Jewish news outlets like ours post “explainers” describing how these myths take hold.

It’s exhausting, having to deny the obvious: that a group of people who don’t even agree on what kind of starch to eat on Passover regularly scheme to bilk innocents, manipulate markets or control the world. And it often seems the very attempt to explain these lies and their popularity ends up feeding the beast.

Chappelle’s now notorious monologue on “Saturday Night Live” is a case in point. At first pass, it is a characteristically mischievous attempt to both mock the rapper Kanye West for his antisemitism, and to push boundaries to explain why a troubled Black entertainer might feel aggrieved in an industry with a historic over-representation of Jews. Jon Stewart certainly heard it that way, telling Stephen Colbert, “Look at it from a Black perspective. It’s a culture that feels that its wealth has been extracted by different groups. That’s the feeling in that community, and if you don’t understand where it’s coming from, then you can’t deal with it.”

That is a useful message, but consider the messenger. Chappelle appears to disapprove of West’s conspiracy-mongering, but never once discusses the harm it might cause to the actual targets of the conspiracies. Instead, he focuses on the threat such ideas pose to the careers and reputations of entertainers like him and West. The “delusion that Jews run show business,” said Chappelle, is “not a crazy thing to think,” but “it’s a crazy thing to say out loud.” He ends the routine by ominously invoking the “they” who might end his career.

That’s what critics meant when they said Chappelle “normalized” antisemitism: He described where it’s coming from, explained why his peers might feel that way, and only criticized it to the degree that it could lead the purveyors to be cancelled. It’s like saying, “You don’t have to vaccinate your kids. Just don’t tell anybody.”

This week I worked with a colleague on an article about how the “Jews control Hollywood” myth took hold, and at each step of the way I wondered if we were stoking the fire we were trying to put out. No, Jews don’t control Hollywood, we reported, but “nearly every major movie studio was founded in the early 20th century” by a Jew. Those moguls rarely used the movies as a platform to defend Jewish interests, but per Steven Spielberg, “Being Jewish in Hollywood is like wanting to be in the popular circle.”

A documentary shown Thursday night at the DOC NYC festival here in New York teeters on the edge of the same trap. “The Conspiracy,” directed by the Russian-American filmmaker Maxim Pozdorovkin and narrated by Mayim Bialik, uses 3-D animation to explain how conspiracists ranging from a 19th-century French priest to American industrialist Henry Ford placed three Jews — German financier Max Warburg, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and falsely accused French soldier Alfred Dreyfus — at the center of a vast, contradictory and preposterous scheme to take over the world. It connects age-old Christian animosity to the Jews to centuries of antisemitic paranoia and fear-mongering that led to unspeakable violence at Kishinev, Auschwitz and Pittsburgh. “This myth has plagued the world for centuries,” Pozdorovkin explains.

Or at least that’s the message you and I might have gotten. But I can also see someone stumbling on this film and being seduced by the rage and cynicism of the conspiracy-mongers — who, I should note, are quoted at length. Part of the problem is the film’s aesthetic: a consistently dark palette and a “camera” that lingers on ugly examples of antisemitic propaganda. Even though these images are seen on a creepy “conspiracy wall” and connected with that red thread familiar from cop shows and horror films, I can well imagine an uninformed viewer asking why members of this tiny minority seem to be at the center of so many major events of the 19th and 20th centuries.

I was reminded of a joke by the Jewish comedian Modi, ridiculing the ritual of inviting celebrities accused of antisemitism to visit a Holocaust museum. “Which is the stupidest idea, ever,” he says. “You’re taking someone who hates Jews into a Holocaust museum. They come out of there [saying] ‘Wow! Oh my God, that was amazing! I want a T-shirt!’”

The poet and essayist Clint Smith, whose cover story in next month’s Atlantic explores the meanings of Holocaust museums in Germany, makes a similar point. After visiting the museum in Wannsee documenting the infamous meeting in which the Nazis plotted the Final Solution, he wonders: “Might someone come to a museum like this and be inspired by what they saw?”

The makers of “The Conspiracy” (oy, that title) obviously intend the very opposite. In an interview with the Forward, Pozdorovkin agrees with the interviewer’s  suggestion that those “who most need to see this film might be the least likely to be convinced by it.”

“My hope is that this film has a trickle-down effect,” he explains.

The fault lies not with those who seek to expose antisemitism but with a society that relies on the victims to explain why they shouldn’t be victimized. As many have pointed out, antisemitism isn’t a Jewish problem; it’s a problem for the individuals and societies who pin their unhappiness and neuroses on a convenient scapegoat. Ultra-nationalism and intolerance are the soil in which conspiracies take root.

But as long as scapegoating remains popular and deadly, the victims have to keep explaining and explaining the obvious — that, for instance, the fact that Sam Bankman-Fried and Bernie Madoff are Jewish is no more significant than the fact that Henry Ford and Elon Musk, two people who founded car companies, are gentiles.

The question is, who is listening?

The post The exhausting, never-ending job of debunking antisemitic conspiracy theories appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

Continue Reading

Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

Continue Reading


Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News