Friday, October 01, 2010

Anti-Semitism on the Left

The following is the text of a post I made on Politico regarding an interview CNN's Rick Sanchez gave on Pete Dominick's radio show. In this interview, responding to criticism of his work by Jewish political comedian Jon Stewart, Sanchez said the following:

I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

Two things here are disturbing and unfortunate. First, I'm not sure to whom Sanchez refers when he says there's a cultural meme out there which implies that American Jews are an oppressed minority. While some people may indeed hold to this view, I hardly think it's a view that's in the main bloodstream of America. The concern is that he's making up a meme that doesn't really exist as a strawman against which to vent. Dangerous stuff. Second, he makes a wildly presumptuous leap in saying that 'everybody' who runs CNN is like Stewart (meaning they are Jewish), and for good measure, so are most folks at other media outlets. How exactly does he know this? It's true that Larry King, Jon Klein, Campbell Brown, John King, Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer among others currently or formerly at CNN are Jewish either by birth or conversion. But Anderson Cooper is not Jewish, nor is Jack Cafferty, Sanjay Gupta, Soledad O'Brien, Jim Walton, and who knows how many others. Sanchez's statement is both inaccurate as a factual matter, and feeds into a classic anti-semitic stereotype that Jews control the media.

In response to Sanchez's outburst, I posted the following at Politico:

Look, I dissent from my conservative brethren who think CNN offers no value to the media discussion. I watch CNN, and I take most of their on-air people seriously, with discernment and with a few notable exceptions. I don't have it in for CNN. It's from that perspective that I too have had great difficulty understanding the catapulting of Rick Sanchez. He's just not that good of a reporter, analyst, and host. But this latest unhinging is revealing and once again tells us something very important that is seriously ignored or overlooked. The latent anti-Jewish sentiment to which Sanchez seems to ascribe is all too fearfully common among elements of the political, cultural, and religious left. I mentioned to Gwen Ifill over 10 years ago that anti-semitism on the left is far and away the most underreported political story of our time. Ifill didn't seem to believe that anti-semitism existed to any systemic degree on the left. Such continued the ignoring of the phenomenon. Since then, a formidable body of evidence has accrued from the statements and declarations of politicians (McKinney, Moran, etc), media people (Sanchez, Thomas, etc), liberal religious denominations (PCUSA, etc), and academics (Mearsheimer, Walt, etc) that make it harder and harder to dismiss the growing concern that anti-semitic sentiment is gaining ground among the left. If this phenomenon was far and away the most underreported political story 10 years ago, it's continued non-reporting today borders on an outright scandal.

The examples I cite above are just a sampling. And in the case of the PCUSA, the anti-semitic sentiment of sectors of that denomination, and especially its leadership, has been expressed many times, through many proclamations and statements, and have been well documented by Christian and Jewish groups alike. I am quite distressed that too much of the media dismisses the concern of a systematic rise of anti-semitism on the left by saying it's not real, or downplays it by saying the various (but increasing) instances of anti-semitic utterances on the left are the isolated and unrelated thoughts of a few. I wish that were true. But the evidence demonstrably suggests otherwise. None of this is to say that anti-semitism doesn't exist on the Right as well. It does. It's repulsive and potentially lethal regardless of where it comes from. But the continued willful ignorance of the press corps to soberly investigate this phenomenon on the left in terms of who subscribes to it, what views prop it up, and how pervasive it is (or isn't) is an unacceptable omission that speaks to the media's own biases and/or blind spots.