Controlling "The Bounds Of Public Discourse"
February 03, 2012, 01:25 PM
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Back in December, Elliott Abrams published a fascinating denunciation in The Weekly Standard of two of America`s most virulent anti-Semites. (As you read this, keep in mind that Mr. Abrams is a long-time diplomat. His biography at the Council of Foreign Relations where, among numerous other institutions, he now hangs his hat, says: "Former senior director for democracy and human rights, senior director for the Near East, and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration.")
Blaming the Jews—Again
If you were an anti-Semite dedicated to spreading your hatred of Jews, what charges exactly would you make in 21st century America?

Let`s pause here, and you try to guess which two anti-Semites dedicated to spreading their hatred of Jews this long-time diplomat is thinking of ...
There are two charges you would make. First, the rich Jews control our government. Second, those Jews are trying to push America into war so your sons will have to fight for Israel.
In the last week that is exactly what we have seen. First came the Thomas Friedman column in the New York Times: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Perhaps it was jealousy from seeing Walt and Mearsheimer sell all those books with this line, but Friedman here tips right into the swamps. 

And now we have Joe Klein, in Time magazine, in a section accurately entitled “Swampland”: “Iowa Republicans are not neoconservatives. Ron Paul has gained ground after a debate in which his refusal to join the Iran warhawks was front and center. Indeed, in my travels around the country, I don’t meet many neoconservatives outside of Washington and New York. It’s one thing to just adore Israel, as the evangelical Christians do; it’s another thing entirely to send American kids off to war, yet again, to fight for Israel’s national security.”

Now, Klein has chosen his medium well: Time has a history of anti-Semitism, illustrated by its famous 1977 story about Israel’s prime minister that began “Menachem Begin (rhymes with Fagin).” But Klein’s thoughts are about as ugly as ever appear outside of Pat Buchanan’s publications. “There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East-the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States,” Buchanan said in 1990.


Okay, so now we know. The Real Anti-Semites are Joe Klein of Time and Tom Friedman of the New York Times.
These two recent statements are as vicious as it gets in the mainstream media, and here we have two Jews—Friedman and Klein—spreading the two major themes of contemporary American anti-Semitism. Why? Why now?   

Why does it matter? Perhaps it is their hatred of Israel’s right of center government, or of modern Israel, or of the rise of Orthodoxy in Israel and in the American Jewish community. Let us not descend into such analyses when what matters is not abnormal psychology but the bounds of public discourse. Once upon a time, William F. Buckley banned Pat Buchanan from the pages of National Review and in essence drummed him out of the conservative movement for such accusations. 


Obviously, famous old super-Establishment Jewish pundits like Friedman and Klein aren`t in much danger from the constant playing of the Anti-Semitism Card. But the sheer dementedness of fulminating against Friedman and Klein for hating Jews has a chilling effect on all others with a lick of sense about their future career trajectories, especially if they are gentiles.

One of the big changes in my lifetime has been the attitude of Jews toward "the bounds of public discourse." When I was young, Lenny Bruce, say, was a famous martyr in the cause of enlarging the bounds of public discourse. Now, more energy is devoted toward policing the limits. 

Once again, let me point out that much of what seems vastly important to the neocons strikes me as being roughly as important as college football. Jews will still do fine if the "bounds of public discourse" are less constricted. As you may have noticed, Jews tend to be good at public discourse: tending to be funny, logical, well-informed, articulate, and so forth. Bullying people into self-censoring like this is just plain overkill driven by hyper-competitiveness and being shielded from criticism. On the whole, criticism makes people behave better. So, if nobody is allowed to notice your faults, your faults are likely to get worse.

Personally, I kind of care about college football, and thus I find it perfectly understandable that lots of influential people in the U.S. want their team to be the BCS champion of the Middle East, just like American Catholics used to get a huge kick out of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beating the rich Protestants of USC.But what I really care about is the quality of public discourse in the U.S. And the most obvious way to undermine that quality is to narrow the bounds of public discourse. Is this really that complicated?