Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the power of complaining

I'm listening to the radio, where there's a discussion about a Motrin ad killed by twittering Moms. They found it condescending and factually wrong, so they complained. The host (Lopate, who I link to a lot) and guest both sound quite thrilled that Moms should have such power to affect advertising. They're making fun of the Mommy-power hype a little bit, but still, these Moms "stormed the Bastille." Most anti-racists, I think would be thrilled if the complaints of minorities could affect advertising so effectively. Isn't that a major point of talking about racism in advertising?

Yet when Jews complain about something, this isn't the attitude. Jews "silence debate." For us to complain effectively is somehow unfair. Here's the last place I came across that (reading the comments of an old blog post at Z-Word):
Here in the US, at least, the organized Jewish community quite often does try to shut down debate over Israel, and often employs the accusation of anti-Semitism to do so. Twice in the past year, Jewish groups have tried to prevent anti-Israel professors from getting tenure, and just this past Spring, the Jewish Federation here in Chicago, with the help of a local Jewish newspaper, pressured the Jewish museum in town to close a show it deemed anti-Israel. I’m a fervent opponent of the proposed British boycott of Israeli academics, but I’m sorry to say that the assault on free speech on this issue doesn’t come just from the anti-Israel side.
The writer elides a point. When he says something is criticism of Israel but others say it is antisemitism, there is a debate there over whether it is antisemitism or legitimate criticism of Israel. I think I would probably agree with him on only one of his examples. Though unspecified, one of these examples is probably the denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein, which I think was entirely appropriate as he is deeply antisemitic. What is up for debate is not whether antisemitic professors should be given tenure, but how we can determine which professors are antisemitic enough that we should deny them tenure.

Yet what is criticized is rarely the reasoning of specific complainants, or even specific complainants (Morton Klein?), but more generally the process of Jews complaining about antisemitism. (And in doing so, Jews are typically described as scheming and disingenuous, either explicitly or implicitly in the assertion that they knowingly aim to stifle debate over Israel with an irrelevant claim.) This will not do.

I tend to think it is an echo of the sort of sentiment that Jews have special hypno rays.

I don't want to speak against the Jews, but when one reads the Jewish press, Jewish publications, and Jewish defence organs, one cannot escape the conclusion that in criticising them, one invites instant rebuke and disapproval. In doing so, you are either a reactionary, an obscurant, or a member of the Black Hundred. Having monopolised the press, they've become so arrogant as to believe that no one will dare level such an accusation against them …


Rebecca said...

Matt, where did you get that image from?

David Schraub said...

Who put out that lovely poster?