My Belated Education

My Belated Education

I know I’ve told this story before, but for reasons that will be obvious, I’ll tell it again.

When I was nine, my parents took me and my brothers on a three-week trip to Europe.  The premise/excuse for the trip was that my father was presenting a paper at an engineering conference in Montreux, Switzerland.  He had also been granted a visa to visit Czechoslovakia and to meet with engineers doing research similar to his own in Prague.  The trip was, at various times, incredible, entertaining, and downright miserable.  Three weeks with five people, including three pre-teen boys, crammed into a Simca 1100 was…well… an adventure.

Above all, though, the trip was enlightening, even (or especially?) for a nine-year-old boy.  In addition to the utter backwardness of Soviet-era Czech society, contrasted against the kindness of the Czech people, the things I remember most are the visits to the monuments to Europe’s then-recent monstrous history.  In Amsterdam, we visited Anne Frank House.  In Bavaria, we braved a near-death experience, courtesy of a daredevil bus driver, to see the Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.  In Munich, we visited the Olympic Village and the memorials to the murdered Israeli athletes.  And most dramatically, on a fittingly cool, dreary, and rainy day, we drove that Simca the 32 miles from Munich to Dachau, where we saw firsthand the Nazi’s idea of a “final solution” to the “Jewish question.”

Despite the fact that I grew up in lily-white Lincoln, Nebraska, where I attended Catholic school with other Catholic kids, and never really knew a single Jewish person until I arrived on campus at the University of Kansas, I’ve always thought that these childhood experiences made me relatively sensitive to antisemitism.  It almost goes without saying that one can hardly stand in the crematorium at Dachau or peek through the windows of its Brausebad (gas chambers) and not be at least somewhat sensitized to the plight of Jewish people – even in the “modern,” enlightened West.

Anyway, I recount all of this, to confess that I was embarrassingly wrong, that I was not – am not – particularly sensitive to the antisemitism in our society, my pretensions to the contrary notwithstanding.  Like many people who are involved in politics to some extent or another and who also approach politics from a specific perspective, I have some blind spots.  In this particular case, I have long believed that contemporary antisemitism is largely a phenomenon of the political Left.  I know that, traditionally, antisemitism is associated with the far-Right, but I also know that the Left’s oppressor-oppressed/colonizer-victim view of the world and its power relationships has made it and its adherent especially susceptible to hating Jews.  I have, in fact, written about that view of the world countless times in these pages.  Accordingly, I have managed to convince myself – unwittingly, to be sure – that complaints of Right-wing antisemitism these days are largely overblown, that blaming the Right is simply a way for the Left to deflect from its own crippling pathologies.

As it turns out, I was wrong – and I was the one deflecting.

I am not especially adept at using social media, and nor am I used to people acknowledging anything I’ve done on social media.  This week, a friend, who has far greater visibility than I do, posted on Twitter/X a link to my American Greatness column about Larry Fink and the perils of fame.  I am – I should note up front – exceptionally grateful for this tweet and for the exposure it provided for my column.  I am often humbled and amazed at the kindness of the friends I have made in this business over the years.

All of that said, I was more than a bit surprised by some of the reactions to my piece and especially to its subject, Mr. Fink.  As I say, I enjoy my little Twitter feed, but I only follow 100 people and have fewer than 800 followers.  I don’t get into the deep weeds very often.  I was, in other words, unprepared for number of replies to the tweet that were antisemitic (Fink being Jewish), as well as the virulence of that antisemitism.  More than anything, though, I was unprepared for the shamelessness of the antisemitic posters.  I know that Twitter/X can provide relative anonymity for users who choose to remain nameless and faceless, but I was still shocked at how open and seemingly unembarrassed the antisemitic posters were.

Aha, you say, but that’s just the nature of social media.  It amplifies the voices of cranks and malcontents, who are entirely unrepresentative of the population at large.  OK.  I believe that.  And I’d be inclined to agree with you and to write it all off as a disturbing but ultimately irrelevant episode, except for one thing: the emails.  I also received several emails this week, most wholly unrelated to the tweet, some even unrelated to the column in question, and all blaming “the Jews” for this, that, and the other evil in the world.  In almost 28 years of writing about politics, markets, history, economics, sociology, etc., I’ve never received emails like this before.  Again, I was unprepared for the whole mess.

I know that many of you – those who are Jewish and those who have higher public profiles than I do (and especially those who are both Jewish and in the public eye) – undoubtedly think that I am incredibly naïve.  You see all of this and worse every day.  But that’s sorta the point.  This stuff is out there.  It is a part of our political milieu.  And yet most people – even those who follow politics for a living – are unaware of just how big a part of that milieu it really is.

As I type, nominally the most powerful man in the world, who has been in Washington and politics as long as I’ve been alive, is learning the same lesson, although with far more serious consequences.  Like me, Joe Biden was blinded by his biases, by his presumptions that only “the other guys” were antisemitic and, by extension, anti-Israel.  And like me, he is presently getting an education in the facts.

Unlike me, however, Joe Biden is in a position to do something about it – and what he’s chosen to do is to enable and encourage the hatred of his fellow partisans.  For Biden and the Democrats, winning the White House means everything – not just because it will enable them to maintain power but also because it will enable them to deny power to Donald Trump.  They will, therefore, do whatever it takes to maintain the viability of their electoral coalition.  As of yesterday, that includes catering to the antisemites who dominate his party’s Left-wing and especially its younger cohorts.  The real-world consequences of Joe Biden’s naivete are serious and significant – and, unsurprisingly, will be borne mostly by the Jews his fellow partisans hate.

Those of us on the Right should learn from his disastrous example, not only to avoid a similarly disastrous political quandary but also, and more importantly, to purge the antisemitism from our movement.  As I have noted before (and, ironically, in the same space in American Greatness), antisemitism is both an evil in itself and a harbinger of chaos.

We can no longer afford to be as naïve as I was up until about five minutes ago….

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.