I don’t know what to call this post, but this post discusses anti-Jewish bigotry, anti-atheist bigotry, rhetoric, Steve Bannon, and at the very end, asexuality

This is for the February 2017 Carnival of Aces.

This is related to asexuality (or at least I think it is, you are free to disagree with me) but it is going to take a while for me to bring asexuality into this post.

I am Jewish. My mother’s family is Jewish (my father’s family is not Jewish, but that’s beside the point). My Jewish family has very diverse political views, and as such, we do not all agree about recent political events in the United States (for one thing, some of us are Americans, and some of us are not, which in itself tends to cause some differences in opinion). However, as far as I know, none of us has felt threatened as Jews because of the election of Trump. Furthermore, even given our varied political opinions, to the extent that I know my relatives views, we consider attempts to present Trump, whose daughter and grandchildren are Jews, and whose Jewish son-in-law is one of his most trusted advisers, as specifically an anti-Jewish bigot as something which delegitimizes the critique which is making that claim. Specifically speaking of myself, when someone lists ‘antisemitism’ as a reason to oppose Trump, I take that as a sign to consider their arguments which increased skepticism. And when a non-Jew tells me personally that I ought to feel scared as a Jew because of Trump without backing it up with reasoning, and especially without listening to me as a Jew … well, I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but it ain’t a good feeling.

Around the time of the election, I encountered a lot of claims that Steve Bannon is ‘antisemitic’. Even though I think most people who say this are claiming that Steve Bannon is bigoted against all semitic people, not just Jews, I am going to use the term ‘anti-Jewish’ rather than ‘anitsemitic’ for clarity, except when I am quoting somebody else.

As a I Jew, I was very interested in learning about Steve Bannon’s ‘antisemiticism’, so I did research. It was very frustrating that most of the people who were claiming that Steve Bannon is anti-Jewish did not present evidence. Sometimes, when I clicked a link which presumably would present evidence of Bannon’s anti-Jewish bigotry, it was just another website claiming that Steve Bannon is ‘antisemitic’ without presenting evidence (to be fair, the online essay I had intended to use an example has apparently made an edit an no longer says anything specific about Steve Bannon).

Ultimately, the evidence I did uncover was:

– During a divorce proceeding, Bannon’s ex-wife said that Bannon did not want their daughters going to schools with Jews, and Bannon denied the allegation. I think the allegations that Bannon committed domestic violence are more disturbing than the part about choosing a school for their daughters.
– Breitbart News has a lot of anti-Jewish bigoted readers, and a lot of anti-Jewish bigotry in the comments. I admit that I have, at most, read one article on Breitbart years back, so I have not looked at this evidence first-hand. However, I know that I have sometimes seen anti-Jewish screeds in the comments of progressive websites which I do not consider to have an anti-Jewish slant. I’m not going to judge a publication just based on its commentariat. Furthermore, during my attempt to find evidence of Steve Bannon’s anti-Jewish bigotry, I learned that Breitbart News was founded by Jews and has hired a lot of Jews so … it is going to be really difficult to convince me that a news organization which has so many Jews working for it is bigoted against Jews.

Mind you, my conclusion at this point is ‘the evidence that Steve Bannon is bigoted against Jews is insufficient’ not ‘Steve Bannon is *not* bigoted against Jews’. I think it is still possible that he is, and if anyone is aware of further evidence, feel free to bring it to my attention.

I also find it amazing that people are focusing so much on Bannon’s (and by extention, Trump’s) anti-Jewish bigotry when there are so many firmer grounds to critique them. I am going to bring up a grounds to critique Bannon which a) is much easier to substantiate with evidence and b) which almost nobody in the media I read has brought up – I discovered it on my own.

A few months back, I read what Steve Bannon said at a Q&A at a conference in the Vatican in 2014, and I re-read it while preparing this post. Anti-Jewishism? Steven Bannon does use the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ repeatedly, which is a problem because, well, I am going to quote the essay “The Superseded Jew”:

“Judeo-Christian”, of course, is a nonsense phrase that is 100% Christian and, where it does happen to overlap with Jewish perspectives, does so completely by accident. And where Jewish ideology clashes even a little bit with Christian hegemony, it is immediately jettisoned from the pantheon. So we get Katherine Harris telling folks that adhering to “Judeo-Christian values” means only electing Christian legislators (presumably, not Jews), and Duncan Hunter explaining that the reason Israel can have gay soldiers but America can’t is because the latter’s combat troops have, you guessed it, “Judeo-Christian values.” Effectively, the “Judeo-Christian” concept nails Jews from both ends: conservatives get to claim Jews (against our will) to obtain faux-diversity, liberals happily cede us to them so they can bash us as part of the oppressive Christian/conservative power structure they’re warring against. What’s lost in all of this is the simple fact that Christians and Jews are different. Ask 100 people about the “traditional Judeo-Christian position” on abortion or the death penalty. I guarantee 90% of the time you’ll get an answer reflective of traditional Christian conservatism – but one that will have nothing to do with the way those issues are treated in classical Jewish texts … Ultimately, the refusal to situate Jews inside their own narrative and experience, instead defining them as mere extensions of Whiteness or Europeaness or what have you, is a replication of the supersessionist ideology in which Jews were stripped of their subjectivity as human actors.

If anyone wants a longer-form explanation of the problem with the term ‘Judeo-Christian’, there is the essay “There Is No Such Thing as Judeo-Christian Values”.

However, the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is also often used by people with good intentions who are simply uninformed, so the use of the term is not sufficient for me to label someone as ‘anti-Jewish’.

Here is a quote from that Steve Bannon speech (bolding is mine):

But the thing that got us out of it, the organizing principle that met this, was not just the heroism of our people — whether it was French resistance fighters, whether it was the Polish resistance fighters, or it’s the young men from Kansas City or the Midwest who stormed the beaches of Normandy, commandos in England that fought with the Royal Air Force, that fought this great war, really the Judeo-Christian West versus atheists, right?

Here’s another quote:

The other tendency [which is very disturbing] is an immense secularization of the West. And I know we’ve talked about secularization for a long time, but if you look at younger people, especially millennials under 30, the overwhelming drive of popular culture is to absolutely secularize this rising iteration.

This is clear anti-atheist bigotry. It is not at all subtle.

I admit, these days I pay almost no attention to atheist media/blogs, so for all I know, they are discussing this in depth (or screaming their heads off about this, which I think is justified in this case). However, a lot of the claims that Bannon is ‘antisemitic’ is not coming from Jewish media. And when I read/hear many ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ list all of the vulnerable groups which Bannon and the new administration threaten, such as Muslims, immigrants, LGBT people, Jews, women, disabled people, etc. – I do not recall any listing atheists as a vulnerable/targeted group.

I have spent months pondering this – why exaggerate the case that Bannon (and the Trump administration) is bigoted against Jews, and ignore the case that it is bigoted against atheists? Ultimately, I cannot read minds, but I do have a hunch.

People who oppose Bannon and his ilk want him to be an anti-Jewish bigot because then they can rhetorically tie him to the anti-Jewish bigotry of the Nazis and the Holocaust. In other words, they are trying to invoke Hitler as Boogeyman, rather than actually consider the implications for Jews alive today (if these people have solid evidence of Bannon’s anti-Jewish bigotry that I am completely unaware of, then I retract this comment).

It is true that some Jewish media publications are among those claiming that Bannon is an anti-Jewish bigot. To me, that smells just like when Jews who defend Israel’s far-right policies claim that anyone who critiques those policies is an anti-Jewish bigot. Those right-wing Israelis (and allies) are also trying to invoke the legacy of the Holocaust to silence their critics. I find it sad that some left-wing Jews are now sinking to their level.

By contrast, including atheists as a vulnerable group who is specifically targeted by Bannon’s rhetoric does not bring any such rhetorical advantage. On the contrary, many Americans (mistakenly) believe that Hitler was an atheist, and (not-so-mistakenly) associate atheism with Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.

The Democratic Party (and ‘liberals’ in general) only took up the cause of black people, LGBT people, disabled people, etc. because those people forced the Democrats/liberals to take their concerns seriously. And the Democrat establishment still only take those concerns seriously when marginalized people hold their feet to the fire. For whatever reason, atheists have not pulled this off yet. I think that is why atheists are not typically in the lists of vulnerable groups who Democrats and/or liberals supposedly intend to protect. This is not to say that atheists are any less deserving of protection than other marginalized groups, simply that we (yes, I am an atheist) have not gained the symbolic protection of the liberal elite yet (and LGBT people only got that ‘protection’ very recently, and that protection is still very … shaky).

Okay, I think it’s finally time to explain what the heck this has to do with asexuality.

Though more and more ‘social justice’ types are including aces among the marginalized groups they stand with, it is still more of the exception than the rule in ‘social justice’ circles. Mostly, we are still ignored, and sometimes deliberately excluded. And we are not even on the radar of mass political movements/ideologies. Often, asexuals do not conveniently fit into the rhetorical paradigms which people are used to using, such as the paradigms of ‘sexual liberation’, just as atheists do not fit as well as Jews into the rhetoric which some of Bannon’s critics want to use.

Also, a lot of the rhetoric used by trolling ‘alt-right’ types, such as calling people who were devastated by Trump’s election ‘special snowflakes’, is rhetoric which I first became aware of when people, often people who identified as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’, were using it against aces. I do not know where this type of rhetoric originally came from, but I see common patterns.

I almost decided to sit out of this Carnival of Aces for various reasons, and I still feel that this post is rougher than I want it to be. And I feel bad about posting it on February 28 (even though it is being published on February 27 in my timezone) and wished I had finished this a little earlier. I hope I will at least be able to write a post more appropriate for the 70th anniversary of the February 28th Massacre and publish it before February 28 ends in my time zone. However, I decided it was still better to put this out in its flawed form than to keep these thoughts stewing in my mind unexpressed.

4 thoughts on “I don’t know what to call this post, but this post discusses anti-Jewish bigotry, anti-atheist bigotry, rhetoric, Steve Bannon, and at the very end, asexuality

  1. In my personal experience in atheist communities (which is certainly not representative), the anti-atheism aspects of the Trump administration are not well discussed, I think for a few different reasons. 1) Politicians are anti-atheist as a general rule, and there’s not much to talk about that relates specifically to Trump. Exception: A few weeks ago when there was a proposal to allow churches to do political campaigning, but I don’t know where that story went. 2) Politicians tend to profess anti-atheism much more often than they make relevant changes to policy. This is the opposite of racism, where politicians profess opposition to racism amidst racist policies. 3) There is a long history of the atheist movement being dominated by privileged people who claim to be the most oppressed while being ignorant of the difficulties of other minority groups. The atheist communities I participate in exist in reaction to such tendencies. There’s also an uncomfortable sense that atheists are partly responsible for the alt-right. So many atheists I know would rather focus on protecting other groups.

    With regard to Bannon, saying that Breitbart had some anti-Jewish readers is underselling it. Breitbart is explicitly a platform for the alt-right, so rather than searching for statements where he has expressed anti-semitism, it seems more appropriate to search for statements where he has repudiated that aspect of the movement.

    • Really? It’s that common for prominent political voices to claim that atheism is threatening to cause the collapse of civilization, and is one of the primary causes of the 2008 financial crisis and the woes which have sprung from that, and that we need to go to war with atheism, as Bannon did in his Q&A session with the Vatican?

      Err, politicians in the United States almost never make changes to policy in the post-WWII era which are specifically detrimental to Jews, as far as I can know, no more often than with regards to atheists.

      Since I’ve never really engaged with organized atheist communities, I’m not in a good position to ask this question, but if organized atheists are not going to discuss the anti-atheism of Bannon and his ilk, then who will?

      Based on what I know, whether or not Bannon has repudiated anti-Jewish bigotry in the alt-right depends on interpretation. In that very Q&A session, he says that alt-right movements have to purge themselves of racism (though he does not list anti-Jewish bigotry specifically) BUT that he then claims that they have been mostly successful at purging racism, which raises serious questions about what he considers to be ‘racism’. Based on what I’ve read, he’s also openly admired Marine Le Pen, who did purge the Front National of its most blatant anti-Jewish bigots, including her own father. That does not mean the FN is an ally of French Jews, or that they have purged themselves of less blatant forms of anti-Jewish bigotry, but it is a sign that they are significantly less anti-Jewish than in the past.

      Your last point also feels a bit like moving the goalposts. Mostly, when I was doing my internet searches, I found people saying that Bannon was an ‘antisemite’ without evidence. When people did present evidence, it was what I described in the post (and the Breitbart headline in which a Jew who works for Breitbart refers to another Jew as a ‘renegade Jew’ which, er, accusing a *Jew* of being an anti-Jewish bigot is generally problematic).

      I have also encountered over and over again far-right Jews accusing their critics of being anti-Jewish bigots. Sometimes, the far-right Jews are *correct* – some people who criticize far-right Jews do demonstrate anti-Jewish bigotry. But sometimes, it’s just something the far-right Jews shout to silence their critics and avoid having to address their critics’ actual arguments. And sometimes – I’ve observed this in black people vs. Jew conflicts – the right-wing Jews insist that their critics must completely rid themselves of the least shred of ‘antisemitism’ before they will bother to even consider any of the concerns of their critics.

      When I started looking into Bannon, I expected it to be *easy* to find evidence of his anti-Jewish views because I had seen him labelled as ‘antisemite’ so many time, and was surprised at how thin the evidence is. That is what made me think than people who dislike Bannon for other reasons (and there is no shortage of reasons to dislike him) *want* him to be an anti-Jewish bigot so they can invoke the rhetoric around that, just as far-right Jews want all of their critics to be anti-Jewish bigots (or, if their critics are Jewish, ‘self-hating Jews’). Based on what I’ve seen, the Jews who write for Breitbart like using this type of rhetoric themselves.

      Anyway, I’m tired of researching this. I think the burden of proof is on those who claim that Bannon is an anti-Jewish bigot, not the people who do not make such claims.

      • I have never done any research on Bannon, so I’m not offering any evidence beyond what you have presented. I was simply opining that the initial burden of proof seems unfavorable to him, and I disagree with not judging him based on Breitbart’s readership. It’s still possible that people overemphasize Bannon’s anti-semitism to the exclusion of better critiques. I don’t really know.

        Quite honestly I have never heard about Bannon’s Q&A with the Vatican until you mentioned it, and I only know what you’ve said about it. Seeing as it’s from 2014, that might just be due to recency bias. I think if it got attention it might generate a moderate amount of buzz.

        It think it is true that atheism systematically falls off the radar in terms of minority groups worth fighting for. Anecdotally, when I went to Creating Change in 2013 to fight for more ace-inclusion in that space, I was also aware of a parallel fight for atheist-inclusion. Sadly the atheist caucus and ace caucus were at the same time.

  2. Pingback: February 2017 Carnival of Aces: Resistance, Activism, & Self-Care | The Asexual Agenda

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.