On Canaries and Coal Mines

On Canaries and Coal Mines

Seth Mandel at Commentary has been doing yeoman’s work over the last several weeks, documenting the often virulent and disquieting antisemitism that undergirds so much of American culture these days.  In most cases, the antisemitism is quiet and furtive, or at least it is until it isn’t, until some event causes it to slip out from under its cover and reveal itself for all the world to see – and most of the world to ignore.  Earlier this week, he penned a piece on a schoolboard hearing in Maryland, a seemingly innocuous, even pro-Jewish debate over a Holocaust education program, that went horribly wrong:

When it comes to DEI programs and other race-focused bureaucracies, it can be easy to forget the underlying ideology and focus on the diversity offices and officers themselves. But in Maryland, we just got a chilling reminder that the worldview that nourishes such fads—whether DEI or intersectionality or race theory or “privilege” discourse—has spread far and wide and holds up the Jew as the ultimate public enemy.

At issue is a Maryland House bill that would establish a grant program for Holocaust education in schools throughout the state. The grant money would go to fund teacher training and class materials.

State education grant programs aren’t terribly oppressive. But they do cost money. And that is money poorly spent, according to opponents of the bill who spoke at a recent committee hearing. One parent objecting to the legislation is worth quoting at length, as an example of the raw anti-Semitism at the heart of the competitive victimhood that governs progressive-minded institutions.

He started off addressing “the black members of this board,” and launched into a tirade we have all heard before and will hear again, though we’re hearing it a bit more often these days. “It would be absolute treason, after 250 years of the Holocaust, of what we went through in chattel slavery, to allow people to come and take our suffering, put a few shekels on it, and benefit off of what we went through,” said the man, himself African-American. “This is the United States of America. We were the ones who went through the Holocaust. There was no Jewish suffering in this place—in fact, they helped to bring us over here, to the native Americans and the Hispanics.… It is treason to your ancestors to let someone take your suffering, and to do this to benefit them to tell a story that is ahistorical.”

He then turned “to the white people in the room” and addressed them: “Yes, you participated in both of those, but guess what? The truth is, you built this country, and we built this country. We may not have wanted to do it, but we did it. When the time came to save Jews in Germany, you were the ones with the power. And guess what you did? You gave blood, sweat, and tears and resources and went and saved them.… You don’t owe them anything. They owe us, America. And I’ve not yet in fifty years heard one of them say thank you. So I ask every member of every group that I just spoke of: If they want this, let them go to Germany and get it from the Germans. American citizens owe nothing in this regard and it is treason to take our suffering as African people and use it and monopolize it and take it and let somebody else benefit from it.”

American politics has turned into a kind of racial spoils system. And this is its end state: “They” are the Jews; “We” are everyone else.

In and of itself, this rant by one random citizen at one random schoolboard hearing would mean nothing – less than nothing.  But as Mandel notes, this is hardly random.  It is, indeed, the inevitable end of the racialism that undergirds the American cultural milieu today and that is the direct result of pitting races against one another in an unnecessary and reality-denying fight for power and resources.  As we have noted before in these pages, so much of the anti-realist Weltanschauung is conspiratorial in nature, derived from the idea that someone somewhere is manipulating language and power to oppress or repress those who should rightly hold sway.  And as with all such conspiracies in Western history, ultimately, that “someone” is the Jew.

This is something that should gravely concern everyone in society, not just those who happen to be Jewish or who abhor the ugliness of anti-Jewish prejudice.  Again, this is something that we have noted before in these pages and will – sadly, undoubtedly – note again (and again and again…).  In addition to everything else, antisemitism is the inevitable harbinger of profound and unambiguous political evil.

Antisemitism represents something completely unique among the prejudices that afflict the Western world.  Hatred of and anger toward Jews is not the same as other forms of bigotry.  In many ways, the history of Western anti-Jewish hatred mirrors the history of Western political chaos and collapse.  Or to put it another way, historically, Jews are not only the perennial scapegoats during periods of social upheaval and displacement, but resurgent anti-Semitism serves as the proverbial canary in the coal mine for the rise of revolutionary movements.

In his classic The Pursuit of the Millennium, the British historian Norman Cohn argues that the Jewish diaspora generally fit comfortably, if tentatively into European society for most of the first thousand years or so A.D., and only became a hated and perpetually persecuted minority with the rise of utopian Millenarianism that accompanied and then outlived the Crusades.  Beginning then and continuing for the next nearly a thousand years, Europeans came to associate Jews with the antichrist and thus to associate hatred and persecution of Jews with preparing the battlespace for the Second Coming.  Many historians, including Hannah Arendt, whom we cite repeatedly in these pages, believed that the anti-Semitism that was such an integral part of the West’s Twentieth-century collapse into totalitarianism was relatively new and, in any case, distinct from medieval anti-Semitism.  Cohn’s history suggests otherwise, connecting the religious eschatology of medieval Europe to the quasi-religious eschatology of post-Enlightenment Europe, thereby connecting it to the persistence of Western anti-Semitism as well.

Whatever the case, resurgent anti-Semitism has, inarguably, played a role, throughout Western history, in the rise of movements that threaten violence against the existing regime and seek to bring order to political and social chaos.

At present, some ten separate conflicts in the Middle East are merging into one massive, region-wide war.  Europe is in a state of economic malaise and industrial collapse unprecedented in peacetime.  Russia, obviously, is at war with Ukraine and is perceived to be a threat to numerous other nearby nations.  In the United States, we’re fighting amongst ourselves, figuratively and literally, as some celebrities praise foreign strongmen, some politicians seek to humiliate and punish those whose views differ from their own, and a midwestern city can’t even celebrate a sports victory without some two-dozen people being shot.  Meanwhile, China is expanding its foreign ambitions, even as its domestic economy wobbles more severely than it has in more than four decades.

In short, the world is undergoing profound stress.  That antisemitism should be resurgent is hardly surprising.  That so many who should know better seem unconcerned is surprising, as well as alarming.

Drawing historical parallels is often a fool’s errand.  This era differs in many ways from all previous eras, making predictions based on history exceptionally difficult.  And yet, one thing remains constant, today, yesterday, and the day before: hatred of the Jew.  Wherever antisemitism rears its tired, ugly head, other evils are sure to follow.

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.