Another thing Metafilter doesn't do well January 13, 2015 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Metafilter has a problem with anti-Semitism. That is, Metafilter has a structural problem that leads the moderators to silence discussions of and references to anti-Semitism, even when they are fundamentally relevant. As a consequence of this, its users (including myself) are forced into self-censorship: we are forced to either ignore attacks on Jews, or pretend that we can meaningfully discuss those attacks without referring to the motives of the attackers. The recent events in France make me feel that I cannot remain silent while engaging honestly with this website.

I don't generally query comment deletions, but I asked the moderators why a bare link to this OpEd was deleted. This is the response I received:
Your last few comments in that thread seem to be derailing it into a discussion of anti-semitism, and they're all getting flagged. The last
one introducing an op-ed seems like it would continue that. The thread is about the massacre at the paper and it seems like your last few posts are taking that in a new direction.
I don't think the reference to a derail was right. Ahmed Coulibaly was an associate of the Kouachi brothers who claims to have funded the Kouachi brothers and who tried to use his hostages' lives to secure the Kouachi brothers' safety: source. Coulibaly explicitly declared that he was targetting Jews, and there is good reason to think that he may have originally planned an attack at a Jewish school. We cannot meaningfully discuss the Kouachi brothers' attack on Charlie Hebdo without discussing Coulibaly's participation and support; we cannot discuss the attacks' consequences for freedom of speech without discussing their consequences for the position of French Jews. None the less, I created a new FPP to focus on the Hypercacher massacre and reactions to it. That FPP was deleted:
This post was deleted for the following reason: Getting flagged like crazy, sorry what I said earlier over email, probably should go in the Charlie Hebdo thread as a comment instead.
-- mathowie
I respect the fact that our moderators have limited resources but the presumption of good faith needs to shift: we presume that people are sincere when they allege police shootings are racist; we presume that people are sincere when they allege that attacks on female bloggers are misogynist; the same generosity needs to be extended to people alleging that attacks on Jews are anti-Semitic. Some users apparently cannot stand references to anti-Semitism in existing discussions or out of them and flag any mention of it. Flags are invisible to the poster; the flaggers' motives are opaque to the moderator. The moderators are not experts in anti-Jewish prejudice; they don't have the time or resources to definitively decide whether an ongoing event involves anti-Semitism; a mistaken claim of anti-Semitism is nor more the end of the world than a mistaken claim of racism or misogyny is. As long as the moderators allow those flaggers to exercise the hecklers' veto, any discussion of events that involve anti-Semitism will continue to be false, superficial, trivial, and jejune.
posted by Joe in Australia to MetaFilter-Related at 9:13 AM (770 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

Your back-and-forth on this yesterday was with Matt, so I'm sort of catching up at this point still. But I'm uncomfortable with what feels like some pretty conclusory framing here: you're asserting systemic anti-Semitism on Metafilter more or less on the grounds that you haven't been getting your way enough when arguing about a subject you have a tendency to get into a lot on Metafilter.

That said: I think your attempt at a post about the political and cultural climate for Jews in France would have gone over a lot better if, however much it was inspired by discussion in the Hebdo thread, it had not been hung off of the Charlie Hebdo events. There is I think a value in giving stuff a little distance from heated recent events if what you want is a discussion about the thing in its own right rather than a spinoff of the arguments already happening about that heated event.

Some users apparently cannot stand references to anti-Semitism in existing discussions or out of them and flag any mention of it.

If this is so, it is not obviously so in any kind of pattern we've been able to see in flagging. I think it is super duper problematic to suggest that data you acknowledge you're only speculating about proves that your assertions about systemic bias and topical suppression are happening.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:23 AM on January 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


Yeah anti-Semitism is definitely a factor in the attacks last week. That op-ed definitely belonged there. It was sad to see the deaths ignored (and the fact that one of the attackers was likely originally targeted a Jewish school) as the thread seemed to devolve into an Israel-Palestine discussion.

I think it's because MetaFilter is an American site. Most of the commenters don't know anything about France, but they all have an opinion about the historic venal, lascivious wickedness of the Israeli state and the people that live in it.
posted by Nevin at 9:25 AM on January 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


As long as the moderators allow those flaggers to exercise the hecklers' veto, any discussion of events that involve anti-Semitism will continue to be false, superficial, trivial, and jejune.

That's a pretty strong allegation. I think a more charitable response would be that a lot of people have a superficial understanding of a topic that you have a deep understanding of and it's difficult for those two sets of people to have discussions on complex issues on MetaFilter, specifically after a high profile crime. Trying to say "Why don't people focus on THIS other horrible thing..." rarely goes well. Making a post on the topic that was causing trouble in the comments of a different thread was not a good way to go about this and was bad advice.

For better or worse, you are known as one of a small set of commenters who frequently gets into deep intractable discussions on this and related issues which makes the post seem like more of an invitation to argue the topic and not for people to learn more about it. This was not a heckler's veto.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:30 AM on January 13, 2015 [26 favorites]


Most of the commenters don't know anything about France

Not true! i know their bread is long like a arm
posted by Greg Nog at 9:32 AM on January 13, 2015 [87 favorites]


For better or worse, you are known as one of a small set of commenters who frequently gets into deep intractable discussions on this and related issues which makes the post seem like more of an invitation to argue the topic and not for people to learn more about it.

I agree very much with this.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:35 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Without making comment on the presence or absence of anti-Semitism on mefi, let me see if I understand:

1. Joe, you made a comment about the supermarket killings in the C-H thread
2. that comment gets deleted for being a derail
3. so you made an FPP about the supermarket killings and French anti-semitism in general
4. That gets deleted because it should have gone in the C-H thread

??? What? That seems like a moderation failure, no matter the motives behind it (or lack thereof).
posted by desjardins at 9:35 AM on January 13, 2015 [79 favorites]


you're asserting systemic anti-Semitism on Metafilter more or less on the grounds that you haven't been getting your way enough when arguing about a subject you have a tendency to get into a lot on Metafilter.

I really, really don't think Joe is asserting this. Or let me put it another way. I'm a Jew whose politics are pretty different from Joe's, and who tends not to get involved in long fiery back-and-forths about this stuff on MetaFilter, and I would never assert this. MetaFilter is not systemically anti-Semitic. But I do think that anti-Semitism is a thing that exists in the world and I do think as a community we tend to tiptoe around it a bit, except when it's executed by people like evangelical Christians in Texas who the community feels safe gawking and laughing at. In this respect, Joe is right.
posted by escabeche at 9:36 AM on January 13, 2015 [52 favorites]


I think it's because MetaFilter is an American site. Most of the commenters don't know anything about France, but they all have an opinion about the historic venal, lascivious wickedness of the Israeli state and the people that live in it.

I genuinely have no idea if you're joking
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:37 AM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sorry how this played out yesterday Joe, but you do often get into arguments on the site about this topic, and your deleted post on the heels of the earlier attacks felt like half double post, half get your own blog about this subject territory.

It's true MeFi has a long problematic history of hosting fights between members about Israel and Palestine and related topics, and it's unfortunate and a highly charged subject, so we try to limit the posts about these topics to just major ones, and to call it a systemic problem with anti-semitism is a pretty big leap.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:37 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think there is any issue on Metafilter with systemic anti-Semitism or a pattern of deleting discussions of the topic -- our I/P problem is a different one. But I strongly agree that we can't talk about the terror attacks in France without discussing anti-Semitism. First, that's an avowed position of the terrorists. The second attack and additional murders were at a kosher market! Second, the French themselves acknowledge that with all the efforts they have made to shield Jewish areas and businesses. Third, French Jews are already looking at the option of moving to Israel.

Similarly relevant to any discussion of this topic is the apparent anti-Muslim French bias strongly suggested by the detention of the heroic gentleman at the kosher market site who hid a number of people from the terrorist before going outside himself and being treated as a suspect.

Metafilter actually can do more than one take on a big topic at a time and though I rarely do this I would criticize the modding here.
posted by bearwife at 9:40 AM on January 13, 2015 [28 favorites]


That seems like a moderation failure, no matter the motives behind it (or lack thereof).

Yeah, and I apologized to Joe over email about this but never heard back. His posts in the original Hebdo thread were getting flagged and it looked like he was digging in and posting more info about anti-semetic attacks, and I wasn't getting the feeling if they were related or just being added to the thread to continue it. When a bare link to an op-ed got flagged, I deleted it because the comment didn't explain why people should check it out, it was just the title, and Joe felt it was important enough to expand into a post. It would have worked as a comment if there was an explanation of why he was posting it, we do delete comments linking to news stories without any context, since it's not always clear why they are there.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:40 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


also, could you link to where a discussion of anti-semitism in france turned into an israel/palestine discussion, if you have it handy?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:41 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The moderators are not experts in anti-Jewish prejudice

This is remarkable chutzpah. I'd rather their brand of (purported) amateurism than your brand of "expertise" which just seems to mean sharing your political ideology.
posted by RogerB at 9:42 AM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Nevin: "Most of the commenters don't know anything about France, but they all have an opinion about the historic venal, lascivious wickedness of the Israeli state and the people that live in it."

This is beyond the pale.
posted by boo_radley at 9:42 AM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't understand what his FPP had to do with I/P except that Israel is a Jewish country and the attackers were Muslims. The attacks happened in France and the attackers were not Palestinian. If there had been I/P-related comments in that thread then they should just be deleted as derails.

I guess avoiding any discussion of Jews whatsoever in the fear that the thread will be derailed into I/P does point to a structural issue. Joe's username does provoke kind of a "oh, it's That Guy again" reaction in me but I do think he's right here.
posted by desjardins at 9:45 AM on January 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


what his FPP had to do with I/P

That wasn't why it was deleted, it was too close to the existing post about the attacks in France and should have gone in there. That the post was made in response to a bare link to an op-ed being deleted in that existing thread was a failure by me to explain how he could have added more context so it made more sense in the existing thread.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


But I strongly agree that we can't talk about the terror attacks in France without discussing anti-Semitism.

To be clear, no one on the mod staff has suggested that anti-Semitism is off-limits in that discussion. There has been a bunch of discussion of it in there. There have also been some deleted comments, on a whole lot of different angles, by a bunch of different people, because it is a thread about several terrible things that happened and is lumbering on toward two thousand comments at this point.

I don't really want to pick on Joe in Australia but he often is That Guy on this front and I think it's a big mistake of perception to ignore that and take at face value his declarations about system suppression of discussion of anti-Semitism on the basis that he doesn't have a blank check to argue whenever and however he likes about the stuff he has established a pattern of being more argumentative than normal about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't think it is possible to discuss vendetta level politics in a neutral way and I would personally recommend that with this level of vitriol between members about I/P topics, it might be best to abolish the topic altogether from the community discussion. Or pick a side and alienate whichever half of members is on the losing side of that choice.
posted by kalessin at 9:54 AM on January 13, 2015


Cortex, I specifically didn't endorse the assertion of system suppression. I would criticize deleting comments about anti Semitism in the Charlie thread.
posted by bearwife at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am at work and don't have time to address specifics or points others are making - but I have been very dissapointed in the reactions of other comments in the C-H thread and even more so than the mods.

I also had a depressing interaction with Matt yesterday where I was told "Yeah, I was getting tired of [Joe's] derail about jews, and deleted his last comment hoping he could dial it back." and then was told "I mean, the thread is about the massacre at the newspaper, but the last ten or so comments are more about anti-semitism in France."

The C-H post was, to me, a 'live' or 'breaking news' thread and clearly many aspects of the event weren't included directly in the FPP (like the rally for instance, or the anti-Muslim attacks). Yet clearly the anti-Semitic attack and the C-H attack were related (as even the perpetrators said) - a Jewish business was specifically targeted in an attempt to kill Jews and the grocery suspect even had a map of Jewish schools in his car!

But apparently comments about "LOL look at this crazy Jewish newspaper" are more acceptable than talking about the anti-Semitic incident that just happened. And if mentioning Israel, we can only talk about how bad Netanyahu is (while ignoring every other world leader, or the rationale behind a Jewish leader attending a rally ostensibly also to honor the victims of anti-Semitic attack).

Metafilter has been more than happy to discuss Freedom of Speech, the fine-points of satire, or anti-Muslim backlash - but not the anti-Semitic attack, its similarity to other incidents, and the anxiety of the French Jewish community. Those comments are shouted down or just straight up mod-deleted.
posted by rosswald at 9:56 AM on January 13, 2015 [37 favorites]


(and even more so IN the mods.)
posted by rosswald at 10:03 AM on January 13, 2015


Metafilter has been more than happy to discuss Freedom of Speech, the fine-points of satire, or anti-Muslim backlash

....Huh, I remember being snarked out of the thread for suggesting that while it was a tragedy the cartoonists had died that maybe they weren't quite the noble martyrs to freedom that the rest of the world was making them out to be. I'm not so sure that I agree with the site being open to discussion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


Here's the latest from the French, per my AP app :

Hollande vowed that France will be "merciless in the face of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim acts, and unrelenting against those who defend and carry out terrorism, notably the jihadists who go to Iraq and Syria."
posted by bearwife at 10:09 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Those comments are shouted down or just straight up mod-deleted.

Deleted comments that touch specifically on Jews or Israel in that thread:

- one complaining about hypocritical politicians in general and Israeli's record with journalists in particular
- Joe's initial link to that op ed, that was later reposted
- a comment replying to the previous, since if one goes the other does

And that's literally it. If you feel like people are shouting down commentary on the subject in that thread, that's fine and you can do so with examples of the comments that are still standing if you like.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:09 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


And one of my main misgivings with this metatalk post is that part of the nature of the framing sets it up as potentially turning into a proxy discussion about current and historical events in France and the experience of Jews there and so on.

To the extent that it's pertinent to the ongoing events in France re: the Charlie Hebdo and supermarket attacks, it should just go in the existing thread; to the extent that people want to potentially discuss the more historical, big-picture side of things see my first comment about the idea of making a post that is structured as something other than tied directly to the current events and discussion. On that front I'd also suggest just giving it a few days at least to take some of the proximity-to-free-floating-anxiety effect out of the whole thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:14 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Third, French Jews are already looking at the option of moving to Israel."

The bitter irony of that is that Jews in Israel since 2000 have been over 500 times more likely to die from a terrorist attack than Jews in France.
posted by klangklangston at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I also had a depressing interaction with Matt yesterday where I was told "Yeah, I was getting tired of [Joe's] derail about jews, and deleted his last comment hoping he could dial it back." and then was told "I mean, the thread is about the massacre at the newspaper, but the last ten or so comments are more about anti-semitism in France."

If that's an accurate representation of the discussion, that is depressing. I literally think it is impossible to discuss the attack without also discussing antisemitism, and have been increasingly frustrated that the focus has almost exclusively been about the attack on the newspaper and not the subsequent killing of four hostages at a Kosher supermarket; further, two of the Charlie Hebdo victims were Jewish, and one was likely killed for explicitly antisemitic reasons, having received threats to that effect.
posted by maxsparber at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


I would not really say there is a systemic problem with anti-semitism here, but I have seen a few members here besides Joe getting frustrated with how the modding is being handled regarding the issue. Zarq notably took issue and it's a shame he isn't here anymore. I do think it might be worth considering ways to improve how modding related to anti-semitism is handled but I don't have any particular advice on what might need to be done.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:16 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

it might be best to abolish the topic altogether from the community discussion.
I've re-read this three times to be sure you aren't joking. You aren't joking, are you? Do you understand the irony of saying such a thing in a discussion that started out being about attacks on a satirical newspaper?

This is what censorship leads to--folks feeling perfectly comfortable suggesting that we simply not be allowed to discuss certain topics. The moderation policy needs to change when this idea is so casually thrown out.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:17 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


(those were exact quotes copy-pasted from e-mail between Matt H and myself. I could post the whole exchange if others thought it to be appropriate - but it seemed overkill to me).
posted by rosswald at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2015


I don't think it is possible to discuss vendetta level politics in a neutral way and I would personally recommend that with this level of vitriol between members about I/P topics, it might be best to abolish the topic altogether from the community discussion.

But Joe's comments and his FPP had nothing to do with I/P whatsoever. So what topic are you proposing to abolish, if not Jews or antisemitism?
posted by desjardins at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is what censorship leads to--folks feeling perfectly comfortable suggesting that we simply not be allowed to discuss certain topics. The moderation policy needs to change when this idea is so casually thrown out.

That's a heck of a leap.
posted by maxsparber at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I also had a depressing interaction with Matt yesterday

I admitted I messed up handling this, but what sparked it was seeing flags coming in and seeing it was Joe in Australia being flagged about talking about a subject he has doggedly talked about in threads for literally years on end here, so my knee-jerk response was "here we go again". A user's history of behavior on the site does count for something in our decisions and my hope was not to see Joe derail and dominate a discussion in a community space, which he has a history of problematic behavior doing. It's less the subject matter than it is the approach and aftermath of his interactions.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:20 AM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I could post the whole exchange if others thought it to be appropriate

Email discussions with moderators aren't exactly the same as email discussions between random members of the site but this would still be something that actually checking in with Matt would be the correct thing to do first, in any case.

The moderation policy needs to change when this idea is so casually thrown out.

Dude, c'mon.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:20 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


....Huh, I remember being snarked out of the thread for suggesting that while it was a tragedy the cartoonists had died that maybe they weren't quite the noble martyrs to freedom that the rest of the world was making them out to be. I'm not so sure that I agree with the site being open to discussion.

And others made similar points about the purported racism of the cartoonists, and they were rebutted. Some of them were convinced, and some were not. Were any "they were racists" comments deleted? If not, then the site is open to that discussion. You are just choosing not to participate in it. People disagreeing with you != censorship.
posted by desjardins at 10:21 AM on January 13, 2015 [29 favorites]


Email discussions with moderators aren't exactly the same as email discussions between random members of the site but this would still be something that actually checking in with Matt would be the correct thing to do first, in any case.

Ack, that makes sense. I apologize!
posted by rosswald at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


People disagreeing with you != censorship.

And that would be why you will note that I didn't USE the word "censorship" in my comment, but rather that I got "snarked" out of the thread.

YOU are the one claiming that I was accusing the site of censorship. I only claimed that the site was not as open to a certain point of view as others were claiming it was.

Just as I am NOT claiming censorship right now, but I AM claiming that you are falsely putting words into my mouth, and I'd appreciate you not doing that, thanks all the same.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:24 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


No, you c'mon. Sure, there were only three or four comments deleted in the thread, but Joe's point, echoed by many here, is that your editing of threads is having a chilling effect on participation. I know it's annoying that I keep reminding you of this, but this thread shows that I'm not the only one who feels this way.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


So we need to change mod policy to censor calls to change mod policy?
posted by kalessin at 10:26 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


A user's history of behavior on the site does count for something in our decisions and my hope was not to see Joe derail and dominate a discussion in a community space, which he has a history of problematic behavior doing.

Does anyone else get uncomfortable with moderators making public statements about users' "problematic behavior"? Joe has made a pretty straightforward MeTa here and I'm bothered by the way Matt's response is to pin the blame on "problematic behavior." I feel like I'm seeing this a lot more often lately.
posted by jayder at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


"Why can't MetaFilter have conversations about [topic] without it becoming an inflammatory derail," bemoan people who derail threads with inflammatory tangents every time [topic] is mentioned on MetaFilter
posted by RogerB at 10:29 AM on January 13, 2015 [24 favorites]


No, you c'mon.

Since the actual subject of this thread is the community's response to discussion of antisemitism, could I ask that you not attempt to hijack it for your bizarre anti-moderation drum-beating, dead-and-repeatedly-kicked hobby horse?
posted by maxsparber at 10:29 AM on January 13, 2015 [42 favorites]


Does anyone else get uncomfortable with moderators making public statements about users' "problematic behavior"?

I can tell you that even as moderators we feel uncomfortable about it generally speaking, which is why we don't do it more often than seems actually necessary.

But we're not gonna never do it, because as much as it's uncomfortable for all involved and that sucks, stuff on this site does not happen in a vacuum and when someone's history here strongly informs their current behavior and the community and moderation attention it receives it's actively counterproductive to pretend otherwise.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:32 AM on January 13, 2015 [29 favorites]


Does anyone else get uncomfortable with moderators making public statements about users' "problematic behavior"?

Do you see any particular reason why moderators should owe it to users to keep their problematic behavior a secret? Particularly when it's literally all over the site?
posted by KathrynT at 10:33 AM on January 13, 2015 [36 favorites]


It's not like we don't know who the people who want to argue I/P issues every day are.
posted by smackfu at 10:33 AM on January 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


No, you c'mon. Sure, there were only three or four comments deleted in the thread, but Joe's point, echoed by many here, is that your editing of threads is having a chilling effect on participation. I know it's annoying that I keep reminding you of this, but this thread shows that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

So this is now your cause? Give me a fucking break.
posted by phaedon at 10:42 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


My comments about the effects of the massacre on Jews in France were "all getting flagged" and the FPP - after three comments! - was "being flagged like crazy". I don't actually know that the same people were flagging both of them, but it seems a reasonable assumption. As I said, the moderation process is pretty opaque, but it relies on user reporting: that's the systemic issue I'm referring to. I don't think bare links are generally deleted; some users have posted thousands of them. But if someone wants to flag a link for ideological reasons then it obviously has some chance of being deleted. The same goes for other complaints.

Cortex wrote: you're asserting systemic anti-Semitism on Metafilter more or less on the grounds that you haven't been getting your way enough when arguing about a subject you have a tendency to get into a lot on Metafilter.

That's a weird and uncharitable allegation.

Finally, Matt, I did reply to your email and I said that I was going to make a FPP. I'm sorry you didn't get it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:43 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Nevin: “I think it's because MetaFilter is an American site. Most of the commenters don't know anything about France, but they all have an opinion about the historic venal, lascivious wickedness of the Israeli state and the people that live in it.”

Obviously we need to encourage more informed comment from people in Australia, who I'm sure understand the French context much better.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


rosswald: “Metafilter has been more than happy to discuss Freedom of Speech, the fine-points of satire, or anti-Muslim backlash - but not the anti-Semitic attack, its similarity to other incidents, and the anxiety of the French Jewish community. Those comments are shouted down or just straight up mod-deleted.”

It's funny that neither you nor Joe in Australia actually linked to the actual Charlie Hebdo thread. In the interest of civility, I'll just assume that was not in fact an attempt to obscure the fact that the word "Jewish" appears no less than 98 times in that thread, and "antisemitism" appears another 23 times. As far as I can tell, this subject has been discussed thoroughly in the thread.

So it begins to look like this really is less about antisemitism discussions being discouraged in threads and more about Joe in Australia being a recurring problem user.
posted by koeselitz at 11:01 AM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


I think this was really badly mishandled by the mods, and while Joe is definitely one of those people who I disagree with a lot re: Israel-Palestine, especially, he seems to have been on-topic and posting good comments in that thread, and I think mods should maybe take flags with a heaping grain of salt when it has anything to do with anti-semitism.
posted by empath at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'll just assume that was not in fact an attempt to obscure the fact that the word "Jewish" appears no less than 98 times in that thread, and "antisemitism" appears another 23 times. As far as I can tell, this subject has been discussed thoroughly in the thread.
posted by koeselitz


It is a stupid observation - I am not trying to obscure anything - and though I didn't create the thread, it doesn't seem too hard to find the thread or have other people like you link to it.

And I feel like your word count method is pretty silly. For one thing, I wonder how many of those comments were made by Joe and myself - but really that is irrelevant. Using a word-count as some signifier for the content and quality of the discussion doesn't seem like a worthy yardstick.
posted by rosswald at 11:07 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


But I do think that anti-Semitism is a thing that exists in the world and I do think as a community we tend to tiptoe around it a bit, except when it's executed by people like evangelical Christians in Texas who the community feels safe gawking and laughing at. In this respect, Joe is right.

I have noticed this. I am not Jewish, but I have particularly noticed that when anti-Semitism is engaged in by a population or demographic group that Metafilter is generally sympathetic with, the discussion does not go well at all and many statements about it being anti-Semitism are deleted. This is problematic for a number of reasons, regardless of who is saying that things are anti-Semitic.
posted by corb at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


For what it's worth, while I haven't been involved in the Charlie Hebdo conversations, I have noticed that anti-Semitism is a strange topic that is not handled well on Metafilter. My personal take is that many folks who are politically anti-Zionist, or are angry about the actions of Israel, sort of think that Jews deserve whatever they get, whether they are Israeli or not. This is never stated as such, but that's the sense I get, and it's obviously a horrid position to have, even in one's heart of hearts. I think there is genuine confusion among many people generally concerned about issues like privilege and racism about how some Jews can be victims of hate crimes while others are perpetrators. On the site this develops as people seeing the identity politics of Jewishness and the pointing out of anti-Semitism as always an attempt to defend Israel.

I actually think Joe is right about there being a structural issue insofar as invisible flagging can be used to express the feeling that any discussion of anti-Semitism is really an attempt to derail criticism of Israel or justify Israeli actions. In this context, I actually think that Joe's visibility as a critic of anti-Semitism and a supporter of Israel supports his concern that his comments might be being targeted regardless of their merit.
posted by OmieWise at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


And the other issue I've seen is that critiques of the Israeli government's policies and actions are often taken as anti-semitic, which they are not (or not always). The state does not always firmly map to the people and there are plenty of Jews who do not live in Israel nor are governed by the Israeli national government. Part of it seems like we simply don't have the language to have the discussion. The other part of it is that it seems like we aren't willing to discuss the concepts as separate.
posted by kalessin at 11:11 AM on January 13, 2015 [25 favorites]


the other issue I've seen is that critiques of the Israeli government's policies and actions are often taken as anti-semitic

I think it's actually really, really hard to separate critique of the Israeli government's policies and actions from anti-Semitism. Not that it can't be done - it can - but it is very difficult. It is particularly difficult I think because the Israel/Palestine conflict is also, in many eyes, a left/right conflict. Conservatives in the US very much side with Israel. Israel on the whole is pretty hawkish. So leftists of any stripe tend to have a reflexive anger at Israel that is stronger than the reflexive anger they might have at other, similar, repressive actions.

To simplify: let's say a leftist is angry about Israel. They are combining "Israel is conservative thus opposed to my moral values" anger, with "Israel is treating Palestinians poorly" anger. Let us treat anger as variable A. That means that a leftist angry about Israel - even without being anti-Semitic - presents as 2A angry about Israel - and they are going to thus be angrier about Israel than other countries who only meet the "Treating minority groups badly" criteria (1A)

Let's say an anti-Semite is angry about Israel. They are combining "I dislike Jews for whatever reasons" anger, with "Israel is treating Palestinians poorly" anger. Likewise, they also present as 2A, and they are likewise going to thus be angrier about Israel than other countries who only meet the "Treating minority groups badly" criteria (1A)

Both the anti-Semite and the leftist are thus going to present very, very similarly if they do not take care to distinguish themselves.

Metafilter is, for better or worse, a lefty site. Many posters when talking about Israel present with 2A anger about Israel. I personally believe that a majority of them are presenting that way because they are leftists, rather than that they are anti-Semites. But that doesn't mean that they aren't functionally mimicking anti-Semites at the same time. And the BDS movement is full of anti-Semites, which makes it even harder to differentiate.
posted by corb at 11:26 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was disappointed the post was deleted. There are a few ways I thought it could have been worded differently that would have gotten it a better reception, but my impression is that it was a cohesive collection of links about a worthwhile subject (though I haven't followed all the links).

I recall the mods previously saying that they are guided by the community, and so rather than asking Matt why he deleted it (He's already stated that it's "getting flagged like crazy"), what I would be curious to hear in this Meta is the members who did flag it explaining why they flagged it. I'm not asking for responses to the last paragraph of the OP — those are JiA's conclusions and I'd rather hear more about why people originally flagged than people defending themselves from charges. I think it will make this Meta more useful.

Other points:

- Sounds like there was some fumbling about where, what, how, and who was posting. There might be longer term problems worth addressing, but the deletion is what I'm curious about.

- "Anti-semitism" does not equal "Israel/Palestine". Both relate to Jews, but I think it's too lazy to take the "MeFi doesn't do I/P discussions well" brush and apply it automatically to discussions of anti-semitism.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:28 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


And the other issue I've seen is that critiques of the Israeli government's policies and actions are often taken as anti-semitic, which they are not (or not always).

Yes, but this is actually the obverse of the problem being discussed here, and while it's technically related, I think it's more likely the cause of the problem Joe is describing. That does not mean it doesn't need discussion, I just don't think this thread is the place to do it.

In short, I think that people feel that because "they" are "always" trying to derail criticism of Israel by crying "anti-Semitism," they discount that anti-Semitism is it's own thing with a long long history that predates Israel.
posted by OmieWise at 11:29 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


"It's not like we don't know who the people who want to argue I/P issues every day are."

I have in my clipboard a list of 205 members who want to argue I/P issues every day!
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on January 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


rosswald: “Using a word-count as some signifier for the content and quality of the discussion doesn't seem like a worthy yardstick.”

I wasn't using word-count as a signifier for the content or quality of the discussion. I was using word-count as a signifier for the existence of the discussion. You and Joe claim there was no discussion of antisemitism or the targeting of Jews in the attacks. That claim seems dubious to me.

If you want to claim that the discussion didn't have enough "content" or "quality," that's an entirely separate issue from the issue of whether discussion is being eliminated.
posted by koeselitz at 11:39 AM on January 13, 2015


I have in my clipboard a list of 205 members who want to argue I/P issues every day!
Would that be a physical clipboard you carry about, with a printed (or handwritten) list of usernames, or are you just constantly at the ready to paste a 205 member list into any thread where it might be found useful?
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


The moderators are not experts in anti-Jewish prejudice; they don't have the time or resources to definitively decide whether an ongoing event involves anti-Semitism; a mistaken claim of anti-Semitism is nor more the end of the world than a mistaken claim of racism or misogyny is.

In one memorable situation, I warned the mods that it was, at the very least, extremely similar to a way to drive political enemies off the site. I received in reply "I don't understand it, none of us do," and that mod intervention was not possible.

We all saw how that 'play[ed] out.'

The staff may not be informed enough to recognize things that are developing, and should take user input, of the sort that Joe, among others, can provide.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Would that be a physical clipboard you carry about

This might help explain.
posted by corb at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: "
The staff may not be informed enough to recognize things that are developing, and should take user input, of the sort that Joe, among others, can provide.
"

Soon we will have verified identities and areas of expertise on our profiles, vetted by a volunteer team. That will be good.
posted by boo_radley at 11:55 AM on January 13, 2015


Sure, there were only three or four comments deleted in the thread, but Joe's point, echoed by many here, is that your editing of threads is having a chilling effect on participation.

chilling is actually a good word choice. As in "chill out". Which I think is one of the most important thing that MeFi's mods do on a day to day, thread to thread basis. They don't say, "No. You. Can. Not. Do. This. Ever. Anywhere." They say, "relax, please don't fan this into a shitstorm." Which, of course, does include occasional deletions. But I view these as mostly non-elective surgery (ie: to save the thread from going gangrenous or whatever), as opposed to elective (ie: I'd like this thread better if it just didn't have these blemishes).
posted by philip-random at 11:56 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


OK, fine, I wasn't bothered enough by it to bring it to anybody's attention at the time, but a couple days ago I did make this FPP and the way it went made me feel a little weird. I think it was pretty close to jumping the track and I kind of regretted making it.
posted by bq at 11:57 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


There was some weirdness in that thread and it made me uncomfortable too. I think it was really just one commenter, and I don't think it was antisemetic per se (more just generally anti-religion), but it was evidence that there is a very thin line between being blinkered about somebody else's religion and actually being offensive about it.
posted by maxsparber at 12:02 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I definitely don't think the mods are in any way antisemitic, but I also think that anything related to Jews or Judaism tends to go badly here, and I avoid participating in those discussions. It's a combination, I think, of some people being generally hostile to religion and some people thinking that Jews = Israel and Israel = bad, so anything related to Jews should really be a discussion of how Israel is bad. It gets really old, but I'm not sure what the mods can really do about it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:08 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Not knowing anything about the surrounding context, I thought that it was a good FPP and I was disappointed that it was deleted.
posted by dfan at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The staff may not be informed enough to recognize things that are developing, and should take user input, of the sort that Joe, among others, can provide.

I can't possibly imagine any agreement on which users the mods should take input from.
posted by smackfu at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


bq, that was a neat post and it was saddening to see what kind of comments it attracted. Don't feel bad about your post, please.
posted by boo_radley at 12:10 PM on January 13, 2015 [23 favorites]


I wish the people who flagged Joe's comment linking to that article and the other previous comments referencing anti-Semitism would come explain themselves. I get that people are used to arguing with Joe about I/P issues and may have issues with him, but who could in good faith claim that the thread in question wasn't an appropriate place in which to discuss the anti-Semitism angle on the incident given the attack on the kosher grocery store?

(I think the bigger error came from mod side, but that's already been explained above.)
posted by Area Man at 12:11 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


> For what it's worth, while I haven't been involved in the Charlie Hebdo conversations, I have noticed that anti-Semitism is a strange topic that is not handled well on Metafilter. ... I actually think Joe is right about there being a structural issue insofar as invisible flagging can be used to express the feeling that any discussion of anti-Semitism is really an attempt to derail criticism of Israel or justify Israeli actions. In this context, I actually think that Joe's visibility as a critic of anti-Semitism and a supporter of Israel supports his concern that his comments might be being targeted regardless of their merit.

I agree with OmieWise on this; as annoyed as I've gotten at Joe over the years, he is rightly sensitive to anti-Semitism and it really is a topic that is problematic on MeFi for reasons that I can't help but think are problematic. We should really do better, just as we've gotten better at issues involving sexism.
posted by languagehat at 12:23 PM on January 13, 2015 [28 favorites]


[One deleted; please don't call people 'asshole.']
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:23 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Um.

I just checked my mail and it looks like Matt did get my email - and replied to it! - but I missed his reply, so we were talking at cross-purposes about my failure to reply. Matt, sorry for not replying; it was late and I was sleepy and I don't think I checked my email again that night.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:24 PM on January 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


Candidly, I don't know anything about Joe from Australia's behavior on this site. But from the context of the discussion above, it appears that he has been deemed a "problem user" because he writes a lot about a topic for which he is very interested and tends to doggedly defend his views in the face of rebuttal. Presumably the "problem" is that the topic for which he is very interested is one that (1) draws a lot of flags and (2) generates very heated responses.

If that is the reason Joe is a "problem", I find that very disconcerting. There are people on all kinds of topics who beat the topics to dust and take on all comers who contradict their received truths. People who can go on for hundreds of comments arguing about whether something is misogynist, sexist, homophobic, the evils of Republicans/Southerners/Liberals/gamers/corporations/fill in the blank. Are all of these people "problems users"? Or just people whose specific interest tends to clash with a loud set of users who themselves will not tolerate others stepping on their pet views?

If Joe has a history of doing other things that are wrong (specifically insulting users or harassing specific users), then I can see calling him a problem user. But if it is because he rides a hobby horse, then I hope all such hobby-horse riders are considered problem user, even those whose hobby horse is one that is well-received here. Otherwise, you are just internalizing the heckler's veto into a moderation policy.
posted by dios at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2015 [53 favorites]


[One deleted; please don't call people 'asshole.']

More accurately this should say "please don't quote that line from The Big Lebowski. You know the one I'm talking about."
posted by octobersurprise at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah, didn't get that.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:41 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are all of these people "problems users"?

It depends pretty heavily on the actual specific history of behavior of those users; there's a degree of fungibility to People Arguing On The Internet but the when and how and why and how often are pretty major determining factors in whether something rises to the point of being an ongoing problem or is just relatively isolated events.

That said, you seem to be for the sake of your argument partitioning user behavior into two groups, stuff that's Actually Problematic and stuff that definitively isn't in which you include long-term hobbyhorsing; that's a partitioning I don't agree with, partly because I think it's a more complicated spectrum there and partly because I don't think long-term hobbyhorsing should, if we really have to make such a partition, fall to the not-a-problem side of the fence.

please don't quote that line from The Big Lebowski

Quotation of people cursin' at each other in pop culture as an unattributed reference is always a questionable move, even when quoting from the red letter words of El Duderino himself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:45 PM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


I am not Jewish, but I have particularly noticed that when anti-Semitism is engaged in by a population or demographic group that Metafilter is generally sympathetic with, the discussion does not go well at all and many statements about it being anti-Semitism are deleted. This is problematic for a number of reasons, regardless of who is saying that things are anti-Semitic.

This is also the case outside MetaFilter. To go along with the repeatedly debunked (and after debunked, repeated) contention that Charlie is a racist magazine, you see a number of (willfully?) uninformed Americans/anglophones on the left saying that yes, antisemitism is indeed a problem in France in 2015, and as such, Charlie should stop promoting that, too. They just can't fathom that it isn't old white dudes doing it this time around.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Quotation of people cursin' at each other in pop culture as an unattributed reference is always a questionable move

I'll tell you what's a questionable move: even getting in front of the hobby horses when they're off to the races.

(Speaking of which, I'd like to introduce my own favorite pastime, hobby cowing. Moooo!)
posted by octobersurprise at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The staff may not be informed enough to recognize things that are developing, and should take user input, of the sort that Joe, among others, can provide.

Perhaps.

But while I like Joe in Australia's huge range of contributions on many subjects, I wouldn't trust him on this, because his definition of anti-Semitism is too near the likudnik version: ie any criticism of Israel. I find that I scrutinise his posts or comments on this subject far more closely than I would of anybody without his history because I've found them to be slanted towards that rightwing Israeli point of view too much.

Frex, the deleted post would've read a lot differently if the attack in Brussels (not actually in France) hadn't been added to it, or Joe hadn't ignored the heroics of the Muslim worker at that kosher market.

There is a post to be made about antisemitism in France, but I'm not sure that Joe is the right person for it. He's too personally involved.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:00 PM on January 13, 2015 [23 favorites]


That's a pretty strong allegation. I think a more charitable response would be that a lot of people have a superficial understanding of a topic that you have a deep understanding of and it's difficult for those two sets of people to have discussions on complex issues on MetaFilter, specifically after a high profile crime. Trying to say "Why don't people focus on THIS other horrible thing..." rarely goes well. Making a post on the topic that was causing trouble in the comments of a different thread was not a good way to go about this and was bad advice.

I'm kinda in the same boat here...kinda.

As critical as I am of the mods, I don't see them as anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, ...ad nauseum.

But they are rather receptive to groupthink here. Flags are God, and if enough people flag something then it becomes valid.

And in that way, they support these anti-Semitic, racist, etc ideals.

In the end, metafilter is a bunch of people who claim to be really open and loving of all people, and would show up at all parades and stuff, but when stuff is nebulous, there's a clear line that's taken, and the mods are supportive of this.

I kinda don't like what Jessamyn wrote about it being bad advice for you to write about what you did. Why the hell should you not? Because "metafilter doesn't do it well". I see that as supporting the status quo. And things like this kinda get to me and make me feel that as loving and hand holding everyone pretends to be, there clearly is an "us and them" mentality here.

The modagement should stop catering to that through "metafilter doesn't do this well". Yeah. It doesn't do it well for a reason, and you are supporting that stupid fucking reason.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:04 PM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think it's more fair to say that the internet does not handle conversations about antisemitism well, rather than anything particularly specific to Metafilter.
posted by angerbot at 1:04 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


But while I like Joe in Australia's huge range of contributions on many subjects, I wouldn't trust him on this, because his definition of anti-Semitism is too near the likudnik version: ie any criticism of Israel.

I also think he has a hair trigger about anti-semitism w/rt to Israel, but Israel was only tangentially involved in that thread, and there are plenty of people merrily trashing Netenyahu and Israel without anyone asking them to keep it on topic.
posted by empath at 1:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is a post to be made about antisemitism in France, but I'm not sure that Joe is the right person for it. He's too personally involved.

The combination with the I/P debate really tangles all this up. In most cases, personal involvement with discrimination would not be a bad thing for someone who wanted to post about it to have. Special care has to be taken to deal with this sensitively, which is why it's not surprising the mods may want to keep the discussion down to a minimum and also that they won't always be perfect with it even so.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


you're asserting systemic anti-Semitism on Metafilter more or less on the grounds that you haven't been getting your way enough when arguing about a subject you have a tendency to get into a lot on Metafilter.

What a shit thing to say. Go home and get some sleep or something.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:07 PM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Flags are God, and if enough people flag something then it becomes valid.

We demand they listen to what users want, and when they do, we accuse them of caving in to groupthink.
posted by rtha at 1:09 PM on January 13, 2015 [42 favorites]


I think it's more fair to say that the internet does not handle conversations about antisemitism well, rather than anything particularly specific to Metafilter.
posted by angerbot at 8:04 on January 14 [+] [!]


But umm...it handles transgender issues well? Really? Why is it that metafilter handles some issues really well, and when it doesn't, it's a failing of the Internet and not of the site?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:09 PM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


But while I like Joe in Australia's huge range of contributions on many subjects, I wouldn't trust him on this, because his definition of anti-Semitism is too near the likudnik version.

This is just saying 'I wouldn't trust him on this because I disagree with him.'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:13 PM on January 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


What a shit thing to say. Go home and get some sleep or something.

Gee, maybe if I was a little less subtle my comments wouldn't get deleted. Moo hoo hoo.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:14 PM on January 13, 2015


Brussels (not actually in France)

Tomato, tomato.

You know, that doesn't work as well in print.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:20 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I went and re-read the Metatalk thread Drinky Die mentioned above, the one that caused Zarq to close his account. You have other Jewish MeFi users making very similar complaints about flagging in bad faith.

Look, I don't think I throw around random accusations of anti-Semitism, but whatever, I'd be very happy to discuss it with anyone in MeMail. When you've got several people (e.g.) complaining in such similar terms then the right thing to do is to accept that there's a problem. I mean, I think MeFi is pretty good when it comes to discussions about race or sexuality, and part of what I've learned from threads about those subjects is to stop and listen when someone says that I'm doing something wrong.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:22 PM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


Frex, the deleted post would've read a lot differently if the attack in Brussels (not actually in France) hadn't been added to it, or Joe hadn't ignored the heroics of the Muslim worker at that kosher market.


On the Brussels thing, it is worth noting that Joe's description said the attack was one of a number of incidents "associated with" France and specifically stated that the jihadist who carried out the attack was French. Joe did not claim that Brussels was in France though you seem to be trying to imply that he did. I certainly don't see it as a reason to for deletion.
posted by Area Man at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


It does seem like objections to possible anti-semitism are treated much less sympathetically than objections to sexism or racism. Maybe because so many fewer people have personal experience with it given population sizes?
posted by Justinian at 1:36 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Exactly. I agree with Joe we have a problem. Which is how this site deals with anti-Semitism, almost entirely a user and not mod driven problem. Mods understandably notice flags, so why all the flagging? Could we talk about that? Rather than what is not the issue, Joe or I/P threads? The only thing worse than reading about the really terrifying rise of homicidal anti-Semitism in France lately is an inability to discuss that here. And yes, it does remind me of the problems we've had in the not so distant past discussing race and sexuality and feminist concerns.
posted by bearwife at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


You have other Jewish MeFi users making very similar complaints about flagging in bad faith.

If we're going to be tallying up numbers. As a Jew who grew up in a very predominantly christian town, who was beaten up for being Jewish and told he was going to hell by classmates' parents, I have no complaints about Mefi's alleged anti-semitism.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:39 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


It does seem like objections to possible anti-semitism are treated much less sympathetically than objections to sexism or racism. Maybe because so many fewer people have personal experience with it given population sizes?

My personal thought on it is because specifically online it's been used as a club/gotcha/etc in demonstrable bad faith since before MeFi even existed.

Something can legitimately exist and be a problem, and also be used as a conversation killer. It's really become a "when did you stop beating your wife?" sort of accusation online, and i don't think we can just pretend that isn't true.

Seriously, shits older than 4chan. Probably even usenet old.
posted by emptythought at 1:39 PM on January 13, 2015


I think it's an interesting topic - both anti-Semitism and racism in France more generally. And I think there could be a great post on it that I would enjoy reading.

But Joe, whilst I didn't flag your post, it came off as a bit of a stunt post to me, and also I found your editorialising about how the Jewish murders were ignored frankly kind of gauche. It's not a competition about who gets the most mourners, dude.

Additionally your thesis - murders were ignored because of anti-Semitism, rather than say because of the fact CH happened first, killed more people, involved a famous magazine with a troubled history, and that the supermarket murders were seen as part of the broader spree - was far from the slam dunk you presented it as.

Knowing your own history on the site, and the regular criticisms you face from reasonable and unreasonable users alike that you can get a bit loosey goosey with accusations of anti-Semitism and ascribing your particular flavour of Zionism to all Jews, not to mention linking from the Israeli right wing noise machine as if it's some kind of objective truth, I was a bit disappointed that you thought you were the right person to make that post and also unable to restrain yourself from editorialising.

I think it's an important and interesting issue, and honestly I feel like better framing would have kept the post up, to everyone's benefit. I'd love to see you, with modly blessing, have another crack at it.

In regards to anti-Semitism of the user base, I do think metafilter struggles sometimes to have good conversation about all things Jewish. I feel that your approach is part of the problem, not the solution, however. You are far from the only bad actor, or indeed the worst, but when people see you, frankly, going on with the same old bullshit in the same old bullshitty way, I think they use it as an excuse for their own bullshit, and also conflate responding to that with responding to the issues. Your voice, and a few others like it, is so dominant in these discussions I truly think it helps set the tone. And I feel that tone lacks nuance, is needling, is more about talking than listening and is set in stone. Those attributes are something I would ascribe to threads about Jewish stuff quite frequently and is a damned shame.

Tl;Dr I do think there is an unfortunate problem with posts on Jewish things, I don't think it's necessarily anti-Semitism, I think you should work harder at being the change you want to see. I think there's room for debate and multiple views on this topic.
posted by smoke at 1:40 PM on January 13, 2015 [54 favorites]


This is just saying 'I wouldn't trust him on this because I disagree with him.'

Yes, and? Disagreement with Joe's perception of, and claims about, anti-Semitism is germane to this discussion, since people are apparently seriously proposing here that these perceptions and claims should be used to inform moderation. If one believes (as I do, and I'm Jewish, not that that ought to matter at all) that these perceptions and claims have frequently proven to be way off base and/or ideologically motivated in the past, then that's good reason for moderators not to take them any more seriously.
posted by RogerB at 1:41 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I went and re-read the Metatalk thread Drinky Die mentioned above, the one that caused Zarq to close his account. You have other Jewish MeFi users making very similar complaints about flagging in bad faith.

Both you and Zarq have hair trigger tempers on the subject on this particular subject and seemingly love (loved) to argue about it. It's been my impression of you on this site for years.

You may have legitimate compliant here, but your past history on the site makes me think you don't. This MeTa comes off a temper tantrum covered with potential serious issues.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:43 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


If we're going to be tallying up numbers. As a Jew who grew up in a very predominantly christian town, who was beaten up for being Jewish and told he was going to hell by classmates' parents, I have no complaints about Mefi's alleged anti-semitism.

Let's not do this, please.
posted by maxsparber at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I also think it's disingenuous to pretend that these flags are randomly popping up for some bad faith reason. Joe, while an excellent commenter on many subjects, tends to suck the oxygen out of the room any time Israel comes up, even in a tertiary manner.

A lot of them are probably "ohhhh lord, not this shit again" flags. You know like...

Ok yea, i'm not going to get in to trashing a bunch of people here, but there are subjects where you start to read someones post on it and realizing they're doing That Thing again and your mouse starts hovering over the [!] as you read.

"My post got flagged down, and it's a symptom of violence inherent in the system!" is a pretty fucking big accusation, and a pretty high bar to clear. And i think it's pretty relevant that you've rabbleroused in a taking-all-comers kind of way posting like 300 comments to a thread before to belabor your point, if you're going to try and field that one.

On preview, what Brandon said.
posted by emptythought at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The only thing worse than reading about the really terrifying rise of homicidal anti-Semitism in France lately is an inability to discuss that here.

Well, but again, where is that inability? The one thing at all related to this that was deleted in the Charlie Hebdo thread was a link to an op-ed that was linked again in that same thread shortly thereafter, and Matt ended up specifically noting that that thread's an okay place for it. And I've talked in here about how to better approach a post that's more broadly on that subject rather than a "here's another Charlie Hebdo thread" approach that was I think part of the issue with Joe's deleted post. It's a bumpy chain of events but what it emphatically is not is a prohibition on discussing that stuff.

Which, this isn't to say that people shouldn't talk about how they feel and what they want from discussion here or their concerns about how things play out on the site. But there's often this disconnect between a general suppression of a subject in theory and the deletion of one or two specific things in a specific context in actual fact that makes it hard to answer questions or charges about the former on the basis of the latter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:46 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse : ... his definition of anti-Semitism is too near the likudnik version ... I find that I scrutinise his posts or comments on this subject far more closely than I would of anybody without his history because I've found them to be slanted towards that rightwing Israeli point of view too much.

This really bothers me. What ends up happening is the deaths of grocery shoppers in Paris can't be connected to anti-semitism because that would be a victory for Likud? This is what you're saying boils down to and I don't think it's right. Sometimes assholes are right about some things. We have to learn how to deal with that and not let our irritation twist us away from facing reality.


MartinWisse: ... the deleted post would've read a lot differently if the attack in Brussels (not actually in France) hadn't been added to it,

I have a hard time believing that. As you said, you read it looking for anything you could complain about. The Brussels killer came from Paris, and was a valid instance for the post. I'm pretty certain you would have found something else to complain about had it not been included.

And while I did appreciate your posting about the Muslim employee's heroism — it was a good comment for the thread, a nice reminder of how all groups have their good people along with their bad people — I don't see how it was a critical fact for the OP.


I know I'm digging deep into your comments. I have a good impression of you as someone who comments thoughtfully around here and I hope it comes off as respectful disagreement.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:47 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Wait, this is an argument over a link which was successfully reposted? Bah.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here's the thing, though, and it's the thing we experience again and again in dealing with this sort of subject:

The person who raises the issue is very rarely going to be the ideal person to raise the issue. There will always be reasons to say that we would take it more seriously if someone else raised it, or if it were raised in a different way, or if they had phrased it differently, or this, or that, or any million reason not to pay attention.

Yes, this is Joe's thing, and he's not always right.

He's not always wrong, either, and while I wouldn't say that MetaFilter has the worst track record when it comes to addressing antisemitism, it isn't exactly stellar either. More than anything, the site has a tendency to minimize or shut down discussions of antisemitism -- and I'd say it does so even more so with discussions of Islamophobia. And there may be a million different reasons for that, but I sure do sense it, and I really don't like it.
posted by maxsparber at 1:49 PM on January 13, 2015 [19 favorites]


Your last few comments in that thread seem to be derailing it into a discussion of anti-semitism, and they're all getting flagged.

That's the thing that bothers me. Sure, the link got reposted, but who are the people who think it was illegitimate to discuss anti-Semitism in that particular thread? People can say whatever they want about Joe being quick to lob accusations of anti-Semitism in discussions related to Israel, but how can it possibly be illegitimate to discuss anti-Semitism when a kosher grocery store has been attacked? That such people exist and are responded to by the mods suggests to me that there is a real problem.
posted by Area Man at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


More than anything, the site has a tendency to minimize or shut down discussions of antisemitism -- and I'd say it does so even more so with discussions of Islamophobia.

Without getting too "SHOW ME LINKS OR THIS DOESN'T EXIST," can you point out few other instances where discussion of anti-semitism has been shut down? No need for links, but anything you can recall from memory.

Because I'm wondering if shutting down of heated discussions that occur (often from the same group of people)while discussing the subject or actual shutting down of the discussions because it's about anti-semitism
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:03 PM on January 13, 2015


Wait, this is an argument over a link which was successfully reposted? Bah.

Yea, because silenced all my life.
posted by emptythought at 2:05 PM on January 13, 2015


That's the thing that bothers me. Sure, the link got reposted, but who are the people who think it was illegitimate to discuss anti-Semitism in that particular thread? People can say whatever they want about Joe being quick to lob accusations of anti-Semitism in discussions related to Israel, but how can it possibly be illegitimate to discuss anti-Semitism when a kosher grocery store has been attacked? That such people exist and are responded to by the mods suggests to me that there is a real problem.

Wait, where did this happen?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:16 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-particular-policies-of-this-Israeli-government-ism are often confused and conflated, sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose to serve political agendas. And not just on one side of the political spectrum -- there are Israeli government rah-rahs eager to claim anti-Semitism at the slightest criticism of government policy; and there are rabidly anti-Semites eager to pull a veil of respectability over their hate speech by claiming it's "just" criticism of government policy. That turns discussions of anti-Semitism and of Israel both into very, very complicated semantic and ideological terrain, and it can be very, very difficult to discern if someone is innocently and naively conflating anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli-government-ism, or doing it on purpose to disingenuously advance an agenda.

I also think a lot of Gentiles are aware of the Holocaust, but maybe not aware of the millennium-long history of blood libel accusations (i.e., that Jews kidnap young Gentile children and murder them to use the blood to make matzoh, sometimes in a celebratory re-enactment of killing Christ) against Jews by their Christian neighbors in Europe, and the ongoing use of literally exactly those same accusations (2014 example) by various groups and regimes trying to stir up hatred of Israel and/or Jews. I think people who are less-aware of Jewish history are sometimes befuddled by complaints of anti-Semitism because they're only aware of the Holocaust, and not of the continuum of rhetorical strategies used against Jews for a solid millennium that provided propaganda for the Holocaust but also for countless other atrocities and -- again, this has to be emphasized -- continue in use today.

Which is a long way to say, I guess, that I do think this is an unusually complicated area of public discussion and argumentation, that is unusually difficult to handle well without a fairly strong framework and some prior trust among members of the discussion, so that minor missteps can be understood as mistakes and not as deliberate provocations. I'm not sure how possible that is to do on a public website, although I think MetaFilter is better-equipped to do it better than anywhere else. I do think we should try to do better and be better, as people and as Mefites, and we should self-examine as part of that process; I have no objection to this metadiscussion. I also think we should ... hmm, I don't want to say "cut everyone some slack" because some things shouldn't be cut slack, but maybe, "try to understand 'doing better' as a process, not a destination." So, I hope we all do a bit better as a result of this metatalk, but I won't lose hope when we all still have farther to go.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2015 [56 favorites]


Every single time I have heard somebody preemptively say "accusations of antisemitism are used to silence critics if Israel," despite the fact that I have never seen this done on this site, there is the message that discussions of antisemitism, in that context, will automatically be treated with suspicion and the motives held to be disingenuous. Perhaps not the ideal example, but it's the one that springs most readily to mind, because I/P threads are where I most often see (generally unconscious) comments that should should be discussed in the context of antisemitism, but, frankly, those threads are a no-go zone for me because it is so discouraging.

They're also places where a discussion of Islamophobia is appropriate, and they seem to happen without anyone reminding us that there are those out there who will throw around those accusations to silence criticism, even though this has also happened in the past.
posted by maxsparber at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is something of a derail, but for what it's worth: I don't believe I generally call people here anti-Semites. If I were to do so, and if I thought it would somehow silence I/P discussions, I would be the single stupidest and least effective person on the surface of this planet, because it obviously has absolutely zero effect.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2015


Perhaps not the ideal example, but it's the one that springs most readily to mind, because I/P threads are where I most often see (generally unconscious) comments that should should be discussed in the context of antisemitism, but, frankly, those threads are a no-go zone for me because it is so discouraging.

As someone who also avoids the Israel/Palestine threads for similar reasons, if the fact that those are the hot spots of alleged and actual anti-Semitism comments, it would help explain to me why I have been at a loss to think of any such examples over the time I have been a reader of the site. Metafilter members have definitely had issues with organized religion, but for this problem, I simply have failed to notice (sure, you can claim cultural blindness if you like) truly any behavior that made me think, "Oh brother, that ain't right" with regard to the Jewish people or faith.
posted by Atreides at 2:53 PM on January 13, 2015


Well, since a few Jewish people in this thread have said they have noticed it, I wonder if you could extend us the courtesy of assuming it either wasn't in the threads you read or that you were just unaware of it when you saw it.

It doesn't happen with any frequency, but it doesn't really have to. I mean, one that stands out for me is a few years old, but it was such a doozy, and something that non-Jews wouldn't even have the context to know why it was a doozy, that it still really stings.
posted by maxsparber at 2:58 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I generally disagree with Joe politically, and in particular disagree with him a lot about Israel. But I do think that he -- and zarq -- point out anti-semitism that gets ignored because he doesn't point it out nicely enough, or he points it out too often, or he also has politics associated with it, or somehow he is pointing it out incorrectly but of course if he pointed it out better and it were real it would be stopped and I do think that overall, Mefi does anti-semitism badly. I don't bring it up because god it is exhausting -- and I feel this is how I interact with people calling out sexism here: I am very glad other people do the work I am unwilling to do.

Judaism is in a weird position -- there's some privilege, though I think a lot of it is conditional. (This might change with time.)

This isn't the only post he did on the topic, or even the best one, but David Schraub wrote about so-called bad faith accusations of anti-semitism and how anti-semitism does and doesn't fit into intersectional claims of discrimination. It's long, but I think it has a lot to say that is relevant to this Meta.
posted by jeather at 3:02 PM on January 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


Coming in late, but I absolutely feel like I am unwelcome participating in conversations here about anti-Semitism even when I see it, both because the overall vibe here outright refuses to acknowledge the possibility that it exits here at all until someone outright says "Jews control the media" or some such libel, and the vibe from the current group of mods really seems to be "keep your head down, we're doing the best we can and we don't handle it well so oh well, so unfortunate." And thirdly because to some extent - especially now that zarq is gone, because of this very issue - Joe speaks for me. Not always, not in the same terms (he's far more aggressive than I would be and often links to inappropriate derail-y things to highlight hypocrasy, for example). But almost every time I see something that begs a comment, he makes one. He stands up. And he does so knowing full well that it is branding him as a problem member, and causing ill-will. And for that I am grateful for him speaking up - not because I would say what he was saying, and even often when I disagree with him, because at least someone is speaking up. At this point I mostly flag, and often skip the threads entirely.

The thing is, anti-semitism is on the rise all over the world. It's even made its way back into polite society in much of Europe - always being called legitimate criticism of the policies of the state of Israel, which is merely anti-Zionism, of course. I feel like a broken record typing this into yet another Meta, but just because all criticism of Israel isn't anti-Semitism, it doesn't automatically follow that none is. But it keeps coming back to that here. Meanwhile, some really iffy comments keep turning up in threads related to Judaism, and are generally left to stand. They showed up in the PJ library thread. They showed up in an FPP I made about melody variations in a Hebrew prayer. The thread about Steven Salaita was horrific in the way some people bent over backwards to defend statements and deny that there was any anti-semitism at all, even when it was clearly demonstrated.

While I would love to believe that we are all arm-in-arm together as a society fighting all the bad -isms, the reality seems to be that Jews are hearing the dog-whistles and seeing the red flags, and non-Jews, who genuinely are on our side and against anti-semitism, are missing them, downplaying them, or willfully ignoring looking them in the face to the point where only violence against Jews now counts. And it seems obvious to me, but maybe it needs to be said: Jews are a tiny minority. We're around .02% of the world's population - not 2%, .02%. Less than 2% of the US and Europe. Around 1% of Canada. My gut-level take (backed by no numbers, just a feel for the number of people who self-identify from time to time) is that we're a larger percentage - maybe 6% - of Metafilter. But most of us aren't out looking for this stuff - it's not our mandate to police the site, and it shouldn't be. But smaller numbers also means smaller numbers of people flagging problematic comments. When someone here says "I am Muslim and _____", they get heard. When someone says "I'm Jewish and ____," people look at your username, look over or remember your past posting history, and use that metric to decide whether your opinion is valuable or not. Being a minority who speaks up makes you more visible by definition.

I don't know what the solution is, but I wanted to add my voice to the chorus saying that there is a problem here, and I would rather we as a community face it head on and try to do better, rather than blame the people who speak up, or sweep the whole thing under a rug of silence.
posted by Mchelly at 3:02 PM on January 13, 2015 [88 favorites]


And thirdly because to some extent - especially now that zarq is gone, because of this very issue - Joe speaks for me. Not always, not in the same terms (he's far more aggressive than I would be and often links to inappropriate derail-y things to highlight hypocrasy, for example). But almost every time I see something that begs a comment, he makes one. He stands up. And he does so knowing full well that it is branding him as a problem member, and causing ill-will.

I have been doing this as well, and it's not really fair to Joe. But I won't go near I/P threads, and I'm not always interested in Jewish subjects and don't really want to police them, and he just gets to the subject faster than me. But when I see him say something, I generally am feeling weird about the comment he responded to, and the Jewish book publisher FPP above is a good example.
posted by maxsparber at 3:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


And tbh I am sort of ashamed that I felt the need to start out my comment with how I disagree with Joe on politics, and I apologise to him for that.
posted by jeather at 3:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


To bring this horse back around to the trough, Joe's original complaint was that there were systematic problems with how Metafilter handles accusations of anti-Semitism (whether or not they're legitimate or not is not an issue, as a member has a right to have a Mod legitimately consider their concerns).

Presumably, the answer to this problem is to make the Mods aware of the issue and how it has negatively impacted members' enjoyment of the site. I think this has definitely been done via this post, but what are, if any further, steps should the Mods take to better address these concerns?
posted by Atreides at 3:11 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Israel is a hot-button issue and always will be. Anything involving the Jewish people anywhere on earth is guaranteed to bring in the pro- and anti-Israel contingents - to the degree that the original issue is obscured. The minute an anti-Israel remark is made the cries of antisemitism begin - and then, one direction or another, we get to the Palestinians and to Jews all over the planet: All Jews are the same and all are Israeli and all do this and all do that and ...

It's like a format - or a family tree diagram. It just explodes, and always into the same points, once the word Israel or Jew is posted. What that means, in the long run, is that the whole affair is grossly unfair to the Jewish people as a whole. All Jews are not any more alike than all Christians or all Muslims, and those who just live quietly and make no trouble for anyone get attacked right along with the troublemakers. Which is true of all groups who suffer discrimination.

What makes this a revolving door on MetaFilter is the flagging. The moderators, with all good sense, would like to limit the number of nearly identical posts/comments/uproars, so I'm sure it happens that they can be too quick to delete the posts that will obviously kindle the fire, but they're only a minor part of the problem. The problem is the flagging.

Say there's a group of people on here who are rabidly anti-gluten/anti-grain. That's not unusual in today's world and the group could be fairly good-sized, too. And we happen to have a lot of cooking and recipe posts here - and every time someone posts a recipe or a menu that has something with a grain base the anti-grain people start flagging like crazy - lighting up the board to blinding level at the mods' desk. And it happens more often even than weekly. And gluten/grain becomes an issue that everyone knows is best just to be avoided here because of the commotion that arises every time someone mentions noodles.

Several times upthread it's been mentioned - who's doing the flagging? Just who is it who's so offended by any post concerning Jewish people that they just have to flag the post for elimination? What's a mod supposed to do if not delete a comment that's flat buried in flags, even if those flags are done by the same group of people who can be counted on to express their offended state by the joy of hitting the flag button?

That's where the problem is - who's doing the flagging?
posted by aryma at 3:12 PM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


The minute an anti-Israel remark is made the cries of antisemitism begin

Again, I have literally never seen this on this site. Could you link to an example of it here?
posted by maxsparber at 3:15 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Zarq notably took issue and it's a shame he isn't here anymore.

Very true. I miss having his voice here.
posted by homunculus at 3:16 PM on January 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


When someone here says "I am Muslim and _____", they get heard

I'm sorry this is flatly untrue. Look at the meta I posted recently about islamophobia, it's filed with denials that is an issue, despite several Muslim members staying that they are discomfited by comments /threads about Islam. The discussion repeatedly skates right over them.

Indeed now you mention it, I wonder how much of this - and I'm not trying to minimise anti-Semitism - can be contextualised by mefi's general difficulty in handling religions. I don't think that accounts for all of it, but I think maybe it's a part.
posted by smoke at 3:20 PM on January 13, 2015 [30 favorites]


Just chiming in with "am (ethnically) Jewish, have noticed this, usually avoid even lurking posts that discuss anything related to Judaism or Israel for precisely this reason". I also try avoid stuff about Russia/Russian culture/Russian immigrants for similar blood pressure/sanity reasons, although that's a whole other kettle of fish. I wouldn't have even commented on this thread if Lemurrhea hadn't chimed in, but figured if it's gotten to this point, I might as well add myself to the tally.

To be fair, I don't think this is a Metafilter problem so much as a general lefty thing, to the point where it's even kind of infected the Jewish community itself in places, but as people have said, MeFi is fairly lefty regardless of an explicit intent of purpose. There are absolutely some kinds of prejudice and bigotry that it's completely okay to express on MeFi because of crowd cover and the weird strain of Us-vs-Them tribalism in modern Western politics, and anti-Semitism is really only the most visible.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:20 PM on January 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


Indeed now you mention it, I wonder how much of this - and I'm not trying to minimise anti-Semitism - can be contextualised by mefi's general difficulty in handling religions.

I think it's actually a lot of it.
posted by maxsparber at 3:21 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm a Jewish person, and I think it's kind of gross to suppress discussion of the link between the rise of anti-semitism in France, and the kosher grocery store shootings. I felt like people like me were a target that day. I'm hardly a Zionist, but I agree with Joe in Australia here.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:23 PM on January 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


me: “So it begins to look like this really is less about antisemitism discussions being discouraged in threads and more about Joe in Australia being a recurring problem user.”

You know what? It was pretty crappy to call Joe a "recurring problem user." I've disagreed with him sometimes, but he's certainly been less belligerent than me on many occasions, and there have been plenty of times when his comments have been really thoughtful and helpful. Whatever his relationship with the mods, that's not really my business.

And since there are others I respect who have spoken up on this issue, I kind of feel like this is a good time for me to shut up and listen. So that is what I will do.

Sorry, Joe.
posted by koeselitz at 3:24 PM on January 13, 2015 [28 favorites]


I'm on my phone, Max, but fwiw as an active participant in IP threads, I've seen what I felt were unjustified accusations of anti-Semitism more than once, directed at people like benito.strauss, tonycpsu and others. It does happen, I feel.

More broadly though, to address Joe's complaint. I'm sorry that you have felt this coming from mefites, I would never want you to feel that way as a result of my comments, and I want to affirm that I will be more careful with my language in future, will always listen if you feel I'm saying something explicitly, implicitly, or inadvertently anti-Semitic and will be more active in calling out or asking for clarification when I see comments that skirt the line. I take your concern seriously, and will try my best to see it addressed in a constructive manner; I don't want anyone to feel attacked for their identities here.
posted by smoke at 3:27 PM on January 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


The Master and Margarita Mix: "I also try avoid stuff about Russia/Russian culture/Russian immigrants for similar blood pressure/sanity reasons"

Oh please. You're RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of EVERY SINGLE DISCUSSION about the Devil visiting Moscow. /offtopic literary humor
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:29 PM on January 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


This isn't the only post he did on the topic, or even the best one, but David Schraub wrote about so-called bad faith accusations of anti-semitism and how anti-semitism does and doesn't fit into intersectional claims of discrimination. It's long, but I think it has a lot to say that is relevant to this Meta.

That's a really interesting and thought-provoking blog post, jeather. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by twirlip at 3:31 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just who is it who's so offended by any post concerning Jewish people that they just have to flag the post for elimination? What's a mod supposed to do if not delete a comment that's flat buried in flags, even if those flags are done by the same group of people who can be counted on to express their offended state by the joy of hitting the flag button?

I think this is hugely uncharitable and it would require telepathy or something to be able to make a claim like this. I don't really care for the projection of intent when it comes to why people are flagging that's been going on in this thread.

Presumably, the answer to this problem is to make the Mods aware of the issue and how it has negatively impacted members' enjoyment of the site. I think this has definitely been done via this post, but what are, if any further, steps should the Mods take to better address these concerns?

This is the core question. As a general rule I tend to take people at their word when they say that a particular form of prejudice towards the group to which they belong exists in my community and is affecting them negatively. My not seeing it to the degree they do is not necessarily the soundest barometer; my privilege can put up blind spots to what other people are going through. That's why I think it's only fair to take those claims seriously, and ask to be shown where this is going on, why it's prejudice, and what we can do better. It's not only reasonable but entirely helpful to ask this.

I don't think that JiA's past responses to criticism of Israel is relevant to this discussion, because Israel (the state and its domestic and foreign policies) are not really all that relevant to the CH discussion. Anti-Semitism was, and is, wholly relevant to the CH discussion. Hopefully we can still have that discussion (on the Blue, of course).

I've seen the kinds of comments about women that used to get tossed up with impunity around here only just a few years ago. There's still quite a bit of ugliness at times, but this site has still come a long way where that's concerned. I think we can also improve when it comes to discussions about anti-Semitism.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:32 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


That's a good point, smoke. I was thinking of a few comments I've seen recently in response to comments like this, but it's true I don't have the overall Muslims on Metafilter perspective, and I apologize for mischaracterizing. I do think for most other groups, complaints are heard and not knee-jerk rationalized.
posted by Mchelly at 3:33 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's sort of an old thread, but I'm going to link to it because I think it shows the mechanism by which complaints about antisemitic content can get minimized or ignored. The MeTa thread on the Jewish American Princess, which was an unfortunate confluence of jokey prejudice against Jews and unexamined sexism. I was repeatedly treated poorly in that thread, accused of threadshitting, my viewpoints were minimized, my lived experience was minimized, and it wasn't until I linked to a dozen women explaining why the phrase was hurtful that I felt some acknowledgement was made.

Now, that was a while ago, and I haven't experienced that since, but neither has a topic like that made it to MeTa since then that I recall participating in. I think it's gotten better here, but that sort of thing really cuts a groove in you.
posted by maxsparber at 3:35 PM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


You have other Jewish MeFi users making very similar complaints about flagging in bad faith.

I'm a Muslim. My parents moved the family from Chicago to a blue collar suburb during the early 90's. The kids I went to school with did not know how to properly identify me, so they referred to me as a "chinese jew". I feel a strong kinship with Jews because of this (not to mention, growing up in a jewish neighborhood in Chicago-where I was never made fun of because of my race/ethnicity/culture). But more than that, I sometimes do see things in real life that border on "we don't like this because its...jewishy". And then when I see it on metafilter, I'm kinda upset. And disappointed.

I'm really fucking disappointed, Metafilter.

Count me as one of the Jewish Mefi users making complaints about flagging in bad faith, and the community minimizing valid points made by the Jewish community here.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:36 PM on January 13, 2015 [26 favorites]


I think it's actually a lot of it.

I don't! As people have already pointed out, discussions of anything even tangentially touching Islam tend to involve people bending over backward to avoid anything even remotely Islamophobic. "Neutral" religions (ie, ones without a big presence in US (geo)politics) like Hinduism, Buddhism, etc, don't have this problem. MeFi's issues with (evangelical) Christianity and Judaism are seperate and distinct, but I think they're really more about tribalism than actual religion. It's not about the religion, it's about what being an adherent of that religion represents. To be blunt, MeFi sucks about Christianity because of the perception amongst a lot of MeFites (and again, lefties in general) that "Christian" is synonymous with Person Who Is For A Lot Of Bad Things We Are Generally Against. With Judaism, it's not so simple, I don't think it's as straightforward as Jew = Bad Person For Bad Things, although it's damn near at that level if you change "Jew" to Zionist or even "Person Who Is Basically Okay With The Idea Of Israel".

I mean, yes, there are ways in which MeFi is "Bad At Religion" specifically along theist/non-theist lines, but the anti-Christian stuff and the crypto-anti-Semitism are distinct both from that particular failure mode and from each other, and I don't think it's helpful to sweep this under the rug with that kind of generalization.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:37 PM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


But umm...it handles transgender issues well? Really? Why is it that metafilter handles some issues really well, and when it doesn't, it's a failing of the Internet and not of the site?

While better than much of the rest of the internet, I don't think it's quite fair to say that mefi does trans issues well. Much like, while better than the rest of the internet, I don't think it's fair to say that mefi does antisemitism well.
posted by Dysk at 3:42 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


As people have already pointed out, discussions of anything even tangentially touching Islam tend to involve people bending over backward to avoid anything even remotely Islamophobic.

I feel like I was shouted down when I repeatedly raised concerns about Islamophobia in the Charlie Hebdo thread, and can think of at least one Muslim member who left because she felt unwelcome here, so I don't think this is universally true here.
posted by maxsparber at 3:45 PM on January 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


But I do agree that it is not exclusively just that the site is bad at religion.
posted by maxsparber at 3:46 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, of course, the presence of Islamophobia on MetaFilter does not mean that antisemitism isn't also present. And, as far as events in current events in France go, it's important for American members to realize that France's history of antisemitism and Islamophobia are really different from that of the US for a double (or triple) complexity of understanding.

Maybe we need some "Antisemitism 101" links -- similar links seem to have done some good in making MetaFilter less toxic on trans issues.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:52 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


One last attempt?

I totally get the desire to air and share grievances on such an intimate topic, but what more would folks like to see the Mods do toward creating the Metafilter you want to be apart of? What can they do to be more sympathetic to anti-Semitism?

I only ask this, as it's the original reason Joe posted and it would kind of suck for everyone if at the end of this thread, what we have are a bunch of members who have pointed out the problems they have seen and the negative atmosphere generated by behavior, but the Mods are left only with the vague request of, "hey, this is a prob! Do something!"

Is it a request that they pay more careful attention to flagged comments that are genuinely fine, but flagged for dubious reasons that relate to Judaism and the Jewish people?

Is it as GenjiandProust just posted, on preview, more site awareness built into the infrastructure?

It just seems there's been a number of Meta posts about Anti-Semitism, or related topics, over the years and they end up being a place of grievances, but no real guidance or requests to the Mods to try and take specific steps to avoid future problems.
posted by Atreides at 3:56 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've long given up trying to argue with those who've pinned the survival of my religion onto a cynical nation state. It's just depressing. If I want to learn about French antisemitism, which I genuinely do, I want it to be from those who look at the CH cartoons and see Der Sturmer as I did, not those who buy into the clash of civilizations nonsense.
posted by gorbweaver at 3:57 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've long given up trying to argue with those who've pinned the survival of my religion onto a cynical nation state. It's just depressing. If I want to learn about French antisemitism, which I genuinely do, I want it to be from those who look at the CH cartoons and see Der Sturmer as I did, not those who buy into the clash of civilizations nonsense.


What's the point of this comment? Are you claiming posts and comments by those who disagree with you should be deleted?
posted by Area Man at 4:05 PM on January 13, 2015


Maybe we need some "Antisemitism 101" links

I recommend the little collection The Politics of Anti-Semitism. It's undoubtedly anathema to some in this conversation for political reasons, but it does (IMO) a good job providing a range of arguments and positions which are not typically heard when the topic comes up.
posted by RogerB at 4:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


what more would folks like to see the Mods do toward creating the Metafilter you want to be apart of? What can they do to be more sympathetic to anti-Semitism?

This would be helpful for me, and I think it was a definite positive step when we were talking about trans issues as well - the bottom-line "this is poisonous to discourse on the level of tossing slurs around, this is 101-level stuff we'd like to see not come up, this is debated even within the community so we can't expect this site to take a position" sort of breakdown is great to have for us mods, and even if it doesn't end up quite so neat it's usually a productive conversation to have.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:07 PM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


I feel like I was shouted down when I repeatedly raised concerns about Islamophobia in the Charlie Hebdo thread, and can think of at least one Muslim member who left because she felt unwelcome here, so I don't think this is universally true here.

Okay, that sucks and I absolutely believe that MeFi probably actually does suck about Islamophobia on some level, and it can be added to the list of things that MeFi Does Not Do Well. But, and I hope this doesn't come across as dismissive of your experiences/concerns, I still think that overall, MeFites are a lot more concerned about the appearance or accusations of Islamophobia than they are about anti-Semitism. Or, maybe, to be more precise: I think there are almost certainly some hot-button lefty issues (free speech and it's limits, veiling/burqa, etc) that are higher up in the Things MeFi Cares About As A Collective heirarchy than Islamophobia, and then when it comes to those issues specifically, that attitude winds up providing cover to people with shitty, prejudicial views. With anti-Semitism, it feels like the list of issues like that is literally every single thing even remotely related to Judaism, where there's basically nothing short of 100% naked "send them all to the ovens!" hatred that will actually stand out as anti-Semitic.

It just seems like even the protest that "we're all basically against -isms in general! everyone's basically acting in good faith!" is a pretense and a complete farce when it comes to anti-Semitism and Jews, while the general care for respect towards Muslims and against Islamophobia seems much more genuine, even if it's quite flawed in execution at times. MeFites as a collective just flat out don't ever seem care about anti-Semitism unless they happen to be Jews, and there always seems to be a way to dismiss it out of hand, no matter what the topic at hand, whether it's the convenient excuse of I/P, "MeFi Is Bad At Religion", or whatever. There's always some other self-serving myth or excuse, but the pattern is pretty much always that it's somehow dismissed as illegitimate. I don't see that happening as much in relation to Islam, to the point where it's like an institutional pattern.

It just seems there's been a number of Meta posts about Anti-Semitism, or related topics, over the years and they end up being a place of grievances, but no real guidance or requests to the Mods to try and take specific steps to avoid future problems.

See, now, here is the thing: how would this be an acceptable response to, for example, a bunch of black MeFites complaining about dogwhistle racism? Your post reads to me as coming perilously close to "you're all a bunch of whiners, you figure it out, it's your fault if you don't tell the mods and other users exactly how not to be anti-Semitic". I mean, a pretty good first step would be to actually get people to take the issue seriously as a thing that does happen, and not constantly framing it in various ways that minimize it or give cover to it. I think this thread is a pretty good indicator that right now, that's not actually the case, or at least that there's a huge contingent of users that are prepared to make excuses and special cases for it and handwave it away every. single. time.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:09 PM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I appreciate Joe bringing this up, and I wish that Metafilter as a whole, mods and users, were more willing to admit that all, yes, all of the -isms (including in this case anti-Semitism) are structural problems. That doesn't make us or any of us bad people. It just means we are real people, part of a real society with real problems, and going online doesn't make that reality disappear.

It is easier for most of us to spot an -ism when it is our own ox being gored; it is harder for most of us to respond in the levelheaded/lighthearted/intellectual manner that is expected here when we are on the receiving end of an -ism. Probably all or nearly all of us have at least one soft spot where we are part of the oppressed group. I wish that more of us responded to our own experiences of oppression by not doing to others that which is hateful to us. I don't mean that to suggest that anyone in particular has been more oppressive than anyone else; just that accusations of some oppressed groups having it better than others are unhelpful. Every oppressed group deserves better than they currently get; on Mefi and everywhere.

I don't think every time an -ism is identified in action there has to be a legislative response, like changing site rules or changing the rules of thumb that mods use. These are human issues, where to really solve the problem is going to require changing the world, so in the short term, just hearing each other's viewpoints about what happened is helpful. While I just can't bear certain news events, so will not be going near those discussions in particular, I am now thinking about how I can educate myself about avoiding unintentional anti-Semitism in the contexts where I do participate. So again, I appreciate this being raised.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 4:10 PM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


See, now, here is the thing: how would this be an acceptable response to, for example, a bunch of black MeFites complaining about dogwhistle racism? Your post reads to me as coming perilously close to "you're all a bunch of whiners, you figure it out, it's your fault if you don't tell the mods and other users exactly how not to be anti-Semitic". I mean, a pretty good first step would be to actually get people to take the issue seriously as a thing that does happen, and not constantly framing it in various ways that minimize it or give cover to it. I think this thread is a pretty good indicator that right now, that's not actually the case, or at least that there's a huge contingent of users that are prepared to make excuses and special cases for it and handwave it away every. single. time.

What happens in Metatalk A LOT is that people get mad, make a post, and other people post, and about 150+ posts in or more, depending on how volatile the issue is, it essentially fizzles out, only to come back again down the road with the exact same result. Based on how sincere the complaints and comments have been here, I freakin' honestly wanted to make sure that these concerns were addressed, so as not to be repeated. Sorry, dude. I'll see myself out.
posted by Atreides at 4:14 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


See, now, here is the thing: how would this be an acceptable response to, for example, a bunch of black MeFites complaining about dogwhistle racism? Your post reads to me as coming perilously close to "you're all a bunch of whiners, you figure it out, it's your fault if you don't tell the mods and other users exactly how not to be anti-Semitic".

I think they are genuinely and sincerely asking how the mods can actively improve and do things better. It's clear Atreides takes the greivance raised by many in this thread seriously and is trying to reach for practical solutions to the problem. Which, to me anyway, sounds pretty much like the opposite of hand-waving it.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:14 PM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


I am a practicing Christian MeFite married to a non-practicing Jewish MeFite. I didn't even really think anti-Semitism was a thing anymore until I started dating him and someone I thought was my friend told me we couldn't be friends anymore if I dated a Jewish person. It was a total and complete what the fuck moment for me, and I have made him tell me the horror stories of his childhood so that I now know the sorts of things that still happen in the US. It also helped me understand my own bigotry and ignorance born of being raised in the majority religion in a part of the country where I knew only a tiny handful on non-Christians.

I have noticed the (much less overt) anti-Semitism here and among my lefty friends elsewhere. It bothers the fuck out of me. I have hesitated to speak up, because I am not a Jew (reference unintentional, but fuck it, it's true). Like hal_c_on above, I just want to be on record as saying I see it, it's gross, and I want to help fix it.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:15 PM on January 13, 2015 [27 favorites]


I still think that overall, MeFites are a lot more concerned about the appearance or accusations of Islamophobia than they are about anti-Semitism.

Respectfully, you are in no position to assess this, especially when you've made repeated claims about Islam and is treated here that have been plainly rebutted with examples.

I'm not really sure what this has to do with anti-Semitism, they can coexist and be different things and issues on the site. I feel like your hurt around this issue is pushing you towards very uncharitable assumptions about the members of this community and the way we could deal with this issue. Appreciate you're hurting, homie, but is not super constructive, you know?
posted by smoke at 4:16 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'm trying not to threadsit here, but basically: I don't think it would ever be collectively be seen as "okay" for the site to discuss, in essence, "instances where racism is really, truly real and actual vs all those other times when it's basically just some black people with a grievance playing the race card". Seriously, can anyone say with a straight face that's not basically people's reaction to Joe comes down to, in this very thread? Would it be okay to debate splitting those kind of hairs in relation to any single other -ism? I think people would at least understand at a basic level that the "race card" crap is bullshit, or the "feminism card", or really anything else.

I'm not trying to be destructive or actively non-constructive, or anything, but I think there is a fundamental difference between how anti-Semitism is perceived and handled on MeFi as compared to almost any other -ism, and I think a constructive thing that people could do is actually just stop doing that, or stop letting other people get away with that kind of "this kind of anti-Semitism a valid concern/this kind of behavior that reads to a whole bunch of Jewish MeFites and allies as anti-Semitism not a valid concern because reasons" garbage. Honestly, I think that's probably the first step, and nothing is going to improve even a little bit until it stops. How about just not making excuses for it anymore, or being willing to put up with others making excuses for it?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:20 PM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


See, now, here is the thing: how would this be an acceptable response to, for example, a bunch of black MeFites complaining about dogwhistle racism? Your post reads to me as coming perilously close to "you're all a bunch of whiners, you figure it out, it's your fault if you don't tell the mods and other users exactly how not to be anti-Semitic". I mean, a pretty good first step would be to actually get people to take the issue seriously as a thing that does happen, and not constantly framing it in various ways that minimize it or give cover to it.

This is actually not the problem.
posted by phaedon at 4:22 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'm trying not to threadsit here, but basically: I don't think it would ever be collectively be seen as "okay" for the site to discuss, in essence, "instances where racism is really, truly real and actual vs all those other times when it's basically just some black people with a grievance playing the race card".

But that's not the request. The request is "What specific things could the moderators do to combat anti-semitism on this site?" It's a totally reasonable request, and, as I said above, one we've made before that has had a positive outcome.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:22 PM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm not trying to be destructive or actively non-constructive, or anything, but I think there is a fundamental difference between how anti-Semitism is perceived and handled on MeFi as compared to almost any other -ism

I am not for a minute suggesting that antisemitism isn't an issue (on MetaFilter and elsewhere in our often-nasty world), but I see this dynamic in pretty much every discussion of -ism and oppression on the Blue and the Grey. Half the comments in trans threads are often people denying that it's a big deal; in sexual harassment threads, there is an awful lot of dismissing women's lived experience, and so on ad nauseum. Denial is, evidently, the first refuge of the person who doesn't want to be bothered. It's pernicious, and I'd like to see it dropped in all relevant threads.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:34 PM on January 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


For better or worse, you are known as one of a small set of commenters who frequently gets into deep intractable discussions on this and related issues which makes the post seem like more of an invitation to argue the topic and not for people to learn more about it. This was not a heckler's veto.

I don't really want to pick on Joe in Australia but he often is That Guy on this front and I think it's a big mistake of perception to ignore that and take at face value his declarations about system suppression of discussion of anti-Semitism on the basis that he doesn't have a blank check to argue whenever and however he likes about the stuff he has established a pattern of being more argumentative than normal about.

This. Stop doing shit like this, that's my request. It's part of an overall pattern, I don't think it's good modding, it contributes to a chilling environment of a lot of people not being willing to speak up and others being willing to dismiss it out of hand because it's Joe in Australia, hell, even the mods think he's a [whatever].

And it happens again and again and again. And, again, I feel like anti-Semitism specifically gets this kind of treatment way more often than "problem users" or "fighty posters" get dismissed when it comes to other issues, specifically from the mods. Maybe I am personalizing it and it happens to posters with other issues just as often, and if that's the case I don't want to minimize any other issue, but it honestly doesn't matter either way. It's shitty behavior, it should never happen to anyone regardless of any issue they happen to be "That Guy" about, it sucks, stop doing it. You don't really want to pick on him... but you'll pick on him. Maybe he's the one bringing the issue up so much because, already being That Guy, he's kind of unafraid to bring it up and be seen as one of Those Guys/Gals? I'm like half an hour into trying to carry the torch of "hey, this is actually an issue" and I feel like giving up and speaking out was kind of a mistake, and I think there's an environment around this issue that actually encourages this kind of dynamic.

I think that we wind up with a lot of That Guys for specific issues (trans, women, whatever), and it's not actually down to disengenuously picking up a righteous issue to use as cover for unrighteous behavior, and I wish MeFi in general and the mods in specific would stop taking that as pretty much a given. There probably are people who are legitimately trolling and completely acting in bad faith, but I think they're fewer and far between than people seem to accuse others of, and it's an incredibly shitty kind of accusation to bust out on a bunch of different levels, plenty of which have nothing to even do with the person they're being levied against.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:50 PM on January 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


It's a pretty tall order to ask anyone to disregard another's history, maxims of forgiveness notwithstanding.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 4:52 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


you do often get into arguments on the site about this topic...It's true MeFi has a long problematic history of hosting fights between members about Israel and Palestine and related topics

It really upsets and disappoints me to see this conflation expressed by mathowie. Stop tossing anti-semitism into your Israel/Palestine file. They're different topics. That would really help.

A woman went to a market to buy groceries, and ended up nursing her baby in a freezer in terror that the baby would cry and be detected by the madman who wanted them both dead because they were Jews. It's not a defensible political position that people of good faith might argue about.
posted by palliser at 4:53 PM on January 13, 2015 [27 favorites]


Trying to say "Why don't people focus on THIS other horrible thing..." rarely goes well. Making a post on the topic that was causing trouble in the comments of a different thread was not a good way to go about this and was bad advice.
posted by jessamyn


To be clear - this was of course because a mod (Matt H.) told both Joe and myself that the C-H thread was effectively 'for the Hebdo massacre only.' I would imagine Joe's thinking that if the anti-Semitic attack and anti-Semitism were not allowed in the thread, then perhaps it deserved its own thread.

Wait, this is an argument over a link which was successfully reposted? Bah.
posted by Justinian


What actually happened was Joe posted the Op-Ed, I read it and made a comment saying that I felt the Op-Ed was good and spoke to many of the points I had been trying to raise in the thread, but when I posted Joe's comment disappeared. I then explicitly went to the mods., and asked specifically if only Joe was prohibited from sharing the link or if I would be allowed to.

I never actually got a response on that from Matt, and so I just went ahead and reposted the Op-Ed. So it got posted, but it wasn't enjoyable for me if that matters.

This morning then when I saw the AP story about the funeral for the Jewish victims of the anti-Semitic attack and posted it to the Hebdo thread - I did so with a 60% belief that it would also be deleted because "[that] thread is for the Hebdo massacre only."

Has it even been clarified if we are now allowed to discuss anti-Semitism and the kosher attack in the thread now?

you're asserting systemic anti-Semitism on Metafilter more or less on the grounds that you haven't been getting your way enough when arguing about a subject you have a tendency to get into a lot on Metafilter
posted by cortex.


Again, even if this is Joe's pet-issue which he brings in inappropriately - this wasn't one of those cases.

------------------------

I found your editorialising about how the Jewish murders were ignored frankly kind of gauche.
posted by smoke

the deleted post would've read a lot differently if the attack in Brussels (not actually in France) hadn't been added to it, or Joe hadn't ignored the heroics of the Muslim worker at that kosher market.
posted by MartinWisse


(from the HebDo thread, not the Meta)
Most importantly, what's happening with these mischaracterizations (and the unwillingness to acknowledge them as such) is it shifts the discussion from the legitimate fears of radical extremism experienced by both the French Jewish and non-extremist Arab communities as well as structural reasons for why north and west Africans feel alienated in France (the issue of the veil, of France's separation of church and state) to a discussion primarily about fears of the French Jewish community (again, totally worthy of discussion, but within a broader context).
posted by faux ami


My first post in the Hebdo thread was to point out the similarity between the anti-Semitic attack at the grocer and the Toulouse and Montauban shootings in France and the Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting. The response from Metafilter was silence. When mentioned in Joe's thread and here in MeTa it elicited more comments that 'Belgium is not France' than it did about the apparent pattern of targeting French (French/European) Jewry (anyone who knows the details of the Belgium museum attack or bothered to read the pages I linked about the attack would know that geography is ignorant point of contention).

That the perpetrators of this recent series of anti-Semitic attacks are French Muslims of MENA heritage makes this hard for Metafilter to discuss - which I understand to degree - but again this part of the discussion was effectively shut-down.

I was totally willing to engage with the idea that there would be an anti-Muslim backlash and that it should be condemned. But there seems to be this need for Metafilter to respond to the anti-Semitic attack and its victims, its effect on the Jewish community - with "yes but the Muslim community too." Clearly both subjects need to be discussed - this is where 'faux ami' and I would agree - but I am not sure why the fear of an anti-Muslim backlash renders modern French anti-Semitism as a topic that can't stand on its own.

The other thing that really dissapointed me was the reaction to Netanyahu and Israel. All of the Jews killed in the specifically anti-Semitic attack on the kosher grocer were buried in Israel. The only comment addressing my link to the story about the funeral in Israel came from VikingSword:

But let us not kid ourselves that Netanyahu is above trading in the worst kind of anti-Semitic tropes.
posted by VikingSword


Heaven forbid that amongst record breaking numbers of Jews leaving France for Israel, at the fucking ISRAELI FUNERAL FOR THE PARIS VICTIMS - Netanyahu says "I believe that they know deep in their hearts that they have one country, the state of Israel, that is their historic homeland and will always welcome them with open arms," he said. "Today, more than ever, Israel is the true home for all of us."

He was literally standing over the bodies of four French Jews, killed for their identity, being buried in Israel. What a vicious anti-Semite monster!

Inviting a Jewish leader from majority Jewish country to attend a rally that was ostensibly also for French Jews killed for being Jewish didn't seem that crazy to me.

----------------

I have noticed this. I am not Jewish, but I have particularly noticed that when anti-Semitism is engaged in by a population or demographic group that Metafilter is generally sympathetic with,
posted by corb


I would agree.

I wasn't using word-count as a signifier for the content or quality of the discussion. I was using word-count as a signifier for the existence of the discussion. You and Joe claim there was no discussion of antisemitism or the targeting of Jews in the attacks. That claim seems dubious to me.

If you want to claim that the discussion didn't have enough "content" or "quality," that's an entirely separate issue
posted by koeselitz


And again, it felt, to me, like I (and Joe and maybe on or two other) was the one dragging the community kicking and screaming into acknowledging the ant-Semitic angle.

----------------------------

As a Jew who grew up in a very predominantly christian town, who was beaten up for being Jewish and told he was going to hell by classmates' parents, I have no complaints about Mefi's alleged anti-semitism.
posted by Lemurrhea


As someone with a similar background, I disagree.

The only thing worse than reading about the really terrifying rise of homicidal anti-Semitism in France lately is an inability to discuss that here. And yes, it does remind me of the problems we've had in the not so distant past discussing race and sexuality and feminist concerns.
posted by bearwife


QFT
posted by rosswald at 4:54 PM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's a pretty tall order to ask anyone to disregard another's history, maxims of forgiveness notwithstanding.

Good thing that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking the mods to stop talking about individual posters who bring up issues like this in a way that also serves to minimize the legitimate issue they care about, makes others who also care about that issue wary of speaking up about it, and makes the issue seem "controversial/let's-entertain-the-views-of-crackpots-in-the-interests-of-balance" and open for debate or discussion in a fundamental way when it really, really, really should not be. MeFi as a whole seems to understand that particular dynamic perfectly damn well when it comes to climate change and, to be blunt, shit Fox News pulls on Democrats/liberals/lefties or about any particular issue they don't want to acknowledge the merits of, why are people being so damn obstinate?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:59 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


The request is "What specific things could the moderators do to combat anti-semitism on this site?"

1) Stop thinking of people who raise concerns about anti-Semitism as problem users for raising lots of concerns about anti-Semitism, whether or not they agree. There's no bar for mods deciding "is this really racist" before someone's allowed to call something racism, no "is this really sexist" before sexism, etc. Let's not hold anti-Semitism to a weird standard.

2) Be more aggressive when people are making fun of religion at all, and specifically, Jewish religious commentary.

3) Be firm that jokey anti-Semitic comments will not be tolerated by any means. That "JAP" thread quoted above made me want to vomit in my mouth.
posted by corb at 5:02 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


what more would folks like to see the Mods do toward creating the Metafilter you want to be apart of? What can they do to be more sympathetic to anti-Semitism?

This would be helpful for me, and I think it was a definite positive step when we were talking about trans issues as well - the bottom-line "this is poisonous to discourse on the level of tossing slurs around, this is 101-level stuff we'd like to see not come up, this is debated even within the community so we can't expect this site to take a position" sort of breakdown is great to have for us mods, and even if it doesn't end up quite so neat it's usually a productive conversation to have.


Hmmmm... I think it is not any oppressed group's job to educate others about how to treat them respectfully. I went to the Anti-Defamation League's website, and I found this short list of anti-Semitic beliefs that a survey found were held by significant percentages of US Americans. One of them is: "People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave." Maybe there is a need to be sensitive to how discussions of Joe's posting behavior might press this button, even if people's intention is to be specific to Joe and not to all Jews.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 5:03 PM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think we would never officially from a mod perspective, at this point on MeFi, discount charges of anti-Black racism from a Black member, charges of sexism from a female member, or charges of trans* phobia from a trans* member. I think mods could apply the same logic to anti-Semitism.
posted by OmieWise at 5:07 PM on January 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


Hmmmm... I think it is not any oppressed group's job to educate others about how to treat them respectfully.

I'm asking this question because I am Jewish and I don't see an obvious way out of the tangle. I'm hoping some other folks, Jewish or otherwise, can clarify what is raising their hackles in a way that's useful to me as a moderator. I suspect my personal position on this isn't helping me see it the same way, because I see fellow Jews behaving in ways that require moderation and I think "Oh, cranky users," not "Oh, oppressed person with a grievance," because I do identify with that group and I usually don't see what, for example, Joe in Australia is seeing in terms of crypto-anti-semitism. It's a blind spot as much as an advantage to moderate a general discussion as a member of a minority group.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:11 PM on January 13, 2015 [26 favorites]


I want to add my voice to those saying that there actually is a problem here. I don't know what the scope of it is, but I've noticed it even though I stay completely out of I/P threads.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:16 PM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


Wait, this is an argument over a link which was successfully reposted? Bah.

No, it isn't. Reduction isn't always clever.
posted by OmieWise at 5:19 PM on January 13, 2015


Well it's expanded well beyond that, yes. It did start that way though.
posted by Justinian at 5:23 PM on January 13, 2015


especially now that zarq is gone, because of this very issue - Joe speaks for me. Not always, not in the same terms (he's far more aggressive than I would be and often links to inappropriate derail-y things to highlight hypocrasy, for example). But almost every time I see something that begs a comment, he makes one. He stands up. And he does so knowing full well that it is branding him as a problem member, and causing ill-will. And for that I am grateful for him speaking up - not because I would say what he was saying, and even often when I disagree with him, because at least someone is speaking up. At this point I mostly flag, and often skip the threads entirely.
posted by Mchelly


I would like to take personal moment to echo Mchelly's excellent excellent comment and commend Joe for, in my opinion, taking a stand when I am unwilling or unable to myself. I (of course) often disagree with the guy, but I also feel he is a voice that is important for MeFi to hear.
posted by rosswald at 5:32 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm hoping some other folks, Jewish or otherwise, can clarify what is raising their hackles in a way that's useful to me as a moderator.

1) Stop conflating I/P and anti-Semitism. They're not the same thing. Stop using any poster's position or participation in I/P threads to dismiss their concerns about anti-Semitism (or Islamophobia, for that matter), stop shrugging off accusations of anti-Semitism (or Islamophobia) because they happen in I/P threads, stop letting people derail anti-Semitism (or Islamophobia) discussions with invocations of I/P, whether it's "MeFi doesn't do this well" or "oh well it was in an I/P thread and they're a hornet's nest anyway" or whatever.

2) Stop dismissing anything, and I mean anything, with "MeFi Doesn't Do This Well". Yeah, and? You're the mods, it's your job to make sure MeFi does do it well, or at least not actively harmfully, and that starts with not just washing your hands of some issues and declaring them unmoddable, or trollbait, or fighty, or whatever. I/P, religion, abortion, pancake toppings, whatever.

3) Stop letting people derail discussions of these kinds of "any reasonable person should be against it" issues with "but is this really what's going on/a legitimate instance of it?/should we bother listening to this person?". As people have pointed out, this kind of hair-splitting wouldn't be nearly as prevalent or tolerated in other sorts of issues. This goes for absolutely everything, because it does happen in other contexts, not just anti-Semitism and Jewish stuff. It's garbage behavior.

4) Stop bringing up "problem poster"'s status when they bring up issues like these and you have significant numbers of MeFites chiming in and agreeing with them that it's an issue. I don't know how I'd judge "a significant number", and I get that there probably are occasionally some users who really are 100% disengenuous about various -isms and just use them to provide cover for trolling on tangential issues without ever touching on anything legitimate, but I think it's a lot fewer than is bandied about and probably a hell of a lot more obvious when it does happens. Again, I feel like it happens more often in "Jewish issue" threads and around anti-Semitism, but it's not the only topic where posters who have legitimate grievances get tarred by those kind of brushes and it's ultimately irrelevant. It's not cool, ever, no matter the "-ism" in question. Stop acting like Fox News, seriously.

5) because I see fellow Jews behaving in ways that require moderation and I think "Oh, cranky users," not "Oh, oppressed person with a grievance" I don't really know what I'd do about this, modding seems like an impossible job to me most of the time, but I do know that this is a problem. I have absolutely no advice or requests here, I just think this is a crappy way to look at issues like these, no matter the background of the user or the issue being brought up. I wish I had some kind of constructive solution, but other than asking yourself "would I be pissed if Bill O'Reilly expressed this sentiment and dismissed the issue?", I can't really think of anything.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:39 PM on January 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


I've been reading this thread for an hour and have finally worked up the courage to chime in. For a long time now, even before I paid to join, I've mostly avoided any thread that remotely touches on Judaism, anti-semitism, and I/P because of the issue here discussed. I get that being Jewish I'm going to be more sensitive to certain things, but the dismissal of 'Jewish concerns' seems like such a foregone conclusion on this site that I don't even get near it so that I can continue to be a (happy) member. Maybe not the best way to approach such things in life, but I just don't have the energy.

As for what mods can do? Perhaps mindfulness is the best we can do in this sort of system. If something starts throwing up flags, and it involves an issue that can cause a group distress, whatever that may be, it may be worth the mods' time to take a close look at the thread. Is that feasible? (Because I really do appreciate all the mods do.)
posted by Partario at 5:49 PM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


I hadn't realised how many other members felt like I did about this -- both that Metafilter can be casually antisemitic and that they didn't want to be the ones having the fight -- and it's both reassuring (not just me) and saddening (not just me) to find this out.
posted by jeather at 5:56 PM on January 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


I just want to call this comment out as a really good example -

But let us not kid ourselves that Netanyahu is above trading in the worst kind of anti-Semitic tropes.
posted by VikingSword


Now I know "the worst" is subjective and open to interpretation. But if I were asked to list the worst anti-Semitic tropes, the list would be pretty harrowing. That we kill non-Jewish babies and drink their blood or use it for our religious rites or revel in it. That we are sexually deviant and depraved. That we secretly run the world and cause all wars for our profit. That we control the banks and enrich ourselves at the expense of others. That we were behind the slave trade. That we control the media. Nothing Netanyahu has ever done or said or "traded in", whatever that means, approaches any of this.

The comment was either based in a lack of knowledge of how evil and pernicious anti-Semitic tropes are, or a genuine belief that the Prime Minister of Israel believing that Israel acts on behalf of all Jews, or his calling out anti-Semitism when his country is singled out among all the nations of the world for its actions - is as bad as drinking the blood of Christian babies. Which is patently ridiculous. It diminishes the viciousness of anti-Semitism while attempting to tar a Jewish leader with the same brush.

But calling out that comment would be seen here as calling anti-Israel sentiment anti-Semitic, because it's attacking Netanyahu, so therefore there can't be any anti-Semitism, only anti-Israeli policies.

It's subtle, but it's there. Words have meaning. Demonizing Netanyahu as the worst sort of anti-Semite does no favors to the Palestinians, but it certainly sets the level of discourse here a lot closer to tacit acceptance of anti-Semitism as just a word you throw around to score points here than I'm comfortable with.
posted by Mchelly at 6:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [27 favorites]


> I've seen the kinds of comments about women that used to get tossed up with impunity around here only just a few years ago. There's still quite a bit of ugliness at times, but this site has still come a long way where that's concerned. I think we can also improve when it comes to discussions about anti-Semitism.

I hate to say it, but the reason the discussion of women improved was that Jessamyn became a mod and she really really cared about it and forced the issue, and I don't think this is going to change unless there's a mod who really really cares about it.
posted by languagehat at 6:11 PM on January 13, 2015 [19 favorites]


LOL. A UN of mods. I love/hate Metafilter.
posted by rosswald at 6:12 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is going to change unless there's a mod who really really cares about it.

Interestingly, I think you're right. It wasn't until jessamyn and then later, other feminism-educated members became mods and enculturated their knowledge into modding in general that I felt, as a very deeply enculturated 2nd/3rd wave feminist, like there was a solid foundation of modding that I could count on with respect to sex and sexism.
posted by kalessin at 6:26 PM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think this is going to change unless there's a mod who really really cares about it.

I don't know, that sounds a little disingenuous and makes it sound like this issue is a lost cause when we're asking for specific steps we can take to do better as mods (I'm all ears, we're constantly put in a difficult position on contentious threads and I'd like to hear ways to avoid that).

jessamyn started as a mod in 2006 and cortex in 2007, I feel like we shifted the tides of user behavior around feminist topics around 2008-2009, when there was a chorus of voices in MetaTalk asking us to do better about it (things like the offensive/racism/sexism flag being added, etc) and while jessamyn lead it, it felt like something everyone modding pitched in on (as well as the userbase being better at calling out/flagging bad behavior) in a way that can happen again w/r/t to anti-semitism.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:33 PM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


while jessamyn helped lead it, it felt like something everyone modding pitched in on it

Totally true.

I do think there needs to be a point person for someone who is basically making sure that if there's a new expectation regarding user behavior and possibly mod behavior, that there is a "buck stops here" person who is a paid staffer who is reflecting it and answerable to that. In the early days, I was that point person.

We had a lot of behind the scenes discussions about just how bad "I'd hit it" comments were and I felt like I needed to do a lot of "No really, deleting these comments and saying they are not okay is, in the long term, worth the hassle of getting a bunch of short-term static over them" convincing. Because any sort of modding that is content-based, whether it's being more permissive or more restrictive on certain things, is going to go better if it's consistent. And it's easier to have things be consistent if the whole team is on board with however things are supposed to go. And this is balanced against it often being easier to not delete comments than to delete them. Or delete a huge swath of comments instead of really trying to slice up which ones are okay and which ones aren't

I led the project to get MeFi to be less awful for women to participate in. I worked hard to get the M/F moderator balance equitable (it was FFFFMMM, it's now FFMMM). I tried to make sure we were all modding consistently on topics that were hot button issues. A lot of that was in response to what users had been telling us they wanted, but I totally agree with what languagehat is saying, someone has to champion the issue at a staff level for it to get real traction.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:46 PM on January 13, 2015 [38 favorites]


I've been trying to write a coherent post for the past hour, but I'm finding it very difficult to put my thoughts into words properly. Up until now I've felt uncomfortable airing my thoughts on this issue, but I really think I need to speak up too.

I'm Jewish, and I've also noticed an antisemitic undertone on metafilter that seems to be spreading beyond I/P threads and creeping its way into threads that are tangentially related at best. It's reached the point where I've been seriously considering whether or not metafilter is a community that I am comfortable participating in or being associated with.

I'm hopeful that this MeTa is a turning point, and seeing other users express their concerns here makes me somewhat optimistic.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 6:49 PM on January 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't know, that sounds a little disingenuous and makes it sound like this issue is a lost cause when we're asking for specific steps we can take to do better as mods (I'm all ears, we're constantly put in a difficult position on contentious threads and I'd like to hear ways to avoid that).

It's not a lost cause for a willing and committed ally to do great forwarding a cause of social justice that they have no skin in. There are definitely a lot of good examples in my personal life and in celebrity/public life of that happening.

But it is demonstrably a lot harder for someone with no skin in the game to put priority on that kind of issue. We all have work, family, housekeeping, food preparation, hobbies, concerts, plays, movies, TV, books and all sorts of other kinds of distractions to keep us busy and distracted and not paying total attention to a tricky social justice or bias issue that we are only just getting a handle on. Because we didn't grow up with it, because we don't know the jargon, the issues, the hot buttons by heart.

That's just the way it is. You can try, as an outsider, to keep up, but you'll rarely be able to tell jokes about it and get those jokes note perfect unless you somehow get close enough to be an insider.
posted by kalessin at 6:51 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


You can try, as an outsider, to keep up, but you'll rarely be able to tell jokes about it and get those jokes note perfect unless you somehow get close enough to be an insider.

What do you mean by outsider/insider there?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:53 PM on January 13, 2015


I feel conflicted.

I've thought Joe posting links to brietbart articles critical of Palestinians was beyond distasteful and his general approach to I/P conversations has been poor.

Does that color my view of anything he says that's related to Israel, to include thoughts about antisemitism?

Fairly or unfairly, yes.

To be sure, though, the antisemitism thoughts people have related in this thread are to be taken seriously (and surprised me to no small extent).

One thought: On the broadest level, we could do with less hyperbole.

Feels like it's too often that Bono, Jay Leno, Kidzania, some political leader is something or someone people don't care for or someone with whom there's serious disagreement, and they're made out to be things and people that are comprehensively rancid and deserving of scathing, sneering nastiness.
posted by ambient2 at 6:58 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the purposes of this discussion in this thread, an insider is someone who has skin in the I/P issues. It's going to be hard to find someone who is able to moderate between the two sides, but if you can find someone who has insider knowledge, maybe has family on both sides, or spent time in or lives in one of the pilot communities where Israelis and Palestinians live and work together, or someone who wants to help and wants to learn and has personal, driving reasons to do so, that'd be an insider.

And an outsider would be the rest of us. It's hard to draw these lines and hard to know where to draw them. But I'm a minority in a lot of other communities and I know when I'm inside enough in a subculture or a counterculture or a minority community to make an insider joke and get away with it. And I know the feeling of not being there and knowing that I have to be very careful about what I say and how to say it.

I know I personally am an I/P outsider. And I should think most people know where they stand. We are social creatures. Knowing our position in relation to social and/or political issues is one of the things I think human are for.
posted by kalessin at 6:58 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


For the purposes of this discussion in this thread, an insider is someone who has skin in the I/P issues

This discussion is pretty explicitly about anti-semitism as distinct from I/P.
posted by jeather at 7:02 PM on January 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


FWIW, I remember seeing this comment pretty early in the thread and thinking it was rather inflammatory and potentially starting down the I/P path in a way that really wasn't needed.

That said, I think the editorial was good and worth reading.
posted by Candleman at 7:03 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The request is "What specific things could the moderators do to combat anti-semitism on this site?"

I'm one of the people who's bugged by this, and I don't know if you're going to like my answer, which is "Nothing." Not only do I not jump in and fight with posts that raise my hackles, I don't even flag them, and I don't expect the mods to delete them.

The post in the PJ Books thread, about free books with Jewish content that Jewish parents can get for their kids is a good example:

"I'm all for books to kids, but if they're books about your religion, that's just proselytizing, and really I don't give any extra kudos for that, even if you throw in a few other books for PR" and later

"like other religions, indoctrination of children is part of the religion. Perhaps you wouldn't use the word proselytizing, but that's what it is."

I think the person who wrote that is very likely not an anti-Semite. Nonetheless they felt free to talk about me teaching my own culture and faith to my children -- something every single human being on this green earth does -- as if I had a nasty infection which I was purposely passing on to them.

Or the whole long discussion in the "JAP" thread (which started as a callout of my FPP, as it happens!) where lots of people were like "it's not anti-Semitic because I heard a Jew say it" or "it's not anti-Semitic because I only say it about really JAP-py women, not all Jewish women, and some of the women I say it about aren't even Jewish, and anyway, have you been to Long Island, they really are like that!"

But I didn't flag any of this. Because for comfortable Jews in the United States, this kind of thing is not exactly a threat. It's not going to make me leave MetaFilter. It's just something that makes my day 5% worse. I don't think it has to be a top priority for the mods. But I also think people should know that it's there, and that lots of Jewish members notice it when it happens, even if most of us don't find it worth the time and pain of complaining about it.

So no, I don't think the mods should do anything. I think members should just take the time to think about whether a comment they're about to post is going to make somebody's day 5% worse. Sometimes it might be worth making the comment anyway. And that's fine! All I ask is that you think about it consciously and take it into account when you decide whether and what to post.
posted by escabeche at 7:04 PM on January 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


Okay, for the purposes of this discussion in this thread, an insider is someone who has skin in the experience of being Jewish, of being at the wrong end of antisemitism, of being held at some judgment for it.
posted by kalessin at 7:05 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Or maybe it's both or neither. I think what insider/outsider means really is very contextual, and I feel like I'm getting put on a very slippery slope, talking about stuff I wasn't personally intending to address.

I'm discussing from the point of view what insider/outsider means and saying that if you are looking for mod representation of someone who can address issues getting discussed here, there are ways to determine insiders/outsiders, and I think you want an insider to be able to make the fine distinctions that it sounds like some of the folks on this thread think the mods are not making.

But I'm not comfortable being asked, in hindsight, to summarize all of what we are talking about in this thread.
posted by kalessin at 7:08 PM on January 13, 2015


So out of the spontaneous swarms of flaggers that--there is no reason to doubt--reflexively pounced on JiA's link, there's not a single person with courage of conviction enough to defend or explain their reasoning? Because by my estimate his original in-thread post was

A) clearly germane to the CH/kosher-grocer killings,
B) no more stand-alone single-linky than dozens of other posts in the thread before and after it, and
C) brought an at-that-point unaddressed, thought-provoking perspective to the discussion, whether you agree with it or not.

The only remaining fault I see maintained is that he was being too [eye roll] Joe-in-Australia toned in his [predictably problematic] argument against anti-semitism.

I get that he may inspire little sympathy among the beleaguered who deal in the ceaseless stream of flags that inescapably attends his unswerving hyper-vigilance. Still, scrupulous consistency in any anti-ism stance (the hard-ridden feminist, anti-racist, or homosexual 'hobbyhorses' we're fond of around here come to mind) has been considered a virtue before, though, so it wouldn't be a completely unimaginable break with existing protocol in cases like this to maybe hold one's nose, ignore the flags, and move on.

It's not a radical solution to all of the anti-semitism in the world. We might even have to sacrifice the satisfaction of taking Joe down a peg. On the plus side, though, it saves the effort of sweeping it under the rug, and at least can't be construed as tacitly favoring anti-semitism, which is a definite step in the direction of fighting anti-semitism, however lukewarm.
posted by perhapsolutely at 7:08 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The post in the PJ Books thread, about free books with Jewish content that Jewish parents can get for their kids is a good example

Yeah, and I agree, it sounded like a gross knee-jerk "LOL religion sucks amirite" kind of comment. I saw it, but also saw the comment immediately after it cleared up that most books weren't religious that were being handed out, so left it up, but later on it seems the thread took a shittier turn due to that first lame comment.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:11 PM on January 13, 2015


Up until now I've felt uncomfortable airing my thoughts on this issue, but I really think I need to speak up too.

I'm Jewish, and I've also noticed an antisemitic undertone on metafilter that seems to be spreading beyond I/P threads and creeping its way into threads that are tangentially related at best.


I'm not Jewish ... but otherwise this speaks for me. Just chiming in to say as much. And yeah, glad to hear some of the things that are coming out of this thread.
posted by philip-random at 7:14 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


perhapsolutely, I think that MartinWisse responded fairly clearly about his thinking in objecting to the post. He didn't say he flagged it, and I'm not sure that he did, but that is one person who has explained their thinking.

I too am disappointed to get no other responses. If I were a mod I'd threaten to start posting the names of the flaggers if they didn't start stepping up. Which would be a very bad precedent for MeFi and illustrates why I shouldn't be a mod.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:14 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm an old American woman, white, who believes in God but finds organized religion disturbing, so that's probably enough description to box me up appropriately.

I detest Netenyahu and all the rotten behavior he and the Israeli government are responsible for - for his lying and cheating and stealing from the Palestinian people and from countries, like mine, that support him financially and ethically (though I can't imagine why). The behavior of the Israeli government and military is cruel and barbaric and without any sort of moral boundary - it's just self-righteous greed, justified by the history of the suffering of the people of Israel.

However, when I was in middle school and high school my best friend was Jewish and I spent so much time at her house I might as well have lived there. She had a mother and father and brother and her grandmother living at home, and both of her parents and her grandmother had tattooed forearms from concentration camps. They were Polish Jews who were originally part of the Warsaw Ghetto and who lost and lost and lost in the Holocaust. Jewish rituals and meals and such were celebrated with tears and deep feelings - there was a "place" of sorts that I couldn't get to even when included in their celebrations because I wasn't Jewish; even if I wanted to, and I did, very much, I couldn't access that connection - because I didn't have it. I loved those people very much (even though her Dad insisted I polka with him all the time and I couldn't even keep up with him).

Then I worked with an astronomer at the University of Arizona who was Polish, though not Jewish. He and one brother had successfully hidden in the forests and avoided capture, but the rest of his (extended) family was gassed or killed in the camps. He was a dedicated astronomer - overdedicated really, if there is such a word - but his heart never left Poland and the terror he grew up with. He was a delightful person who introduced me to the wonders of the cosmos as well as to the wonders of wild mushrooms, but underlying his intelligent and warm personality was a bitterness that there were still Nazis unaccounted for and unpunished. I loved him, too.

So am I anti-semitic because I think what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is beyond the pale, that it's exactly what I wouldn't expect of a people who suffered so terribly at the hands of a cruel dictator - and way before the Holocaust, at the hands of other hate-filled rulers? I am honestly as sick, maybe more-so, when I hear about the Jewish people being attacked as I am about the journalists ("more-so" only because the Jews did nothing to provoke anyone) but slaughter is slaughter and we must keep it at bay as best we can. I'm always so so sad when innocents are murdered in the name of someone-or-other, yet it will always be part of our world.

Anti-semitic? If I put these comments in a thread on the blue, would I be contributing to the "anti-semitic" generalization of MetaFilter?
posted by aryma at 7:18 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wasn't really aware that mods were specifically censoring I/P comments. That's part of my privilege as someone not close to the conflict; I originally thought for weeks when I/P was referenced that it was about Intellectual Property.

Thank you all for discussing anti-Semitism, and sorry if I contributed to the prejudices. I'd also be interested in what people have to say on the matter. Jeather, stop making us look bad compared to you.
posted by halifix at 7:23 PM on January 13, 2015


Actually benito.strauss, having an area in MeTa which just lists all deleted posts/comments along with who flagged them and what reason selected would be pretty neat. We could see if people were flagging to push an agenda, and also posters wouldn't be able to say something really jerky knowing it would disappear forever once the mods got to it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:24 PM on January 13, 2015


aryma, I think your comment would because what many are pointing out is the running to Netanyahu/Israel in threads that have absolutely nothing to do with those topics. Also, using the 'but my friends are Jewish/black/gay' is just the sort of thing that makes such comments seem disingenuous.
posted by Partario at 7:28 PM on January 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


any portmanteau in a storm: "Actually benito.strauss, having an area in MeTa which just lists all deleted posts/comments along with who flagged them and what reason selected would be pretty neat. We could see if people were flagging to push an agenda, and also posters wouldn't be able to say something really jerky knowing it would disappear forever once the mods got to it."

This will never, ever, ever happen.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:29 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


having an area in MeTa which just lists all deleted posts/comments along with who flagged them and what reason selected would be pretty neat. We could see if people were flagging to push an agenda, and also posters wouldn't be able to say something really jerky knowing it would disappear forever once the mods got to it.

I would only be favor of this if, in order to access the data, one would first have to achieve a level of illumination at least equivalent to the 17th degree of The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
posted by philip-random at 7:30 PM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah, and I agree, it sounded like a gross knee-jerk "LOL religion sucks amirite" kind of comment. I saw it, but also saw the comment immediately after it cleared up that most books weren't religious that were being handed out, so left it up, but later on it seems the thread took a shittier turn due to that first lame comment.

I think it's worth remembering that "LOL religion" is a bigger swipe when taken at historically/currently oppressed religious minorities, in the same way as a negative comment about a man's appearance has much less baggage than a negative comment about a woman's appearance. There's context that should be considered.
posted by jaguar at 7:43 PM on January 13, 2015 [19 favorites]


Okay, for the purposes of this discussion in this thread, an insider is someone who has skin in the experience of being Jewish, of being at the wrong end of antisemitism, of being held at some judgment for it.

Well, at least two active mods (and one former) are Jewish, so they have "skin in the experience," but they're asking for guidance nonetheless. I guess it's more complicated than insider/outsider, right?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:48 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm Jewish.

I do notice a little bit of background anti-semitism in real life. Especially here in the Midwest where there's a lot of pressure to conform... not celebrating Christmas or (pretending to) believe in Jesus is definitely a thing people notice. When I go out with big groups of friends, like 50% of the time someone gets drunk and asks me lots of questions about Jews that vary between clueless and really vile. Mostly, I'm just the only Jewish person that someone has ever met.

It's less racism than my wife experiences though (Native American) and probably an order of magnitude less than African Americans deal with every day.

I have noticed very little anti-semitism on this site. Maybe I just skim past it. The examples in this thread all seem legit to me, but I didn't notice them when browsing.
posted by miyabo at 7:50 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think a small part of the answer to what mods can do is that when someone requires moderation, if there is a quickly summed-up thing the user could do differently to make their same point in a way that would be allowed to stand, tell them. For example, as mathowie said above, a quick "needs more context" might have helped in this particular case. That way the person isn't having their voice just flat-out silenced. Silencing is a thing that happens to oppressed groups, and sometimes it happens without anyone intending to silence an oppressed group.

There's really no substitute for moderators taking time to educate themselves about particular contexts where oppression happens (that's what the Anti-Defamation League provides all kinds of resources to help people do in the anti-Semitism context; I'm not sure that simply being Jewish helps a person with this education, as I'm a woman and am still learning about how to notice and call out anti-woman stuff). Users bear responsibility for educating ourselves, too, but I generally don't flag things unless I feel pretty sure that the mods will see in it what I saw in it. If it's pretty clear that the mods are going to tolerate a certain thing, then if I fight it and keep fighting it, I get branded as fighty and off-base and the thing keeps happening.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:50 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jessamyn became a mod in 2005 not 2006.
posted by mlis at 8:00 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anti-semitic? If I put these comments in a thread on the blue, would I be contributing to the "anti-semitic" generalization of MetaFilter

Would you feel the need to comment on a MeTa about anti-Asian bias in MeFi with an extremely hyperbolic condemnation of the Chinese government that completely ignores all nuance and at least sort of vaguely conflates all PRC citizens with government supporters and all Chinese people with PRC citizens, and then point out that you have some Chinese-American friends and go to PF Chang's twice a week? Would you, on making such a post, ask the Chinese contingent of MeFi if you'd be considered to be contributing to anti-Asian racism for expressing those sentiments?

What would you think the answer should be in that case?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [31 favorites]


Anti-semitic? If I put these comments in a thread on the blue, would I be contributing to the "anti-semitic" generalization of MetaFilter

The problem with your comments is that you highlight the suffering of Palestinians -- and don't get me wrong, those are real and should be condemned --then vaguely refer to Jewish people being murdered as the oh so sad example of other innocents being harmed for one reason or another.

Anti Semitism is real and it is an active threat to the lives of Jews in France right now, precisely because they are Jews. And this is not some new phenomenon in th the world, or one that only dates from the Holocaust.

Always, always, one group's wrongful oppression does not minimize that of another's.

I'm Jewish, from Holocaust survivors on one side of my family tree and refugees from savage and sometimes murderous Russian anti-Semitism on the other. So I speak from the inside, so to speak.
posted by bearwife at 8:37 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Everyone seems to have their focuses, their personal equivalents of how every country's news will report on a large tragedy with, '1000 people died, including 2 locals - we will now focus on them and their stories, because they matter more.' It's not hard to see how someone's worldview could become too focused in on that one area, and in the case of Joe in Australia, considering he's doing things like linking to Breitbart as an appropriate source for, well, anything at all factual, he really does seem to be the one-issue guy who filters everything through that one, specific lens.

Denying that anyone could be acting like that - The Master and Margarita Mix's entire 5 points, really - is to deny that anyone has a hobbyhorse or it could affect their posting behaviour. Those points are all designed to make MetaFilter a worse place, not better, because it suggests that if someone is outraged all the time or accusing the mods/users/website of bigotry all the time, they are more likely to be right and should be listened to more, rather than entertain the idea they might be a crank. And even though cranks can be right, years of exposure does tend to numb you to their perspective.

It also claims there's never validity in actually asking if their views of bigotry are accurate, claiming it to be 'derailing' to entertain that discussion, as if there isn't allowed to be disagreement once bigotry is claimed, or that even other members of the offended group might disagree that there's offence to be taken.

So, sure, anti-Semitism is apparently a problem that a number of users have noticed but have never thought to speak up against until now. That's something to deal with. But don't pretend that just because Joe in Australia has made a point worth making now that he hasn't in the past been a difficult user for reasons that have nothing to do with bigotry. Don't act as if remembering posting histories, especially by the mods, is something to be frowned upon.

And don't say this site is acting like Fox News if you don't want to be thought of as alarmist. If you truly thought this site was as filled with bile, racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and a wilful ignorance of the facts as Fox News on any given day, even as it's a website with no pretense to being responsible for accurate reporting of news events, then you would surely have complained about it before now. Instead, it's just a line of bullshit that does your arguments a disservice.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:46 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I've been minimally present here lately so I can't speak much to the last year. But for, let's say, the several years before that, yes, I have felt discouraged from defending or speaking out as an ally to Jewish people. And for religious believers in general, and non-whites, the poor, people with non-normative sexualities and gender expressions, people who are not neurotypical, and I'm probably forgetting something. Non-English speakers.

But I have noticed the problematic statements about Jewish people and Judaism are the most frequent.

As Martin Luther King, Jr said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I don't think Metafilter intends to stand against that idea, but yeah standing for it is hard, it's not just receiving a list of don'ts from the marginalized. Sometimes the marginalized have a list all ready to go for you, and sometimes you need a Jessamyn to sit in every meeting and be there day in and day out for years.

And when Jessamyn has moved on and the road is not so clear, who am I to demand that the management continues to mature its editorial sensibility? But I would be pleased to see it.
posted by halonine at 8:57 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


@gadge emeritus, dismissing people's feelings now because they have not voiced them to your satisfaction in the past is not particularly nice.
posted by halonine at 9:02 PM on January 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


My instinct is to link to mchelly's eloquent comment and just add a "me too", but wanted to add some other thoughts.

The primary way I see anti-Semitism being dealt with differently than other prejudices on Metafilter is this: A comment I see repeated in some form or another frequently on Metafilter (and one I agree with) is "If a woman is telling you something is sexist (or if a gay or lesbian person is telling you something is homophobic or if a trans* individual is telling you something is transphobic or if a black person is telling you something is racist...) LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE SAYING". I don't feel Jews are given this same consideration on Metafilter. When a Jewish person makes a claim of anti-Semitism, the mantra seems to change to "Prove it" (or accusing the person of conflating anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of Israeli politics).

I also think the "Being anti-Israel doesn't make you anti-Semitic" slogan is too often used here as a bludgeon to preemptively dismiss and cause suspicion on any and all accusation of anti-Semitism. I would be very curious to look at the data over the years to see how often variants on the "One cannot criticize Israel without being accused of being anti-Semitic" complaint have been lodged in a thread without anyone up to that point in the thread having been accused of such vs. how often people have actually been accused of being anti-Semitic on the site. My guess is that the number would lean extremely heavily in favor of the former.

From my view there is a benefit of the doubt given to viewpoints that read to me as blatantly anti-Semitic that would in no way pass muster if directed at other groups. The Salaita tweets thread and a few of the Helen Thomas threads would be good examples, where people were just absolutely twisting themselves into knots trying to defend comments as obviously offensive as "The Jews control the government and the media" (Thomas thread) and direct references to blood libel (Salaita thread) into "Nope, just criticism of Israeli government policy and America's support of it". I honestly feel the ad nauseam recitation of the "Being anti-Israel doesn't make you anti-Semtic" mantra has had the unfortunate side effect of causing some people to immediately assume all accusations of anti-Semitism are false, regardless of the context.

As to the question of how mods could better address the issue, I would suggest that not sarcastically mocking long-standing, well-respected, self-identifying Jewish members of the site when they complain about anti-Semitism would be a start. I was shocked not only by restless_nomad's response there, but also by how little reaction there seemed to be to it. I am going to engage here in a rhetorical tactic I'm usually not a fan of, which is to argue against the hypothetical reaction to a hypothetical scenario, but my guess is that if cortex were to respond to a female member's complaint about sexist comments being allowed on the site with a similarly dismissive, mocking tone as r_n used there, there would be a monstrous uproar that would be the long boat of all long boat threads. Now, I think r_n usually does great work here and I realize she identifies as Jewish herself, so maybe that fed into the response some. We all have bad days. But I just don't see any scenario where this would have been acceptable if the group complaining about -ism comments were anything other than Jews. I can think of several members who have been (rightfully, in my few) banned from the site for continually jumping into threads about sexism to tell women they were wrong about finding something sexist or jumping into threads dealing with trans issues and baiting trans* Mefites. Here we had a similar scenario and the mod response was to mock the person lodging the complaint. I think this is emblematic of the problem here.
posted by The Gooch at 9:08 PM on January 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


considering he's doing things like linking to Breitbart as an appropriate source for, well, anything at all factual, he really does seem to be the one-issue guy who filters everything through that one, specific lens.

Is Breitbart generally awful? Yes. Can you conclusively say that everything on it is absolutely never, ever factual? That it's always wrong? That it is an eternal exception to the stopped clock rule? No, you can't, and that you're trying to, as gross as Breitbart generally is, is pretty well fucked up and shitty. Either you have the careful, considerate, nuanced debate on the merits... or you don't.

And don't say this site is acting like Fox News if you don't want to be thought of as alarmist.

Why not? If the rhetorical tactics are the same, why isn't a valid comparison? What makes a discussion of structural issues somehow innately invalid and verboten for comparison? If your defense is purely tribal - "Fox News is red, but see here, I'm on the BLUE team, you cannot compare me to them ever, no matter what we do! It is never okay to imply that I might be like the red team for any reason! Red can never possess any traits or behaviors of blue! Blue can never possess any traits or behaviors of red! MeFi blue+good, Fox News red+bad!", then that itself is laughable bullshit. I'm not at all saying the mods or MeFi in general have the similar views as Fox, I'm saying that there are actually patterns of rhetoric and ways of handling and framing debates about issues like this that are utterly and completely neutral, purely tactical and rhetorical, and they're bullshit not because they have the qualities of Fox-News-iness, but rather they are independently incredibly shitty tactics, and Fox News often employs them, because they are shitlords who do shitty things.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:08 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


"non-normative sexualities," that's what you're going with
posted by angerbot at 9:09 PM on January 13, 2015


Also, using the 'but my friends are Jewish/black/gay' is just the sort of thing that makes such comments seem disingenuous.

Now, this part I have a real problem with. I have deeply loved these people and others and that means I place a very high value on those "friends" - why should that value not count for anything just because those friends are Jewish? In what way is my life experience insignificant here? I loved these people - and we shared so much of our lives. I cried with them and read their books and heard their stories and those things became part of who I am also. How is that worth nothing? How does that, for God's sake, acquaint with having dinner at P.F. Chang's to try to fit into an Asian box?

For my comment to come across as "oh so sad" about the Jewish people being killed - that isn't what I feel at all - I just didn't express it as well as I should because I (stupidly) assumed that I had expressed the depth of feeling I have for the Jewish people I've been close to and for some dumb reason I thought that it would be understood that when I said it affected me more even than the death of the journalists those two things would tie together. It sickens me because it's so vicious, so unprovoked, and it's the powerful hurting the helpless.

I see one very big issue that we'd better be vigilant about and that's the identification of minority groups as somehow of lesser value than everyone else because that very thing is what's led to every sort of genocide in the history of civilization and I harp and ding about that a lot, even if I am a white American. Every single incident of brutality or separation or denial of privileges or (sorry, I'm so tired I can't access clear thought tonight) - all those things bring us one step closer to the failure of humanity that history reveals in episodes of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Every single bit of it has to be watched for and stopped.

I wish I could be a little more articulate tonight and I ask everyone to please don't judge me too harshly even though my comments aren't fitting smoothly this evening. I'm sorry if I've offended anyone.
posted by aryma at 9:23 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


in the case of Joe in Australia, considering he's doing things like linking to Breitbart as an appropriate source for, well, anything at all factual [...]

I've posted well over 5,000 comments, many of which have at least one link. I suppose a couple of those links may go to Breitbart (although a Google search doesn't turn any up) because I have linked to all sorts of things and places. I can guarantee that I haven't linked there very often, because it's not one of the websites I read. Can you tell me what you had a problem with?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:32 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this helps.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:34 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you truly thought this site was as filled with bile, racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and a wilful ignorance of the facts as Fox News on any given day, even as it's a website with no pretense to being responsible for accurate reporting of news events, then you would surely have complained about it before now.

Or maybe it's just a hill I've chosen not to die on, not being Jewish, not being as informed on the nuances of the Israel/Palestine situation as I perhaps should be, being aware that I do carry a generally pro-Jewish bias into things, mainly because I read a bunch of Leon Uris when I was in my teens and it affected me (I want the Israelis to be the good guys ... and so on).

And anyway, that Fox News reference is hyperbole. Like throwing U2 and Limp Biscuit into the same box because they both play loud. It's just a line of bullshit that does your arguments a disservice.
posted by philip-random at 9:37 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


How is that worth nothing?

I don't know, when high-profile Republican politicans who are caught out doing or saying something shitty and racist/sexist/homophobic, although short of virulently obviously and undeniably so, make denials about how they have black/female/gay friends, exactly how much credit do you give them for that? Would you be happy being used as such an excusing example by, say, a male friend who said something sexist but not unforgivably sexist? I mean, Jesse Helms had black friends, how much is that worth to you?

It's a douchebag rhetorical move. "I have friends who are [X]" is rightly seen as a joke in all kinds of different activist circles that actually have nothing else in common but having to deal with people who think that because they have friends (or family!) who are X, they can't possibly be prejudiced or offensive in any way, that their X friends and family provide them some kind of "pass" or armor against not harbordng prejudice, even when that very argument reduces those people and those relationships to a stereotype. You can have friends of any particular stripe and still engage in behaviors that are systemically, inadvertantly, or even openly and virulently anti-that-group. The only people who tend to think that "I have friends who are [X]" is some kind of defense against inadvertant [X]-ism are those kind of people who are kind of X-ist on some level.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:38 PM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's just a line of bullshit that does your arguments a disservice.

Sorry, gadge, but I had to throw that one back at you.

posted by philip-random at 9:40 PM on January 13, 2015



If you truly thought this site was as filled with bile, racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and a wilful ignorance of the facts as Fox News on any given day, even as it's a website with no pretense to being responsible for accurate reporting of news events, then you would surely have complained about it before now.


As we all know, all communications with the staff of Metafilter are made publicly on MetaTalk, as there exists no private communication method with them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:47 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Acknowledging that this thread is really damned decent regarding how we're all interacting and not accusing anyone of anything specific, I still feel like folks are sort of bending over backwards and begging the question as well as taking the opportunity to be kind of shittily passive aggressive.

I would honestly rather folks be more up front and in our faces and insulting and personal rather than this sort of treatment.

As such I'll step away. If folks have private questions for me you know how to reach me.
posted by kalessin at 9:48 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's the point of this comment? Are you claiming posts and comments by those who disagree with you should be deleted?

My comment was a simple kvetch similar to what EmpressCallipygos expressed. I don't wish my ideological enemies banished from this site. They prevent me from posting more often, but I feel Metatalk is a good place to flesh out Metafilter's "negative space," in the arty sense. This thread has discussed users I disagree with who no longer comment, so both parties have deserters. Not the happiest metric for moderation competency, but certainly admirable.

As A Jew I feel as safe on Metafilter as in any American city - which is, generally, fairly safe, and more concerned for those currently targeted by my government (but fully aware the needs of geopolitics can place me in the crosshairs when convenient)
posted by gorbweaver at 9:57 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Joe in Australia, for raising this issue. I too find the mod response troubling and upsetting.
posted by chinston at 10:05 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]



I wish I could be a little more articulate tonight and I ask everyone to please don't judge me too harshly even though my comments aren't fitting smoothly this evening. I'm sorry if I've offended anyone.


No, I think I misunderstood you. Apologies and thanks for hanging in there and explaining more.
posted by bearwife at 10:06 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a douchebag rhetorical move.

Maybe in your little circles, maybe in your little internet world it is, but in this case, your tight little world is the world of the douchebag, not mine. I don't know or care about your internet memes and tropes and rhetorical moves; you ask how I'd feel if ...

Well, I'll tell you how I feel now: Disgusted, and slightly amused, by your diatribe.

When I say something, it's the way I feel - I didn't get it from some how-to-talk-on-the-internet website. And what I say is what I expect to be heard - not what you think I really mean or what you think I'm covering up, etc. I find your continual hammering and yammering tiring, but even more importantly, clueless, because you think you're in high-school debate class. Yes, thank you ever so much for explaining the "I have friends who are gay/black/Jewish" crap - that, my friend, is as old as the hills; but - neither you nor your shining grasp of internet communication changes the validity of my experiences or the credibility of my opinions one tiny bit.

I think discussion of what constitutes anti-Semitism and what doesn't is a valuable discussion to have, but I fall back again, as I always do, very short of criticising the mods for not being perfect for all people who wish to be part of this community. If anyone thinks they can do better, I think it would be a great idea for them to set up their own website and go for it; otherwise, I'd call enough. Matt and the others have shown their willingness to be instructed (for crying out loud) with specific details about what exactly all those offended this week would like changed in the way they handle comments about Jewish matters - so give them the specifics - or don't. I can't imagine another website anywhere on the internet where moderators are so willing to adapt their work to the wishes of the commenters - can you?


All is well, bearwife - thank you.
posted by aryma at 10:30 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


aryma, I think you are coming from a good place here, and I wanted to acknowledge that.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:49 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


My personal thing--and if anyone wants to start talking about bona fides, my maternal family fled pogroms in Russia and I grew up celebrating Hanukkah and Passover along with Christian holidays, and my most formative schooling was in majority-Jewish neighbourhoods, for whatever that's worth--would be for the mods to really decouple "I have a problem with the actions of the Israeli government" from the toxic anti-Semitism.

In much the same way that many of us, I hope, decouple "here are some assholes who have used Islam as a fig leaf to excuse killing people" from the religio-cultural context that gave us algebra.

Or how we separate "the Roman Catholic Church shelters pedophiles" from the loving and caring Catholics whom many of us know.

I would love to see a clear line drawn between institutions that support/encourage/enable bullshit from the people who are connected to those institutions in often nebulous ways. And that line is not just on the mods, it's on us too--I recognize there is a Thing where people do "I'm not criticizing all Jews but," and what I am suggesting is that our thoughts be readjusted to "I am only criticizing the actions of the Israeli government."

In the same way, I hope, that we can all recognize that "I am criticizing the actions of the Vatican in protecting pedophiles" is totally different from "I am criticizing all Catholics."

(NB: I have said exactly what I mean. There are parallels in the sense that one can criticize institutions without criticizing the actions of people associated nebulously with those institutions; the average Catholic is no more responsible for pedophile priests than the average Israeli is responsible for the excesses of their government. Or, perhaps, to bring it closer to the MeFi majority, most Americans are not responsible for drone strikes on weddings. Criticizing the American government isn't the same as being against the American people.)

We've agreed, it seems, that it's gross to require all Muslims to speak out against the tiny minority that perpetrates atrocity. Perhaps we need to extend that to other groups.

I totally get that the history of being Jewish means being subject to the whims of majorities that don't see any distinction. I think MeFi can do better than that, and really tease apart the strands of the personal and the institutional, and I would love to see both the membership (self most definitely included) and the modship make that distinction.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:19 PM on January 13, 2015 [28 favorites]


I too think aryma was coming from a good place and I respect that, at least until she described someone else's response to her as "crap."

I would just be sensitive to the fact that the "Some of my best friends are X" trope is, as you recognize, a classic one that immediately causes people to raise their eyebrows and puts them off from what you're saying. That's not really about you and has far more to do with the decades of history behind it (here's a kind of interesting New Republic article on that history in fact). I don't doubt the sincerity of your experiences or the feelings that you expressed. I do think that when you play the friend card, it, not necessarily fairly, causes a large number of people to discount what you're saying.
posted by zachlipton at 11:32 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think too many people associate "some of my best friends are Jews" with the horrific originator of the remark, and miss "some of my best friends are X and they have taught me so many things that have opened my eyes". And that's probably on those of us who are not-X and have friends who are-X and don't think about being very careful about exactly what we mean.

I guess what I'm saying is it's understandable for people to take "some of my best friends are X" and respond to it in a reflexive fashion, when people--like aryma here, I think--really mean "some of my best friends are X, and having best friends who are X has taught me a lot, and what I am saying is coming from that place and not from a superficial association, and I am still learning."

But, and I want to be clear on this, the onus is on those of us saying "some of my best friends are X."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:39 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Anyway, getting back to the point, what do people think about having a do-over on Joe's deleted FPP or a variation thereof? The subject of anti-Semitism in France, as framed by the Charlie Hebdo attack and kosher market hostage-taking, is certainly a valid one, with recent editorials and news stories in major international publications covering the topic. The FPP tries to provide some background on that situation by filling in the events of the last couple years. I was disappointed to see it deleted and would like to see it come back in some form or another.
posted by zachlipton at 11:40 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


what do people think about having a do-over on Joe's deleted FPP or a variation thereof?

I hope it happens.
posted by homunculus at 11:52 PM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


The Master and Margarita Mix: Can you conclusively say that everything on it is absolutely never, ever factual? ... No, you can't, and that you're trying to, as gross as Breitbart generally is, is pretty well fucked up and shitty.

A source of information gets tainted by how much crap it peddles. Fox News, for an example already used, can be factually accurate at times. Doesn't mean I wouldn't get a different source for information if I wanted anyone to believe what I had to post.
And acting as if it's reasonable for other people to accept any dubious source because they're maybe not always lying both ignores the idea of bias, which is clearly all over a site like Breitbart. Don't pretend that sources don't matter, even if they're saying what you want.

I'm saying that there are actually patterns of rhetoric and ways of handling and framing debates about issues like this that are utterly and completely neutral, purely tactical and rhetorical

Really? They wouldn't happen to completely line up with how you see things, would they? Your hyperbole does your points a disservice, as does your insistence on going to the extreme end of the scale on every point.
If I were to ask who might be considered a problem user in, say, Apple threads, as in who comes into every thread, takes their hardline position, and argues into the ground any form of disagreement, I'm sure there's a couple of user names (though not necessarily of currently present users) that people could think of. This is also true for other topics, and just because you claim it's not there doesn't mean the people whose jobs it is to moderate this website can't have a more accurate view of the bigger picture than you. Or that other people might have noticed this recurring behaviour themselves.

I'm not "dismissing people's feelings now because they have not voiced them to your satisfaction in the past," I'm pointing out that exaggerating your argument for effect makes your argument weaker, and incidentally raises the grar levels for no other purpose than rhetorical flourish.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:00 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Your hyperbole does your points a disservice, as does your insistence on going to the extreme end of the scale on every point.

It's like a koan. It's like an ouroborus, hanging in space.
posted by perhapsolutely at 12:20 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Put a 'most' before the every.
Snark doesn't help things either, no matter how fun it can be to read (or craft) a zinger.
posted by gadge emeritus at 12:30 AM on January 14, 2015


Come, come, it's surely no less helpful than calling someone else's argument 'a line of bullshit,' as these rhetorical flourishes go. And it's inspired by genuine awe. I wouldn't change a word.
posted by perhapsolutely at 12:42 AM on January 14, 2015


perhapsolutely, I think that MartinWisse responded fairly clearly about his thinking in objecting to the post. He didn't say he flagged it, and I'm not sure that he did, but that is one person who has explained their thinking.

I didn't, nor did I flag Joe's comments in the original CH thread.

When I read it yesterday morning I was thinking that, as explained above, the framing was a bit on the problematic side, but the content itself was worthwhile and worth discussing here.

That's what I mean with scrutinising: trust, but verify, as a certain president once said.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:12 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The other thing that really dissapointed me was the reaction to Netanyahu and Israel. All of the Jews killed in the specifically anti-Semitic attack on the kosher grocer were buried in Israel. The only comment addressing my link to the story about the funeral in Israel came from VikingSword:

But let us not kid ourselves that Netanyahu is above trading in the worst kind of anti-Semitic tropes.
posted by VikingSword

Heaven forbid that amongst record breaking numbers of Jews leaving France for Israel, at the fucking ISRAELI FUNERAL FOR THE PARIS VICTIMS - Netanyahu says "I believe that they know deep in their hearts that they have one country, the state of Israel, that is their historic homeland and will always welcome them with open arms," he said. "Today, more than ever, Israel is the true home for all of us."

He was literally standing over the bodies of four French Jews, killed for their identity, being buried in Israel. What a vicious anti-Semite monster!

Inviting a Jewish leader from majority Jewish country to attend a rally that was ostensibly also for French Jews killed for being Jewish didn't seem that crazy to me.


I was alerted to this callout - and to his credit, rosswald also MeMailed me - and I spent the last hour or so reading through the comments here. I must say, I am somewhat surprised.

rosswald, while I appreciate that you did MeMail me, I'm disappointed that you didn't address my comment in the thread that it belonged to. Had you done so, I would have had the opportunity of addressing any problems you saw in what I wrote - on topic, as that should have been your interest, rather than on the poster... and that is what the blue is for: relevant content. Notably you failed to do so in the blue. Instead, you wrenched out a single sentence out of my fairly lengthy comment, posted it here, and didn't even do the courtesy of at least linking to the entirety of my comment for the actual context.

Be that as it may, there seems a lot of noise and fury in your remarks, and I'm trying to do my best to understand whatever points it is that you are making, and their relevance to my comment you singled out. For one, you say things like: "Inviting a Jewish leader from majority Jewish country to attend a rally that was ostensibly also for French Jews killed for being Jewish didn't seem that crazy to me." implying that I somehow objected to his presence there, when in fact I stated - very, very clearly - the exact opposite. Had you linked to my comment, or quoted me, it would have been clear - but then that would have perhaps undermined your case that I was objecting.

I wrote a very lengthy comment pointing out exactly what was problematic with Netanyahu's statements - but you never addressed any of those points, or took issue with them, or even reported them - because again, it would have demolished whatever case it is that you were building. Instead, you basically excused Netanyahu's problematic statements with an implication that they were justified by the passion of the moment... not a very strong defense of a problematic statement. Since you cannot defend those statements on their merits, you plead extenuating circumstances "Heaven forbid that amongst record breaking numbers of Jews leaving France for Israel, at the fucking ISRAELI FUNERAL FOR THE PARIS VICTIMS Netanyahu says[...]" "He was literally standing over the bodies of four French Jews, killed for their identity, being buried in Israel." and this is supposed to excuse the nature of his statements, while rhetorically over the top dismissing it without counterarguments "What a vicious anti-Semite monster!". Low, low tricks all.

Why not address the actual content? After all, it's not as if he hasn't been criticised right there in Israel for doing exactly what I pointed out - making political hay out of this tragedy - from the very link you quoted, and I requoted: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom critics at home accuse of having an overzealous and politically motivated response to the Paris killing[...]"[my emph. VS]. People - IN ISRAEL - pointed that out. I can only hope that those homegrown critics took sufficient note of all the extenuating circumstances that you list, before daring to criticize a politician for scoring political points during this sensitive time.

And weak sauce though that is, let's take a look at your case. It basically boils down to "BN should be excused for any problematic statements because he was overcome by the gravity of the situation". Ordinary people in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, might say intemperate things in the heat of the moment. But this is a professional politician we're talking about. Who has been in this business for decades, and who has been in high pressure response situations too numerous to count. Who is used to promoting his agenda at all times. Who has seen death - and who never seems to have been similarly overcome when he ordered actions that have resulted in the deaths of literally thousands over the decades. And he was called on it, by critics right on home turf. That is of course all the more ridiculous, as this is not the first time BN has made such remarks, so it's not as if he was overcome on this particular occasion.

Even when people do say intemperate things in the heat of the moment, they try to apologize afterwards - or we call them on it. Would you similarly excuse someone's anti-Semitic or problematic statements in the aftermath of a war tragedy in the ME? I know I wouldn't. And I have certainly not failed to strongly condemn anti-Semitism that springs from the ME fallout and is prevalent in MENA populations - even if there is that part of the left that is reluctant to do so... and I did so in the very comment you only quoted a sentence from. I don't cut them any slack when it comes to a clear evil like anti-Semitism, extenuating circumstances claimed or not, and I don't do that for BN either.

Remember, it was YOU who brought up BN. You brought him into the conversation - you can't then complain about people addressing your point. I addressed this after you did, in response. You brought him up, as part of a campaign to accuse the entire state of France - not just anti-Semites in France, but the entire state:

"The French response will probably continue be very public chest-beating for the next week, then hand-wringing, and then finally nothing."

I didn't notice you extend yourself to find all sorts of extenuating circumstances for the state of France, before you made your accusations and projections, but you're certainly eager to claim them for BN, whom you brought in to bolster your case.

You prefaced your attack on me with: "The only comment addressing my link to the story about the funeral in Israel came from VikingSword:[...]". Well, that's certainly something - what were you hoping for? Everyone agreeing with you? Because you certainly did not address a critical dissent - my comment in the thread - which comment was a direct reaction to your post and your campaign to paint the state of France - not just the anti-Semitic elements of the population as ill-disposed to their own citizens who are Jewish. Instead, we have this. Not cool.

Mchelly wrote:

"I just want to call this comment out as a really good example -

But let us not kid ourselves that Netanyahu is above trading in the worst kind of anti-Semitic tropes.
posted by VikingSword

Now I know "the worst" is subjective and open to interpretation. But if I were asked to list the worst anti-Semitic tropes, the list would be pretty harrowing. That we kill non-Jewish babies and drink their blood or use it for our religious rites or revel in it. That we are sexually deviant and depraved. That we secretly run the world and cause all wars for our profit. That we control the banks and enrich ourselves at the expense of others. That we were behind the slave trade. That we control the media. Nothing Netanyahu has ever done or said or "traded in", whatever that means, approaches any of this.

The comment was either based in a lack of knowledge of how evil and pernicious anti-Semitic tropes are, or a genuine belief that the Prime Minister of Israel believing that Israel acts on behalf of all Jews, or his calling out anti-Semitism when his country is singled out among all the nations of the world for its actions - is as bad as drinking the blood of Christian babies. Which is patently ridiculous. It diminishes the viciousness of anti-Semitism while attempting to tar a Jewish leader with the same brush.[...]
"

I must say, this is pretty dismal. Again, not even a link to my actual long comment, just a single isolated sentence. I guess it's easier to demagogue when you can throw in your own claims without having them be contradicted by the plain text.

I imagine that when you make an accusation or claim something is "a good example", you'd be pretty careful not to undermine your own credibility with feeble arguments. You are attacking a person - and they will respond. In the thread, I have addressed myself to the issues, not the posters, as I believe that even if I disagree, it makes for a better conversation, when I assume good faith of my opponent. But you didn't do that, instead, you listed as the only options a very narrow range - which speaks to the limitations of your imagination and reasoning powers, rather than to the veracity of your claims. Why didn't you ask how it is that I can claim that the accusation of divided loyalty is one of the worst anti-Semitic tropes? Because the options are not only "comment was either based in a lack of knowledge of how evil and pernicious anti-Semitic tropes are, or a genuine belief that the Prime Minister of Israel believing that Israel acts on behalf of all Jews, or his calling out anti-Semitism when his country is singled out among all the nations of the world for its actions - is as bad as drinking the blood of Christian babies. Which is patently ridiculous."

Patently ridiculous is that it's apparently outside of the bounds of your imagination that there may be any other options than the stupid two you claim. Here:

You list "kill non-Jewish babies and drink their blood or use it for our religious rites or revel in it. That we are sexually deviant and depraved. That we secretly run the world and cause all wars for our profit. That we control the banks and enrich ourselves at the expense of others. That we were behind the slave trade. That we control the media."

Note one thing about all these anti-Semitic tropes: they are accusations about actions. Reprehensible actions. But by their very nature, actions can be changed, or controlled. For example, the blood libel about Jewish religious practices - what did the anti-Semites ultimately lead to in this case? We've seen that in Spain in the ages past - conversion (forced in effect, of course). As far as anti-Semites were concerned, problem solved for that time. Of course, forced conversions are horrible, unacceptable, completely reprehensible. But if a Jew converted and was now, say, a Spanish Catholic - would YOU say that the anti-Semitic trope disappeared in that particular case, because they stopped their religious practice (of blood libel content)? Suddenly your argument for this being the most horrible anti-Semitic trope disappears in this case. And so for all the tropes you mentioned - all are actions, and actions by their very nature are amenable to change.

Why do I think accusations of divided loyalties is in certain ways worse? Because they claim something about the inherent nature of Jews that's not amenable to change. It's what's - in BN's words - in their deepest heart. This is a totalitarian approach that started even before it's famous manifestation of the Dreyfus affair (speaking of French anti-Semitism of the older times), but reached its apotheosis in Nazi ideology - where having any Jewish background, was a death sentence, a forever casting out of society, where there was no rescue in conversion, in renunciation, forced or otherwise, because it claimed that this was in the Jews innate nature. It meant not a pogrom, or a religiously based massacre - it meant total annihilation, it meant the Holocaust. Bad as being forced to convert to save one's life - and horrific it is - it is worse to simply be murdered with no recourse of any kind, even theoretical.

My point is that what makes that particular trope especially bad in my eyes - is not simply the surface claim, but what flows for that accusation. And from this one, flows death and nothing else.

Now, you may disagree. But please spare me condescending remarks about my statement being the result of ignorance or unfair accusations against poor BN.

You may not see anything wrong in what BN said. But I see him using that trope as extremely reprehensible. This is not due to my ignorance or unawareness of anti-Semitism. In that very comment - to which you didn't bother linking - I have made detailed denunciations of anti-Semitism in France and elsewhere, and linked to older comments in which I highlighted the new anti-Semitism emanating from MENA communities - so I am not a Johnny come lately to the subject. It would behoove you, before you accuse someone of such ignorance to acquaint yourself with that person's posting history - and I have a very long history here of consistent and relentless denunciation of anti-Semitism whatever quarter it may come from (including the left).

The underlying justification for attacking Jews that these murderers used was basically that all Jews are responsible for the ME disaster of Israeli policies. That's classical anti-Semitism. And it's therefore a serious situation in my opinion when the leader of Israel gives support to that trope by claiming the right to speak for all Jews everywhere, and furthermore that any political action by Israel represents all Jews insofar as it is specifically - he claims - anti-Semitic to criticize them. Very handy for these fanatics to point to these statements by the leader of Israel. How is that OK when BN does it, when it's so clearly wrong when these fanatical anti-Semites do it? Because it's not. The support for the divided loyalties trope is extremely reprehensible too, of course - as it is when it comes from traditional anti-Semites. You may think it's nothing, but I disagree, and I'm not therefore an ignoramus or anti-Semite or unfairly hard on poor old BN. "Demonizing Netanyahu" - I don't think that would be particularly easy - look at his actions and the wars he unleashed and the number of victims, and tell me, how was he demonized by my mere holding him accountable for HIS. WORDS.

It diminishes the viciousness of anti-Semitism while attempting to tar a Jewish leader with the same brush.

He is only tarred by his own words - words that he spoke with premeditation - and speaking of accusations of anti-Semitism, let us note, the accusations of anti-Semitism against Jewish critics of certain Israeli policies (Chomsky being called an anti-Semite). Nihil novi sub sole.

But calling out that comment would be seen here as calling anti-Israel sentiment anti-Semitic, because it's attacking Netanyahu, so therefore there can't be any anti-Semitism, only anti-Israeli policies.

Because it would be. Criticizing BN for his own freely spoken words is not anti-Semitism. Sorry. You undermine your credibility by insisting this is so - by implying that my comment was anti-Semitic, given my commenting history on this site wrt. to these issues, you provide the perfect illustration of the practice of pure partisanship, since to you, my criticising of BN makes me fall into the enemy camp and makes me an anti-Semite. But I am not interested in "my team right or wrong" - I'll call out wrong wherever it may be, which is why I can strongly denounce anti-Semitism whatever the source, and can criticize specific Israeli actions on purely humanitarian or political grounds.

Heed your own words "[...] but it certainly sets the level of discourse here a lot closer to tacit acceptance of anti-Semitism as just a word you throw around to score points[...].
posted by VikingSword at 1:35 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Some of my best shoes are white.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:37 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I too think aryma was coming from a good place and I respect that, at least until she described someone else's response to her as "crap."

Dang it, you're right, zachlipton, I should have stuck with "shitty" - it's in fairly heavy use in this thread and doesn't seem to raise any eyebrows.


Oh, fooey - I apologize. There's no need for either of those words.
posted by aryma at 1:38 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have a feeling that critiquing Israel means being called Anti-Semetic, and I have a feeling that this calling out is as censoring as Matt's deletion, and I feel like this is kind of dangerous to say, b/c often esp in Europe, there is a connection between anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism. I don't know how we can talk about Israel, and I don't tend to.
posted by PinkMoose at 1:46 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm none of Jewish, American, or Israeli: I value Joe in Australia's comments, especially on Israel, because they present a generally pro-Israel stance that I wouldn't otherwise see here.
posted by alasdair at 2:24 AM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I cannot remain silent while engaging honestly with this website

Have you given either of these things serious consideration?
posted by Meatbomb at 2:38 AM on January 14, 2015


Folks, this isn't any easy conversation, but it's a good one to have, and personal attacks, sarcasm, pot shots, and zingers really make it hard to keep the discussion useful. Please don't do this.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:09 AM on January 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm none of Jewish, American, or Israeli: I value Joe in Australia's comments, especially on Israel, because they present a generally pro-Israel stance that I wouldn't otherwise see here.

I'd second this. Joe in Australia's comments have given me an insight into why Israel and the Israeli people feel the way they do which is generally absent from the British media.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:39 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


VikingSword, I read your comment on the CH therad and I did not engage with it there, nor will I engage with your reiteration of it here. I disagree with you utterly and I find that the vehemence with which you disagree with BN's statements as a Jewish man who does speak what many religious and affiliated Jews believe about the land of Israel regardless of how they feel about the actions of the State, to be repugnant and part of the problem.
posted by Mchelly at 3:47 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Note one thing about all these anti-Semitic tropes: they are accusations about actions. Reprehensible actions. But by their very nature, actions can be changed, or controlled.

As far as anti-Semites were concerned, problem solved for that time.

Except no, that's not how anti-semitism works, at least not in Spain which is the example you used. In that case anti-semitism worked on the belief that Jews had ingrained behaviours that could not be changed through conversion - this is one of the reasons the Inquisition was established. The marranos/conversos were treated terribly for hundreds of years because it was believed that they hadn't truly shed their Jewishness and that there was something particularly pernicious about a Jew masquerading as a Christian. Some say Spain was the breeding ground for the sort of modern anti-semitism that focuses on the duplicitous nature of the 'cosmopolitan Jew' so let's not misrepresent what happened historically.
posted by Partario at 3:51 AM on January 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


VikingSword, regardless of your IRL time spent addressing antisemitism, on MetaFilter I have noticed your comments in particular as ones that often aren't accurate about Jewish history/context (cf. Partario's note about marranos, which is A Big Deal in the history of antisemitism), and frankly make me very uncomfortable in a "um, boy, this seems like more of a problem than just 'strongly disagreeing with the Israeli government or prime minister" way.

Some of your comments about Israel weird me out and they come across as antisemitic. I don't always know how to quantify it specifically, or how to break down some of the parallels for you, and a lot of time I don't have the time in my day to write extremely long comments or even try to discuss the issue on the blue with you, because you clearly do have the time and energy to keep arguing at intensity eleven in a way that I don't.

But I do wish you would consider revising some of your rhetoric, because I tend not to feel like you have criticized Israel when you've written a comment you intend to convey criticism of the Israeli government or head of state.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 4:42 AM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


Gonna be late for work, so this is going to be quick and incomplete:

I would have had the opportunity of addressing any problems you saw in what I wrote - on topic, as that should have been your interest, rather than on the poster... and that is what the blue is for: relevant content. Notably you failed to do so in the blue. Instead, you wrenched out a single sentence out of my fairly lengthy comment, posted it here, and didn't even do the courtesy of at least linking

I do apologize for both not respodning on the Blue and my incomplete quote but -

--A) I created a very long comment and couldn't possibly link all the people I quoted. I tried my best to be fair, but when I realized I may have been more loose with your comment than others and that it was engendering further response I me-mailed you. I did make it very clear the thread and the poster I was referencing - I didn't to hide your original comment

--B) I still feel like my last message from Matt H. is standing (the Blue thread is 'Hebdo only'). To me it felt I like I was effectively "running the mod blockade" to get the story about the funeral posted. My last message from the mod is that these comments (and therefore me as well) don't belong there, so overall I have been avoiding the Blue thread now.

"Inviting a Jewish leader from majority Jewish country to attend a rally that was ostensibly also for French Jews killed for being Jewish didn't seem that crazy to me." implying that I somehow objected to his presence there, when in fact I stated

That last sentence wasn't directed at you - I was wrapping up my thought to say generally that his presence wasn't that far of a stretch.

Why not address the actual content? After all, it's not as if he hasn't been criticised right there in Israel for doing exactly what I pointed out - making political hay out of this tragedy

I would say the context is different, and that because a discussion is being had in Israel between Israeli's doesn't mean the effect is different on Metafilter, especially since Hollande or any other leaders as "politicians" seems to have not come up a single time. Only the Israel leader.

Right now Turkey's Prime Minister and the the mayor of Ankara (Turkey's capital) are blaming the French, the French government, and yes the Jews and Israel for the Hebdo and grocery killings. How many MeFite's have addressed Erdogan directly? How many links? How many call outs of "trading in the worst kind of anti-Semitic tropes."

Remember, it was YOU who brought up BN. You brought him into the conversation - you can't then complain about people addressing your point.

Yup - I quoted his eulogy.

rosswald:"The French response will probably continue be very public chest-beating for the next week, then hand-wringing, and then finally nothing."

VikingSword: I didn't notice you extend yourself to find all sorts of extenuating circumstances for the state of France


You are right - as I mentioned above, I had drawn parallels to the previous two killings of Jews in two years (Toulouse and Brussels) and now a third. I am not sure what the "extenuating circumstances" you are referring to are, but in my feeling having three mass killings of Jews in three years is a failure of the French state - and I fear the Paris response will be as effective as the response to the previous two incidents (IE not at all). I feel like this is empirically borne out in the shocking jump in the numbers of Jews leaving France - they don't feel France is keeping them safe.
posted by rosswald at 4:42 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't have a dog in this fight, but these discussions are a lot more interesting to read when the conversation sticks to the MeTa framework ("a space to talk about MetaFilter itself") and a lot less interesting when it becomes a reiteration of arguments from FPP discussions.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Well, when the MeTa is especially framed to talk about those arguments from the FPP discussions, then...yeah.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:44 AM on January 14, 2015


I've gone back and read your comment, VikingSword. Regardless of your criticism of Israel, your point seems to be that the president of Israel is making exactly the same sort of case as the very worst antisemitic libels. At best, that's a tone deaf false equivalence argument, at worst it's historically ignorant, but it would probably be wise not to have these discussions with a presumption that you are already an expert on antisemitism, you can comment on it without fear of making an error, and if you are called out on it, the people who take issue simply need to be educated about what antisemitism actually is.

The above poster was right -- the very worst antisemitic tropes are literally that Jews murder babies and messiahs, and it was poor form on your part to try to parallel this with anything said at the funeral.
posted by maxsparber at 5:48 AM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


VikingSword, I don't say this lightly, but I think you protest too much.
posted by OmieWise at 5:51 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


VikingSword: "And so for all the tropes you mentioned - all are actions, and actions by their very nature are amenable to change. Why do I think accusations of divided loyalties is in certain ways worse? Because they claim something about the inherent nature of Jews that's not amenable to change. "

This is not even wrong. I hardly even know where to start because this is, like, not within the logical universe the rest of us are using. But maybe to point out that of the anti-semitic tropes that are accusations of actions -- like the blood libel -- the accused Jews were not actually engaging in any of them? And therefore could not debunk them by changing the behavior? And that these same accusations have gone on for a thousand years regardless of evidence to the contrary? Even regardless of sporadic attempts by various European kings to stop those accusations and the violence that resulted from them? Or that, rhetorically, the accusation of blood libel claimed this murderous violence was an inherent part of the nature of Jews that was not amenable to change?

I mean, I sort-of get what you're trying to say? But it completely ignores the actual history of anti-Semitism in favor of an idiosyncratic system you've constructed in your head that you feel like ought to make logical sense. But that's not, in fact, what happened, or how those accusations have functioned, or how rhetoric has been used, or how people have received it and interpreted it. If you are going to make sweeping declarations about what "is" and "isn't" true about anti-Semitic rhetoric, I think you need to do a little more to familiarize yourself with the history of that rhetoric. Moreover, the propaganda of prejudice is not about making logical sense, and attempting to impose logic on it ("this is worse than that because any reasonable person could see ...") will tend to fail and upset people as ignoring their lived experience because, look, prejudice appeals to people's visceral emotions, not their reason. If people were using their reason, they wouldn't be engaging in prejudice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:07 AM on January 14, 2015 [45 favorites]


There's a time and place for criticism of israel and even judaism, but a thread about a mass murder of jews is kind of not the place for it.
posted by empath at 6:31 AM on January 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


So here's the thing. That paragraph about the blood libel was just.. wow, wrong and offensive on so many levels. Really. Just awful. But you have to know a few things about the history of antisemitism to get that it's just really, really, really wrong and offensive. And most people on metafilter don't. So I think most people on metafilter would read that comment and think it was just more intemperate yelling about I/P, and if someone called it out for being really wrong and offensive in all the ways that it is actually wrong and offensive, most mefites might be inclined to agree that it was just Jews claiming that any criticism of Israel was antisemitic. I don't think that's the whole problem, but I think it's part of the problem.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:32 AM on January 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Note one thing about all these anti-Semitic tropes: they are accusations about actions. Reprehensible actions. But by their very nature, actions can be changed, or controlled.

This rubs me the wrong way. It's almost like victim blaming, but with prejudiced slurs. I wouldn't normally call this out, but you go on for another paragraph and talk about "past solutions" to this problem as if the elephant in the room isn't insidious hatred, but something the Jews can do so that they won't be called those things anymore.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:02 AM on January 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


And I guess another thing, and I can't believe that I'm going to semi-defend that hideous comment, but I don't know that VikingSword actually believes what he wrote about the blood libel. I think he might be doing that thing that people do where they feel attacked and go into debate mode and try to marshal arguments, whether they really believe them or not. And speaking as someone who sometimes has a tendency to do that, I think it would be good if there were less of that all around, and particularly if there were less of that on hot-button issues and, you know, things related to justifications for mass violence against vulnerable populations.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:06 AM on January 14, 2015


Even if it were the case, that all Jews feel more loyalty to Israel than to wherever they live (I do not think this is true, and it bothers me when the Israeli government says it: they don't speak for me), most people have multiple loyalties which conflict with each other at times. This is something BN says which is false (as opposed to the more true statement that most diaspora Jews feel something to Israel that they don't feel to other countries where they do not live and have never lived), not the worst ever sort of anti-semitism (I've dealt with not that much anti-semitism and what I've dealt with has been worse than a politician's soundbite).

And even if it were the case, that people murdered Jews because they have divided loyalties (as opposed to because they needed to find a reason to hang the killing on), it doesn't make Jews wrong to have multiple loyalties or people wrong to admit out loud that Jews have multiple loyalties.

It's a weird argument, that if only people wouldn't say that Jews were also loyal to Israel that people would stop hating Jews and not kill them for being Jews. This happened long before the modern state of Israel -- it was never about divided loyalties, and it was never their fault.
posted by jeather at 7:12 AM on January 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


One of my most favorited comments was about the almost cartoonish anti-semitism I've experienced working in other places. That stuff sucked a lot and it was nice to have its sucking validated by lots of mefites, but it's the insidious stuff that pops up when nobody is paying attention, that's hard to articulate why it is painful, that is to me hurts the most. It's very easy to tell someone "Don't be an asshole, Jews don't make matzoh out of Christians and I didn't kill Jesus," but it's a lot harder to explain to someone why appending "rich" to every mention of their (apparently wealthy) Jewish ex-boyfriend is also anti-semitic and they should stop.

The conflation of the Israeli government's mistreatment of the Palestinian people with Jews At Large is similar. People seem to be able to make the distinction between Russian Americans and the Russian treatment of Chechnya, or Chinese Americans and the Chinese governments' treatment of Tibetans. Every thread about Flogging Molly or whatever doesn't devolve into an argument about the relative merits of the IRA. And so it is problematic when threads about (for example) Jewish kids books has attempted derails into "But Israel is bad." It was a thread which was wonky enough that I didn't feel like sharing my adorable story about being sent Jewish Days and Holidays by my great grandmother after I told her it was Labor Day (turns out it was also Rosh Hashanah). It wasn't overtly antisemitic, but it wasn't feeling very welcoming.

So there are a few solutions. The userbase as a whole becomes more inclined to flag/send a quick note to mods, even if the reason is "Well, this feels off." And the moderators should be willing to respond more reasonably to concerns about antisemitism, even if it's coming from the same few voices. One thing I really appreciate about metafilter is the diversity of Jewish voices and experiences (as someone who is often The Lone Jew); I think this is a strength of the community and as such the community should be willing to take the problem seriously.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:48 AM on January 14, 2015 [46 favorites]


The issue that I have with some commenters is not that they brought up relevant, important, and frankly frightening concerns regarding anti-semitism and fears of violence amongst the French Jewish community. It's the manner in which the claims were made. Several commenters made broad claims about how France has "felt" about its Jewish community (i.e., whether it was sympathetic to the community).

When I pushed back on those claims pointing out that they were overly broad and not necessarily informative (particularly given my experience living in France for over five years), there was no moderation of those claims or acknowledgment that maybe the claims were overstated (thus allowing for what I would consider a useful back-and-forth discussion)--just further claims provided without what I would consider to be much context.

For me personally, it becomes really frustrating to have a conversation of this sort; it feels like those commenters are being pushy and inconsiderate when arguing/commenting in this manner and I haven't come up with a successful strategy for responding to it. (Why the strong words pushy and inconsiderate? Because it takes tremendous effort to rebut outlandish claims, particularly when those commenters are extremely motivated to provide claim after claim and it takes work to unravel or contextualize each of their claims).

And to my mind, there is a pattern here. This was also my experience with several of the same commenters in other threads involving similar and equally challenging topics. No amount of good will and efforts to rein in outlandish claims presented as fact and with such certitude seemed to produce much of an effect. And it's a shame, because there are good conversations to be had and those commenters have important things to say.

Finally, I think this style of commenting reduces the quality of threads. It's not an either/or thing. The Jewish communities in France are certainly under threat now and it's worthy of our time in the CH thread to discuss that threat. The west and north African immigrant and French communities live in a country that would appear hostile to their economic prospects and not very sympathetic to their cultural/religious background. That's also something that should be discussed. My sense is (and perhaps I'm very wrong), contrary to the claims of this Meta, that several commenters chill/forestall discussion of the latter rather than themselves are chilled in their discussion of the former.
posted by faux ami at 7:57 AM on January 14, 2015


a thread about a mass murder of jews

I actually thought it was a thread about a mass murder of satirists. The Jewish angle, while related, and possibly the reason for one specific murder, was more to do with the other gunman and his separate but unclearly connected crimes.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:04 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


That stuff sucked a lot and it was nice to have its sucking validated by lots of mefites, but it's the insidious stuff that pops up when nobody is paying attention, that's hard to articulate why it is painful, that is to me hurts the most. It's very easy to tell someone "Don't be an asshole, Jews don't make matzoh out of Christians and I didn't kill Jesus," but it's a lot harder to explain to someone why appending "rich" to every mention of their (apparently wealthy) Jewish ex-boyfriend is also anti-semitic and they should stop.

Just wanted to say that this pretty much mirrors my experience of transphobia on metafilter, and yet it's getting to be a trope that people will bring up discussion of trans issues as a solved problem or something mefi does well. Metafilter is bad at doing nuance, and it is bad at dealing with the more insidious, less overt or direct prejudice and discrimination on many issues.

I should hasten to add that I am not saying this to suggest that mefi does not have a particular issue with antisemitism. Clearly, it does, even if it isn't the only issue.
posted by Dysk at 8:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


It's the manner in which the claims were made.

Maybe research tone arguments before you bring this up.
posted by jeather at 8:07 AM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


but it's a lot harder to explain to someone why appending "rich" to every mention of their (apparently wealthy) Jewish ex-boyfriend is also anti-semitic and they should stop

Why would that be called anti-semitic?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:13 AM on January 14, 2015


Why would that be called anti-semitic?

Because the idea that all Jews are rich (and powerful) fuels a lot of other antisemitic beliefs?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:16 AM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


When other people are presented without commentary on their religion and relative means, "Oh, yes, my rich Jewish ex-boyfriend used to do that." "Yes, my ex-boyfriend, who was rich and Jewish..." "Oh, I saw that with my rich Jewish ex." "When I was living with my rich Jewish ex..." makes a pretty clear statement on the OBVIOUS link between Judaism and wealth.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:20 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's not an issue if she says "My rich ex boyfriend." It becomes a problem when she says "My rich Jewish ex-boyfriend."

I've experienced this a lot, probably because I was adopted by Jews and my public identity is so belligerently Irish (Flogging Molly! IRA!), and so people often don't know I am Jewish and talk about Jews and wealth as though the two just go hand in hand. "Oh, it's just a bunch of rich old Jewish ladies." "Oh, St. Louis Park, that's where all the rich Jews live."

Even if they are actually rich (and I am from St. Louis Park, which is, at best, sort of squalidly middle class most places), it is the combination of the two that does the damage, because it winds up being a sort of hyphenate -- that the two logically and inevitably go hand in hand.

Obviously, part of the issue is the historic antipathy toward Jewish finances, but even now, as I am so poor, it stings to have people behave as though of course Jews have money. DO THEY? DO THEY? WHERE'S MINE?
posted by maxsparber at 8:22 AM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


My sense is (and perhaps I'm very wrong), contrary to the claims of this Meta, that several commenters chill/forestall discussion of the latter rather than themselves are chilled in their discussion of the former.

Is your basic claim that "outlandish" or "overly broad" complaints about anti-Semitism in France crowd out or chill the discussion about how Muslims in France are treated? Is that the chilling to which you refer?
posted by Area Man at 8:29 AM on January 14, 2015


"Rich jewish guy" creates a template for convenient hatred. Oh these Jews are all so rich, let's kill them so that we can eliminate the scourge of usury and greed because that is what Jews are. He's not just a rich guy, he's a rich Jewish guy.

It's kind of like how "black guy" creates a template for convenient discrimination. Oh he's black and therefore going to steal baseball bats from our sporting goods store, let's follow him around just in case. He's not just a guy, he's a black guy.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:40 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Maybe research tone arguments before you bring this up.

jeather, I'm not saying the claims should be presented in a nicer tone! I'm saying that the claims are overly broad (and, I think, wrong and misleading, particularly to folks who don't live in France).

Area Man, basically yes. I'm Jewish and now very nervous about anti-semitism in France. But I feel uncomfortable bringing up the anti-Muslim sentiment I routinely heard in France because it feels in the context of the thread as if I'm challenging the many assertions of anti-semitism. Perhaps it's me making this into an either/or thing, though?
posted by faux ami at 9:12 AM on January 14, 2015


Because the idea that all Jews are rich (and powerful) fuels a lot of other antisemitic beliefs?

Speaking from the stance of listening and learning, the phrase "rich Jewish boyfriend" sounds like someone overly concerned with wealth and ethnicity and not anti-semitic. The two qualifiers seem separate to my ears, not as something playing into Jewish stereotypes. Does that make sense?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:15 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It does make sense, Brandon Blatcher. If someone mentions that their boyfriend is wealthy, and at another point in time, mentions that they are Jewish, that doesn't strike me as problematic. The problem for me was the explicit and constant linkage of being rich and Jewish. And also, the fact that you never really hear people talking about My Middleclass Presbyterian Grandma, or His Destitute Atheist Brother. If you're linking religion with class, it's almost exclusively Rich and Jewish. And that feeds into a variety of antisemitic stereotypes.

I'm sure the person in question wasn't commenting on this with antisemitism in mind. I'm pretty sure it's just the background hum of antisemitism, the same as someone getting Jewed on a price, or my roommate's grandma telling her to be sure she gets her rent check from me on time (you know how those people are).
posted by ChuraChura at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Brandon, if it helps (and with massive apologies for going there), would "my fried-chicken-loving black ex-boyfriend," make it clearer? After all, almost everyone loves fried chicken and in a conversation about food, wouldn't it be a qualifier or judgement about his tastes? And yet...

"My rich ex-boyfriend who was Jewish" would make me iffy, depending on what came next. "My Jewish ex-boyfriend, who was rich" wouldn't make me raise an eyebrow. But if someone always pairs "rich Jewish" together - that's pretty much a teachable moment.

There's also a longstanding bigotry of "those Jews" - you know, not normal like you. The rich ones. The New York ones. The pushy ones.
posted by Mchelly at 9:26 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


The two qualifiers seem separate to my ears, not as something playing into Jewish stereotypes. Does that make sense?

Sure, and I don't think a person necessarily means anything antisemitic if they said "my rich Jewish ex," but it does play into a long history of antisemitism, so it's unsurprising if it would make an attentive listener's ears prick up. It's like, say, "lazy Mexican." I am sure that there are people from Mexico that are lazy, and, probably people have dated them, but, if someone kept talking about their "lazy Mexican ex," I would notice it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:28 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


But I live in Connecticut!
posted by rosswald at 9:29 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the subject of bringing up personal connections into these discussions... I'm Icelandic and I've spent about half of my adult life living outside Iceland. I'm generally the only Icelander anyone's ever met, so I do get put on the spot a lot, made to answer questions about anything from elves to financial shenanigans. Usually the questions are based on some misunderstanding or an inaccurate news story.

However, every once in a while I'm not asked questions, but told X, Y and Z about Iceland, with the authority being an Icelandic friend. When I try to correct that misunderstanding, what often happens is that the non-Icelander will dig in, and insist that I am wrong.

Just recently someone insisted that no one could go swimming in the sea around Iceland because the currents would instantly whisk the swimmer away from shore and they would die of hypothermia. It didn't matter that I said that many people swam in the sea in Iceland, that the currents weren't that strong, or that in fact I had gone into the sea and hadn't died. An Icelandic friend of theirs had told them otherwise and that was that.

This wasn't a unique event. This has happened too many times to count. Often when people hear something like: "I have friends who are the same [gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.] as you", the next thing they hear is along the lines of: "So what you told me about your [life, society, heritage, place etc.] is incorrect." That's why people feel uneasy when they hear someone make statements about personal connections in discussions like this one.
posted by Kattullus at 9:32 AM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


OK then here is me keeping my input useful rather than sniping at him: Joe in Australia is the one main reason that I no longer discuss I/P or any other issue that he is involved in onsite. I do not understand how someone can be such an unflagging shill for Israel and get taken at face value when he just wants to have some fairness and balance - it is complete and utter bullshit. Zionists and Israelis are not "the Jews", but that is how the Zionists and Israeli apologists want to frame the discussion. Underhanded, not in good faith, fucking bullshit.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:38 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Why would that be called anti-semitic?

Analogies in this area are dangerous, but I know there are some superficially complimentary expressions that are now recognised as being racist. I don't think anyone says this nowadays, but people used to say things like "He's a credit to his race". They may have meant well, but it's patronising and implies that the speaker's racial identity gives them some sort of authority. Then there are remarks about natural rhythm, or being an exotic beauty, or certain ... physical characteristics.

In the context of wealth and anti-Semitism, the presumption that Jews are wealthy historically led to resentment from the peasants (when there were peasants, which was more recent than you might think) and also from the gentry: after all, how could these Jews acquire the wealth that should be theirs? Presently, it is used to justify anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews-as-bankers (which reinforces the idea of Jews as being the "other", and as being oppressors) and it's also an element of many anti-Semitic attacks: one of the events I linked in the deleted FPP was the kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi, whose captors thought that "all Jews have money". Another recent event in France that I didn't link to was the rape and robbery of a Jewish couple in France. The fact that they were Jewish meant that they were presumed to have money, which made them a target.

Quite apart from everything else: stereotypes are harmful. They make us treat people as symbols or examples instead of individuals. They prevent us from thinking clearly and behaving appropriately, and we shouldn't use them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:39 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: “My personal thing... would be for the mods to really decouple ‘I have a problem with the actions of the Israeli government’ from the toxic anti-Semitism.”

I'm holding back from this thread, but in the interest of active listening, I wanted to agree that this seems to be the initial concrete problem we're talking about, and I think it's one we can point to in beginning to say what went wrong here. Specifically – apparently here we have a user who is sometimes involved in heated Israel/Palestine discussions, and the mods have an eye out for that because they'd rather not see heated I/P discussions pop up in unrelated threads. At least that's what mathowie said above in his first comment – referring to "arguments on the site about this topic." But the trouble is, this wasn't actually about I/P at all; it was about specifically antisemitic attacks. I think mathowie made the mistake of initially reading a discussion of antisemitism as though that were inherently related to the whole I/P morass of conflict. And while of course I understand that mistake (having made much worse mistakes many times over) I think I can see why it is a mistake. The ongoing conflagrations between Israel and Palestine are a specific thing, but antisemitism reaches far beyond them. I know plenty of Jews who are proudly and fiercely supportive of Palestine or even against the Israeli state and its treatment of others; but those Jews, no matter their political persuasions, would be just as readily slandered and ultimately slaughtered by antisemitism as the most conservative Likudniks. Antisemitism cuts across all these lines, is not confined to a single conflict, and most certainly played a large part in these particular terrorist attacks.

That's a concrete mistake we can point to, anyway. Of course there are things above and beyond that mistake that people are talking about now – problems with the way Jews are talked about, with the way we dance around certain discussions or are unwilling to call out certain egregious instances of antisemitism. I just wanted to say I wholly agree with what you've said, and I'm listening.
posted by koeselitz at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Meatbomb, I'm not sure how that was helpful (or relevant), since the conversation here is about anti-Semitism and not I/P. Indeed, your last sentence seems to rather support this distinction.
posted by OmieWise at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Meatbomb, I'm not sure how that was helpful (or relevant), since the conversation here is about anti-Semitism and not I/P.

Apparently, the idea that accusations of antisemitism can be just a smokescreen to silence critics of Israel needed to be reiterated a seventh time in this thread.
posted by maxsparber at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


"But what if the Jews are lying when they say things are anti-semitic?" is a massively anti-semitic stance to take. I hear "but the Jews claim all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic" a lot more than the actual claim.
posted by jeather at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


A few people here have pointed to trans issues or race issues as things MetaFilter does well/better, and I'm just going to echo the few other people who have pointed out that the site doesn't really do either very well. There was a comment somewhere by Ivan Fyodorovich (I think) about how MetaFilter's comfort zone is topics that affect able-bodied white cishet US upper-middle class men (I may be adding some specificity but whatever) and I think that's a good rule of thumb observation. There are some people on the site who enjoy exploring outside that comfort zone, but a lot of conversations that don't really land in that zone are dominated by aggressive responses to such a degree that the topic itself often doesn't ever get around to being actually discussed.

MetaFilter does not handle Islam well, either. Part of it is the site's tendency to treat "Religion" as a single, monolithic thing, in which many users seem to feel that the greater your ignorance, the more valued your opinion should be. Part of it is the way the site handles specific religions (i.e. the "Not My Tribe" attitude toward Christianity mentioned above; Islam falls within the same category for the site, I think, with added layers of complexity). The Charlie Hebdo thread was really disappointing and honestly in many ways gross to me--it failed to be news filter, many of the responses to Muslims speaking out about the events were gross, the history of racism and discrimination against Muslim and North African immigrants in France was ignored or responded to only with snark and hostility, current attacks on French Muslims were ignored, there's quite a lot of racist apologism etc. It's a very multifaceted topic and many people have different views to greater or lesser understandings and nuance, but it did feel like the discussion became dominated by knee-jerks and jingoism and extremist positions.

I'm sure MetaFilter doesn't handle anti-Semitism great either. I haven't seen that, that I can recall, but I'm sure it's a valid point. I'm not sure it was as relevant in this case as it's made out to be here, though. It didn't feel like a facet of the discussion that was being silenced; if anything, there's kind of a lot of discussion of anti-Semitism in the thread.
posted by byanyothername at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Similarly to restless_nomad, I am Jewish and I don't notice antisemitic dogwhistles on MetaFilter. If people can point them out and be specific it will help me be a better participant and not accidentally perpetuate prejudice against my own community.

However, I am a little troubled by all the "antisemitism is just like this other *ism" in this thread because actually that's not how it works and you can't make those comparisons. Just to give you an example I am also female and I think that equating antisemitism to sexism is unhelpful and does not reflect my experience at all.

I mean, I seriously want things like this comment comparing anti-Asian bias to antisemitism to be true but I'm not sure it is a useful comparison because Asian-Americans have a very different experience and history than Jewish Americans. For instance the first thing I can point out is that there is not this type of pattern of equation of Asian-ness with the Chinese government in the US.
posted by capricorn at 9:55 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


And it's discouraging to me to have a thread this long, full of people who have said they have seen issues of antisemitism ignored or minimized, and it is a lot of people, and then have one person at the end come in and ignore all of those, but instead point out the one person they don't like because they differ on the subject of I/P, and then handwave away the whole discussion and being disingenuous.
posted by maxsparber at 9:55 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


> I don't think this is going to change unless there's a mod who really really cares about it.

I don't know, that sounds a little disingenuous


Disingenuous? Seriously? I hope you were writing quickly and carelessly, because that's pretty insulting; it's accusing me of saying what I don't actually think is true, and I truly don't think the situation will change without dedicated mod attention (as Jessamyn also said).

> I guess what I'm saying is it's understandable for people to take "some of my best friends are X" and respond to it in a reflexive fashion, when people--like aryma here, I think--really mean "some of my best friends are X, and having best friends who are X has taught me a lot, and what I am saying is coming from that place and not from a superficial association, and I am still learning."

Thank you for saying that, because I want to mention one of my dearest friends, Allan Herman, who died of leukemia in 1998 and I miss him every day—I'm not trying to peddle glurge or bludgeon anyone into accepting what I have to say because my friend died, I just feel the need to publicly commemorate him. He was proudly Jewish, he hated both Jews for Jesus and the Israeli right-wingers, and even though I thought I was in the know already (I'd studied both Hebrew and Yiddish! I owned a Tanakh! I'd read the Pirke Avot and Israel Zangwill!) I had to be taught a great deal by him; when he said he wanted to marry a Jewish woman and have Jewish children I said that sounded a little... Idonwannasayracist, but... and he schooled me until I understood. To this day the Allan in my head serves as my external conscience and anti-Semitism detector, and when I read a MeFi thread and imagine sending it to Allan and wince at what he'd say or think, I know there's a problem. And that happens too often.

Also, I'm currently copyediting a book on young Soviet Jews from Belorussia during the Holocaust, and it's rubbing me completely raw. Imagine you're a Jewish kid growing up in a country which has eliminated age-old official anti-Semitism and is vigorously promoting the equality of all peoples, which allows you to attend school in Yiddish or Belorussian or Russian and promises you equal access to social realms your parents could never have dreamed of, and many of whose leaders at both the national and local levels are Jews. (Yes, of course there's still rampant anti-Semitism in both high places and low and a lot of the things they're teaching you in school are bullshit, but you're a kid, you accept what you're told. And yes, Stalin was going to wind up perpetrating his own pogroms, but you can't see the future. And even after the horrors of the last half-century of Soviet history those kids, interviewed in old age, still remembered their Soviet youth fondly as a lost land of genuine intercultural friendship and opportunity—that's how powerful the dream was.) You feel completely at home in your town and your country, and you don't have the ingrained fears and constant awareness of dangers and possible escape routes that your elders have; you laugh at their dusty Hebrew books and their kosher dishes and their insistence on trudging to synagogue. You're a New Soviet Person with a shining future. And then the Germans invade, and they round up everyone with "Jew" stamped in their documents and corral them in a ghetto and start shooting them by the tens of thousands. (They weren't transported to killing camps elsewhere as in Poland, they were shot right there or in a ravine just out of town.) Some of your former neighbors are sympathetic and try to help; some of them jeer at you and help the Germans. But you, who thought of yourself as Soviet rather than Jewish, are now forced into seeing yourself as a Jew and into realizing that everyone else sees you that way. And you have to find a way to survive. You probably won't, but if you do manage to live through the war and come out the other side, you're never again going to be able to take either life or Jewishness for granted. You will always be aware that any time someone has a grudge against life, they may very well decide to take it out on the Jews, and they may have a gun. And if you're not safe in Paris, where can you be safe?

Sorry for the wall of text; I don't usually do this sort of thing, but it all just came out. I apologize if I've offended anyone.
posted by languagehat at 9:55 AM on January 14, 2015 [56 favorites]


I hope you were writing quickly and carelessly, because that's pretty insulting; it's accusing me of saying what I don't actually think is true, and I truly don't think the situation will change without dedicated mod attention

Sorry I used that word, I didn't mean for it to be an insult, I guess I was more going for a worry that saying it's a problem and it can't be solved without a major change sounded like a grim self-fulfilling prophecy, that the site was doomed about the problem.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:59 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here are some reasons why conflating wealth and Jewishness is a poisonous thread of anti Semitism. You would not believe how much Nazi propaganda rested on this trope.
posted by bearwife at 10:01 AM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Brandon, if it helps (and with massive apologies for going there), would "my fried-chicken-loving black ex-boyfriend," make it clearer? After all, almost everyone loves fried chicken and in a conversation about food, wouldn't it be a qualifier or judgement about his tastes? And yet...

Ha, no that doesn't make it clearer, as the descriptor sounds ridiculously outlandish to my ears. But I get the overall point, that some people definitely view it as anti-semitic. So...learning!

"My rich ex-boyfriend who was Jewish" would make me iffy, depending on what came next. "My Jewish ex-boyfriend, who was rich" wouldn't make me raise an eyebrow. But if someone always pairs "rich Jewish" together - that's pretty much a teachable moment.

Yeah, for me it would depend on the context: the situation, who's saying what, how well I know them, etc etc.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my slight derail!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The issue that I have with some commenters is not that they brought up relevant, important, and frankly frightening concerns regarding anti-semitism and fears of violence amongst the French Jewish community. It's the manner in which the claims were made. Several commenters made broad claims about how France has "felt" about its Jewish community (i.e., whether it was sympathetic to the community).

This just feels like, once again, Jews complaining about anti-Semitism being held to a higher/more impossible standard than other marginalized groups complaining about the behavior. Hell, I already feel as a gay woman like I'm way too obliged to, in essence, handwave away anything critical I might possibly say about my experiences with straight people or straight dudes as a class, to the point where I don't bother, and I feel that way, way less accutely than I have the "shut up and don't rock the boat" stuff about anti-Semitism. There's a point at which having to qualify every single goddamn thing you ever say about your oppressors with "but not the nice ones! Certainly not you!" feels like more oppression. And you know, maybe at a time when there have been a whole bunch of murders of Jewish people, something like a fifth of Europe's Jews have left in the past decade, mostly for Israel, and France is seeing a jump of 100% in their emigration rate in the space of a year, maybe the precious feelings of the "good" French people shouldn't necessarily be the #1 priority, when in this very debate they're kind of being used to push back against... what, Jews pointing out French anti-Semitism or the migration? Hell, you're not even French, you just lived there. What are you actually arguing against, here? What consideration are we supposed to make?

Area Man, basically yes. I'm Jewish and now very nervous about anti-semitism in France. But I feel uncomfortable bringing up the anti-Muslim sentiment I routinely heard in France because it feels in the context of the thread as if I'm challenging the many assertions of anti-semitism. Perhaps it's me making this into an either/or thing, though?

I think it is you making it into an either/or thing. I don't think there's a single person in this thread on other side who thinks that Islamophobia is okay, isn't and hasn't been a factor in France and the overall climate surrounding the CH attacks. Part of the reason I personally am damn tired of everyone conflating I/P and anti-Semitism is that it does set up that kind of ridiculous either/or, divide-and-conquer dynamic that really only serves the status quo and those in power. I don't think anyone on the side of "anti-Semitism is a problem on MeFi, please take it seriously and stop" has been the ones pushing, implicitly or explicitly, for a conflation of the two issues. There are posters who to me seem to be, in essence, pushing that connection by so vehemently denying there is one but insisting, over and over again, that you can criticize the Israeli government without criticizing Jews. It's like, yeah guys, everyone agrees with you, but you don't seem to ever admit that it's also possible to criticize the government of Israel in an anti-Semitic way or use it as cover for bigotry, and yet you keep hammering home a point that I literally haven't seen a single person in this thread, including Joe, actually contest.

My personal thing--and if anyone wants to start talking about bona fides, my maternal family fled pogroms in Russia and I grew up celebrating Hanukkah and Passover along with Christian holidays, and my most formative schooling was in majority-Jewish neighbourhoods, for whatever that's worth--would be for the mods to really decouple "I have a problem with the actions of the Israeli government" from the toxic anti-Semitism.

In principle, I totally agree with this. But I have to say, it would be a lot easier to believe in the decoupling if Israel didn't seem to be held to a different standard than every other government committing similar atrocitis in the world (which includes the US), if the hyperbole wasn't so extreme and at times astoundingly racist. aryma: without any moral boundary, really? The Obama administration has done and is doing things that are as bad as anything done by the Netenyahu government, do you hold the same of them? In general, I definitely feel like as lefty as MeFi is, non-American MeFites who are (rightly and righteously and well-appreciated-by-me-ishly!) critical of the US government and Americans are pretty scrupulous about making distinctions and also not going off into vicious hyperbole territory, even in cases where I as an American feel like someone almost couldn't get vicious enough to ever be hyperbolic. This also seems mostly true to me of Americans commenting on other countries, of MeFites in general commenting on horrible regimes like North Korea, and so on. I don't want to minimize prejudice or anti-nationalistic sentiments against commenters from other nations, and I want to be clear that this is a crappy thing to do no matter who it is aimed at, but it certainly feels like it can be "open season" on anyone even tangentially or vaguely pro-Israel or even neutral-on-Israel-because-family-who-had-no-other-choice-of-where-to-go-live there, in a way that's not true of any other government and people. I'm sure that once again, people will accuse "my side" of conflating Jews, Zionists, and Israel, and I want to be clear that I firmly believe they are all completely distinct, to the point that there needs to be a term other than Zionist for people who think Israel has a right to exist/is going to continue to exist no matter what anyone else thinks and needs to do so in a moral, non-oppressive, safe, peaceful, just way, since Zionist itself is loaded up with a bunch of other ideas not everyone who feels that way is necessarily going to agree with. I also am not saying, in any way, that this only happens in the context of Israel or that the other kinds of situations in which it happens are any less important than when commentary on Israel goes anti-Semitic or takes Israel as a monolith or whatever, because for what feels like the zillionth time, this is bullshit no matter who it is aimed against.

But, I mean really: "without any moral boundary", really? Okay, what's North Korea? What's the US? That's ridiculously offense and it went uncommented and unchallenged, similar other statements have gone uncommented, VikingSword just brushed off Mchelly's excellent explanation of why his comment about Netenyahu was very offensive with what amounted to a bunch of rules lawyering, I could go digging back through I/P threads and more importantly Jewish-related-but-not-intially-about-I/P-at-all threads and find a ton more examples like this, and I feel like this is a level of ridiculousness and offensiveness that people who have national sympathies just aren't expected to put up with on MeFi, and while I would really like to believe it's all just people who have sympathy for the Palestinians that's leading them to righteous anger, there are literal millennia of very UNrighteous history that "righteous anger" has to be weighed against, and compared with the way people criticize Obama and the US, or the PRC, or North Korea, or Putin, or god knows whatever, to me the thing that really makes Israel distinct is that it's full of Jews, and rightly or wrongly, is identified with Jews by an awful lot of people on both sides of the debate.

I'm sorry if this isn't "charitable" enough, but at a certain point expecting marginalized people to give "the benefit of the doubt" to the people doing the marginalizing is a form of active hostility and marginalization itself.

capricorn: I mean, I seriously want things like this comment comparing anti-Asian bias to antisemitism to be true but I'm not sure it is a useful comparison because Asian-Americans have a very different experience and history than Jewish Americans. For instance the first thing I can point out is that there is not this type of pattern of equation of Asian-ness with the Chinese government in the US.

For the record, I wasn't comparing Asians to Jews, I was comparing Clueless [Person From The Group In Power/With Privilege] behavior in one context to Clueless [Person From The Group In Power/With Privilege] in another context. Again, for whatever reason, it feels like if nothing else, people on MeFi are at least marginally better at recognizing themselves as being on one side of this kind of dynamic (White/PoC, Cis/Trans, Man/Woman, etc) in other contexts, or especially poor at acknowledging it's a problem when it's Privileged Gentile/Jew.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:25 AM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yes, there certainly are problems in the way discussions can go on Metafilter, and some are inherent in the format itself - nobody has the time, and the medium is not suited to lengthy nuanced discussions. But what makes this whole thing function much worse than it has to, is when there is no assuming of good faith on the part of the participants. Instead, sometimes an atmosphere is created, where with the best will in the world, there is simply no possible discussion to be had.

For example, what if the mere fact that someone responds to what they feel is an unjust accusation, is itself held up as conclusive proof of guilt? "You protest too much". What is too much? Apparently a single comment in response to the accusation. That's it. So how can you avoid it? What's a smaller number of comments than one? Why, zero of course! How do you proceed in that atmosphere? Where should you so much as respond once, there is no need to address the merits of the case, because after all there is no way to match my prolific posting on the topic - the prolific nature being the my original comment on the blue, and then my one response to the callout in the grey (this present comment being the second).

I guess the only acceptable option is to leave the accusation - for example that I routinely write anti-Semitic comments about Israel, while not bothering to cite any - unanswered. How does this work out for anyone - or any group - to simply remain silent, because any protest will be proof of guilt?

This can only happen when we assume zero good faith in the arguments of the other person. I want to remain an optimist, and continue to assume good faith and therefore continue in a conversation, as I do here, because to do otherwise, means simply giving up altogether - pack it in, and on to the next cat video.

In responding however, one has to make a careful choice - do you take on all accusations one by one? Immediately, you will be accused of monopolizing the discourse, but then which ones to leave out, without making it seem as if one has no response, because one has no case. Inevitably, no matter what you write will be met by some poster(s) with a mischaracterization - sometimes willful. You can't respond to all. So my choice is to leave alone those I feel are so skewed by mischaracterization that there is no sense in responding - example:

"This rubs me the wrong way. It's almost like victim blaming, but with prejudiced slurs. I wouldn't normally call this out, but you go on for another paragraph and talk about "past solutions" to this problem as if the elephant in the room isn't insidious hatred, but something the Jews can do so that they won't be called those things anymore."

Instead, I address myself only to those comments where assuming a bit of good faith, I can perhaps clarify or reach a better understanding. Example:

"Except no, that's not how anti-semitism works, at least not in Spain which is the example you used. In that case anti-semitism worked on the belief that Jews had ingrained behaviours that could not be changed through conversion - this is one of the reasons the Inquisition was established. The marranos/conversos were treated terribly for hundreds of years because it was believed that they hadn't truly shed their Jewishness and that there was something particularly pernicious about a Jew masquerading as a Christian. Some say Spain was the breeding ground for the sort of modern anti-semitism that focuses on the duplicitous nature of the 'cosmopolitan Jew' so let's not misrepresent what happened historically."

Partario - in good faith, I disagree. Can we please assume good faith on both our parts for the sake of this discussion? I certainly do so.

My point was not of course, that there was anything good about the treatment of Jews in Spain during that time. And of course, it is not my desire to diminish by one whit or whittle the full horror of anti-Semitism anywhere at any time. What my point was - and I hope I can make my position clear - that there is a strain of thought-argument-calumny-trope in anti-Semitism that underlies the very worst of that and leads directly to the very worst outcomes.

When anti-Semitic calumnies were leveled at Jews in Spain, they often were given religious justification (such as "Christ-killers" etc.). The nominal - fig leaf if you will - way out provided by the anti-Semites were conversion to Christianity (forced in effect). The nature of the conversions being in effect forced, was understood by the anti-Semites, and therefore there was some suspicion that many Jews would secretly continue (understandably) in their old faith - which was true for some, of course. Therefore, the next step for the anti-Semites was to claim that Jews are "faking" their conversion - and that's where they then set up torture courts and relentless persecution. I don't believe we are in disagreement about the horror of that persecution. Where the point of - perhaps misunderstanding - lies, is in this:

"In that case anti-semitism worked on the belief that Jews had ingrained behaviours that could not be changed through conversion - this is one of the reasons the Inquisition was established."

Undoubtedly, there were those anti-Semites who believed that sincere conversion was impossible. But it isn't historically true that this belief was underlying the entire agenda of forced conversion - because if that were the case, then nobody would have proposed that Jews convert, since it would be asking for the impossible. It would amount to saying - "Convert, or you will die!" "But you cannot convert sincerely, by your very nature!" "Yet, convert, or die!".

Now, in practice, undoubtedly there were those anti-Semites who believed exactly as you indicated, that Jews could never convert because of their inherent nature. And guess what - that is my point!

What I find most pernicious, is that strain of thought in anti-Semitism, which claims such an inherent (and evil) nature of Jews. That is why I zero in on this aspect - the accusation that somehow Jews have some kind of inimical and ineradicable evil nature - this to me is the worst. Everything else, all the horror of accusations of religious practices, domination of this or that, NONE OF WHICH I DIMINISH, all those are at least given a theoretical out (however insincere) - "change, and we will accept you". Utter Horror, yes. But then there is "nothing, but nothing you can do will make us accept you, your nature is inherently and unchangeably evil and our only answer to you is total elimination". That is the context.

My thoughts on this originated in trying to understand how the horror of the Holocaust was possible. Anti-Semitism has existed for a very long time indeed. The terrible history has included countless massacres and persecutions. But in justifying those, the perpetrators made up excuses - ever shifting - that if Jews dominated this or that, well, let's exclude them from this economic sphere, or if their religious practice was this or that, well, "they can always convert". The Jews of Spain were viciously persecuted and ultimately expelled (1492). But they were not subject to a Final Solution. That was quite unique. As long as they gave excuses, as long as those addressed actions, the victims could at least theoretically find a way to survive. Which is why, without diminishing in any way the horror of those anti-Semitic tropes, I find the worst elements not the ones such as false claims of religious practice (such as blood libel) - again without diminishing the horror in any way - but those elements of accusations of perpetual unchangeable evil nature... for the only "solution" given there was Final.

Many scholars have studied the unique nature of the Holocaust. It remains unique in at least one aspect - the determination to completely eradicate people of Jewish background, regardless of anything else, and without any even fakely professed way out. That idea of anti-Semitism of course found its ultimate expression with the Nazis. But in trying to understand how it is possible to have such hatred that you would trace someones background - of which the victim may not even have been aware! - to simply murder them with absolutely zero way out - I kept looking back further. Because it didn't start with the Nazis - and the Nazis weren't using the blood libel as justification. No, they were harking back to that particular strain of hatred which centers around an unchangeable and evil nature - which is why I thought not that tropes like blood libel are not utterly horrific, but that the unique feature of total elimination of the Holocaust was based on a specific idea. And I traced that idea throughout history - it had always been there, but not ascendant to the degree to which it became during the Nazi era.

And that is the strain of anti-Semitism that I find among the worst, and that is the background for my acute sensitivity and objection to any anti-Semitic trope that claims that Jews have a specific immutable innate nature.

At this point unfortunately I have other obligations, and can't address other comments which I think are made in good faith (such as Eyebrows McGee among others). I am ready and willing to do so at another time - but I am wary of creating an impression of taking on all comers, therefore I will try to get a sense of whether it is felt that I am adding any value with my comments, or whether I should at this point let it go. Thank you for reading this long comment.
posted by VikingSword at 10:26 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


At this point unfortunately I have other obligations, and can't address other comments which I think are made in good faith

Well, I think that's best. This thread is not about you and how offended you are that people took issue with your comment, and you are doing the opposite of what an ally is supposed to do in these circumstances -- which is listen to what people have to say -- and instead are selecting the viewpoints you single-handedly have selected as having been offered in good faith, dismissing the rest, and then writing multi-paragraph explaining antisemitism to Jews.

None of that is the right response. It's find if your comment was taken the wrong way, but, ultimately, it's on you to make sure a comment is clear from context, especially when dealing with this sort of subject, and the appropriate response is to say "I miscommunicated and I'm sorry that it came across in such and such way."

But you have, like, quintupled down on this, and it makes me think you're not engaging in good faith. You don't seem to be even willing to entertain the notion that maybe you've mistepped in what you communicated or how you have communicated.
posted by maxsparber at 10:34 AM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


So there are a few solutions. The userbase as a whole becomes more inclined to flag/send a quick note to mods, even if the reason is "Well, this feels off."

Really, truly, this sort of thing is helpful, yeah. It's hard to overstate how useful it can be to have a lot of people doing even just a little bit more individually in terms of letting us know about things they think are bothersome or problematic or need even just a closer look. Flags are helpful in general and encouraged for getting us to look at something but a note putting the concern in context is a really helpful addition if there's anything complicated or subtle going on or something you're worried we may not really be tuned to.

And the moderators should be willing to respond more reasonably to concerns about antisemitism, even if it's coming from the same few voices.

This general idea is something I've been thinking about a lot since yesterday morning, and trying to sort out my thoughts (which I'm still doing as I write this probably doomed-to-be-quite-long comment) on a few different intersecting aspects of discussion and moderation here and how they can get in the way of each other sometimes, and the unintended dispiriting effects that can have on folks who aren't seeing a kind of site progress or moderator statement they're hoping for.

Some of those aspects that intersect:

- Our baseline need, as mods, to keep things relatively even-keeled on the site with the resources we have available;

- Our goal, as mods, to make sure we're aware of people's concerns and actually seeing/hearing/understanding what's going wrong when stuff is going wrong on the site;

- Every individual Mefite's reasonable desire to be able to hang out here comfortably, and be party or observer to discussions about things that are important to them without feeling directly or indirectly discriminated against or treated hurtfully;

- Every individual Mefite's responsibility for their own pattern of behavior on the site, and for making sure that they're approaching the site as a place where they're aware of and considerate about the fact that Metafilter is a group space and that they're only one person, whose interactions affect a whole lot of other people.

That's hardly everything at play here on a daily basis, but it's some core stuff; and it's enough that there's a bunch of tensions that arise between just those aspects, in a lot of ways that we as a community end up talking about in Metatalk all the time because that's part of what we do here.

And I'm bullet-pointing a few of those things because I want to acknowledge where I think some of the mod interactions that some folks are frustrated by are coming from, and recognize that I get why it's frustrating and why it's something we need to keep working on even if not all of it is really avoidable.

So, for example: we've got a metatalk post about anti-Semitism, from a user who is both understandably frustrated by a specific waffled mod call, and who is also from a mod perspective frustrating to work with because of some of his behavior on the site.

Whether we should talk about people's concerns about anti-Semitism on the site doesn't hang on his past behavior; nor does it hang on whether this Metatalk post was framed well for that goal. It's worth talking about, period, and I don't think anybody on the mod team would disagree with that.

But then we run into the day-to-day logistics of fielding a Metatalk post—that framing does matter a lot in how a discussion is going to start, in how the tone gets set; that tying a general site concern to a specific moderation objection muddles the two together in a way that distracts from the former; that past behavior is a necessary factor in how much patience mods are going to have with current behavior—and all of that plays into the actual metatalk post as it exists. And that usually will be a little bit, and sometimes is a lot, different from the ideal metatalk post for getting into a good discussion about the core concern.

And I think a big part of the difficulty is that as mods we have to deal with the post-as-it-exists, rather than the post-as-would-be-ideal; but it's also possible for us to get bogged down in some of that in a way that is frustrating for folks who would rather get to the core concern, to just start having a more productive and substantial discussion of the issue.

Coming from a mod perspective it can be sometimes hard for me to see through to that, because my head is in a different place. It can be a blind spot, and even when it's not that it can be a challenge to strike that balance between "the thing you bring up is worth talking about" and "the who/when/why/how of this post is problematic for reasons x, y, & z".

And so, basically, I can understand how what for me, for us, is a matter of trying to navigate the mod side of practical metatalk wrangling can end up feeling more like distraction from or dismissiveness of a larger topic on the basis of things that are procedural side-issues or something like that. It's not intentional, but that doesn't mean its not there, and it's something I need to remind myself about more.

Like I said, I don't think all of this is fixable. We're always going to be compromising between fostering a large-scale discussion and responding critically to the details and context of that discussion. But I am absolutely in favor of making the best of that compromise and trying to work with folks here to get as much productive discussion about concerns going as we can manage. And I totally recognize that is something we can do better with than we sometimes do; certainly at least it's something I have room for improvement on.

For the folks noting that you feel like there's unaddressed anti-Semitism issues on the site, again, please let us know more in detail. Write to us about specific things; keep talking stuff out in here, whether literally this thread or future discussions. As mods it helps us tremendously to know where someone's coming from with their concerns; we may not always understand, or in understanding agree about what actions to take, etc, but it really, truly is important to all of us to know where folks feel like something is wrong on the site.

If you have come to feel like you shouldn't bother speaking up because we don't care, please know that that's not true. We're messy, distractible humans who all have our own blind spots and a kind of weird complicated job to do here, but at the end of the day there's little any of us on the mod team care more about than making sure we know where mefites are coming from and that we're doing those things we're able to to make this place as reasonable, thoughtful, and habitable a community as we can.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:38 AM on January 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


This is a subject that has almost caused me to leave MetaFilter a number of times. In fact, I'm in the middle of taking a break over it right now. (Thanks to the mefite that alerted me to this thread.) There is a huge conflation of anything Jewish and Israel that makes people act horribly on metafilter. There is recurrent antisemitism that we've talked about at length before, and threads where people denied that it was even a thing. Even in this thread people want to get all "But Jews have ~privilege~" of excusing their behavior.

The way that people pile on Joe makes a lot of us who notices and rankle at the antisemitism not speak up. It makes us choose to take breaks from the site when things like the attacks in Paris happen. Because we can't take it. I mean in this very thread someone says that the murder of Jews isn't something we should be talking about:

"I actually thought it was a thread about a mass murder of satirists. The Jewish angle, while related, and possibly the reason for one specific murder, was more to do with the other gunman and his separate but unclearly connected crimes."
posted by stoneweaver at 10:42 AM on January 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


Let me be clear:

Every single time you conflate Jews with Israel and condemn Israel you are giving plausible cover for hate crimes. Every time a thread about something related to Judaism devolves into a debate about Israel you are implying that Jews are responsible for the actions of a state that they may or may not support. You are reinforcing that Jews everywhere are aggressors and that it's because of our bad behavior that we are hated. If you don't want to be antisemitic stop doing this.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:44 AM on January 14, 2015 [42 favorites]


Zionists and Israelis are not "the Jews", but that is how the Zionists and Israeli apologists want to frame the discussion. Underhanded, not in good faith, fucking bullshit.

please take a moment to read Languagehat's recent comment if you haven't already. It does a better job than I ever could of illustrating just how necessary Zionism must have felt in the wake of WW2, and thus how inextricably connected Jewishness and Zionism were and likely still are.

My read of Jewish history is anything but well rounded, let alone complete. But one truth that I can't shake is you can't really separate Jews anywhere from Israel. Because WW2 happened, the Holocaust happened and there's no going back. We (all non-Jewish humanity) don't get to say, relax, that could never happen again. We don't get to define the discussion at all.

The actions (evils?) of the current Israeli regime -- that's a different discussion.
posted by philip-random at 10:45 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whelp.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:49 AM on January 14, 2015


>> ... if it helps (and with massive apologies for going there), would "my fried-chicken-loving black ex-boyfriend," make it clearer?

> Ha, no that doesn't make it clearer, as the descriptor sounds ridiculously outlandish to my ears.


I thought the same thing, Brandon. It's hard to make an analogy that flows as naturally as the original. I think you already got the the gist of what people were saying, but seeing that I spent my coffee break trying to come up with a better one I thought I might as well share it. (Usual preemptive apologies for trading in stereotypes apply.): A white girl in High School is dating a black guy who, in addition to many other qualities, is a really good player on the basketball team, They break up, and the girl's father repeatedly says how much he liked "that black basketball kid you used to date". Accurate and positive, yes, but hearing it over and over, and the fact that those are the two aspects, and the only two aspects, of the kid that he recalls, it's going to start to grate.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:52 AM on January 14, 2015


This isn't rocket science. Are Jews really in all seriousness being asked to educate the anti-semitic-prone about what's so potentially offensive about allowing vehement promulgation of antisemitic tropes on Metafilter?

This is actually a very simple conversation to have. It might not be easy to see when criticism of Israel-qua-political-entity is serving as plausible deniability proxy for something much more nefarious; it is easy to detect exasperation at consistent, vocal pro-Jewishness--an undisguised petulance that would never be sanctioned in the face of similarly persistent defense of other minority positions on Metafilter. It's telling that many of the Jews here (I had no idea there were this many) have either come to rely on Joe's advocating their interests and his taking the heat for it, or just resigned themselves to letting this kind of insidious anti-semitism play out largely unchallenged, if not completely ignored.

This isn't a hard conversation to have. It's a hard conversation to bring up with people who have decided it's a harder conversation to have than conversations they're perfectly comfortable with about feminism or racism, but it's actually very easy to understand if you're conversant in these sorts of concerns. It's not a delicate matter. It's not even legitimately controversial in fair minded circles, regardless of political affiliation. Treating it like some sort of awkward or arcane taboo that must be handled delicately, if at all, is not a solution. Neither is the pretense that what is needed is further elucidation.

Frankly there is a significant contingent, I daresay the majority, among left-leaning North Americans who hold common cause with a particular ideological faction in Middle Eastern disputes. That as recently as World War II these sympathies were very (very) closely allied to some of the rankest racism in living memory is often elided. It nevertheless stands as a historical fact. That a parti pris with such a reprehensible heritage may still occasion some difficulty in holding to a scrupulously egalitarian Enlightenment ethic such as we see otherwise championed on Metafilter should not be surprising, but apparently it presents us with peculiarly intractable challenges. I am not being sarcastic when I ask for indulgence of my genuine incredulity.

Chief Among Things We Do Not Do Well And Thus Must Never Be Allowed To Discuss provides such a tempting motte to retreat to that it's not easy to be optimistic about clearing the trash from the bailey. If the motivations are pure, we'll see almost intuitive results. If not, this will remain a hard conversation to have.
posted by perhapsolutely at 10:52 AM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Every single time you conflate Jews with Israel and condemn Israel you are giving plausible cover for hate crimes. Every time a thread about something related to Judaism devolves into a debate about Israel you are implying that Jews are responsible for the actions of a state that they may or may not support. You are reinforcing that Jews everywhere are aggressors and that it's because of our bad behavior that we are hated. If you don't want to be antisemitic stop doing this.

Yes. This. Exactly.

Signed,
Another Jewish Mefite who is hurt and baffled by this ongoing issue here
posted by amro at 10:55 AM on January 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think it is going to be very hard to parallel the Jewish experience to the black experience. Perhaps it is easier to parallel it to something we already know to be an antisemitic trope -- that Jews are stingy.

Now, if somebody repeatedly referred to people they knew as "Mr. Shapiro, the stingy Jewish shop owner" and "Mr. Reuben, the stingy Jewish banker," it would give pause, because even if Shapiro and Reuben and demonstrably stingy, the fact that this is repeatedly coupled with the word "Jewish" makes it seem as those the two qualities are a matched pair, as though one will necessarily accompany the other.

This is what it sound like to many Jews when we hear the phrase "rich Jewish." And it may be one of those things that doesn't register if you're not Jewish but oh man does it ever if you are Jewish, because you have spent a lifetime listening to people obliviously explaining that of course Mr. Braun has money, he's Jewish, and how good those Jews are with money, and, oh, you're Jewish, you must be rich.
posted by maxsparber at 10:57 AM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


For the folks noting that you feel like there's unaddressed anti-Semitism issues on the site, again, please let us know more in detail... If you have come to feel like you shouldn't bother speaking up because we don't care, please know that that's not true.

I don't know, there's a whole enormous thread here, full of detail, with some excellent comments that describe the issue far more eloquently and politely than I ever could. What, if anything, are you going to do about it, besides posting some more noncommittal platitudes?
posted by Behemoth at 11:00 AM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


stoneweaver: Every single time you conflate Jews with Israel and condemn Israel you are giving plausible cover for hate crimes. Every time a thread about something related to Judaism devolves into a debate about Israel you are implying that Jews are responsible for the actions of a state that they may or may not support. You are reinforcing that Jews everywhere are aggressors and that it's because of our bad behavior that we are hated. If you don't want to be antisemitic stop doing this.

This is an awesome comment that I can't agree with enough, but I would like to add that, no matter how flawed it is, no matter how horrible and atrocious the actions of it's government, police, military, or technically "unaligned" people who are nevertheless empowered and sanctioned by the inaction of that government and military - and they are horrible and atrocious - Israel is a democracy. Not every Israeli citizen supports the government, many of them are doing far more on the ground to try and fix things in Israel than anyone in this thread could possibly be doing, and for what's it worth, not every single Likud supporter is a Jew.

With very few exceptions, MeFites seem to be able to seperate "Bush-supporters and Iraq/Afghanistan War Cheerleaders" from "all Americans", "Democrats" from "people who are completely uncritical of Democratic and Obama administation policy and only care about Beating The Republicans", "Tory voters" from "British citizens", "State-Sanctioned-Homophobia-Loving Putin Supporters" from "Russian citizens", and so on. Could we at least extend that basic consideration to Israeli citizens?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


"A few people here have pointed to trans issues or race issues as things MetaFilter does well/better, and I'm just going to echo the few other people who have pointed out that the site doesn't really do either very well."

We still don't do well with trans* issues -- I mean, I don't think we do well with sexism/feminism stuff, either. But we do sexism/feminism much better than almost any other general interest site and we've improved dramatically in a short period of time on trans* stuff. We have a long way to go and I agree that self-congratulatory stuff about it is off-putting. The self-identified, outspoken trans* folk that are still around express quite a bit of frustration with MetaFilter still, and those folk are who we should be listening to when judging our own improvement.

Anyway, to your referencing something I wrote a ways back, yeah, I think there's definitely a demographic associated with MeFi and it is the concerns and awareness of that demographic that largely define what MeFi does and does not "do well". My chief complaints are things you'd sort of think we'd do well, being educated progressives for the most part, particularly poverty and disability. But we mostly suck at both those things and I'm repeatedly surprised and dismayed by it. I feel like there's been a bit of improvement about disability, but that may just be me. I haven't ever seen any improvement about poverty.

In that context, it's actually puzzling to me that I agree that there's a latent antisemitism in this community given that I am certain that jewish folk represent a much higher-than-average portion of us. I've been puzzling over this through this whole thread and have wrote numerous comments which I didn't post. I think that the biggest factor is the politics of MetaFilter -- there's a strain of antisemitism on the left that's been semi-respectable for a long time and my sense is that a lot of progressive mefites, unlike myself, have been steeped in this political tradition socially for most of their lives. It's distinct from, but similar to, the anti-religion sentiment here that far too often balloons into full-blown bigotry. I'm a nearly lifelong atheist, but I really haven't spent much time at all around people who were casually contemptuous of religious belief. But a lot of people are often casually contemptuous of religious belief, it's just part of their world. I think a whole lot of things are thrown into the basket that includes the (correct, in my opinion) angry criticism of Israel and so because the antisemitic portion of this is there and ubiquitous, I don't think a lot of people even recognize it at all for what it is.

The religion and trans* examples -- and, in fact, when I think about it also racism and sexism -- all sort of make it more clear to me that part of what's going on here is that because MetaFilter is progressive, and progressives think of ourselves as generally enlightened and free of bigotries, that creates a blindness and defensiveness. I mean, that's generally true, it's clearly true about conservatives who think they're good people and necessarily couldn't possibly be racist -- even while spouting off self-evidently racist things. But it can be more pernicious and intractable on the left because there's an even larger investment in believing ourselves to be free of these vices.

One example that comes to my mind frequently was a thread a long time ago about a woman on public access television who had some truly crazy ideas and so it was amusing watching her -- but she was also black and she spoke using very strong African-American Vernacular English. And someone in the thread helpfully made a transcript of an episode of her show and they did so using eye dialect. And when I and someone else pointed out how this was problematic for several reasons, people freaked out.

Back during the MetaFilter Sexism Wars of 2008, there was a lot of this angry, defensive refusal to even listen to the women who were arguing that they were made to feel unwelcome because of what they experienced as sexist comments. And I think a lot of those defensive people ended up leaving because they feel certain that those complaints are over-sensitive or opportunistic and disingenuous bullshit. And whenever those who stuck around, or are new arrivals, want to make this argument, they invariably trot out those few example of angry feminsits who fit that convenient trope.

That sounds very familiar to me in the context of this thread.

I want to repost a quote from David Schraub that jeather quoted in the (excellent and interesting) thread that chura chura linked to earlier:
I have on many occasions said what I take to be the heart of counter-anti-Semitic method, borrowing from Christine Littleton's description of the heart of the feminist method: it begins "with the very radical act of taking [Jews] seriously, believing that what we say about ourselves and our experience is important and valid, even when (or perhaps especially when) it has little or no relationship to what has been or is being said about us."

And that's the central point. We shouldn't need the smoking gun of neo-Nazis. We deserve to be treated as credible witnesses regarding our own condition. It might require you to reassess some core beliefs. But if your "anti-racism" never causes you to alter anything of value to you, it's not much of anti-racism at all.
I feel like it shouldn't be necessary, but I hasten to add that when a member of a group describes their own experience as not confirming something that others in that group object to, we should accept their description of their own experience as credible but we shouldn't use that as "proof" that others in that group are not credible and, in general, we should be wary of people in a group speaking on behalf of the entire group. That goes for both confirming or disconfirming these sorts of things, but my experience and observation is that the disconfirming cases are the ones that are the most damaging because they then become tokens that are used by those outside the group as providing credibility for their views. I really wish that more in-group people who offer their discomfirming opinions/experiences would keep this in mind. I mean, speaking as a disabled person, there's lots of language and behaviors that I don't personally find objectionable but I'm not going to normalize my own reactions for every other disabled person, and when I do attest to those reactions, I try to be careful about it so that I'm not inadvertently providing cover for the folks that defend ableism.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:08 AM on January 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


There is a huge conflation of anything Jewish and Israel that makes people act horribly on metafilter.

Its interesting, you seem to imply this is done for anti-semitic reasons. I would have said that this is more commonly the result of the Israeli Government deliberately conflating Judaism and Israeli interests for their political benefit by being able to call anyone who criticises Israel an anti-Semite. This is a key reason why we can't discuss I/P comfortably here. It's less clear why we can't discuss non-Israeli linked anti-Semitism without the same rancour.
posted by biffa at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


because MetaFilter is progressive, and progressives think of ourselves as generally enlightened and free of bigotries, that creates a blindness and defensiveness. I mean, that's generally true, it's clearly true about conservatives who think they're good people and necessarily couldn't possibly be racist -- even while spouting off self-evidently racist things. But it can be more pernicious and intractable on the left because there's an even larger investment in believing ourselves to be free of these vices.

reminds me of a friend's attitude toward his taste in music. "I'm always trying to prove myself wrong. It's amazing how much cool stuff this has turned me on to."

in the context of one's political beliefs, switch that second sentence to, "It's amazing how liberating it can be."
posted by philip-random at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


reminds me of a friend's attitude toward his taste in music. "I'm always trying to prove myself wrong. It's amazing how much cool stuff this has turned me on to."

Shake it Off is certainly catchy.
posted by Talez at 11:22 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a huge conflation of anything Jewish and Israel that makes people act horribly on metafilter.

I would have said that this is more commonly the result of the Israeli Government deliberately conflating Judaism and Israeli interests for their political benefit by being able to call anyone who criticises Israel an anti-Semite.

The Israeli government is not present on this site, and if individial MeFites behave poorly toward Jews, whatever the context, that is neither the responsibility of the Israeli government nor the Jews, but of the individual poster who behaved horribly.

You really sounded like you were blaming Jews for antisemitism there. I don't know if that was your intention, but please be a lot more cautious when you post, because that's precisely the sort of thing that jumps out at me as being insensitive to the Jews on this site, it's the sort of comment I see with dispiriting frequency, and I can't believe nobody else notices.
posted by maxsparber at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2015 [42 favorites]


Other people notice.
posted by amro at 11:27 AM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think all of us can agree that criticism of Israel can be, but is not necessarily anti-semitic, and that both anti-semites AND zionists like to conflate Israel and the jewish people for their own reasons.
posted by empath at 11:29 AM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


You really sounded like you were blaming Jews for antisemitism there.

No, I made a very clear statement that Israel had sought to protect its political position by suggesting many criticisms of its actions as anti-Semitic (which is historically demonstrable), in response to stoneweaver's comment that others conflate Judaism and Israel to horrible effect. I also acknowledge anti-Semitism is a problem and clearly state I do not know why it is so problematic to discuss it here without problems where it is not linked to I/P issues. Perhaps you could provide a clearer explanation of how that is blaming Jews for anti-Semitism?
posted by biffa at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Israeli government is not present on this site

How are you so sure of this? The first rule of Internet hasbara is you don't talk about Internet hasbara.

You really sounded like you were blaming Jews for antisemitism there.

Nonsense. This kind of selective, political misreading is a big part of the problem.
posted by RogerB at 11:41 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


And now we reach the point in the program where, when Jews raise concerns, they are simply minimized or told they are wrong, that the other person was clear, that they were speaking nonsense. I'm done with this thread.
posted by maxsparber at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


What you're seeing here, mods, is an illustration of the fundamental principle of "two Jews three opinions." We, the Jewish members, are not going to be able to collectively offer criteria for "what bothers us" because there's going to be huge variation. I was fine with pretty much everything in the Salaita thread, but was bothered by the "prosytelization" angle of the PB Books thread. And I feel squick when I see questions like this about people who want to convert to Judaism because our culture somehow feels attractive to them. And, to be honest, I feel squick about what Netanyahu said at that funeral and I don't mind VikingSword calling that out. American Jews are Americans, full stop, and if god forbid something happened to me and somebody tried to lay my body down thousands of miles from my family and my country, because they thought Israel was my "true home," my spirit would haunt that person until the day they died. I'm a Zionist, but that doesn't mean I think Diaspora Jews are homeless or stateless.

I don't think Netanyahu is an anti-Semite and I don't think those posters I mentioned are anti-Semites and I think trying to build a rules-based "anti-Semite detector" or even "anti-Semitism detector" is the wrong approach. All we can do is offer you some kind of big messy aggregate of what makes us say "yuck" and ask people to keep that mess in mind.
posted by escabeche at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


Nonsense. This kind of selective, political misreading is a big part of the problem.

How obnoxious and dismissive. Unless you care to explain to all of us why you think our perceptions of anti-Semitism, as well as our belief that anti-Semitism is currently fueling a risk of death for French Jews, where do you get off showing up to insult the people who have been commenting here as incapable of accurate reading? Engage, please, and try to be respectful that we don't all see the world and Metafilter just like you.
posted by bearwife at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


Sorry, meant explaining to us why our perceptions are nonsense.
posted by bearwife at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2015


For a less zionist outlook on the contemporary issues facing Jews in the diaspora (especially the American diaspora) as well as the types of ongoing antisemitism that this thread was created to discuss, I would suggest reading the book At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good For The Jews, by Alan Wolfe.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:00 PM on January 14, 2015


If you don't agree that the mods here are the greatest mods that ever lived and that the site would explode if they even took a tea break - then you're a problem user.

And that's the problem.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:03 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


RogerB: Nonsense. This kind of selective, political misreading is a big part of the problem.

maxsparber: And now we reach the point in the program where, when Jews raise concerns, they are simply minimized or told they are wrong, that the other person was clear, that they were speaking nonsense. I'm done with this thread.


at precisely the moment that we've coaxed the damned thing (whatever it is) into the light? I feel for your revulsion but ...
posted by philip-random at 12:06 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


And now we reach the point in the program where, when Jews raise concerns, they are simply minimized or told they are wrong, that the other person was clear, that they were speaking nonsense. I'm done with this thread.

You interpret my comment in a way that I can't see any reasoning for, I ask for an explanation of a fairly unpleasant accusation and somehow you are the wronged party?
posted by biffa at 12:09 PM on January 14, 2015


No, I made a very clear statement that Israel had sought to protect its political position by suggesting many criticisms of its actions as anti-Semitic (which is historically demonstrable), in response to stoneweaver's comment that others conflate Judaism and Israel to horrible effect. I also acknowledge anti-Semitism is a problem and clearly state I do not know why it is so problematic to discuss it here without problems where it is not linked to I/P issues. Perhaps you could provide a clearer explanation of how that is blaming Jews for anti-Semitism?

Okay, I'll bite on this garbage. Which "Israel"? When? Which administration? The current one? How far back are you going to extend this, and who exactly do you think bears responsibility for the (nebulous) actions of this (nebulous) concept of Israel? I don't see a single person on this thread who has defended Bibi's comment about Israel being the "true home" of every Jew as anything other than incredibly offensive, anti-Semitic, and politically self-serving. I've seen people try to explain the context in which it was made and why he might feel that way, but no one actually defending it. Please give a scope for just what modern Israeli citizens deserve to be scapegoated for, and as you appear to be a UK citizen from your profile, please compare that to a similar context for the political actions of your government and fucking defend yourself against same, since "everyone knows" all British people are rabid supporters of Margaret Thatcher and her policies and it's okay to belabor this point endlessly and bring it up in every thread that touches on the UK, English history or culture, Essex Girls, or fish and fucking chips. How hateful do we get to be to UK citizens because of Thatcher?

No, seriously, you are being a straight up racist. Stop.

This thread is damn near to making me put my fist through a wall and I only have fairly distant relatives in Israel. I cannot imagine how fucking hostile this climate must be to actual Israeli MeFites. How the fuck in 2015 on a site filled to the brim with people who think they are liberal/progressive/leftist does the basic idea of "collective blame" still hold such sway?

Do you really think it is okay to hold Muslim citizens of Muslim countries responsible for every single foul thing their governments have ever said, including any kind of "conflation" that is manifestly bullshit by the bedrock principals of progressivism, humanism, etc? Do you really want to get on board with backing the logic that the reason there is anti-Pakistani sentiment on every single BBC or Daily Mail article that touches on Pakistan is because of something Pervez Musharraf once said, and not the fact that people making those statements are bigoted racists?

If you don't agree that the mods here are the greatest mods that ever lived and that the site would explode if they even took a tea break - then you're a problem user.

And that's the problem.


I think the mods could do a much better job of responding to criticism and handling a whole bunch of different issues, but no, I do not think this is the issue.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:09 PM on January 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


Although this thread is about anti-Semitism and not about I/P issues, I will say that in my experience many many conversations about Israel/Palestine start from, or contain, anti-Semitic roots. The way that Israel is particularly targeted for criticism, the way that ethnic nationalism which is overlooked or supported in other contexts (for, say, Palestinians, or Bosnians) is used to paint Israel as a fundamentally racist state, the way that the very complex history of both the region and Zionism are jointly elided to make the issues (and people) involved seem simple when they are anything but, all ultimately (on a left-leaning mostly-not-Jewish Palestinian-supporting site) degrade the Jews and Jewish experience in favor of others. I think it's very hard for non-Jewish White Americans and Europeans* to discuss I/P with the kind of nuance that the situation deserves, and that lack of nuance tends to express itself in either anti-Semitic or anti-Palestinian ways. That is my experience of discussions like this.

By way of context, my peer group and closest friends are almost exclusively American Jews who grew up in various types of Labor Zionist groups, and then went on, in great Jewish fashion, to careers as pro-Palestinian activists or historians or lobbyists. Almost all have spent time living in Israel, and some would call themselves Zionists and some would call themselves proponents of a single state solution, but all are able to talk about this issue without the problems I see attendant on the issue when it is talked about as a political (but not cultural/personal) passion. None would remotely occupy Joe in Australia's positions about Israel, and more than one or two are on those lists of pro-Palestinian professors that get sent around by groups who want to stifle debate about Israel. But they all, being Jewish or steeped in cultural and political Judaism, share a fundamental respect for Jews and Israeli's that permeates their attempts to wrestle with this issue. On Metafilter, as elsewhere, strong political passions tend to lead to "othering" of the opposing side. The issue with I/P threads is that when the other side are Zionist Jews, it's hard for that "othering," even innocently meant, to not recapitulate anti-Semitic tropes.

Please note that this comment is not suggesting that "any" criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. It is saying that it's very easy, even with the best of intentions, to allow a narrow view of the problem or possible solutions to the I/P debacle to be grounded in anti-Semitic expectations and tropes. That these might be subtle and not easily understood by people who are not Jewish does not make them unproblematic or untrue.

* Consider for a moment what it must be like for someone whose near relatives were shipped off to a death camp by some French or German person sixty-odd years ago, to be lectured about the problems with Israeli politics, by someone French or German. While I don't think anyone should go in for collective guilt, that doesn't mean that it isn't a distasteful prospect.
posted by OmieWise at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


stoneweaver: “There is a huge conflation of anything Jewish and Israel that makes people act horribly on metafilter.”

biffa: “Its interesting, you seem to imply this is done for anti-semitic reasons. I would have said that this is more commonly the result of the Israeli Government deliberately conflating Judaism and Israeli interests for their political benefit by being able to call anyone who criticises Israel an anti-Semite. This is a key reason why we can't discuss I/P comfortably here. It's less clear why we can't discuss non-Israeli linked anti-Semitism without the same rancour.”

...

biffa: “You interpret my comment in a way that I can't see any reasoning for, I ask for an explanation of a fairly unpleasant accusation and somehow you are the wronged party?”

Look, I appreciate that this is weird to you, and like Max I don't know if you're doing this intentionally, but please note what exactly is happening here:

We have a clear case where the owner of the site deleted comments about antisemitism as it related to these attacks, comments which didn't mention or refer to Israel or Palestine in any way. His explanations make it clear that he did so because he conflated discussion about antisemitism with discussion about Israel/Palestine. So, very obviously, a discussion was stifled because of a conflation of Israel/Palestine and antisemitism.

Your response here to that fact has been to say that conflating antisemitism with Israel/Palestine is something the Israeli government does, and to confess that you really have no idea why we have trouble talking about antisemitism when it isn't related to Israel/Palestine.

As you can see above, however, it's obvious why we had trouble in this case: mathowie conflated the two.

Are you suggesting that mathowie is an agent of the Israeli government? Or maybe that enough people sympathize with Israel that people on this site can be counted as de facto agents of the Israeli government? (You might think this is an insane suggestion; if so, I guess you can chat with RogerB, who seems to think it's rather plausible.)

Again, your response to a complaint that we can't talk about antisemitism is to suggest that the Israeli government uses antisemitism as a cover. Why bring this up? What possible connection could this have to the present discussion?

I hate the idea of speaking for Max, so please understand I'm only trying to explain my understanding of where he's coming from. But here, we have mathowie conflating discussion about antisemitism with discussion about Israel/Palestine, and trying to minimize it because he thinks it's inflammatory; then, when that's questioned, folks like you come in here and say that antisemitism is mostly a problem on metafilter solely because the Israeli government misappropriates the term. It begins to feel as though any discussion of antisemitism is a bad idea.

So if he concluded that this was all just engineered to shut down discussion of antisemitism, I can't blame him much.
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


mathowie said:
The post in the PJ Books thread, about free books with Jewish content that Jewish parents can get for their kids is a good example

Yeah, and I agree, it sounded like a gross knee-jerk "LOL religion sucks amirite" kind of comment. I saw it, but also saw the comment immediately after it cleared up that most books weren't religious that were being handed out, so left it up, but later on it seems the thread took a shittier turn due to that first lame comment.


Okay, you asked what you can do. Here's an example. You saw the comment and say that it was a gross knee-jerk reaction. And yet you left the comment there to fester. And the thread turned shitty.
Would you have left the comment to fester if it was a gross knee-jerk reaction about blacks? gay people? transgender people? Etc?
Why not nip the Jewish/"lol religion sucks amirite" comment in the bud to begin with?
posted by bowmaniac at 12:23 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


IANJ.

I would say VikingSword's contributions up thread prove the OP's thesis pretty well, that anti semitism is in some sense cognitively sequestered from other isms.
posted by PMdixon at 12:27 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I will note after taking the break I said I would that one problem Metafilter's community tends to have is that skepticism/atheism is strongly overrepresented here and it can be hard for some skeptics and some atheists to be sympathetic to people of other religions or people of religion-based culture (remembering for a moment that there are plenty of ethnically Jewish folks who are not particularly or strongly identified with Judaism). But I think that dynamic further complicates an already shitty conversation to have to have.
posted by kalessin at 12:32 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a little late to this thread, but I wanted to call my friend and get his permission before I posted this, because this story is about him:

I am a former WWII reenactor. The group that I was a part of consisted mostly of war vets, active soldiers, historians, and a Jewish man named Rick. There are many reasons why people go through all the training needed to become a historical actor. For the vets and soldiers it's usually because they want people to understand how loud, horrific, and terrifying war is so that they think twice before sending people into combat. The historians usually want the public to get a better understand the depth of violent racism and anti-Semitism that occurred very recently in history. Rick does it because he had a grandparent who fled Nazi Germany. Rick is vital to the process of deciding how we can educate without offending. We used no swastikas or armbands anywhere except for a two inch one on the hats, just so that people can tell who the Germans are during scenes. And he was instrumental in arranging uniforms so that all the Germans wore green camo while the American/Brits/etc. wore brown (another way to tell sides without risking triggering people). Rick is a VIP as an actor.

The thing is, its hard to realize how casual people are with Jewish stereotypes until you work extensively with a Jewish person. People are always asking the actors why we got into reenacting, and the minute that Rick explains that "he is Jewish and feels that WWII shouldn’t be allowed to disappear into the background noise of history," people ignore everything else that he says or does and focus entirely on the fact that he is Jewish.

Here is what he has had to deal with:

1) People doubting his motives: people instantly assume that he is aggressive. Reenactors have to play a variety of roles, just by the nature of having to create scenes, battles, and whole camps with only 100 or so actors. You can easily end up playing a Nazi in the morning, a British person at noon, and a member of the French resistance in the evening. During the scenes that he is cast as a Nazi, everything become about the novelty of seeing a Jewish person in a Nazi uniform, even though he is an actor playing a character. Everything is about him as a Jewish person. Even when he plays an American, people ask if he "loves shooting the Nazis." The amount of times that he has had to remind people that those are actors like him, is insulting. It's as if they assume that everyone else is a serious actor except for the Jewish guy.

2) People talking about wealth: being a reenactor is expensive, and requires a minimum of a year of training and rehearsing before you can even start as a background person. He has gotten comments like: "well I guess you can afford it." (and he is not wealthy. Which makes the constant reminders even worse).

3) Obscure comments: "have you seen the Merchant of Venice?"

4) People who assume that he is aggressively tied to Israel: people ask him about I/P in strangely aggressive ways. They act as if he, at any moment, could be summoned to fly to Israel and fight against Palestine. The thing is, he has never been to Israel, nor does he have any family there. He does know more about the conflict than the average person, but he has lived in America his entire life. The I/P conflict just isn't something that dominates his everyday routine, nor does it cause him to enrage. Yet, people are forever conflating the fact that he is Jewish with the conflict. They assume that he has an aggressive pro-Israel stance for him.

1-3 are annoying to Rick, but he considers 4 to be the worst He is actually anti-war and resents the implication that he is directly tied to very real aggression.
posted by Shouraku at 12:42 PM on January 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


What you're seeing here, mods, is an illustration of the fundamental principle of "two Jews three opinions."

Dude. Dude. I know you're also Jewish but now is really really not the time.
posted by capricorn at 12:48 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, you asked what you can do. Here's an example. You saw the comment and say that it was a gross knee-jerk reaction. And yet you left the comment there to fester.

I'm not Matt, but I can give you my take on it: that comment reads to me like grumping about organized religion more so than grumping about Judaism. It also reads as mistaken, and sort of a needless injection into the thread.

None of those things is a fundamental insta-delete sort of thing —being grumpy or being wrong or disliking organized religion aren't violations of the guidelines—though with hindsight putting the kibosh on that back-and-forth sooner would have been good because it's definitely an annoying direction for a thread that could otherwise be about people's thoughts/stories about actual experiences with the program, the organization, etc.

That they aren't insta-delete grounds doesn't mean we can't delete them, of course, and sometimes when we err on the side of caution with stuff we literally err and only get a clearer sense of it after the fact.

I'm glad folks responded in thread pointing out the issues with the initial comment; I'm not glad that user kept commenting; and there's what reads to me as a more actively uncomfortable No But Seriously Here's What Jews Do feel to his later doubling-down about the idea of proselytization in defense of his earlier comment.

Now, that's all my personal thoughts on it. I'm explaining that to be clear about how it hits my eye, in significant part because I want to also be clear that I'm not saying that's how it ought to hit everyone's, or trying to dismiss other reads.

I'm being wordy about this because part of the territory I'm trying to navigate is sussing out what things different people feel like constitute examples of (and just for the sake of reference I'll partition this into three example groups, I don't mean to suggest this is a particularly meaningful or ideal method of breaking it down):

1. active, intentional anti-Semitism
2. more culturally-inculcated passive anti-Semitism
3. just kind of dumb/thoughtless/messy comments that occur in the vicinity of the subject of Jews or Judaism.

And to be clear, I think all of those are worth talking about, and worth talking specifically about where we as mods, and we as a community, can try to do better about objecting to or taking action in response to problematic stuff. I'm not breaking them into groups so I can say "anything below 1 doesn't count"; I'm doing it because it seems like there are structural differences in how stuff arises on the site and being clear about those will help us talk about it.

Because I also think part of the friction that comes out in these discussions is that people don't always know where one another are partitioning these things, or really agree at what sort of threshold something should be called anti-Semitism, or at what sort of threshold something should be for-sure deleted and on what grounds. Certainly for me it's helpful to have a clearer idea of where my disconnect with someone who's uncomfortable with something on the site is, whether it's because I'm not having the same read on a comment or have different expectations about whether it's actionable or just simply came down on the other side of the fence on a borderline comment/post/whatever.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


To be fair, I took the PJ Books comment as a generic "lol religion" comment rather than something specifically anti-Semitic. Others could well take it a different way though. I don't think such comments are particularly great, but I expect them whenever a religious topic comes up.
posted by zachlipton at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2015


This thread has been pretty interesting for me. Outside of MeFi, almost all my exposure to stereotypes about Jewish people comes from either people assuming that I'm Jewish (my name+how I look pings a lot of Jewdar) or from a couple years back when I edited a local news site and there was a long-standing battle between Zionists and anti-Zionists in the comments about pretty much everything. Both sides were predominantly Jewish, and every single action, whether deletion or leaving a comment standing, was evidence of anti-Semitism. At least the Zionists just called me "self-hating;" the anti-Zionists sent one of my friends and fellow writers death threats.

I have dialed back the Nazi and eating babies jokes here over the years, not least because Jessamyn rapped my knuckles about the lack of distance between the ironic shit that flies with my friends and how it reads broadly.

Anyway, thanks for sharing, folks. I'll try to be a bit more aware of stuff that would have otherwise slipped by me.
posted by klangklangston at 1:09 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


We have a clear case where the owner of the site deleted comments about antisemitism as it related to these attacks, comments which didn't mention or refer to Israel or Palestine in any way. His explanations make it clear that he did so because he conflated discussion about antisemitism with discussion about Israel/Palestine. So, very obviously, a discussion was stifled because of a conflation of Israel/Palestine and antisemitism.

Thanks for clearing this up. I confess I had lost sight of where this thread started from when I said that, the line about not knowing was meant to be a neutral comment to make it clear I was not expressing an opinion rather than a defence of any action that had taken place here but now you have pointed it out I can see it was thoughtless in this context. I was trying to make a comment only about the general societal problem of discussing I/P issues and how this colours debate in society in response to stoneweaver's point, including at this site. I was clearly not up to date on the thread and insensitive to the on-going argument, so apologies to you and Max and thank you for your clarification. Apologies to others for adding to the noise.
posted by biffa at 1:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


I really appreciate the comments about the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism and the comments from Jewish mefites in this thread. I feel like recently in my non-internet life, I've heard non-Jewish people say some really weird things about Judaism that seemed....not hateful or overtly stereotyping but just sort of otherizing and Likely To Lead To Bad Outcomes, and I've been trying to figure out where that's coming from and how it can persist among people who do not believe the standard anti-Semitic canards.
posted by Frowner at 1:14 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, you asked what you can do. Here's an example. You saw the comment and say that it was a gross knee-jerk reaction. And yet you left the comment there to fester. And the thread turned shitty.

As one of the people who brought up being bugged by that comment, let me just emphasize that I actually don't think the mods should have deleted it. I didn't even flag it! I just think the person who wrote it should have thought about it a little more.
posted by escabeche at 1:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have dialed back the Nazi and eating babies jokes here over the years
As someone who is not Jewish, but still finds that Nazi jokes and light hearted use of the term bug the shit out of me:

Thank you.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:23 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


To answer cortex's question, one suggestion for borderline cases where you don't feel that deletion is the right response, mods might consider being quicker to insert one of those [tone it down] statements.

I think that sort of timely [this is a moderated site] reminder could help people who are hurt by the statement know that the mods aren't just ignoring it because they don't care. It could also get a well-intentioned user who genuinely didn't realize they were stepping on a hot button to take a step back and apologize. And it will put on notice a bad actor who thought they could fly under the radar using some kind of plausible deniability.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:34 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nonsense. This kind of selective, political misreading is a big part of the problem.
posted by RogerB at 14:41 on January 14 [1 favorite +] [!]


And now we reach the point in the program where, when Jews raise concerns, they are simply minimized or told they are wrong, that the other person was clear, that they were speaking nonsense. I'm done with this thread.
posted by maxsparber at 14:45 on January 14 [+] [!]


RogerB is Jewish. Please come back to the conversation.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:34 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


the minute that Rick explains that "he is Jewish and feels that WWII shouldn’t be allowed to disappear into the background noise of history," people ignore everything else that he says or does and focus entirely on the fact that he is Jewish.

Question: Why did he mention that he was Jewish in the first place if he wanted the people to ignore that information? He could have as easily said that he "feels that WWII shouldn't be allowed to disappear into the background noise of history," and no one would respond to his being Jewish on any level.

When they ask why the whole shebang, the first thing they're told by this fellow is that he's Jewish - um ... hello? Of course that sticks in place, right where it was directed. If his reason for participating was given as, "My grandfather died at Normandy" the first thing that would stick was Normandy and the second would be this poor young man's grandfather. Or he could say, "My family is Polish and we lost many family members in WWII" and what would stick is Polish, which would then advance to thoughts of Poland. Or, "My grandfather was taken as a prisoner by the Japanese in WWII" and what would stick would be Japanese, which would then move to Japan - and worse, probably.

Why is it expected that people would completely bypass the first word this guy used to describe himself and his reason for taking part in the reenactment? What would this be considered anti-Semitic when it's honestly just the most natural response to his own declaration of his ethnicity as his identity and his reason for being there.
posted by aryma at 1:39 PM on January 14, 2015


I think the PJ Books thing is an example of an attitude that is effectively discriminatory even if the intent isn't discriminatory. That's what I was trying to bring out in my response there (somewhat grumpily): if you're serious about "no religious books for kids" then you have to start with the dominant culture. Otherwise what you have is basically "only Christian books for kids", which means that you're discriminating against everybody that isn't a Christian. The same goes for books aimed at Black kids, Asian kids, kids with multi-racial families, kids whose parents are gay, or whatever. We are all different and we all deserve nice things of our own.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:47 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Question: Why did he mention that he was Jewish in the first place if he wanted the people to ignore that information?

I probably explained this poorly, but its not that he doesn’t want people to know that he is Jewish, it's that there are strange stereotypes that arise from him being a Jewish person that have little to nothing to do with the scenes or events. The I/P conflicts aren't related to the reenactments (at least not directly), nor is his wealth. Also, you kind of have to be there to understand this, but these reenactments usually span two days, so he may give his explanation to one or two people on day one, and by day two people are only asking him questions about being Jewish, not about his historical studies or general WWII questions.

What would this be considered anti-Semitic when it's honestly just the most natural response to his own declaration of his ethnicity as his identity and his reason for being there.

I've never heard him say that he sees these questions as anti-Semitic, nor did I say that anywhere in my post. But he does find them annoying.
posted by Shouraku at 1:50 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been reading through this thread all day, and I'm trying to come up with an answer to the mods' question about how this site could better handle anti-Semitism, or perceived anti-Semitism, when it arises. The primary suggestion that I've seen is a good one - be more careful in separating I/P debate from comments around Jews or Judaism. I also am very supportive of the idea of increasing the use of [tone it down] statements, as suggested by Bentobox Humperdinck.

We have, in the recent past, made some improvements around how we approach gender issues. Are there specific actions that were taken from which we can pull a few best practices? I believe in the ability of the mods and the community to do better, especially now that so many people have come into this thread to say that they do feel there is something to this complaint.

In case it matters, and I wish it wouldn't, I am a non-practicing Jew. I stay out of I/P threads because I am uncomfortable with the conflation described above.
posted by blurker at 1:53 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


What would this be considered anti-Semitic when it's honestly just the most natural response to his own declaration of his ethnicity as his identity and his reason for being there.

Assuming that he's rich is 'the most natural response' to hearing that someone is Jewish?
Is that really what you want to say?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:53 PM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Question: Why did he mention that he was Jewish in the first place if he wanted the people to ignore that information?

You can want people to have a piece of information, or more generally not want to actively hide a piece of information, without expecting people to fixate on it. This isn't an "um, hello?" sort of proposition; it's a pretty basic and reasonable thing to be frustrated by.

"Don't admit to people that you're Jewish" isn't a good answer to being frustrated about people fixating on your being Jewish, any more than it's okay for people to feel like they should have to obscure other aspects of their identity to avoid being pestered about it; that's something we've talked about a lot in other contexts on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2015 [35 favorites]


Thanks, cortex.
posted by blurker at 2:02 PM on January 14, 2015


restless_nomad: "This would be helpful for me, and I think it was a definite positive step when we were talking about trans issues as well - the bottom-line "this is poisonous to discourse on the level of tossing slurs around, this is 101-level stuff we'd like to see not come up, this is debated even within the community so we can't expect this site to take a position" sort of breakdown is great to have for us mods, and even if it doesn't end up quite so neat it's usually a productive conversation to have."

You might consider re-reading that post from September. Please. There were things I was trying to tell you that you weren't hearing. The reverse is true as well, I know.

Am not done reading this thread. Some excellent comments above. Initial thoughts on ways to improve:

1) The mods need to take more care in determining the difference between anti-Israel rhetoric and actual expressions of anti-Semitism, and act accordingly.

For example:
Attacking Israel’s prime minister as a force behind oppressive policies = OK.
Attacking Israel’s prime minister by using a classic anti-Semitic blood libel trope = Not OK.

If Metafilter’s mod team has difficulty recognizing anti-Semitic tropes, that’s okay, and easily fixable. An understanding that Judeophobia isn’t like other types of racism or sexism would also be helpful.

2) Mod team, if you see Jews explaining why a comment or behavior is bothering them in a thread, especially if they are supporting those arguments with explanations or reference links, please act. The least you can do is leave a mod note asking the offender to cut it out. Those notes are appreciated in contentious threads by those who want to have civil discussions.

3) Minorities on MeFi should not be required to petition the mods en masse for help when hate speech against their group is expressed.

4) In discussions that include overt racial slurs, the mod team shouldn't treat all sides equally. People who defend hate speech should not be lumped in with those affected by it. Don't shut down all parties when it is obvious who the "bad actors" are. It does everyone here a disservice.

No one here is asking for this site to magically become a “safe space.” However, the mods do not seem to have a problem recognizing hate speech and acting when it is raised against women and certain other racial minorities. There is no reason why they can't respond similarly to expressions of antisemitism even in difficult threads. (They've done so in the past when the offense was seriously overt.) Even moreso since more than one member of the mod team self-identifies as ethnically/culturally Jewish. It's reasonable to assume they should therefore have a minimal level of sensitivity towards these issues.

5) If you want to declare I/P posts off limits, get community consensus rather than acting unilaterally.

Have more to say, but need to figure out how I want to say it.

Thank you Joe in Australia, for making this Meta request. And thank you to cortex for these two comments.
posted by zarq at 2:02 PM on January 14, 2015 [58 favorites]


Another thing is that the intent of historical reenactments on a large scale is to educate, but the impact that they can if you aren't careful is to offend. You have to be so very careful when you participate in such events with everything that you say and do, because impact trumps intent.

Like the rest of us, Rick has to be very focused on what he says or does. You have to be in character while still constantly monitoring your speech, abiding by safety protocols, and preforming as rehearsed. He is usually more of a background character, so being constantly pointed out is actually pretty distracting.
posted by Shouraku at 2:04 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll just say: glad to see you around zarq!
posted by zachlipton at 2:06 PM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


Thanks. I knew I would regret the lost opportunity if I didn't say something.
posted by zarq at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Question: Why did he mention that he was Jewish in the first place if he wanted the people to ignore that information?

I've got to be honest with you and say that almost everything you've said in this thread has made me uncomfortable. Not that you're saying stuff that's anti-Semitic. Not that I think your comments should be deleted or flagged. Just that it makes me feel weird. You can do with that information whatever you want. Maybe nothing. That's fine! I just feel the spirit of this thread is to be the place where we're open about this stuff.
posted by escabeche at 2:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


Question: Why did he mention that he was Jewish in the first place if he wanted the people to ignore that information?

Would you ask this of a gay person complaining of homophobia?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


The other aspect of moderation guidelines that I'd like to take another look at is letting hate speech stand. I get that the narrative priority is important to matt and important to the mods and important to many users. I get that it's kind of shitty to see and to have to moderate a bunch of comments responding to a comment that would, if removed, not be there.

But it's also shitty to be a member of an oppressed group and returning to a thread knowing that the reason hate speech is let stand is because a mod didn't get to it quick enough and now that a number of folks responded to it it's thought to be part of the narrative and has to stay.

That folks can game the system and say shitty things when mods are light or be so inflammatory that their remarks are widely responded to and thus allow their shitty things to remain on the site is, well, shitty.

Can we consider perhaps deleting and leaving a mod note about how the deleted comment was deleted due to hate speech and that's against the rules so it's gone, so folks know that the responses were warranted but the hate speech is not left to stand? It's one of the major things that keeps me feeling unwelcome here. Not as a Jew (because I'm not one) but for other hate speech and other similar (but not the same) bullshit.
posted by kalessin at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, I should say: I left historical reenacting because despite all the precautions taken, there were still occasionally people who felt more offended than educated. So if people in this thread are similarly uncomfortable reading about such events, I have no problem shutting up about it.
posted by Shouraku at 2:13 PM on January 14, 2015


I don't think you need to shut up about it. Your friend's experience is a valuable addition to this discussion, regardless of where it took place.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:20 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Welcome back, Zarq. I was debating if I should try and find a way to contact you to ask your opinion of this thread. I was of the mind that seeing this issue as being taken more seriously, even if it wasn't totally on point with how you might want it handled, would do a lot towards making you feel more comfortable here again. I did not like that my involvement in that previous thread was kind of trying to talk you down when I for the most part agreed with you but just felt like the conversation was going off the rails, that's why I mentioned your situation in the early part of the thread when I felt like people weren't taking Joe 100% seriously. Anyway, I'm just glad you are back and hope you see some improvements in how this stuff is handled and can stay long term.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I'll just say: glad to see you around zarq!

I second that emotion: really, really glad. Don't go 'way!

Personal to aryma: You should really, really stop digging and listen to what people are telling you. You're sounding increasingly hostile/defensive and you're not doing yourself any favors.
posted by languagehat at 2:52 PM on January 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


My thoughts, all confused are they, while responses to these comments I have been considering.

I'm not going to address the question of "what is anti-Semitism". I don't think it's the sort of thing that can be usefully reduced to bullet points, any more than "what is misogyny" or "what is racism". I think we build our empathy through shared experiences, and I'm glad other users have chimed in with their own perceptions and experiences. It would be great if someone would link to "Anti-Semitism 101"; I just don't see how it could be turned into a simple set of rules.

As for my desired outcome from the FPP, let me start by saying that I think the anonymous flagging system is good and valuable. Removing flaggers' anonymity might make them vulnerable to retaliation (here or elsewhere) and discourage reports of genuinely offensive material. I also don't see any need to report the number of flags; they're there for the mods' benefit, not ours, and numbers would make things more contentious.

A few commentators here asked if the people who flagged the original comment and original post would identify themselves. They haven't, and nobody else expressed any other serious problems with the comment and post. I think this demonstrates that things can be flagged up the wazoo for no good reason and perhaps for very bad reasons. To the extent that moderators rely on those flags, they're creating a hostile environment. Even if they're just using those flags to guide their scrutiny, they're applying that scrutiny in a discriminatory way, at the behest of people with bad motives.

So. I don't want the flagging system to go away. I don't want moderation to cease. I also don't want the moderators to go crazy from overwork, although I'm afraid that my solution will be more work. When the mods are confronted by flagged comments that relate to anti-Semitism I'd like them to take a mental step back: is this comment as good as other comments that should be allowed to remain, flagged or unflagged? If it comes down to a judgment call, would I even ask the same question in other contexts? Or am I being unfairly encouraged to scrutinise these comments, when they would otherwise pass unnoticed? If the flagged comment says "this looks/sounds/is anti-Semitic", please don't treat it as personal abuse or some plot to silence people: heaven knows it hasn't silenced anyone so far. And, in the final analysis, I would like the mods to err on the side of leniency. Call it a form of positive discrimination.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:52 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Really, truly, this sort of thing is helpful, yeah. It's hard to overstate how useful it can be to have a lot of people doing even just a little bit more individually in terms of letting us know about things they think are bothersome or problematic or need even just a closer look. Flags are helpful in general and encouraged for getting us to look at something but a note putting the concern in context is a really helpful addition if there's anything complicated or subtle going on or something you're worried we may not really be tuned to.

Would it be helpful to have a small text box show up if you flag a post (or perhaps when "Other" is chosen) which would allow the flagger to include a bit of information or context to their flag?

Failing that, maybe a link to the contact form with useful bits pre-populated (thread/comment URL, etc.).
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:53 PM on January 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


Would it be helpful to have a small text box show up if you flag a post (or perhaps when "Other" is chosen) which would allow the flagger to include a bit of information or context to their flag?

Failing that, maybe a link to the contact form with useful bits pre-populated (thread/comment URL, etc.).


I would love either of these things.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:55 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Would it be helpful (and possible) to have a small text box show up if you flag a post (or perhaps when "Other" is chosen) which would allow the flagger to include a bit of information or context to their flag?

This. So much this.
posted by Mchelly at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I totally love that Celcius1414 pair of ponies if either is doable.

And re anti-Semitism 101, here's a good option. Note there is also a link re religious anti-Semitism.
posted by bearwife at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


So - zarq has returned! At last the ancient prophecy will be fulfilled, for as the oracle tells us:

"Whe zarq returns, our long-lost son,
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one,
By Gelfling hand, or else by none -
PS - vote quidnunc kid for #1".

In other words, the reign of the skesis-mods is coming to an end, and soon the dark crystal will be healed. All we need to do is cut off a Gelfling's hand and throw it at mathowie's head, or something??? - the oracle is not too clear about that. I don't even know what a "Gelfling" is, to be honest. But the important point is: zarq's back! Hooray!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2015 [34 favorites]


A few commentators here asked if the people who flagged the original comment and original post would identify themselves. They haven't, and nobody else expressed any other serious problems with the comment and post. I think this demonstrates that things can be flagged up the wazoo for no good reason and perhaps for very bad reasons.

I feel like this is pretty problematic, though. Not the idea that it's possible for someone to flag something in bad faith; my position is that I think it's certainly possible but I have not gotten the impression that that is something happening consistently and in big numbers.

But I don't think it's a reasonable at all to conclude that people are flagging in bad faith or "for very bad reasons" on the basis of just generally calling folks to (a) be reading this metatalk thread, (b) read a challenge to essentially prove that their intent in flagging wasn't anti-Semitic, and (c) step up to bat to specifically expose themselves to scrutiny in that context, and then not seeing that happen.

I work here and it's part of my job to read metatalk closely and answer pointed questions about my motivations, and I don't always particularly feel entirely up to it. There's very little to conclude from some unknown handful of people failing to somehow know they're being called out indirectly, show up, and volunteer to answer that callout, especially when the extremely likely point of failure is the one where they don't even know the discussion of their motives is happening.

As much as I otherwise basically hear where you're coming from I think it's irresponsible to hang anything off that and I wish you would let the idea of malicious flagging drop.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:06 PM on January 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


A few commentators here asked if the people who flagged the original comment and original post would identify themselves. They haven't, and nobody else expressed any other serious problems with the comment and post. I think this demonstrates that things can be flagged up the wazoo for no good reason and perhaps for very bad reasons.

It doesn't necessarily demonstate that at all. It could just as easily mean that people who flagged it aren't reading this thread, or that people who found the thread problematic are listening to the responses here and don't want to escalate this conflict. I don't think a lack of response to "flaggers, identify yourselves" demonstrates anything at all about the flaggers or their reasons.

I didn't flag anything at issue here and am firmly in Listening Mode with this thread, but from a site perspective, I really dislike the idea that we can demand that flaggers publicly identify themselves and explain, and I especially hate the idea that a lack of response to such a request should indicate anything whatsoever.
posted by dialetheia at 3:07 PM on January 14, 2015 [20 favorites]


Yad Vashem has a guide for educators (pdf) that includes a "Working Definition of Anti-Semitism."

Section starting with "Examples of the ways..." is relevant to this discussion.
"In order to give practical guidance in identifying anti-Semitic incidents to those who are confronted with expressions or acts of anti-Semitism, the ODIHR and the European Fundamental Rights Agency, together with Jewish non-governmental organizations and academics, developed a working definition of anti-Semitism that encompasses both traditional and contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism.

Working Definition

Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews.

Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

In addition, such manifestations could also target the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.
Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong”. It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

• Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion;
• Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions;
• Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews;
• Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g., gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust);
• Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust;
• Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel, taking into account the overall context, could include:
• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour;
• Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation;
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis;
• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis;
• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (e.g., denial of the Holocaust or distribution of anti-Semitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are anti-Semitic when the target of an attack, whether people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship, and cemeteries – is selected because it is, or is perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews. Anti-Semitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries."
--

Yad Vashem is the Holocaust memorial, based in Jerusalem. They obviously have a philosophical interest in seeing Israel remain a permanent homeland for Jews.

Over the years I have seen examples of each of those last five bullets on Metafilter, and would like to suggest that perhaps it would be advisable to keep an eye out for people making those arguments on Mefi.

But if we do, I hope we keep doing it on a case by case basis. Otherwise I might get banned. :) Have argued with Joe in Australia in the past that Israel should be held to a higher standard than other countries. I do think that a Jewish country founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust should place a very high value on freedom and human rights.
posted by zarq at 3:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [36 favorites]


It doesn't necessarily demonstate that at all.

If you've got something "getting flagged like crazy" there are presumably a bunch of people who object to it. I'd expect some of them to be in this thread, whether they personally flagged it or not. And nobody has been shy about criticising me here. So it doesn't necessarily demonstrate that the flaggers were acting in bad faith, but it's a pretty strong indication.

As much as I otherwise basically hear where you're coming from I think it's irresponsible to hang anything off that and I wish you would let the idea of malicious flagging drop.

There's malice, and then there's a sincere belief that "Jews use claims of anti-Semitism to silence their opponents". Or even "when they haven't been getting their own way enough". Those would be bad things. Why wouldn't someone flag claims of anti-Semitism, if they believed those slurs to be true? The fact is that I and other Jews here have reported a bad pattern that extends to unwarranted deletions. This post was inspired by two of them. I thought we had moved on from the argument that we were making this up.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:55 PM on January 14, 2015


The issue that I have with some commenters is not that they brought up relevant, important, and frankly frightening concerns regarding anti-semitism and fears of violence amongst the French Jewish community. It's the manner in which the claims were made. Several commenters made broad claims about how France has "felt" about its Jewish community (i.e., whether it was sympathetic to the community).

When I pushed back on those claims pointing out that they were overly broad and not necessarily informative (particularly given my experience living in France for over five years), there was no moderation of those claims or acknowledgment that maybe the claims were overstated (thus allowing for what I would consider a useful back-and-forth discussion)--just further claims provided without what I would consider to be much context.

For me personally, it becomes really frustrating to have a conversation of this sort; it feels like those commenters are being pushy and inconsiderate when arguing/commenting in this manner and I haven't come up with a successful strategy for responding


I am not entirely sure if this is addressed at me since you and I were directly addressing this in the Hebdo thread. I will say that I probably did argue this point more forcefully than I should have, but I stand by assertion. You are right - my knowledge of the state of French Jewry doesn't extend beyond the year 2000, but what I have learned about that (this) period is not very encouraging.

A lot of this also I think has a lot to do with the word 'sympathetic.' We were within 24-hours of (another) anti-Semitic killing in France, and when I saw the word 'sympathetic,' I read the word in the way someone might say that "The US is sympathetic to its Native American population." I don't think you used the word with that meaning, but that was how I read it.
posted by rosswald at 3:55 PM on January 14, 2015


I just said this in an email to a mod, but would like to put it out to everyone:

For me, evaluating whether or not a statement is X-ist is really simple: is X germane to the statement?

I think that kind of speaks to what was said above about someone's wealthy Jewish ex. His ethno-religious identity has nothing to do with his wealth, which makes the statement suspect at the very least.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:03 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, in relation to what fffm just said above (and not to pick on cell divide in particular, who probably isn't even reading this thread): this comment calls out a wealthy neighborhood as being specifically Jewish when that's not particularly relevant (the subject of the comment is architecture.) I can totally see that reading as a microaggression - do other folks feel that way? And what degree do y'all feel it's problematic-to-deletable? (For context, if this thread weren't going on, I wouldn't have been able to parse that flag at all - I definitely notice that sort of thing very little on this level.)

I am inclined to say that comments like that are more in need of community education than active moderation - it's the sort of thing users tend not to notice they're doing, so the blunt-force deletion approach doesn't help much - but I don't trust my read any more on this subject.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:12 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Personally, I'm not really bothered by cell divide's comment. While I agree it isn't particularly relevant within fffm's criteria, it reads to me as more of a geographic neighborhood descriptor rather than a microaggression. I can certainly respect how other people would see it a different way.

I wouldn't delete a comment like that. To me, that would cross the line into deleting a productive and relevant comment over a small descriptive term.

That said, what if it were flipped and were about a "very black, low income part of LA?" Would that be merely descriptive or racially insensitive? Descriptors like that have been thrown a lot in the Ferguson discussion.
posted by zachlipton at 4:21 PM on January 14, 2015


I am inclined to say that comments like that are more in need of community education than active moderation - it's the sort of thing users tend not to notice they're doing, so the blunt-force deletion approach doesn't help much


My goodness, actual reasonable modding ? Whatever next ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:22 PM on January 14, 2015


cats marrying dogs
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:25 PM on January 14, 2015


I'm going to apologize ahead of time for asking a stupid question. I'm familiar with the blood libel, and I'm pretty sure I can recognize it when it's in front of me.

But I'm seeing people say they're seeing it here on MetaFilter, and that leaves me confused. Because I know that the mods wouldn't let something like "the Jews sacrifice babies and drink their blood" stand: it's clearly outrageous, it's clearly hate speech.

But I feel like I must be missing the subtler forms of blood libel, or something. Maybe I'm just unable to pick it out. So I'm throwing this out there: as a non-Jewish member of MetaFilter, I could really use some help from someone with some examples of blood libel here on MetaFilter, and, more importantly, why and how the statement fits into the blood libel.

Because I feel like I'm missing some essential marker of the blood libel that's apparent to everyone but me, and I'm oblivious to it, and that bothers the hell out of me.
posted by scrump at 4:26 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


sgt.serenity: "My goodness, actual reasonable modding ? Whatever next ?"

Can you please either try to make a constructive comment or shut up?

In case you hadn't noticed, there are a whole bunch of us trying to figure out how to be better community members, and you dropping these little turds in the punchbowl for your own amusement is tiresome as hell.
posted by scrump at 4:28 PM on January 14, 2015 [32 favorites]


> My goodness, actual reasonable modding ? Whatever next ?
posted by sgt.serenity


This really doesn't help with the constructive conversation that people are having. I wish you wouldn't do it.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:29 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


sgt.serenity: I don't think that's a reasonable response to a mod who is asking about community feelings around some pretty fuzzy boundaries in good faith. We all know your positions on moderation by now (you have nearly as many comments in Meta as you do on the Blue) and your previous comment in the thread has made them even more clear. I think restless_nomad's question was legitimate and her diagnosis reasonable, and responding to it with snark is unhelpful.
posted by zachlipton at 4:29 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Restless_nomad: Here's the phrase in question: "Cheviot Hills is a very white, upper income, mostly Jewish part of LA [...]"

I don't find it at all offensive, but I have a lot of trouble articulating why.

I suppose it's basically a clinical description in which "mostly Jewish" and "upper income" stand alone, and they're both reasonable adjectives to apply to a neighbourhood. If it said "mostly inhabited by high-income Jews" it would sound worse.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:30 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there a difference between describing a place as "mostly Jewish" and describing it as having a significant Jewish population?

I feel like the second is a neutral demographic description, whereas the first leaves me feeling a little weird. But I'll be damned if I can articulate why.
posted by scrump at 4:51 PM on January 14, 2015


I can see that the income level of a neighborhood might be a meaningful descriptor since the cost of a house is architecturally relevant. But mostly white? Jewish? Should we be imagining mezuzahs? How is this information even relevant?
posted by perhapsolutely at 4:54 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hi.

I flagged it. I flagged it because it was a combination of (1) something that I perceived as probably belonging in the existing thread (2) a post that I perceived as "here is this controversial issue that I think is really important" (vs. "here is this interesting thing on the web that I found and I want to share"; I often flag posts like these) (3) NewsFilter (which I often flag, too) (4) editorialized and (5) posted by Joe in Australia, and Joe in Australia, I just don't think your frequent overbearing and argumentative participation here is terrific, and that post looked to me more like an argument you wanted to make and share with everyone, which I thought would likely make it go really, really terribly.

I can't speak for anyone else who thought it should have been flagged, too, but that at least what went through my head when I did it. A post that I probably wouldn't have flagged would have been some combination of: (1) distance from the events--ie, less NewsFilter-y--had this post been regarding analysis that came out after a time of reflection, I'd be much less likely to flag (2) on a subject that wasn't so closely related to a currently existing open FPP (3) a post that didn't look to me to be framed as making an argument (among the less important of the things I thought about when I flagged it, I think) and (4) maybe posted by a different user.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:00 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


scrump: "So I'm throwing this out there: as a non-Jewish member of MetaFilter, I could really use some help from someone with some examples of blood libel here on MetaFilter, and, more importantly, why and how the statement fits into the blood libel."

Until last September I thought blood libel was a topic that was dead and buried on Metafilter.

In the most recent case it's not that mefites were saying, "Jews drink the blood of non-Jewish children." It's that one or more members brought up similar statements said by someone outside of Mefi and declared them to be not-antisemitic.

History:
2007: Brian B. goes off on an ill-conceived rant.

2009: Orthogonality posted this as a stunt. It was deleted. Spawned a metatalk post.

Current:
The reference I made in my comment to restless_nomad was to a tweet by Professor Steven Salaita in which he said, "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza." It was quoted on the Blue here.

I mentioned that the tweet was antisemitic blood libel and complained that people were defending it on the Blue as not-antisemitic. MisantropicPainforest took issue with my assessment. I explained what blood libel is, and included links to wikipedia and the ADL to information on the history of the slur. In response, MP doubled down. Etc.
posted by zarq at 5:01 PM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


"I can see that the income level of a neighborhood might be a meaningful descriptor since the cost of a house is architecturally relevant. But mostly white? Jewish? Should we be imagining mezuzahs? How is this information even relevant?"

Markedness is at the heart of this example and at the heart of aryma's reaction to Shouraku's story (and the reaction of the people in the story) and I've found that it is really, really hard to talk to people about this stuff.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:02 PM on January 14, 2015


Restless_nomad: Here's the phrase in question: "Cheviot Hills is a very white, upper income, mostly Jewish part of LA [...]"

This actually relates to an offensive comment that I made that Rick called me out on. The issue being the assumption that the Jewish people in question consider themselves to be "white." Besides the fact that people of all races could be or become Jewish, historically the race of Jewish people was many times determined by outside groups, not Jewish people's classification of themselves.

Here is the problematic version of the comment that I made: "Germans during WWII didn't usually target white people."

The reason that this is so offensive is that:

1) I didn't specify that non-Jewish Germans didn't consider Jewish people to be white back then. And even if I had, this assessment is based off of a classification that was forced onto Jewish people, which they may or may not have agreed with.

2) It implies that Jewish people who are alive today are not white. Again, this may or may not be true on an individual basis, as determined by the individual in question.

Bonus: factually untrue. Disabled people of any race were targeted.

So an Issue I would see with the comment that r_n mentioned is that it describes the people as both "very white" and "Jewish." Not all Jewish people consider themselves to be white, and unless the individuals have identified themselves as such, the assumption has been applied to them by the majority society.
posted by Shouraku at 5:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I thought we had moved on from the argument that we were making this up.

But you are in fact making up the malice you attribute to flagging. You don't know anything about the people who flagged or their reasons for doing so. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes it hard not to get annoyed with you.
posted by languagehat at 5:16 PM on January 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


If I put these comments in a thread on the blue, would I be contributing to the "anti-semitic" generalization of MetaFilter?

Yes, but partially because of some context that you're missing.

When you call Israeli soldiers - who are Jewish - barbaric or bloodthirsty, you may not be meaning to reference horrific stereotypes that have been used to murder people for generations, but you are. As someone mentioned up thread, you are ignoring the context of blood libel - where people invented that the Jews were coming for the blood of Christian children because they were just so monstrous and blood-thirsty.

Seriously, I feel like a lot of people here are ignorant about just how much the Jews have been murdered for being Jews throughout the centuries, and about how much anti-Semitism has affected their lives. It's not just the Holocaust. That's just the flashiest and biggest one. I remember once, several years back, reading a book of Jewish 'fairytales', basically - and in a fairly hefty percentage of them, the "happily ever after" was, "And then our brave hero got the king to sign a paper saying he wouldn't kill the Jews." You know, where the equivalent non-Jewish stories were like "And then he married the princess."
posted by corb at 5:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [30 favorites]


While it's not an LA-only thing, there are indeed predominantly Jewish neighborhoods around LA, some of which happen to be upper income. Some areas are largely Orthodox, in fact.

Jewish history in Los Angeles is a fascinating topic (has there been an FPP I wonder?). It isn't a single story of a singular people, any more than the various and historical Latin American communities around Southern California are only made up of a single country's expatriates, despite often being referred to en masse. (In fact some of the early immigrant Jewish neighborhoods have gone on to host other working-class communities, e.g. Boyle Heights.)

So to refer to a particular LA neighborhood as "upper income and Jewish" wouldn't seem in and of itself problematic but with the examples mentioned upthread (e.g. telling phrases like "rich Jews"), then a critical eye would seem to be warranted.

While on the subject, this looks like a cool project: Mapping Jewish LA.
What if you could “go back in time” and visit Boyle Heights in the 1920s? What if you could hear the music and voices coming out of Zellman’s Men’s Wear or Ginsberg’s Vegetarian Café? What if you could follow the pathways of immigrant families who just landed in LA in 1900 to make a new life for themselves?

Through a partnership with the UCLA Library and Special Collections, the University of Southern California, and more than a dozen community archives, the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies is embarking on an ambitious, five-year initiative to create a multimedia, digital archive of Jewish LA. The archive will be accessed by an innovative web platform called “HyperCities” that will allow users to “drill down” at particular places throughout the city—for example, Pico-Robertson in the 1950s, or Boyle Heights in the 1920s—to uncover the traces and history of Jewish LA. The project will not only preserve the rich history of Jewish LA for generations to come, but will also make it accessible using cutting-edge digital technologies that will stimulate new research, teaching, and community engagement throughout Los Angeles and beyond.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


MoonOrb: thanks for that. I disagree with your reasons, but I don't find them objectionable per se. Except the bit about me being me, of course.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:21 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember once, several years back, reading a book of Jewish 'fairytales', basically - and in a fairly hefty percentage of them, the "happily ever after" was, "And then our brave hero got the king to sign a paper saying he wouldn't kill the Jews." You know, where the equivalent non-Jewish stories were like "And then he married the princess."

Huh. You're right. Do you know, I never once wondered about that?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:23 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


A Jewish person shouldn't have to hide (or divulge, for that matter) their Jewishness in the course of conversation about war reenactment, and obviously the conversation shouldn't devolve into a litany of stereotypes if they do mention the fact.

In a description of a neighborhood's architectural context, though, the information seems gratuitous. Not racist, not something that necessarily should be hidden, just strangely arbitrary. 'Cheviot Hills is a predominantly left-handed community including a significant population of Saggitariuses with a predilection for hard cheeses.' It feels significant, but as far as architectural context goes, it seems a bit forced.
posted by perhapsolutely at 5:24 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cheviot Hills is a very white, upper income, mostly Jewish part of LA

Doesn't bug me.

I mentioned that the tweet was antisemitic blood libel and complained that people were defending it on the Blue as not-antisemitic.

I also didn't associate that tweet with the blood libel, and thought about arguing with zarq about it in that thread, but decided I didn't need the pain, plus a) it's not like I thought it was a perfectly nice, sensible thing to say that I wanted to be perceived as standing up for, and b) I was more interested in the administrative / university governance questions in the Salaita case than in the question of how terrible his tweets were, and wanted to restrict my participation in the thread to that side of things.

On the other hand, that orthogonality post zarq linked to is foul, and the fourth comment is "Is it even possible to criticize anything happening in Israel without being accused of antisemitism?" which is also a pretty gross thing to say.
posted by escabeche at 5:27 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh these Jews are all so rich, let's kill them so that we can eliminate the scourge of usury and greed because that is what Jews are.

This is especially awful when you consider that one of the main reasons Jews got into finance, historically, was because it was the only profession bigoted people would let them be in, because it was a profession Christians at the time didn't want. And especially when you consider that people are still talking about usury and 'greed' when referring to 'rich Jews' when the thing that they are comparing financiers to is medieval Christianity. They are literally pulling up medieval insults without context. Do you know a single bank currently that lends money without interest? What about any car dealership? Anything? No? But who do people blame, as a class? Jews. It's fucked up and needs to stop.
posted by corb at 5:29 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Orthogonality posted this as a stunt. It was deleted. Spawned a metatalk post.

He also had a weird tendency to post odd I/P-ish threads right around Jewish holidays which was a thing I was never okay with and thought was more stunty than other mods (at the time) thought was stunty. I don't think anti-semitism was his specific problem per se, but when you have people who have various quirky approaches to other people in general, they're going to come out more when the other people are ... more othery. You see this with people who are paranoid, or people who are xenophobic. Like I don't think all MRA people are misogynist (though certainly many of them are) as much as they are ... against people who are not like them in ways that are scary and require some sort of response. I think sometimes Jewish culture gets this response and one person's "Look at these quirky habits these people have" can be another person's anti-semitism. I'm not even sure where I draw the line myself. It's complicated.

I found dealing with orthogonality very difficult as a mod, and had a hard time getting traction for why his specific fascination with the Jews in his very specific way seemed specifically not-okay to me.

Cheviot Hills is a very white, upper income, mostly Jewish part of LA

Don't have an issue with that per se but if someone said "That is where the rich Jews live" I would.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:31 PM on January 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


corb: ""And then our brave hero got the king to sign a paper saying he wouldn't kill the Jews.""

Book of Esther being the ur-example
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:32 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


It feels significant, but as far as architectural context goes, it seems a bit forced.

Well, to use my Boyle Heights example, last year I learned about the Breed Street Shul, which is a beautiful old 1922 building that's still around. If you come across a building with a Star of David and "Congregation Talmud Torah" over the door, in what is currently a 94%+ Latino population neighborhood, you know there's some context that's needed:
From 1910 to 1950, some 75,000 Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish immigrants made Boyle Heights into the largest Jewish community west of Chicago. But Boyle Heights was much more than that. Many different ethnic communities – most prominently Latinos, Japanese-Americans, and White Russians – created a vibrant, diverse Los Angeles neighborhood that fostered cultural creativity and a remarkable degree of intergroup tolerance and understanding.
Not to say referring to such things couldn't be used in a forced way, but it's certainly possible that it's a good, non-arbitrary cultural thing to know.
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:33 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I remember once, several years back, reading a book of Jewish 'fairytales', basically - and in a fairly hefty percentage of them, the "happily ever after" was, "And then our brave hero got the king to sign a paper saying he wouldn't kill the Jews.

I think I own that book, actually.
posted by jeather at 5:35 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not racist, not something that necessarily should be hidden, just strangely arbitrary. 'Cheviot Hills is a predominantly left-handed community including a significant population of Saggitariuses with a predilection for hard cheeses.' It feels significant, but as far as architectural context goes, it seems a bit forced.

What about "Italian neighborhood"? or "Muslim neighborhood"?

It seems pretty normal to make note of to me. Religions especially tend to gather around their places of worship (you know, congregate...)
posted by mdn at 5:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I found dealing with orthogonality very difficult as a mod

But damn, could he wrangle some databases.


When you call Israeli soldiers - who are Jewish - barbaric or bloodthirsty, you may not be meaning to reference horrific stereotypes that have been used to murder people for generations, but you are. As someone mentioned up thread, you are ignoring the context of blood libel - where people invented that the Jews were coming for the blood of Christian children because they were just so monstrous and blood-thirsty.


Yea, this is something I wouldn't have thought of as specifically uncool until my read through of this very thread. Ditto for the Netenyahu stuff referenced above.

I don't interact with Jewish folks much, one wedding (which they threw with aplomb) where we gave the bride and groom a gift in a multiple of 18 (probably because of Ask research I did here or something). As such the dog whistles don't sound as loudly in my ears as they do for others and I am all for not having folks silenced or made to feel like shit for defending their viewpoint or feelings of oppression or insult.

I guess the best way I can explain the fact that I can side with the people with concerns of antisemitism or improper handling of claims of antisemitism is that I would have no objections to going into any thread and seeing a comment deletion reason that looked something like this, which I am making up out of whole-cloth:

[Comment deleted. Jews do not eat (or wear) the body parts of other humans. If you need it explained to you as to why that sort of talk is offensive then get thee hence to the internets and come back when you're prepared to continue.]

posted by thisorthatmod at 12:16 AM on November 25 [43 favorites +] [!]

posted by RolandOfEld at 5:49 PM on January 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's an upper income neighborhood in Los Angeles, being described in the context of Ray Bradbury's house's demolition by its new starchitect owner. While imagining how the pale neighbors spend Sukkot might make for a more colorful description, I still fail to see the pertinence. But I'm not uncomfortable with mention of it, just nonplussed.
posted by perhapsolutely at 5:53 PM on January 14, 2015


Cheviot Hills is a very white, upper income, mostly Jewish part of LA

That's fine; people may have qualms re: relevance of including the Jewish component of the area's demographic make-up, but it isn't as though it's presented as having some sort of judgement attached to it.

Also, sky is blue, cats say meow.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:56 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


What, if anything, are you going to do about it, besides posting some more noncommittal platitudes?

Sounds like the answer is: nothing. What a shock. I'm done here.
posted by Behemoth at 5:56 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


>a lot of conversations that don't really land in that zone are dominated by aggressive responses to such a degree that the topic itself often doesn't ever get around to being actually discussed.

I don't believe this is true. I believe sometimes those responses lead to derails and arguments, but I've never seen one in which the topic was completely obscured and never discussed. I don't buy this for a second.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:14 PM on January 14, 2015


Shouldn't you maybe wait to see how things go in the future before deciding that everything is terrible?
posted by Justinian at 6:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I had a couple of errands to run and so I've been gone for a little while and lo and behold when I come back in I find that I apparently did a poor job on my comment about Rick the reenactment actor since my point is completely missed.

I must get this across because I do not want to be misunderstood in this way.

According to Shouraku's story, Rick introduces himself as Jewish first and then explains that he doesn't want the history of WWII to disappear.

Visitor: Hi there, young man - tell me, why do you do this reenactment thing?

Rick: I'm Jewish, and I don't want the history of WWII to disappear.

Visitor: Oh, okay - thank you.


Rick puts the fact that he's Jewish as the first of two points in his response to the simple inquiry made by the visitor. The fact that he's Jewish isn't something to hide - what?? - but if HE made only two points and the first one was that he's Jewish, why should he be surprised that the person he's speaking to goes away thinking about him being Jewish?

I don't know how to put it any clearer than that.

So when I asked why he put forth the fact that he was Jewish, I most definitely was NOT suggesting he should hide that fact.


I've never heard of blood libel in my life and if anyone suggested to me that Jewish people eat Christian babies I'd think they were watching too many zombie movies. I would never dream they were serious. Looking through the thread for blood libel stuff, though, I don't see anyplace it's mentioned by anyone other than the Jewish contingent here who mention it as an example of the viciousness of anti-Semitism - and it's certainly that. I just can't believe anyone would accept such an idea as truth - but I don't use Twitter. The only two examples of it here are from 2007 and 2009 - are there more recent ones? I sincerely hope not.

I don't know what "markedness" is; could someone please enlighten me, since I'm apparently guilty of it? Thank you.

Comments are coming in too fast for me to catch up and part of the problem is trying to figure out who's quoting who .... I should give it up but I hate being so damn misunderstood - I hate bullies of all kinds and my heart goes out to the Jewish people all over the globe, but I guess I still fit on the list above because I don't like the dealings of the Israeli government.
posted by aryma at 6:27 PM on January 14, 2015


Blood libel preceded twitter by several centuries. People believed it was literally true for hundreds and hundreds of years, and some still do.
posted by rtha at 6:32 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


To me, cell divide's comment doesn't come off as especially offensive because it doesn't sound like "Jewish" is meant to be symbolic or like there's necessarily an implied "~those~ people, you know the type" attached to it. It sounds more like his demographic perception about the area.

That said, it does perk up my ears. I wonder what he means by "mostly" -- does he mean "too many"? I'm not saying he does, just that that's a question that I would be looking for the answer to in any further comments about that neighborhood. Reading something like that, it's not that I'm offended, it's more a feeling of "is the other shoe going to drop?" than it is anything else.

What's been shocking to me about this thread, though, is how ignorant many people apparently are about anti-Semitism or just about the general topics of Jewish history or culture or religion. It's not like I'm a foremost expert myself, but there seem to be a lot of instances of someone knowing so little that they don't even know that they don't know. It's demoralizing, to be frank. Not to pick on anyone in particular, but for example, I don't even know where to start with this:

Question: Why did he mention that he was Jewish in the first place if he wanted the people to ignore that information?

That's not sarcastic, I literally don't know where to start explaining why many Jewish people feel pressure to be circumspect about being Jewish, what "being Jewish" means in the context of anti-Semitism, and especially, why someone reenacting WWII battles at least partially for the purposes of education would *not* want to hide that he's Jewish.

Actually, going along with that, I think there's strong social pressure -- I mean in regular life and not specific to this site -- to *not* call attention to yourself as a Jew or to your "Jewishness." (At least that's been my experience, of course YMMV). If that pressure is something other people feel, too, though, that might also hamper an effort to use explicit "call outs" (possibly including flags) to direct moderation w/r/t anti-Semitism. Though of course, I'll personally try to be somewhat more aggressive about it in the future if that would be helpful to the mods.

Anyway (as probably is obvious at this point), I'm Jewish. As a general rule, I don't read any threads for FPPs about Jews/Judaism/Israel/etc. It only took a couple tries to make me think that if I read threads about those topics here that I would be turned off from the site in general. Since I don't want that to happen, I've just avoided those threads. So that might also be why there aren't a lot of people flagging things as anti-Semitic -- maybe other Jewish people are also preemptively avoiding threads where they think anti-Semitic comments are likely to be made (i.e., threads about topics that have anything to do with Jews).

It's not like I'm thinking of Metafilter as "that anti-Semitic site" or anything like that! Not by any stretch. But I'll put it as: speaking only for myself, the personal characteristic that I was *by far* the most loathe to reveal on here was that I'm Jewish.

*Sorry aryma, I didn't see that you'd posted a response while I was writing this comment. I haven't had a chance to read that response yet.
posted by rue72 at 6:34 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Markedness comes (I think) from linguistics, where the unmarked form is the default/common/regular/generic form. Walk is unmarked; walked is marked. Lion/lioness. Happy/unhappy. Using the marked form (instead of the unmarked) means you are making a point of whatever the difference is. The typical example is that if you ask "How short is Jamie?", you are making a point that something is unusual about Jamie's height, compared to asking "How tall is Jamie?" which is just a request for information.

In the US and Canada, the unmarked form is a white male, some form of Christian, straight, cis. So you don't typically point out that a neighbourhood is mostly Christian, mostly straight, mostly white.
posted by jeather at 6:34 PM on January 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


Before exhorting folks who are done to stick around, please consider that many folks who are already at a disadvantage are out of energy, time, and patience. Exhorting that they stick around is, to be honest, disrespectful.
posted by kalessin at 6:46 PM on January 14, 2015


kalessin, going off half-cocked (speaking from experience) is much more disrespectful. maxsparber has said some very informative things here, and peaced out because of a serious misunderstanding. I would like to read more interesting and informative things from maxsparber because I respect what they have to say.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:52 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hate bullies of all kinds and my heart goes out to the Jewish people all over the globe, but I guess I still fit on the list above because I don't like the dealings of the Israeli government.
posted by aryma at 9:27 PM on January 14 [+] [!]
Feel free to criticize Israel all you want! The problem here is specifically with conflating Jews of the World with Israel. Because Jews are not all connected with Israel. Jews do not all approve of everything the Israeli government does. The Israeli government doesn't consult all of us when it goes into Gaza, or makes concessions to the ultra-Orthodox, or does anything, really. So, yes. Keep on with disapproving of the Israeli government, that's your prerogative. Just don't pull the Israel-Palestine problem into every thread that conceivably touches on Judaism, Jewish culture, the Jewish diaspora, religious practices, and so forth.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:53 PM on January 14, 2015 [31 favorites]


And, to your question about why self-identify as Jewish in the case of that reenactor.

When I was a kid I was very, very interested in World War II - and a lot of that interest originated in friends' and family experiences both in Europe as Jews who fled pogroms or were in camps, and in the US Army. If I got into reenacting and someone asked what spawned my interest in WWII, I would almost certainly say that being Jewish was a significant part of that. And I'd be very willing to talk about my family history, and heritage and relevant experience. But I would be irritated if people took that information and then asked about pounds of flesh, or my personal finances, or my feelings about the legitimacy of Israel, because those are all nonsequitors, and connect to antisemitic lines of thought.

I am, I suppose, more vocal than necessary about being Jewish because for a lot of my life, I have been one of a few Jewish people, or the only Jewish person, and it is very easy for people to forget that everyone is not Christian. As a pretty generic white looking person, I don't mind stepping up and reminding cashiers, or professors, or whoever of that fact. It gets irritating, always being an afterthought, but I basically catch none of flack that other religious minorities do, so sure, I'll annoy the War on Christmas types. Where I do fieldwork in West Africa, religion always comes up and it's easier to just tell people I'm Jewish and have that conversation than act coy about it, plus it's a good opportunity to educate folks who have generally never met another Jew and only hear about Jews from a devoutly evangelical Christian perspective that never quite caught up with the Pope regarding the official acknowledgment that Jews didn't kill Jesus.

I've also found that I often don't want to be around people who just assume nobody will take offense to their stupidity. As other people have mentioned, it is very easy to accidentally catch people saying ridiculously antisemitic things. I took a class in high school called Facing History: The Holocaust and Human Behavior with a really fantastic social studies teacher. And on the first day of class, before the bell rang, a kid I didn't know was telling a hilarious joke. "What's the best way to get a Jewish girl's number? Roll up her sleeves." And I was frozen in pretty much abject horror, and then the teacher came in and class started and nobody mentioned it again. And this was - literally - in a class about the Holocaust and antisemitism (which, I suppose, it why it came to this kid's mind). So it's nice to just ... give people a head's up so they don't suddenly get bright ideas to tell me a hilarious joke about why Jews have such big noses, or something.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:16 PM on January 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


Glad to see you back, zarq.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:16 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


aryma: "Looking through the thread for blood libel stuff, though, I don't see anyplace it's mentioned by anyone other than the Jewish contingent here who mention it as an example of the viciousness of anti-Semitism - and it's certainly that. I just can't believe anyone would accept such an idea as truth - but I don't use Twitter. "

I think I mentioned it first. I am Catholic. People have believed the blood libel, and used it against Jews to justify violence, for literally a thousand years. It figured prominently throughout the medieval period in many executions and expulsions of Jews all over Europe. It figured in the justification for pogroms in Eastern Europe. It appears repeatedly in Nazi propaganda. In the 21st century, an official organ of the Egyptian government printed accusations of the blood libel and Iranian officials have insisted Jews use blood to make matzoh on CNN. People have believed this for ten centuries and continue to believe it. This is not a hard fact to understand, nor is my ability to understand it contingent upon my faith or ethnic background. I understand that the reasonable mind rebels against the idea that people could believe something so vicious, stupid, and ridiculous on its face. And yet, there it is. It is possibly the ugliest, most long-standing piece of propaganda in history. It's great that you have lived a life where you've never had to be aware of it, but stop telling other people that it isn't a thing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:19 PM on January 14, 2015 [51 favorites]


I just can't believe anyone would accept such an idea as truth - but I don't use Twitter.

Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln (the English are responsible for originating this particular myth, although the Spanish came up earlier in this thread). And yes, people still believe it, trope on it, and so forth. It would be awfully nice if they would stop, but no.

On identifying as Jewish, or not: this assumes that one has a choice in the matter. My real name is very obviously Ashkenazi, and so most people figure me out immediately. I have equally stereotypical Ashkenazi features, enough so that I've had complete strangers stare at me and ask if I'm Jewish. (Depending on the context, this has been everything from moderately irritating to downright terrifying. Kindly don't do that.) Being non-obviously Jewish means that people feel comfortable saying all sorts of inappropriate things in front of you; being obviously Jewish means that people (including my students, on one memorable occasion) also feel comfortable saying all sorts of inappropriate things in front of you. If you're not Jewish, you probably do not realize just how mind-numbingly common this is.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:30 PM on January 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


There was a pogrom - a sort of lynching aimed at Jews - in the village where my grandfather was working. The trigger was a rumour that Jews had captured a Christian girl and "turned her into sausages".1 The attackers were absolutely serious about this; they killed two of the Jews that had recently returned to their homes after WW2. This was in 1946.

1 I think the girl had never actually existed, which just makes the thing more offensive.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:38 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah the whole Prioriess's Tale thing made me a lot less enthusiastic about Chaucer.
posted by bq at 7:46 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just wanted to say that this thread has been really thought-provoking for me, speaking as a Jewish person who's been lucky enough to experience only a handful of anti-Semitic comments thrown my way. Count me as someone who's listening to the conversation, even if I don't currently have anything insightful to say. (And as someone who's naively distressed to realize that my Jewishness might make people assume I am totally pro-Israel. Yet another thing to worry about, great.)
posted by ferret branca at 8:10 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


The reference I made in my comment to restless_nomad was to a tweet by Professor Steven Salaita in which he said, "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza." It was quoted on the Blue here.

I mentioned that the tweet was antisemitic blood libel and complained that people were defending it on the Blue as not-antisemitic. MisantropicPainforest took issue with my assessment. I explained what blood libel is, and included links to wikipedia and the ADL to information on the history of the slur. In response, MP doubled down. Etc.


I am Jewish, and to me, this approaches caricature of the "using claims of anti-Semitism to silence opponents" allegations. Because of the existence of the blood libel trope, it is inherently anti-Semitic to point out the horror of a war criminal whose actions have killed children, if that person is Jewish? This essentially boils down to asking for discursive immunity. I am concerned about anti-Semitism, and the ways that the identification thereof is confused and obstructed by this bizarre mode of discourse-freezing.
posted by threeants at 8:18 PM on January 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


(And as someone who's naively distressed to realize that my Jewishness might make people assume I am totally pro-Israel. Yet another thing to worry about, great.)

FWIW, of all my in-person friends who identify to me as Jewish, I can't think of a single one who has anything good to say about the Israeli government, so my default is assuming people don't.

And since I mentioned it above I want to be really clear that I am separating the actions of the Israeli government from the wishes of the Israeli people, and especially from Jewish people around the world. In the exact same way that the actions of the American government are separate from the wishes of the American people.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:25 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


stoneweaver: I mean in this very thread someone says that the murder of Jews isn't something we should be talking about

That is not at all what I said and a fairly egregious read of my comment. I said the main focus of the initial crimes the thread was about wasn't targeting Jews for their Jewishness, with allegedly one exception. To get from that to saying it wasn't something we should be talking about is an overreach of massive proportions.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because of the existence of the blood libel trope, it is inherently anti-Semitic to point out the horror of a war criminal whose actions have killed children, if that person is Jewish?

If you do it using an appeal to anti-Semitic imagery, yes.

I think there's probably room to argue about whether that particular image was a version of the blood libel or not. I tend to come down on the "yes it was", because it's otherwise so bizarre. But if we presume that it was a blood libel then yes, it's anti-Semitic to use it, because that's what a blood libel is.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:44 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Because of the existence of the blood libel trope, it is inherently anti-Semitic to point out the horror of a war criminal whose actions have killed children, if that person is Jewish?

If the army specifically targeted a school or a school bus with kids inside (as, for example, Hamas has done), and his tweet was in response to that, you might be able to make this case. But he was talking about a war, in which kids were horrifically killed along with adults and militants firing rockets. Just as hundreds of kids have been horrifically killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by US forces. Just as thousands of kids have been killed in Syria. This is a huge tragedy and worth talking about, extensively. But it is not the same as killing kids for pleasure or wearing their body parts as clothing. The tweet in question was "if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?" the answer is yes. Everyone would be surprised. If ANY world leader, including the most bloodthirsty dictator, wore a necklace of the teeth of children his forces killed, the world would be horrified. People don't do this. Salaita was being hyperbolic for effect, but that doesn't mean that he didn't want people to take him seriously. Steven Salaita is not some backwoods rube who has never heard of the blood libel. He is extremely well-educated. He knew exactly what he was saying. Calling him out on it is not silencing him. It is saying "there are appropriate ways to make your point, and there are inappropriate ways. You chose the latter."
posted by Mchelly at 8:49 PM on January 14, 2015 [27 favorites]


Such an interesting discussion.

Here's my personal Jewish feeling about a few of the topics we have discussed. First, I don't care if someone mentions a neighborhood is mostly Jewish, among other facts, because it is just descriptive. Second, I don't care if someone refers to Netanyahu possibly wearing children's teeth because I just don't readily tie that up with the classic blood libel -- now if they talked about him eating children or making matzoh with their blood, that would be a different story. And Bibi can take fine care of himself, I feel no urge to defend him regarding the oppression of Palestinians.

But I don't like the comment from you, aryma, about hating "bullies" in reference to Antisemitism because the problem isn't that Jews here on MetaFilter or elsewhere are being bullied. The problem we are currently discussing is the close association between radical Islamic terrorist hatred of Jews and the mortal threat that has created for French Jews of late, meaning within the past few years. And that this link between antiSemitism and these current events shouldn't be deleted from discussion on MetaFilter. Do you follow? Yes, Jews have been oppressed, but right now my fear is that more will die solely because they are Jews. Whatever wrongs Israel's government has committed and is committing are absolutely no justification for that.
posted by bearwife at 8:49 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I feel that the extension of the blood libel trope to 'any accusation of child killing, even if the person has actually taken actions that killed children' is wildly ahistorical. Drawing particular attention to the deaths of children and other vulnerable people is an extremely common rhetorical approach to highlighting war atrocities, and is by no means reserved for Jewish actors alone.
posted by threeants at 9:03 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think if someone on MeFi said "would anyone be surprised if Obama showed up on television wearing a necklace made of the teeth of Pakistani children? #drones", people would rightly find that degree of hyperbole offensive, unproductive, and intentionally provocatory, and even in a sense downplaying the very reality that yes, Barack Obama has signed orders that directly led to kids being killed.

Maybe I'm wrong in that perception. Maybe I'm right in that perception, but wrong in my belief that the only salient difference between Netanyahu and Obama is that one is Jewish - and, I want to point out, that Obama is the target of a very similar dynamic, where a lot of the attacks on him that come from the right-wing are raised to another level because he is black, that have a whole other level of ugliness behind them.

But it feels like people are being willfully blind, here. A lot of the American right wing during the Clinton administration were unbelievably vile and frankly completely out in the land of either deliberate disengenuous hatemongering or complete psychotic delusion with the things he was accused of, and in some ways the attacks on Obama are really not that different in either form or content, but I don't think anyone is confused about the added subtext or straight up plain text behind the constant harping about the fact that his church invited Jeremiah Wright that one time, or the birth certificate thing, or whatever. There is a dimension to the hatred of Obama beyond simply "the American right wing is vile and crazy", and really no one I've seen on MeFi shies away from identifying it as racism.

That is what Jewish MeFites are talking about when we talk about the comments about Netanyahu having a different level context in the history of blood libel accusations, and frankly some of you are coming off like the kind of willfully blind Republicans who refuse to "get" why the birther drama is offensive or acknowledge the racist undertones to all the attacks on Obama, no matter how many times it is explained in good faith.

And frankly, at this point I know I am getting sick and fucking tired of having to pretend like pointing this out means I support Netanyahu in any way and feeling compelled to disclaim it all to high heaven before people will even think twice about what I'm saying. No, it doesn't, and no, we are not trying to silence criticisms of him. Fuck off with this shit already and listen to what people are telling you.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:24 PM on January 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


That is what Jewish MeFites are talking about [...] Fuck off with this shit already and listen to what people are telling you.

You and people who agree with you on the alleged blood libel matter are not the only Jews in the room. Please stop this single-story bullshit.
posted by threeants at 9:33 PM on January 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


Just don't pull the Israel-Palestine problem into every thread that conceivably touches on Judaism, Jewish culture, the Jewish diaspora, religious practices, and so forth.

I don't think I ever have, for the simple reason that I wouldn't be inclined to say anything negative about Jewish people or THE Jewish people unless the Israeli Government and Netanyahu were already in the thread and then my comments would be limited to that government and that man, not to the Jewish people as a whole.


Blood libel preceded twitter by several centuries. People believed it was literally true for hundreds and hundreds of years, and some still do.

It's great that you have lived a life where you've never had to be aware of it, but stop telling other people that it isn't a thing.


I'm not trying to tell anyone that it isn't a thing - I'm no authority on this and make no claim to be, but I am very, very surprised that this horror story is believed today and even more surprised that the blood libel could have the kind of impact that makes Jewish people uneasy about being recognized as Jews. It is like a wicked fairy tale or the old stories of changelings or ghouls. I'm aware of obnoxious remarks about Jewish people in other ways - of course I've heard the same filth everyone else has - and I'm not surprised that any religion or ethnic group whose history is recorded from medieval times and before should have such myths, but that people believe it today is news and shocks me. I guess what you're trying to tell me is that (some/all/the majority?) of Jewish people believe that they - in their own skin just as it is - are perceived by (some/all/the majority?) of non-Jews to be descended from bloodthirsty ghouls and thus possibly bloodthirsty ghouls themselves - is that right?

I have another question, though, and not in any way am I being insensitive here, but considering the tremendous effect that movies and other forms of para-suggestion input to our subconscious minds has - have there been any movies that involve the blood libel story? I'm not a movie person, so I miss a lot there, but I'm completely aware of the impact that material told in movie form can have on a person's way of looking at things - a powerful movie can make people believe anything.

If I'm to believe that every Jewish person feels that they're constantly being judged as probable/potential ghouls, that's very serious and expands my understanding of what part of the problem is here. But I also recognize the total unfairness and untruth behind the ugly realities that so many have to deal with for other reasons on a daily basis - the gay man in my building who's very thin and who idiots decided is probably dying of AIDS and three whole apartments vacated (!) because those people were afraid they'd catch it, as only one example - and I wonder if most anti-Semitism actually involves the horror of blood libel or if it's more the old yap about Jews running the banks and controlling the money. At least in the USA I think we have so many people fighting to run the banks and control the money there's no reason anyone should consider Jewish people per se to be involved at all - our multibillionnaire bankers may be Jewish or may not - we just call them "Wall Street" and, by far, our most vicious purveyors of pain and suffering to the masses are the "Christian" politicians. IMHO, please - IMHO.

bearwife, I don't like bullies - that's true - and, I can't believe I have to say this, but I don't like any group of people who thinks it's okay to slaughter people from a different group just because they belong to that different group. I agree with you that the biggest danger to Jewish people is being hunted down and killed just for being Jewish and I don't want restrictions put on the discussion of the problems the Jewish people are facing at all - none of which has anything to do with Netanyahu or the Israeli government.
posted by aryma at 9:41 PM on January 14, 2015


threeants, the issue isn't talking about childkilling, though in light of the fact that the vast majority of casualties were adults, a not small percentage of whom were armed, it's a bit much. The issue is dismembering and using children's body parts. Which no one in Gaza was actually doing, and which is a known aspect of the blood libel, and which the author of the tweets knows full well. This isn't an edge case where we should bend over backwards to assume good faith and the benefit of the doubt that he was just trying to call out that the Netanyahu administration's actions killed children. Salaita was trying to be provocative. He knew what he was doing. And the thing that really, really bothers me here is that so many people, Jewish or not, felt/feel that it is more important to give him the benefit of the doubt that of course that couldn't possibly be anti-Semitic, than it is to believe that some anti-Israel rhetoric (NOT all) actually is anti-Semitic. If someone hears a dogwhistle and can reasonably demonstrate what they are hearing, why is it so difficult to believe them? Especially in today's climate when violent anti-Semitism is on the rise and (in some parts of the world, anyhow) anti-Semitic discourse in general is becoming more acceptable?
posted by Mchelly at 9:48 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


As one more data point, I'm Israeli, and "ethnically Jewish", whatever that means (it's not a major part of my identity), and it wouldn't have occurred to me to think of blood libel in the context of the Bibi-necklace tweet. Some people said very similar things about Bush and Blair during the Iraq war. It's grotesque and over the top, but not in a specifically anti-Semitic way, to me, though I see how others might think differently. Point being, I think it was a perfectly reasonable question to discuss in the Salaita thread, and the fact that some commenters failed to agree that it was an instance of blood libel isn't evidence of anti-Semitism on their part and certainly isn't something the mods should have been expected to take action about.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 9:52 PM on January 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


I think what really annoyed Zarq was not that mods didn't agree, but that they might have been perceived as not taking it seriously. R_N posted a response that was more exasperation with a difficult challenge than a lack of empathy but it could easily be read more as the less empathetic response.

I think the folks criticizing right now would be at least partially satisfied just by a future Metafilter where users make serious concerted effort to avoid anti-semitic tropes and mods make an effort to handle the complaints with seriousness. I think that response is what people talk about when they hold up Trans issues as a guideline. It's not by a longshot that those issues are solved, but it is that most users know they will come off as a heel if they are trans phobic and the mods will take the feedback about potentially trans phobic posts seriously.

My advice to mods, show more empathy to these complaints even if you can't 100% solve this seriously complex problem.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:15 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


But in that MeTa, zarq was asking the mods to disallow discussion of the very question. I don't think that should have happened, and I'm glad it didn't.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 10:38 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


aryma: I am very, very surprised that this horror story is believed today and even more surprised that the blood libel could have the kind of impact that makes Jewish people uneasy about being recognized as Jews.

I keep trying to write a response to this, and everything I come up with just seems to be an over-dramatic way of saying that the Holocaust did actually happen, and it's not passed out of living memory. Then I start swearing at the screen.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:55 PM on January 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


benito.strauss, I think many people (including myself, straddling the line between Jewish and goyishe) think of the Shoah as a discrete thing, and blood libel (for those who know about it) as being historical in the same way as like, burning witches is historical.

Which is not to say that it's not a thing which is still current, just that for many people it's not something one thinks of as current.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:58 PM on January 14, 2015


(and when I say straddling the line I mean basically a goy with some Jewish heritage)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:59 PM on January 14, 2015


I keep trying to write a response to this, and everything I come up with just seems to be an over-dramatic way of saying that the Holocaust did actually happen, and it's not passed out of living memory. Then I start swearing at the screen.

except it's impossible to over dramatize the Holocaust. thus we end up swearing at screens.
posted by philip-random at 11:03 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I guess it's not the Holocaust itself that I feel I'm over-dramatizing, it's the presence I feel in my life.

Because my life is pretty damn amazingly secure compared to almost anyone else on this planet, and my family got off pretty easy (just two cousins lost to the Nazis), but whenever I see pictures of people in the camps I think "that was supposed to be me, and it could easily have been my father".

And I'm a weird combination of a little bit jealous of and kind of angry about someone who can look at the same picture and only think "those poor people" instead of "that's me", and can continue to be surprised by the horror stories people will believe and have trouble believing the impact those horror stories can have.

(I'm checking out of this thread. I can't not post this, but I don't see my further contributions helping the site come to grips with the issues it's dealing with here.)
posted by benito.strauss at 11:22 PM on January 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


I don't believe this is true. I believe sometimes those responses lead to derails and arguments, but I've never seen one in which the topic was completely obscured and never discussed. I don't buy this for a second.

Cool. First of all, you're being super literal and weird. If 89% of the "raisins" in your cereal are beetles, does it really matter that the bowl is not literally full of insects? Secondly, I'm not selling you anything. Thirdly, check it out. One example of quite a few that have been on my radar lately, where the thread gets dominated by weird derails and discussion of the actual topic is something happening in the margins, if at all. It does happen, and it does happen a lot more often in threads concerning the lives and experiences of people who have minority representation on the site. Part of it is people not reading the article, but a lot of it is people understanding others' experiences only in the abstract.
posted by byanyothername at 11:28 PM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


TIL that while I would absolutely bristle at the suggestion that I was anything close to an anti-Semite, I have definitely casually absorbed a lot of attitudes that are informed by institutional anti-Semitism, and that I have a lot of thinking to do.
posted by KathrynT at 11:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [25 favorites]


benito.strauss this is my last post, too, and I'm sorry that I've given the impression that I'm one of those who deny the Holocaust. I believe every single detail about the Holocaust - my first couple of posts in this thread will explain why - but I've not seen it mentioned anywhere that the blood libel horror is part of the Holocaust.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, maybe the point is that if the evil perpetrated in the Holocaust is believable then so is the blood libel believable to those who might use it against the Jewish people as another reason to persecute them. I don't know if that's what I'm supposed to be understanding, but obviously if it is, it's just the tip of the iceberg.

I'm sorry for the offenses I've caused today - I don't know what else to say except that I'm trying to understand the best I can. That, and if it would ever do any good, I'd stand with each or all of you - I'm on your side, for what little that's worth.
posted by aryma at 11:43 PM on January 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really appreciate the Jewish members -- especially the people we may not otherwise have heard from on this -- joining in here to note things they've felt uncomfortable about. Thank you for speaking about this and I'm sorry people have been feeling like they can't talk about it.

I don't feel like we get many overtly anti-semitic comments of the kind that are insta-deletable. But it seems I've been underestimating how many comments we get that Jewish members feel are either over-the-line or problematic/uncomfortable/etc. It's really helpful to hear what a range of people think about specific cases, so thank you.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:56 PM on January 14, 2015 [21 favorites]


While I don't identify as Jewish, parts of my mother's (distant) family apparently do. I've learned a LOT in this thread, from voices I've never heard before, and voices I've never listened to before. I'm so pleased it's happened. I'm sorry for the cost to some members of our metafilter family.

Thank you Joe, thank you to everyone for trying really hard. Welcome back zarq, and thank you mods for your openness to change and beautiful humility.

This place makes me a better person every time I check in. I hope I'm going to be a better Jewish ally in future. Big hot sweaty Sydney hugs from Taff in Australia.
posted by taff at 12:06 AM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


aryma: I've not seen it mentioned anywhere that the blood libel horror is part of the Holocaust.

Eyebrows McGee told you right here.
posted by spork at 12:25 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, spork and Eyebrows McGee - I think I got stuck on "medieval" and "thousands of years" and that vision obscured a direct link to the Holocaust. The Holocaust was so utterly full of horrific images - it reels the brain, even of someone who isn't Jewish - but I never heard of the blood libel. There's always more to learn.
posted by aryma at 1:05 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really appreciate this thread and also Joe in Australia's consistent speaking up even when it leads to people dismissing or mocking him.

Mostly I feel so incredibly lucky to be who I am when and where I am. I am very aware that of my luck to live in a time and place where I have the social and economic freedoms that I do, to have grown up so free of antisemitism. I guess I have ancestors who were similarly lucky but I think they were likely just one lucky generation, in a good time and place, under a pharoah who happened to 'know' the Jews.

(The thing is, so far from my perspective, it's pretty much still a generational/geographical anomaly. My grandparents were holocaust survivors and my parents grew up under state and cultural suppression of their Jewish identity, on the one side, and subject to educational quotas on the 'better' side. I am hopeful that the generation following me will be more like mine and we won't just be another beautiful blip, like the various short lived Jewish golden ages. But it's very hard to have any confidence in that, seeing what goes on in the world).

So in a way it's a very lucky complaint to have. But I do feel that, on Metafilter, as in many contexts where Jews are a minority, if I speak as a Jew, my credibility about antisemitism and I/P is automatically undermined by presumptions about my biases. That the way to avoid that is to either not identify or to speak up incredibly carefully and sparingly to preserve whatever social capital I may have. When I am perceived as a Jewish woman, 'pushy', 'strident', 'spoiled', 'whiny', 'domineering feel like they are lurking like traps for me to fall into, even outside of specifically Jewish topics.

Thank you to everyone participating and listening.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:28 AM on January 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


> Because of the existence of the blood libel trope, it is inherently anti-Semitic to point out the horror of a war criminal whose actions have killed children, if that person is Jewish?

zarq was specifically objecting to the "necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children" image. If Salaita had said "Netanyahu is responsible for the deaths of Palestinian civilians", "He's got blood on his hands" that would just be criticism. (To the best of my recollection, zarq's been pretty critical of the Israeli government himself.)

Liberal Democrats often been harshly critical President Obama, but don't usually trot out racist tropes in doing so.

(I realize there's also a debate here about whether Salaita was deliberately playing on the blood libel trope, but I don't think it's unclear what zarq was objecting to.)
posted by nangar at 2:12 AM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Somewhere up thread, somebody said that a non-Jew will never understand these things. I tell you it is possible.

My mom bought two Menorahs at antique shops in the early seventies and they lived on our piano. She was raised by snake handlers, she just liked them. That was lots of light when the power was out.

I had a paper route with the Chigago Tribune in grade school and one of the days I was supposed to be collecting was that day when Jewish people are supposed to invite any one in and feed them. They would not let me refuse. I didn't know what was happening, but the food was good.

In 7th grade, I developed a group of dear friends, all Catholic who would come over and play on the piano. 10 years later, one of them said "You're Jewish, what do you think about this thing in Lebanon?" I was floored. 10 years and none of them had ever mentioned this? I suddenly saw a number of odd things they had said to me over the years in a new light.

So another 6 years go by and I get married to a Jewish woman. I stomped the glass and her family all assumed I was Jewish. I concealed nothing and nobody asked, they assumed. I would have told them if I had known that was going to be an issue.

We moved far away because of the friction. We moved South. My first two jobs, people once again started thinking I was Jewish, largely because I was very careful with money. They said some pretty horrible stuff and my hearing is rather fantastic. I didn't bother refuting anything. My ex was getting the same crap. We saved enough to buy an art supply store, then two more, We were the 3rd largest account in the Carolinas when we figured out that we had enough clout to tell sales reps that said things like "Jew me down" to leave and never come back. They got replaced or some sensitivity training after our talking to sales managers.

My last name is a word in five languages, one of them Hebrew. If someone asks me if I am Jewish, I say "No, but I have often been mistaken for one." And that usually starts a real conversation.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:28 AM on January 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


On the Cheviot Hills comment. I understand the meaning of flagging to be "I think a mod needs to be aware of this," not "I think a mod needs to delete this." So if I had flagged that (I didn't), the fact that a mod noticed it would be enough for me.

I'm a little surprised people are saying it's not a microaggression, and I wonder whether people are familiar with that term, or whether they are comfortable applying it. Because to me, the need to bring up a neighborhood's ethnicity out of nowhere is a perfect example of a microaggression in that any reaction to it is going to look like an overreaction. Any focus on it is going to look like a derail into social justice issues by someone who is "looking for things to get mad about." So even if that comment did make somebody's day 5% worse (good way of putting it upthread), the commenter who casually brought up ethnicity out of nowhere in a discussion where ethnicity could plausibly be somewhat relevant is going to look like Mr. Rationality compared to any later commenter who might say something like "so why is it relevant that the neighborhood is Jewish?" which would look like a derail.

I mean, as long as subsequent comments stay on topic, then it's probably part of the background noise level of stuff that people have to get used to putting up with (which again is consistent with it being a microaggression). But if it had been a jumping off point for the thread to go downhill, the flag could be there to help the mods see that a potential subsequent commenter who picks up on that is not just a cranky problem poster, but is being triggered by a thing that someone else noticed, too.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 3:51 AM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Aryma, I think what many people are trying to say is that Jews frequently don't see the Shoah as discrete, or the pogroms as discrete, or the blood libel as discrete. Many of us see these as chapters in a common and ongoing narrative. Maybe this isn't always the most useful lens for every purpose, but what lens is? So what seems to others like "looking for offense" seems pretty reasonable if you start taking a really long view of history.

Bona fides: secular Jew, ancestors escaped pogroms in Ukraine, pretty much exasperated with both sides of I/P controversy, not currently in charge of any banks or even a single media empire.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:59 AM on January 15, 2015 [13 favorites]


aryma, your post in this thread read to me as very strange. Your hangup on the blood libel does not seem to be one of incredulousness and wanting to learn, it seems more doubtful and dismissive. The former is a position that anyone can occupy, the latter seems anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent. Your incoherent inability to effectively separate, in most of your rhetoric, criticisms of the Israeli government and criticisms of Jews, is a real problem. At a couple of places you have tacked on "appropriate" apologies, but the overall tone of your comments and rhetoric is one I highly distrust. That you do not see the issues with what you have said, even when folks have suggested that you take another look, and your repeated comments show that you do not, adds to the problem. Your major defense of your comments seems to be that you are ignorant of these things, but the overall thrust of your comments suggests that you are unwilling to learn from what others in this thread have offered you.
posted by OmieWise at 5:32 AM on January 15, 2015 [21 favorites]


But in that MeTa, zarq was asking the mods to disallow discussion of the very question.

Disagree. In your two examples, zarq was asking for a baseline understanding of antisemitism and moderation of antisemitism comments as any other hate speech.

Given that mods do moderate hate speech in specific ways I do not see this as unreasonable and further I see your characterization of zarq's request as shutting down debate as problematic. Hate speech is well characterized and there is nothing inherently wrong with deleting comments and asking commenters to carefully rephrase. Mods do that frequently and do it even in non hate speech contexts, including comments understood as simple derails.
posted by kalessin at 5:42 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thankfully, the blood libel doesn't have any currency anywhere I've ever lived, Aryma, but it didn't die with the Holocaust. In Kielce, Poland in 1946, blood libel accusations touched off a massacre in which 40 Jews, who had survived the Holocaust and returned to their home town, were murdered by police and civilians. That was the incident that convinced surviving Polish Jews that they would never be safe in Poland and resulted in mass emigration, largely to what would become Israel. I think that was the last blood-libel-related massacre on record, but the Wikipedia blood libel page lists several blood-libel accusations from the 21st century. They're mostly from the Middle East, but they mention accusations by right-wing politicians in Russia and a study by anthropologists that showed that about 10% of Polish people believe blood libel stories. So no, we're not talking about something from the Middle Ages, although I wouldn't say it's something that currently keeps me up at night.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:44 AM on January 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


threeants: I am Jewish, and to me, this approaches caricature of the "using claims of anti-Semitism to silence opponents" allegations. Because of the existence of the blood libel trope, it is inherently anti-Semitic to point out the horror of a war criminal whose actions have killed children, if that person is Jewish? This essentially boils down to asking for discursive immunity. I am concerned about anti-Semitism, and the ways that the identification thereof is confused and obstructed by this bizarre mode of discourse-freezing.

For whatever it's worth, I objected specifically to that one tweet of Salaita's. Didn't comment much about the rest of his tweets, because they were anti-Israel but I didn't think they were antisemitic. I did object to the way certain people in that thread behaved when faced with dissenting opinions. I tried to explain all of this at length back in September, it's possible I wasn't clear.

If we're looking at discourse-freezing behavior, I do believe that nothing I did, said or requested of the mods in that Metatalk thread approached the aggressive commenting styles of the people trying to silence discussion in the Salaita thread.

During my time on this site, I've commented often about Judaism as both a religion and culture. I've spent time in threads related to Israel as well, and would like to think those contributions were more positive and educational than negative and hyperbolic. I would also like to think that I have not silenced reasonable, well-argued dissent to Israel's policies with regard to the Palestinians -- especially since I've criticized Israel a lot. I've tried to help counter hyperbole and lies on both sides of the I/P debate. Don't know how successful I've been there. And circling back to the concern raised by this FPP, I have repeatedly emphasized that there is a separation between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism: that not only should criticism of Israel not be automatically branded anti-semitic, but also that it is important and vital for Jews and non-Jews to criticize that country's policies and actions without being attacked as Jew-haters.

Caricatures and stereoptypes are obfuscating and discourse-freezing. Whether they're antisemitic or not. Whether we agree with them or not. When they're invoked, they're harmful to conversation.

The last blood libel trial was 100 years ago. Not so long ago, really.

The last time someone made a remark I felt was antisemitic was in the Metafilter chat room, a few months ago. They thought they were paying me a compliment so I thanked them and moved on. Because I was tired, and didn't want to rock the boat or make a goodhearted person who is trying to be kind feel bad for no reason. I probably should have said something. Because as much as we'd like it to be, antisemitism isn't dead and pointing it out when we see actual instances of it is important. But sometimes you gotta choose your battles and a personal one may not be not worth fighting at that moment in time. Life's too short.

I was angry over Professor Salaita's tweet and the way people were defending it / taking on anyone who dared to disagree in that thread, and chose to battle it out in MetaTalk over it. I didn't believe I was wrong about that one tweet being about blood libel then, and don't now. But in hindsight, I would have handled it differently. And tried harder to control my temper.
posted by zarq at 6:05 AM on January 15, 2015 [19 favorites]


(and when I say straddling the line I mean basically a goy with some Jewish heritage)

Again, in the open and non-condemnatory spirit of the thread, I will observe that I feel a certain amount of squick when non-Jews call themselves "goyim."
posted by escabeche at 6:23 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why is that, escabeche?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:55 AM on January 15, 2015


Sorry to have offended you, escabeche.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:18 AM on January 15, 2015


I keep trying to write a response to this, and everything I come up with just seems to be an over-dramatic way of saying that the Holocaust did actually happen, and it's not passed out of living memory. Then I start swearing at the screen.

Oh thank god I'm not the only one because boy howdy is my mental map full of profanity over that.
posted by corb at 7:23 AM on January 15, 2015


Again, in the open and non-condemnatory spirit of the thread, I will observe that I feel a certain amount of squick when non-Jews call themselves "goyim."

I (Jewish) was actually taught that "goy" is a pejorative term and not to use it.
posted by amro at 7:36 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


If anyone is curious, the book of fairy tales I had was called Elijah's Violin, though I recall the cover being lavender. I really loved the stories.
posted by jeather at 7:37 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember once, several years back, reading a book of Jewish 'fairytales', basically - and in a fairly hefty percentage of them, the "happily ever after" was, "And then our brave hero got the king to sign a paper saying he wouldn't kill the Jews.

See: almost very Jewish holiday. "They tried to kill us! We survived! Let's eat!"
posted by amro at 7:40 AM on January 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


I do want to reiterate I'm sorry about flubbing this process in the beginning. There's definitely a huge obvious difference between I/P threads and anti-semetic stories coming out of Western Europe and I was conflating the two and being lazy about a user's past behavior on the site. After reading the comments here, I can definitely see where I need to be more discerning and careful when evaluating flags in threads covering these subjects and it helps to see examples and resources to educate myself on the topics.

I also want to thank everyone for explaining the more subtle dogwhistle type things people might say that are problematic. Since I was a teen I was pointing out the offensiveness of money/wealth stereotypes to others that mentioned it but if I saw a flag on a comment saying that Israeli soldiers were "bloodthirsty" I would have previously attributed that as hyperbole related entirely to someone being a soldier in battle, but I now see how that could be a blood libel type of jab instead and something worthy of extra mod attention.

As always, a lot of stuff isn't cut and dry but I feel like I can do better on the mod side about subtle creeping anti-semitism and this thread has been incredibly enlightening, so thanks again everyone for contributing to it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:44 AM on January 15, 2015 [68 favorites]


When I was dating a Jewish man, a Jewish friend of mine said jokingly "so you're the shiksa," and I was like, "oh is that the word, ok, I guess so." I had no idea of the context, and didn't know what I didn't know. So then I referred to myself as the shiksa in front of some of his friends who were Jewish, and I had no idea why they cringed. I honestly assumed I must be mispronouncing it. It wasn't until later that my then-BF explained to me that not only is it a pejorative word, but when you (as a non-Jew) use a pejorative word of Hebrew or Yiddish origin against yourself, it's like accusing Jews of criticizing you or excluding you when they didn't.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:00 AM on January 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


The last blood libel trial was 100 years ago. Not so long ago, really.

That was the last time (as far as I know) that a Jew was tried over blood libel accusations. I want to clarify that these accusations continued to be made, and (a) Jews have been killed as a result of those accusations; (b) consequently, there were further trials that focused on the blood libel, although Jews were not the defendants in those trials. There were also libels that didn't proceed to trial, like this one in Massena, New York, in 1928: in that case a staunch defense by the local rabbi (taken in for questioning) and a national outcry over the accusation led to an apology from the mayor, no less.1 Also, the blood libel is a standard anti-Semitic trope in countries where anti-Semitism is taken for granted. For example, I saw an interview (on CNN, I think) with a member of Hamas who literally could not process the fact that the interviewer wouldn't believe it.

1 I.e., "And then our brave hero got the king to sign a paper saying he wouldn't kill the Jews."
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:11 AM on January 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


There also currently exists a Facebook community called "Jewish Ritual Murder" which various Jewish anti defamation organizations and allies (including myself) have tried to get removed/banned which explicitly promotes the blood libel as its sole mission. I won't link but it's easy to find.

The "good" news is that there are under a thousand members of the community. Let me repeat that: under a thousand. If there were fewer than 500 or 100 or 10 I would have said so.
posted by kalessin at 8:18 AM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Joe, yes. Thanks for clarifying.

After posting I saw ArbitraryandCapricious' excellent comment above mine, too.
posted by zarq at 8:18 AM on January 15, 2015


It's not a huge deal, but the word is anti-semitic (analogous to anti-semitism), not anti-semetic. Spelling the word correctly helps with the perception that you are taking it seriously.
posted by dfan at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thank you, mathowie.
posted by zarq at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Spelling the word correctly

Whoa, that's the first time in a long time Google Chrome has failed me in a textarea, sorry about that.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:25 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


There also currently exists a Facebook community called "Jewish Ritual Murder" which various Jewish anti defamation organizations and allies (including myself) have tried to get removed/banned which explicitly promotes the blood libel as its sole mission.

Yeah. They say it doesn't violate their guidelines.

I was going to link to some related news items, but I googled "Facebook Jewish Ritual" and the seventh result speaks for itself.
posted by zarq at 8:29 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jeez. Also, don't bother going to that result shown in zarq's link. It just throws up a bunch of "threat detected!!!1OMG!" spam popups.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:45 AM on January 15, 2015


On reflection that sounded like a nonpology from me. Not meant that way at all. I am truly sorry that my choice of words offended you, escabeche, and I will try not to do so in the future.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:18 AM on January 15, 2015


"Offended" is way too strong for what I'm talking about, for what it's worth. It doesn't require an apology and it's the sort of thing that would be way too minor for me to mention, were it not that we were having a conversation exactly about the low-grade buzz of weirdness around Jews, and trying to be open about what things are part of that buzz.
posted by escabeche at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


As one of the (typically) quieter members of the community, I realize that I am not helping by sitting in front of my screen nodding and agreeing without commenting, so I wanted to come back in to support a few of the recent comments above.

I am also uncomfortable when anyone, non-Jews or Jews, use the pejorative, goyim. It is not a neutral term by any means.

The fear of admitting my Jewish heritage is a real thing, and it colors my interaction with new acquaintances. I am looked at differently by some folks in my office because of it (in some cases, it clearly "others" me, which hurts). I think twice about mentioning it here on the site just in case it will come back to bite me somehow. I'm not sure how to explain that, sorry.

Even as a Jew, I am not as familiar with the dog whistle of the blood libel being discussed above, so thanks for all the good discussion there.

Again, I really appreciate the mods' efforts to make this a better site for everyone. Saying that it's a hard job is ridiculously minimizing the amount of work they do.
posted by blurker at 9:36 AM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Spelling the word correctly helps with the perception that you are taking it seriously.

I know Matt's trying to take this seriously and I'm certain that dumb typos don't reflect hidden antipathies. This is just to talk about the general idea of orthography in online conversation.

As I said, generally these are small things. At the same time I think it's one of those things like people who say names they don't recognize are hard to pronounce or people who do the Moslem/Muslim thing. It's important that people who have power, even if it's just over comments on a website, indicate that they're trying to be conversant in the topics being discussed and not bringing their own "I don't have to follow the rules here because of my status" privilege to the table. That joining the conversation at its level is a priority.

Every time I'm on the podcast and say "Oh god es-CUH-bay-Che? how is that pronounced again?" I feel chagrined because I know and like escabeche (that's why I mention him) but can't get it quite together enough to remember how to pronounce his username. And, to a very small degree, that is showing off that I don't have to. He's not my boss. He doesn't have power over me. I don't mean to make a whole thing out of this, just to maybe illustrate how things that can seem super innocuous may repeat patterns that are themselves not innocuous which I think is some of the problem with entrenched anti-semitic stuff (which my spellcheck says is incorrectly spelled).

The weird thing about microaggressions is that nearly all of them can be sort of rolled back into "Just kidding" or "Boy you sure are sensitive" or "Whoops, accident" So sometimes it's important to double-check (or just scroll back to read what is being said) to check yourself. It can be a bit bending-over-backwards in a manners sense (certainly not required) but it helps decrease friction which is super useful on difficult paths.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:39 AM on January 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'd like to add to the thanks for the education provided in this thread.

I've had a strange mix of influences on my attitude to anti-semitism. I lived for a year in one of London's most Orthodox Jewish suburbs, babysat for my neighbours on Sabbath (they paid me in rugelach, result), and talked over tea with them about the abuse local Jewish kids took on their walk to school and the things people often misunderstood about their lifestyle - within a wider conversation triggered by a local incident I should probably add, not some sort of weird probing on my part.

But since around the same time I've also become friends with several very vocal and active Pro-Palestine activists, and somewhere along the way their rhetoric has seeped into and somewhat obscured my wider consciousness, or rather lack thereof, of Jewish oppression.

So I'm really glad I took the time to read through this thread, and grateful for this opportunity to be fed the information and perspectives that have enabled me to springclean this particular area of my mind. Foremost grateful to the Jewish and Israeli folks here, but also the people challenging the original post, because some of them have asked questions which I might have asked, but wasn't confident to, or couldn't articulate. I feel like I've been spared exposing my ignorance on a lot of aspects discussed here, so I want to own up to it and appreciate the opportunity to work on it.
posted by greenish at 9:52 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am also uncomfortable when anyone, non-Jews or Jews, use the pejorative, goyim. It is not a neutral term by any means.

I was raised to think it wasn't a pejorative at all. That's just how some Jews refer to non-Jews. That the context in which it was used is what mattered.

A couple of years ago, my Yiddish-speaking father-in-law corrected me. In general, it's not a good word.
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Given the ambiguity, I don't see a reason why gentile couldn't work in the future. Sorry if that's obvious or something.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:03 AM on January 15, 2015


Honestly, at least in my world, "gentile" is a little ambiguous, too.
posted by amro at 10:28 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


several blood-libel accusations from the 21st century. They're mostly from the Middle East, but they mention accusations by right-wing politicians in Russia and a study by anthropologists that showed that about 10% of Polish people believe blood libel stories. So no, we're not talking about something from the Middle Ages, although I wouldn't say it's something that currently keeps me up at night.

I recently reconnected with an old friend (originally from Eastern Europe) via Facebook. Way back when, when I knew him well, he was one of the smartest, wisest, most talented artists I knew/had ever known. That was about twenty-five years ago.

Anyway, we quickly traded a few messages/links and everything seemed fine, except suddenly he was quizzing me about the Illuminati etc, which we'd both laughed good and hard about back in the day (specifically, Robert Anton Wilson's take on it). Except now he seemed to be actually serious about it. I tried to shrug it off, but then he suddenly started talking about China (the Ming Dynasty) and how the Emperor conferred seven surnames on Jews, and then onward to the Rothschilds' presence in China up to 19th century, and so on up to the implication that China's re-emergence as a economic superpower is in fact a manifestation of a long term Jewish/Illuminati plot ... !?!?

This actually did keep me up at least one night, wondering how the hell to respond. So far, silence is the best thing I've come up with.

My point in all of this being that nothing seems as resilient (in some cultures) as the myth of the Jewish bogie man, something weirdly, virulently toxic creeping in the shadows, always waiting to pounce. And no, WW2 did not kill it.
posted by philip-random at 10:33 AM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Not to be that guy but it's antisemitic and antisemitism. No hyphen.
posted by capricorn at 10:35 AM on January 15, 2015


That's odd, my spell check corrected to add the hyphen.
posted by blurker at 10:38 AM on January 15, 2015


According to Wikpedia, the reason "gentile" is ambiguous is partly because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sees themselves as regathered Israelites, so tended to use the term "gentile" to mean not one of us, which was, to be quite honest, very confusing. They've since backed off and tend to use the term only in scripture discussions now.

Though I have to say that in my Jew-adjacent life (friends, family variously Jewish or thought they were Jewish and only later had it proved to them that they weren't, through genealogical searches) that I agree with amro that "gentile" is also ambiguous regarding whether or not it's a pejorative. Though it was also widely accepted that it was better than "goy" or "goyim".
posted by kalessin at 10:45 AM on January 15, 2015


Depends on the dictionary. Britannica uses a hyphen and a capital S.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2015


Not to be that guy but it's antisemitic and antisemitism. No hyphen.

I just looked at the online versions of the OED and Merriam-Webster dictionaries and they both use the hyphen.
posted by Area Man at 10:48 AM on January 15, 2015


As an aside, something that really opened my eyes recently has been the uncovering of quote-unquote chan culture, which is something that people who don't spend time under those specific rocks/bridges don't generally see, and the incredible amount of both casual and venomous anti-Semitism being used there for giggly shock value, as a tribal marker and, it seems pretty clear, as an entryist recruiting tool for actual Nazis. It's been an eye-opener. Followed by a brain-bleacher.

(As a further aside, it's a foreign loan word, hence the variant spellings. The coining Britannica cites is not the English word, but the German word Antisemitismus, coined as a way to dignify with a politico-scientific veneer what was more commonly and accurately called Judenhass.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:57 AM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


The word goy / goyim isn't pejorative, per se. It literally means "nation/nations," and it's used throughout the Torah and Talmud to refer to non-Jews. It's a useful differentiator if you're talking in Yiddish or Hebrew, the way we say non-Jews in English. But in English, when people switched to a Yiddish term, it was generally an underhanded way of referring to someone not-nicely by using a word that they wouldn't know.

It's sort of like calling people the Others. It's not that there's anything wrong with the word, and saying "the others are coming" is totally neutral. But "Shh... the Others are coming..." not so neutral anymore. So I agree, hearing someone non-Jewish referring to themselves as a goy just doesn't sit right, even though technically it's true and there's no real reason to avoid it.

Shiksa (and the male form which you don't hear so often, shaygetz) is absolutely pejorative. It basically means "abomination". Steer clear.
posted by Mchelly at 11:18 AM on January 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Antisemitic" or "anti-Semitic" is originally a German word, antisemitisch, and as such the word was not capitalized (since it is an adjective) – the noun form, apparently coined as "Antisemitismus," is capitalized. But it makes sense that in English we might render it "anti-Semitic," since we tend to capitalize names of nationalities or groups, particularly as a sign of respect. I kind of lean toward "anti-Semitism" myself, although I can see why somebody might just render it "antisemitism," particularly since I can sympathize with those who have an aversion to words in pseudo-camel-case.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


(For what it's worth, my intellectual forbear Leo Strauss apparently felt that the word "antisemitic" was rather "coy," and tended almost invariably to use the term "anti-Jewish" instead. Sometimes I wish I understood more about his context, since I imagine a German raised in the 1920s would be closer to its origin and understand more of its flavor. Still, it is an odd word. It's interesting that the variant "antisemitism" was coined alongside the term "semitism," which was apparently intended to signify participation in some grand Jewish conspiracy to overcome "the German spirit." I can understand being wary of a word like "antisemitism" when its obvious opposite – "semitism" – seems kind of like a weird, racist designation. But at this point the word "anti-Semitism" has been used enough in its clinical sense to be the most intuitive word to use to cover the unfortunately vast array of instances of hatred and violence against Jews.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've always found it a bit weird as a term since it's often applied to Arabs who are themselves semitic. It's a bit too broad of a term.
posted by empath at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding Salaita: My first reaction to the slur about Netanyahu wearing the necklace was the same I would have had if someone had accused Dick Cheney of wearing a necklace of Iraqi ears: it's hyperbole, but so what? But zarq and others made it clear (to me) that the history of blood libel made it a very different situation, and that the slur against Netanyahu was antisemitic and totally inapprorpiate (imo.) In retrospect I should have seen it sooner, and I really appreciate that zarq and others made the effort to explain it (and I'm glad you're back, zarq!)

I don't see why anyone can't just trust zarq and others that it is blood libel, or at least grant the courtesy of dropping that particular issue and moving on. That doesn't prevent anyone from holding Netanyahu accountable for his own policies and saying that he's a war criminal who should be sharing a cell with Dick Cheney at the Hague, just avoid dubious stuff that is (or might be) more broadly offensive.
posted by homunculus at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think the reason that non-Jews such as myself should probably avoid goy/goyim is because even though we might be trying to be self-deprecating like, "I realize I'm not a Jew, and I also realize everyone here is OK with that, and look what good friends we are that we can all use this insider terminology" it can easily spill over into bringing up the myth that Jews think of themselves as the chosen people and therefore better than others. It can come across like "I know this is how you talk about me behind my back, see I even know what word you use" when no, not at all.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:01 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, although I use anti-semitism, I don't really care among antisemitism, anti-Semitism, anti-semitism -- they all seem like acceptable variations. The "Arabs are Semites too" canard is a bizarre argument from etymology. No one actually uses the word Semite, or really any variation except anti-semitic, which is really unambiguous in everyday use. Islamophobia seems to cover the Muslim version, though there are both nuances I am ignoring and ones I just don't know.
posted by jeather at 12:11 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Semitic is a 100% active and in-use term for the family of languages that includes Arabic and Hebrew.
posted by empath at 12:13 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, as I said before I was raised in a pretty Jewish milieu (which was sometimes interestingly cross-pollinated; my grandmother always gave us gelt for both Christmas and Hanukkah, and thought nothing of serving gefilte fish with the usual English Sunday roast, e.g.), we lost distant relatives in the Shoah, and the overwhelming majority of my friends and romantic attachments in my teenage years were Jewish people.

But I'm non-religious and 'Jewish' isn't a big part of my identity so if it's a problematic word usage I'm fine with excising it from my vocabulary.

Just wanted to say that for me at least it wasn't the things you said. But the things you said are well worth considering, not just for others but for me as well.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2015


The Master and Margarita Mix: "That is what Jewish MeFites are talking about when we talk about the comments about Netanyahu having a different level context in the history of blood libel accusations, and frankly some of you are coming off like the kind of willfully blind Republicans who refuse to "get" why the birther drama is offensive or acknowledge the racist undertones to all the attacks on Obama, no matter how many times it is explained in good faith."

I know you were angry when you typed this, but this single comment of yours has been tremendously clarifying for me. For some reason I just wasn't picking up on this background subtext, and this made it much, much clearer what was going on.
posted by scrump at 12:26 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's also the case that most Americans have enough education about racism, lynching, and the civil rights era that it's much easier to explain to people acting in good faith even if they don't get it the first time.
posted by bq at 12:32 PM on January 15, 2015


I've always found it a bit weird as a term since it's often applied to Arabs who are themselves semitic. It's a bit too broad of a term.

Just so you know, this argument sets off all of my "anti-Semitic argument" bells. I almost only see it put forward by people seeking to criticize Jews for "apropriating" the term Semitic in this context. The opposite is of course true: it was invented by a German to legitimize hating Jews. So it's kind of a double fuck you when it gets trotted out as "what about these uppity Jews? There are other Semites, too!"

I'm not saying that's what you mean here, but that's like 98% of the times I see the argument forwarded. This is more prevalent among people who are understandably angry about Israeli erasure of Palestinian history ("Israeli Arab" (sic) anyone?), but are also using anti-Semitic arguments to express that.
posted by OmieWise at 1:01 PM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I totally get that, but just etymologically, think anti-jewish seems like a better word than anti-semitic. It's just more accurate. Though obviously that ship has sailed.
posted by empath at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hi, another Jew here. Currently secular-ish, but whatever. I first learned about the blood libel in Hebrew school, and believe it absolutely still plays a role in anti-semitic thought. And I think that Salaita tweet has absolutely nothing to do with it. The "necklace of teeth" image seems to me to refer to a (racist) Hollywood idea of a savage -- think the cannibal with the pot boiling -- as well as to some of the horror stories about Idi Amin and other African dictators. It's an image of violent public trophy-taking, and comes from completely different genre than the blood libel, which is about secretly killing children and secretly making matzo with their remains.

That's my interpretation, at least. And it's fine if people disagree. But it's very much not fine -- with this Jew, at least -- to say that people who don't buy that this is an anti-semitic image are supporting anti-semitism themselves.
posted by neroli at 1:20 PM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fine, Semitic is in active use for a language family, but it is not exactly in active everyday use to refer to people, and not that many people are just talking about language families regularly. It's like that argument that used to go around about how homophobia was a bad word because they weren't scared of gay people. "But what about the Arabs? They can't be anti-semitic because they are semites too!" is just a way to wave away actual anti-semitism.

I don't think it's a perfect word, but it's imperfect for other reasons than the etymology. And in any case it's unlikely to be changed for a different word in the short term.
posted by jeather at 1:24 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I totally get that, but just etymologically, think anti-jewish seems like a better word than anti-semitic.

Er...blame the Germans who came up with it in the nineteenth century? For them, it was the "modern," more au courant way (that is, in line with nineteenth-century racial theory) of promulgating Judenhass. There are, in fact, ongoing debates about anti-Judaism as a concept vs. antisemitism--it's not clear, for example, if antisemitism, with its explicit grounding in modern race theory, is the correct term to describe the medieval attitudes giving rise to the blood libel--but that's a separate historical question (see, for example, David Nirnberg).
posted by thomas j wise at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


If anyone is curious, the book of fairy tales I had was called Elijah's Violin, though I recall the cover being lavender.'

I think it's the same book, hilariously!

Also, zarq, glad you're back.
posted by corb at 1:43 PM on January 15, 2015


FIVE STAGES OF METATALK

1) Denial. There is no problem.
2) Anger. Yes there jolly well is!
3) Bargaining. How can we fix this?
4) Depression. We are all to blame.
5) Grammar. Where do we place the capital letters, and do we use a hyphen?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:46 PM on January 15, 2015 [56 favorites]


empath: “I've always found it a bit weird as a term since it's often applied to Arabs who are themselves semitic. It's a bit too broad of a term.”

Frankly I feel almost the opposite; the problem with the term was not its broadness, but its blunted specificity. Regardless of the original provenance of this term which instantly became popular, "anti-Semitism" has all the earmarks of a word intended to make polite the impolite. "Semite" is not a term in regular or common use; it is very much a technical term, a term with only one extrapolated use, and this makes it more indirect and thus more gentle. Strauss called the term "coy" because I think there really were a lot of people in the 19th and early 20th centuries who used the term "anti-Semitism" vaguely to refer to those friends of theirs who had this "peculiar obsession," as though they were referring to someone's relatively innocuous hobby or pastime. It was a lot easier to say blithely that "Henry's a bit of an anti-Semite" than it was to flat-out say it in literal, straightforward words: "Henry hates and violently opposes Jews as Jews."

To some degree, language has changed on this front, I think. The horrors of WW2 didn't instantly put an end to all anti-Jewish hatred, unfortunately; but at least the possibility and danger of hideous atrocities against Jewish people at the hands of those who hate them are now openly admitted in polite society. And due to the tireless efforts of certain heroic folks, the term "anti-Semite" has become a term of great approbation in most quarters, a term that specifically and vividly refers to hatred against and violent opposition to Jews as Jews.

And ultimately we've come back around, in certain ways. Look at this thread. Clearly, the problem isn't that the word is too broad; because if that were the case, we would see it uncontroversially applied to all sorts of things. The opposite is the case: we see even applying it to minor instances is fraught with controversy, and many people are in great haste to point out what a very specific thing anti-Semitism is, and to point out that certain comments or tweets might have been bad, but certainly weren't anti-Semitic.

Apparently now, after all the work that activists and thinkers put in to make the word carry weight and meaning, it is so serious and so specific to us that we're unwilling to apply it to clearly awful things said about Jews unless we know with certitude the intentions in the heart of the person who uttered those things.
posted by koeselitz at 1:49 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


(As such, I think probably we should not only use the word "anti-Semitic," but we must be ready to use it when situations warrant.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2015


Just missed the edit window; "approbation" should clearly be "disapprobation" in my comment above.
posted by koeselitz at 1:54 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Not to be that guy but it's antisemitic and antisemitism. No hyphen.

If you don't want to be that guy, don't be that guy. The hyphen is standard in English.

> I've always found it a bit weird as a term since it's often applied to Arabs who are themselves semitic.

OmieWise explained very well the reason this argument is problematic from a political/real-world point of view; from a linguistic point of view it's absurd because etymology is not destiny. If it were, the word "bead" would mean "prayer."
posted by languagehat at 1:58 PM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


People aren't Semitic, languages are. For example, are the Maltese Semites? No.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:12 PM on January 15, 2015


I got one more post in me for this thread.

I worked security for an Iranian family for 18 months. Terrified about a Guard hit team coming after journalist dad who had defied both the Shah and the revolution. They fled in 79 and hired me as a driver for their girls when other expatriate dissidents were getting whacked in Europe.

I was absolutely devoted to those girls. They were sweet and we had some serious fun. Hain's Point in a hailstorm might just have been the best time I ever had with kids. Never gave me the trouble their parents prepared me for. Lots of questions about cultural differences and music. Ice cream when the parents were late and we had to wait

"So what is it like being a Jew?" Clear blue sky this came from, much like the hail.

I squatted down and said "I think your dad hired me me because he felt good about me and I understood a bit about what you have been through. It is my job to keep you safe and that I will do. Does he think I'm Jewish? He did. And he selected me out of all the other applicants as fit to shepherd his daughters.

And whatever. I kind of take that as an honor.

We talked later, as we always did in a mix of Farsi and bad English. He said he was sorry he called me a Jew. I seemed like one and he had thought and still did think I was the perfect person to drive his girls. And what do you do with that kind of statement?

You drive the girls where they need to go.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:22 PM on January 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


You might want to look up the dictionary definition of that there word.
posted by bq at 2:23 PM on January 15, 2015


Okay, I keep seeing callouts here suggesting that the problem in the Salaita thread was that some people said the tweet was anti-semitic, other people said it wasn't anti-semitic -- and then the people who thought it was accused the ones who didn't of anti-semitism and that's not okay.

But that isn't what happened or what some of us were so upset about.

What happened was, (please forgive that this is based on memory - it was a long thread and an ugly one and I don't want to go back through it again)
1. Some people (myself included) said the tweet - along with a couple other tweets - were anti-semitic.
2. Other people - including the creator of the FPP - said it wasn't.
3. The people saying it was gave examples, showed where and how it was problematic.
4. The people saying it wasn't doubled down, saying not only weren't the tweets anti-semitic, but that the people saying they were, were once again doing that thing where you silence all anti-Israel protests with accusations of anti-semitism.
5. The people having the issue turned to the mods, saying this was a problem. The mods didn't intervene.
6. The Meta was started.
7. The tweets-aren't-anti-semitic advocates doubled down again, both in the FPP and in the Meta, saying that not only were they not anti-semitic and that this was a silencing technique, but that they - most but not all of them non-Jewish - knew more about what constituted actual anti-semitism and that the others were either too stupid to understand their points or not acting in good faith.
8. At this point I believe people accused those people of encouraging an atmosphere of anti-semitism. I do not believe anyone actually called any Mefite an anti-semite, but it's possible this happened and was deleted. (I apologize for being vague on this one since I know this is where accuracy is especially needed -- but by then I was so disgusted with both threads that I largely checked out.)

So while I wholeheartedly agree with everyone saying that regardless of whether or not the tweets were anti-semitic, it's not right to accuse people here of anti-semitism based on their opinion, I also want to make it clear that it's also not all right to accuse people of calling out anti-semitism as a silencing technique just because you disagree.

This is where I would call for more moderator attention, if possible. When two sides disagree about anti-semitism, or racism, or sexism, and the people who say it isn't there start to gang up on the ones who see it - especially (though not only) when those people are not members of the target group- mods should step in. Agreeing to disagree is fine, and possibly the best we can hope for. Accusing people who feel victimized of crying wolf or disingenuously pointing fingers as a silencing tactic - especially when it's a group of people rather than a lone voice - shouldn't be kosher.
posted by Mchelly at 2:53 PM on January 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


it's not right to accuse people here of anti-semitism based on their opinion

But what the fuck else are we going to base it on? Do you mean to differentiate here between thought/opinion and words/action?
posted by kalessin at 2:59 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry - I wasn't clear. I meant based on their opinion of whether or not the tweets were anti-semitic.
posted by Mchelly at 3:05 PM on January 15, 2015


You might want to look up the dictionary definition of that there word.

What? Who did I accidentally insult now?
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:13 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


my guess is the comment was in response to the one before yours.
posted by philip-random at 3:17 PM on January 15, 2015


Mchelly pretty much sums it up.
posted by zarq at 3:45 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we let the definition and spelling of semite and all its incarnations drop, it's starting to feel like a derail.
posted by blurker at 5:46 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


"So what is it like being a Jew?" Clear blue sky this came from, much like the hail.

I squatted down and said "I think your dad hired me me because he felt good about me and I understood a bit about what you have been through. It is my job to keep you safe and that I will do. Does he think I'm Jewish? He did. And he selected me out of all the other applicants as fit to shepherd his daughters.

And whatever. I kind of take that as an honor.

We talked later, as we always did in a mix of Farsi and bad English. He said he was sorry he called me a Jew. I seemed like one and he had thought and still did think I was the perfect person to drive his girls. And what do you do with that kind of statement?

You drive the girls where they need to go.



Ah, so nice - a story without rancor - evidence that there can be respect and cooperation between cultures in a positive way - well done. Maybe it would be of help if more stories of cooperation and kindness between races/religions/cultures were posted - it couldn't hurt, anyway.
posted by aryma at 5:59 PM on January 15, 2015


Can we get a recommendation for an appropriate and civil word for non-Jews? It would help to know what is acceptable.
posted by aryma at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2015


This ain't no chicken soup for the soul here.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:03 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I do want to reiterate I'm sorry about flubbing this process in the beginning.

So what happens next? Can Joe post his deleted post again, since it was a highly topical one and shouldn't have been deleted in the first place, or isn't that how things are done here?
posted by effbot at 6:05 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can we get a recommendation for an appropriate and civil word for non-Jews? It would help to know what is acceptable.

"Non-Jews"? "Non-white" is extremely offensive for a number of reasons but I don't think they apply here.

Ah, so nice - a story without rancor - evidence that there can be respect and cooperation between cultures in a positive way - well done. Maybe it would be of help if more stories of cooperation and kindness between races/religions/cultures were posted - it couldn't hurt, anyway.

I'd rather not see the thread about Metafilter's specific issues with (perceived?) anti-Semitism in the community and in how the mods address the issue on the site not be bogged down with this kind of comment, actually, because it's not addressing the problem or coming up with solutions to it. At the time it made me kind of feel creepy, as this kind of "Clueless X person tells some weird tale they think is relevant to someone just because they have learned of that person's status as a [whatever]" incidents so very often do, so I flagged it, but if we're going to explicitly invite this stuff into the thread I would like to make an explicit vote for no thank you.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:12 PM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


goyim

There is the concept of the Shabbos goy, which to me isn't inherently bad or racist, but when used "in the community" I do generally cringe. I also see the term used by anti-Semites on other internet sites whenever certain news stories come up ('the goyim know, shut it down!!') which I truly find upsetting. Probably worth avoiding most of the time.

Can we get a recommendation for an appropriate and civil word for non-Jews? It would help to know what is acceptable.
posted by aryma


Non-Jews doesn't work? How do you describe non-Christians or non-Muslims?
posted by rosswald at 6:17 PM on January 15, 2015


heathen or infidel respectively?
posted by Justinian at 6:39 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't see how this is helpful, Justinian.
posted by kalessin at 6:43 PM on January 15, 2015


heathen or infidel

That'll go over well at the water cooler.
posted by rosswald at 6:45 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


What? If you're looking for a neutral descriptor you'd just go with "non-Christian" or "non-Muslim". Isn't that obvious?
posted by Justinian at 6:52 PM on January 15, 2015


heathen or infidel respectively?

If you're looking for a neutral descriptor you'd just go with "non-Christian" or "non-Muslim". Isn't that obvious?

I just went to Matthew to check, and yep - the word is 'people'. Of course, that's the whole of the nations. If you want something finer, according to my book you get to choose between 'sheep' and 'goat'. Not that what you say will matter, again according to the book I have here.
posted by timfinnie at 6:57 PM on January 15, 2015


This is getting weird. But I wanted to add another name to the list of Jewish MeFites who appreciates the discussion here, and who (up until this thread) didn't realize how much he was relying on Joe et al for the pushback here.

I love this community, and I've relied on it heavily to expand my worldview from the narrow, parochial one that I grew up with. This actually makes it hard for me to trust my own "anti-Semitism detector", since I do rely on metafilter to show me new ways of looking at things. But I'm glad that there are other people saying that comments about anti-Semitism and Judaism here can sometimes make them feel uncomfortable.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:55 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gentile.
posted by bq at 8:31 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can Joe post his deleted post again, since it was a highly topical one and shouldn't have been deleted in the first place, or isn't that how things are done here?

I'm not queued - I can rip the raw html out of the post and post it (with a few additions), if the issue is that it was Joe in Australia making it the first time. If that's ok with you, Joe.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:57 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you decide to do that, I suggest you do it during the day, when there is likely to be more mod coverage. Not late at night.
posted by zarq at 9:11 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have no problem with anyone doing it, although Zarq's suggestion seems wise.

As one would expect! Welcome back!

I just feel kind of weird doing it myself.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I actually think it would be more fitting and healing if it did come from you, Joe. Own the change you're inspiring, possum. Xx
posted by taff at 9:57 PM on January 15, 2015


samsies!
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 9:59 PM on January 15, 2015


Thanks for having this conversation. I've only seen a little of it on Metafilter (since it rarely rears its head in threads about comic books, weird music, or Chicago) but I've been noticing a creeping increase of both blatant and subtle antisemitism over the last year all over my IRL and URL lives. I am Jewish, pro-Palestinian, anti-Netanyahu with very mixed feelings on Israel.

In the last few months, in the less genteel (that's genteel, not gentile, waka waka) world of Facebook, I've seen friends and acquaintances post that Rabbis drink blood as part of a blood libel, that Israel caused 9/11, that Purim is a holiday where Jews celebrate "death to all goys", that the Holocaust never happened, that the Holocaust was not as bad as the history books say and that the gas chambers were for de-lousing, that all Jews receive reparations for the Holocaust, that the Jews are using their power to oppress black America, that Jews are using black Americans as pawns in their war on white Christians, and of course that we control the banks, the media, and (thru the Rothschilds, obbz), the Illuminati.

Some of these people were conspiracy nuts who I just needed to jettison, but they weren't all kooks. The last war in Gaza was a real turning point/trigger for a lot of folks. When people started turning to alternative media to get coverage that mainstream American media wasn't providing, a lot of racist propagandists seized the opportunity to sprinkle conspiracy in with fact.
posted by elr at 11:13 PM on January 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


>In the last few months, in the less genteel (that's genteel, not gentile, waka waka) world of Facebook, I've seen friends and acquaintances post that..[horrific shit here].

If this were posted in ask.metafilter, I would suggest you need new friends and acquaintances, because fuck that shit. (ie: DMTFA)
posted by el io at 11:40 PM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh believe me, between random, bonkers antisemitism and a lot of racism around the Ferguson verdict, there's been a lot of pruning of my friends list (and some ranting and some lectures when I thought a person wasn't irredeemable).
posted by elr at 12:21 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


The last war in Gaza was a real turning point/trigger for a lot of folks.

I might be the least politically correct person in the world, and for the longest time I could be found, among friends, referring to people in ways that could be regarded as offensive. It wasn't a big deal though, because we were doing it ironically, right? And as I don't really number any right wingers among my friends, I just assumed that the left/liberals I hung out with would never dream of using those words in the presence of people who'd be hurt by them.

At some point over the last couple of years, I started to suspect that some of my friends weren't actually being ironic at all. Not when it came to jews. All that stuff about the Rothschild's controlling the global economy and the repetition of various blood libels wasn't actually some sly ironic joking reference to the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, but they actually genuinely believed that shit.

Once I'd actually noticed it, I couldn't stop seeing it. Damn shit was everywhere. All over my Facebook feed, among people I'd previously thought were normal.

If this were posted in ask.metafilter, I would suggest you need new friends and acquaintances, because fuck that shit. (ie: DMTFA)

Well, initially I started out by pointing out what they were doing and saying was antisemitic and wasn't cool. Usually, they completely denied it. Generally, while doubling down on their antisemitism. The whole business of 'it's OK to criticize Israel/Zionists/Jews because they're actually a bunch of racist fucks engaged in ethnic cleansing' tended to be the first thing out of their mouths.

These days, anyone linking to stuff from davideyck.com just gets insta-deleted.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:43 AM on January 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Reason #3,461,804 that I'm glad I don't have a facebook account.
posted by el io at 3:37 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The last war in Gaza was a real turning point/trigger for a lot of folks.

Yeah, it seems the combination of protests against that war, nationalist/xenophobic parties becoming much more visible in Europe, and Internet increasingly partitioning into echo chambers where everyone can get their misconceptions confirmed and convince themselves that everyone actually shares their views has pushed this to some kind of tipping point; it's not just that there's a lot more anti-semitism being thrown around, people aren't even bothering to be subtle about it.

(heck, even small Sweden found themselves on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of 2014's ten worst global anti-semitic incidents after the deputy speaker of the Swedish parliament in an interview talked about how Jews might want to leave their Jewish identity behind if they want to be true Swedes, because you know, you have to make up your mind as to what nationality you want to belong to. Yeah, he represents a full-blown nationalist party with roots in white supremacy groups, but that party got enough votes to get him to that position, and those statements don't seem to have hurt them at all...)
posted by effbot at 3:41 AM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


For anyone who may think blood libel is a thing of the past, there is Ash-Shatat, a Syrian-produced TV series, which featured depictions of Jews killing Christians to make matzoh, which was shown in Syria, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, and, by satellite subscription, France. Here is Colbert's take on it in his Daily Show days.
posted by Partario at 4:11 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I ... don't think it's Facebook that makes people anti-semitic. I suspect it just gives you a way of finding out if they are. Which could be considered useful information.

Sarah Palin also accused... after looking it up, it was Gabrielle Giffords and her supporters in 2011, of blood libel when they made a point out of the 'gunsights aimed at the people we hate' thing. So it pops up in weird places.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:40 AM on January 16, 2015


Sarah Palin accused her critics of perpetrating a blood libel against her, and then when pressed on it she said that the idea that gun nuts cause murder is a blood libel because the definition of a blood libel is a false accusation that people have blood on their hands. That's super offensive and minimizes a thousand years of antisemitic violence, but she didn't actually imply that Jews kidnap and murder Christian babies to use their blood in matzoh.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:56 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's super offensive and minimizes a thousand years of antisemitic violence

I wouldn't be surprised if half of Sarah Palin's mental lexicon were made up of dubious folk etymologies. She probably didn't actually know what the blood libel is.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:28 AM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


The end of this thread (starting about here) is making me deeply uncomfortable. We are not into the tell heartwarming or kooky stories territory, we are not into make it about politics again territory, we are not into "give me a code word so I can show I'm on your team" territory, we are definitely not into use the Christian bible to define things about Jews territory (WTF?).
posted by stoneweaver at 6:32 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is what I would like to see stop here. Or at least be called out. People are dealing with the weirdness, but mostly people aren't also saying "This here is a problem, don't do it."
posted by stoneweaver at 6:33 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it was a few years ago, all I really remembered was that she clearly used it wrong but in a way that was indicative of some deeply troubling thought processes. Or more indicative, I guess.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:30 AM on January 16, 2015


Welcome back!

Thanks! And thank you to everyone else who said something similar.
posted by zarq at 7:32 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The kooky stories have a benefit in one respect: it is otherwise hard to persuade listener that there are a surprisingly large number of people who seriously believe that Jews have horns (yes) or drink blood or whatever. A big part of the problem, IMO, is that there's a line of logic that runs like this:

1) Nobody would believe the blood libel / Elders of Zion / Jews-have-horns story unless they were crazy;
2) We shouldn't be concerned about a few crazy people; therefore:
3) Jews' expressed concerns about anti-Semitism are unreasonable.

So it's actually good that people are chiming in with "no, I was actually surprised when my friend xxx turned out to believe that Jews use blood in secret satanic rituals." because there's another line of logic that starts with "these concerns are unreasonable" and ends with "Jews use these ridiculous claims as a means of control". It's the snake that eats its own tail.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:34 AM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


I used to think that the particularly cartoonish form of virulent anti-semitism was a dead issue because I've just never heard anyone express that kind of thing to me personally in the US (even from people who would drop the n-word at the drop of a hat), but when I was in Nicaragua, I had an extremely smart and educated local college student tell me that it wasn't my fault that the US did all those terrible things to central america, because everyone knows the Jews and Freemasons run everything. I didn't even know what to say. But the way she said it, it was like one of those 'common knowledge' facts that everyone just knows. It wasn't like she said it in some conspiratorial tone so that it wouldn't be overheard or anything.

So I know it exists out there in the world.
posted by empath at 7:38 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


zarq- I woulda said "Welcome back" too, but it seemed oddly self-serving since I knew you were coming back. But welcome back for this and future journeys with us. (Also note I woulda MeMailed you but that option is not open.)

Also I'm getting a lot out of this discussion and I'm happy to see it wind out as it normally would. Sure there's shittiness but when isn't there shittiness? I'll lend my shoulder to speak out against it when I see it unaddressed.
posted by kalessin at 7:45 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


1) Nobody would believe the blood libel / Elders of Zion / Jews-have-horns story unless they were crazy;
2) We shouldn't be concerned about a few crazy people; therefore:
3) Jews' expressed concerns about anti-Semitism are unreasonable.


I thought exactly along those lines before this thread. The blood libel really is batshit! I mean, seriously, who would believe it?! Apparently a lot of folks.
posted by Jpfed at 7:59 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's an example of the life-cycle of anti-semitism from Steven Salaita, the academic mentioned earlier:

Join me in a new hashtag? #ScarJosFavoriteSodaStreamFlavor

Note: this is a reference to Scarlett Johanssen, a Jewish actress who endorses Soda Stream. Here's the author's own example:

Palestinian blood orange!

OK, he's undoubtedly using the blood libel as a joke, but he wouldn't say it seriously, right?

Jewish mobs are kidnapping and murdering Palestinian children. There is no space on the hierarchy of oppression in which this is irrelevant.1

I suppose he might apologise or something if it were pointed out to him? No, this was his response:

I just got accused of blood libel. Isn't the fact that you're using a computer evidence enough that it's no longer the 19th century?

And then to round out the cycle:
If Zionists don't care that the world is "against" #Israel, then why do they spend so much time trying to silence its critics?

1 A Palestinian teenager had actually been kidnapped and murdered a few days earlier. It's the framing of the event and its amplification that makes it objectionable.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:13 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


And this is where things get tricky, because I don't believe that any mention of Palestinian blood or the blood of Palestinian children is necessarily a reference to the blood libel.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:19 AM on January 16, 2015


Great, because I don't believe that either! In this case, though, he said that Scarlett Johanssen relishes drinking the blood of Palestinian children. Ritual (or necessary, or habitual) consumption of blood is actually the central element of the blood libel. Lots of people that used the charge placed it in a political context: Jewish bankers or Jewish speculators or Jewish politicians; that doesn't somehow neutralise it.

I mean, people have used racist caricatures to demonise Obama; you wouldn't say that it's OK because they're making fun of a politician, would you?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:33 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I may return for a moment to clarify my own feelings about MetaFilter -- I don't think there is a real problem with overt expressions of antisemitism. I really haven't experienced any antisemites here, and I'm glad for that, because , as others have noted, they're out there, in America promulgating conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers and in the larger world cutting heads off Jewish journalists and attacking kosher bakeries.

The problem here, when it arises, and as has been mentioned, is a minimizing of discussions about antisemitism, or a refusal to engage them, or a presumption that the discussion is disingenuous. And that's where I think the question of privilege pops up.

The experience of Jews can be invisible in the US, because we're such a small group, and because our mechanism for addressing the subject tend to be addressed to other Jews, and because antisemitism isn't as dramatic or as visible as other forms of oppression. But, you know, my mother worked in a Jewish hospital in Minneapolis that was started because the other hospitals wouldn't hire Jews, so systemic oppression of Jews, while not being common nowdays, is still in living memory. And while I think outright antisemitic attacks are rare in this county, I know a woman who was killed in one, so they don't seem rare enough to ignore to me.

I suppose what I would ask is that people start taking seriously discussions of antisemitism when they arise. I have participated in a few on this site where my comments have repeatedly been dismissed and minimized, and it's agonizing to experience that, and purposeless. I have more than a little background in Judaism -- I am a product of a Yeshiva, and have considerable post-secondary education in the subject. I don't necessarily want non-Jews to agree with me on the subject, but I would appreciate some respect for the fact that I have both lived and educational experience that they do not share, and be afforded the same sort of respect that we offer to other minorities (sometimes; not always) when they raise issues of their own experiences. I don't throw around discussions of antisemitism lightly, but, oh my God, the largest discussion of the subject that happens on this site regarding the subject is endless, ad nauseum reminders that Jews throw around accusations of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel.

Can we stop doing that, to begin with? I mean, sure, if you see it actually happening on this site, call it out, but by making it our de facto primary discussion of antisemitism, it sends the message that for most mefites, they don't take the subject seriously, that they think it is sort of a dodge, a tactic, a trick. And for some, maybe it is, but does that matter on this site? Does it matter that some women discuss feminism exclusively to bully others, so much so that we must constantly alert people to be suspicious of any discussion of feminism? Does it matter that some black people will call out anything, no matter how innocent, as racism, so much so that we need to constantly remind people of the "race card" and that people apparently play it all the time?

No, we don't. We don't do either, and we shouldn't, because discussions of race and sexism on this site should be approached with seriousness, with gravity, and with a presumption that the people participating on this site raise the subject with earnestness, and, even if we disagree, we understand that they are raising it in good faith.

Is it impossible to extend the same generosity to discussions of antisemitism. I mean, I walked away from this discussion because somebody responded to a comment I made in earnest with the word "nonsense," and I don't really care that it was a Jew or not that did it -- it's exactly the same dismissiveness, refusal to engage, and presumption that my comments were somehow deliberately misreading somebody else that I have repeatedly experienced on this site, and are so discouraging. I have had it communicated to me, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly, that discussions of antisemtism will not be treated seriously on this site regarding this site will be dismissed or ignored.

Additionally, I have repeatedly experienced people on this site assert that something that happened in the rest of the world is antisemitic and been argued down, unthinkingly, reflexively, dismissively. I try, as a general policy, not to immediately dismiss accusations of oppression, especially from those who have experienced it, because I may not be savvy to the subterranean ways oppression can express itself that are invisible to those who don't experience it. But antisemtism is repeatedly not afforded the same presumption unless it is so overt as to be absurd.

Now, I know that everybody who experiences oppression deals with this. I see it in threads regarding women, trans issues, issues of people of color, etc. It's just part and parcel of living a nonmainstream experience and intereacting with mainstream privilege. But we Jews are a very tiny minority, and so it can be a lot harder to make our case, and sometimes we give up and leave a single person to make it for us, giving them the opportunity to be seen as a sort of rogue wild man in the wilderness railing repeatedly against imagined harms. And everybody is a little wrong, and the places where that person is wrong gets magnified, so it becomes easy to say, him, he's wrong about everything, he's just crying antisemitism where it doesn't exist.

It's a sort of bad feedback loop with diminishing returns, and so when it finally comes up in MeTa, like it did here, it sort of seems out of the blue (I guess literally). And I know people want us to be able to solve the problem we have raised with real, concrete suggestions, but I didn't make the problem and don't know how to solve it, except to ask that people take discussions of antisemitism a lot more seriously, no matter who raises them, and not assume that Jews are policing the site for antisemitic behavior and will point it out every time it comes up, but try to take some responsibility for their own awareness.

But I have been discouraged over and over again. If you read through my history on this site, under this name and under the names Bunny Ultramod and Astro Zombie, you will see me repeatedly requesting that we not make the statement that Jews use accusations of antisemtism to stifle criticism of Israel unless we are connecting it to something that actually affects the discussion. And yet how many times did that exact comment show up in this thread? How many more time will it be said? Will there ever be a moment where a mod steps in, ex cathedra or just representing themseves, to say "That's not a very helpful comment just now"?
posted by maxsparber at 8:44 AM on January 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


Respectfully, this meta is not about proving that one guy's an antisemite. It's how the mods should be handling antisemitism and anti-Jewish rhetoric on Mefi. If mefites are defending things Salaita has said about Jews in a thread on the Blue then we can address that.

And this is where things get tricky, because I don't believe that any mention of Palestinian blood or the blood of Palestinian children is necessarily a reference to the blood libel.\

Exaggerating facts (or making them up) in order to make it sound like "X is a horrific thing the Jews are doing to Palestinian children" is antisemitic. Whether it fits the dictionary definition of blood libel or not is besides the point. He should address what has actually happened without hatemongering. What actually happened was heinous and disgusting enough without anyone having to lie and make it sound worse than it was.

It's a deliberate attempt to vilify an entire people. That's racist. And people who would never, ever put up with that kind of racism if the target were nearly any other minority feel free to get their hate on with Jews for some godawful reason.

I have no problem with anyone calling out specific acts, using facts. But the moment people start bringing antisemitic tropes into a conversation, I worry about how far it will go. Jews have been persecuted, tortured and killed for *centuries* because non-Jews either made shit up wholesale, or deliberately had no sense of perspective. Do I think that's going to happen on or because of MeFi? No. But I also wouldn't want to be a member of any site, this one included, which had no problem allowing casual antisemitism to fester.
posted by zarq at 8:51 AM on January 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, nobody looked at all the images of Obama eating watermelon and said, well, I don't think they meant to be racist, even though every single person who used the watermelon imagery claimed they had no idea there was anything racist about it.

If you say a Jewish person consumes the blood or flesh of children, you are participating, knowingly or not, in the blood libel, and your innocence or intentions don't really matter. And when you're called on it, you apologize and educate yourself, rather than ignoring the criticism. Because no matter how just your cause, if you start using antisemtic tropes, even without meaning to, you're doing wrong, and, even if just for the sake of your cause, you should want to distance yourself from that as quickly as possible.

And I think this is an example of what I just mentioned. Listen, Jews are going to be sensitive to antisemtic tropes in a way that non-Jews won't. Many of the worst ones in history have buried themselves into weird little dog whistles among the truly terrible, but surface, sometimes accidentally, in mainstram conversation. And Jews have to be able to point out when that happens and be taken seriously and not have people simply so, well, he didn't mean it that way.

With oppression, it never matters how you meant it.
posted by maxsparber at 8:57 AM on January 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


For anyone who may think blood libel is a thing of the past, there is Ash-Shatat, a Syrian-produced TV series, which featured depictions of Jews killing Christians to make matzoh, which was shown in Syria, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, and, by satellite subscription, France. Here is Colbert's take on it in his Daily Show days.
posted by Partario


I had actually first learned about Alois Brunner here on Metafilter, and with the recent 'confirmation' of his death in Syria I had wanted to make a FPP about him and a bit of the history - but very quickly stopped myself when I realized that it would probably not be a post handled well here.
posted by rosswald at 9:28 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


1) Nobody would believe the blood libel / Elders of Zion / Jews-have-horns story unless they were crazy;
2) We shouldn't be concerned about a few crazy people; therefore:
3) Jews' expressed concerns about anti-Semitism are unreasonable.


I felt this way as well when I was younger. My parents would tell me stories and I would roll my eyes thinking, "Oh, that was way back in the mists of time - it doesn't happen any more."

I must have been pretty insulated having grown up in Brooklyn and South Florida, because when I went to college I found myself coming into contact with people who really did believe that Jews were somehow in control of the government and the media, that there was a Jewish conspiracy to control the world bank, and some even more insidious things.

Anti-Semitism is still alive and well in the US. I live with it daily. It's exhausting.

(welcome back zarq!)
posted by blurker at 9:29 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


And yet how many times did that exact comment show up in this thread? How many more time will it be said? Will there ever be a moment where a mod steps in, ex cathedra or just representing themseves, to say "That's not a very helpful comment just now"?

I hear you, and it's something that for example I'll be more mindful of in the future.

The question of this-thread-specifically is difficult because I think if we're hashing out a better understanding of where different people are coming from about this stuff it's necessarily gonna involve folks saying what they think, or what they think other people think, or what they think is in- vs out-of-bounds in a way, but I totally understand how it's obnoxious to hear that thing you're sick of come up repeatedly in a discussion about trying to improve the standards of discussion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


And people who would never, ever put up with that kind of racism if the target were nearly any other minority feel free to get their hate on with Jews for some godawful reason.

at the risk of being redundant, I feel the need to throw some focus on this, because it's at the root of my concerns here. Because it's true. If you're reading through this thread with any skepticism at all, please take a good long pause and think about it. Whatever evils the state of Israel and/or Zionism may have perpetrated (are perpetrating), the criticism of them that I experience here at Metfilter generally feels out of proportion when compared to the evil of other states and ideologies.
posted by philip-random at 10:31 AM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


That's my impression as well. Israel seems to get singled out on Metafilter in ways that other countries are not. Consider, for example, the thread about the last incursion into Gaza. Some of the responses were extraordinarily overwrought. Yet the government of Ukraine was indiscriminately killing even more civilians at essentially the same time with barely a whisper. Hell, many people were actively rooting for them because of Russia's involvement on the "other side".

But "it's weird how you react this way to the bad actions of one nation but not to the bad actions of another nation" is a very difficult argument to make even if I think its a legitimate one. Because the natural response is that the actions being criticized are often actions which deserve criticism. But, yeah, it's still weird how over the top the reaction is compared to other countries which do the same kind of thing.

"We expect better from the Jewish People of Israel" is kinda racist in the same way that "Asians are really good at math!" is kinda racist. Sure, it's ostensibly a positive statement but...
posted by Justinian at 10:59 AM on January 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


For Americans anyway, I have assumed that some of that focus is because Israel is such a close US ally; it's talked about in US news and politics; it's similar to the US in speaking English, being a democracy with a lot of common cultural touchpoints to the US, a university system that's comparable to/integrated with the western universities, a lot of people in the US have family/friends/colleagues there, etc. There's more connection. The Americans in my immediate circle who are inclined to criticize Israeli military actions that harm civilians are also inclined to criticize US actions the same way in very strong terms, and from a perspective of "these are 'our guys' (our soldiers or our allies' soldiers) doing this, so we feel extra stung/bad/involved about it"... whereas that's not true of Ukraine or majority-Muslim countries etc, so Americans don't feel as responsible/attuned/involved about bad actions taken by those governments.

I don't know. Maybe I'm being naive about how many critics outside my immediate circle are motivated by that sense of closeness/connection/responsibility, as opposed to prejudice or weird ideas about Jewish people.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:24 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


LobsterMitten -- I originally had an extra paragraph in my last comment that said pretty much what you have here. In other words, I agree. I think some (perhaps much) of the Israeli/Zionist criticism at Metafilter comes from this close association of USA and Israel (ie: that's our cousins doing that evil shit, we can't just stand here and let them get away with it). But it's also sort of the tipping point, the edge of the slippery slope. The justifiable outrage at Israel's actions somehow (in some precarious grey area) fuses with some unexamined anti-Jewish xenophobia and becomes unjustified, becomes ugly.

It's like, if this was a ski hill, there would be an area marked "out of bounds" which, from the safe side, wouldn't look dangerous at all. And yet based on past disasters, it would be known to be very much so.
posted by philip-random at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


> when I went to college I found myself coming into contact with people who really did believe that Jews were somehow in control of the government and the media, that there was a Jewish conspiracy to control the world bank, and some even more insidious things.

I had this same experience when I went to Taiwan to teach—I had thought my girlfriend was paranoid about anti-Semitism because all that overt stuff was in the past, and then I was confronted by the fact that (so far as I could determine) every single person in my classes believed all that rich/conspiracy/banker stuff, straight out of the Protocols, and none of them even knew any Jews (that they knew of), it was just in the air, something everyone assumed. A real eye-opener. I wound up spending an entire class period on it: "How do you feel when Westerners say prejudiced things about Chinese people? Well..." (And then I moved to NYC and saw the Protocols being sold openly at a parade. Life continues to educate me.)
posted by languagehat at 11:36 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hasten to add - I don't mean to invalidate what other people were saying above. I'm just thinking this through to get a handle on my own assumptions about what's behind the words we read on the page from people here. Eg PeterMcDermott's and empath's stories ("I assumed my friends were obviously just kidding about the things they said, but it turned out they were serious"). I try to read everybody's comments around here with the most charitable possible interpretation, and it's hard to know how to reconcile that with the possibility that there are unexpectedly-to-me many people who really believe transparently false and awful things. It throws off my interpret-o-meter. So my 'I don't know' is sincere.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:41 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


An exercise.

This is the I/P thread mentioned upthread, when Israel bombed Gaza last year.

Take the five bullet points from the Yad Vashem educational pdf on anti-semitism I linked to upthread:
Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel, taking into account the overall context, could include:

• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour;

• Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation;

• Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis;

• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis;

• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

See how many of them show up in one form or another in that thread.

Quite a few.

Those aren't the only anti-semitic tropes raised. Of note: the "controls the media/propaganda" conspiracy theory.
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on January 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


For what it's worth, if you have a strong stomach and a fireproof trashcan, I almost sort of recommend The Turner Diaries as an example of how these things spread. I won't link to it. It's the novel that inspired Timothy McVeigh to carry out the Oklahoma City bombings, and it is straight-out hate speech, racist and anti-semitic and homophobic and you name it, he hates it. But the way the logic as it pertains to Jews is so well laid out and insidious, it really opened my eyes to how hard this can be to combat. Jews are evil, but they're sneaky and because they pass as white, they are able to pose as regular people to convert them to their liberal degenerate viewpoint. If you disagree with any of the previous sentence, that's proof that they've already gotten to you and you just don't realize it. Because they're that poisonous, that they can actually make their values make sense to you. That's why they need to all be killed, even the kids, even people with only one Jewish relative. Because once you start believing they're just people like everyone else, you've already been infected. You don't need to make the leap to blood libel to find how the fact that we are outsiders is never allowed to rest.

And this is coming from the Right, so the unconscionable Jewish values are things like racial equality, gay rights, feminism, abortion rights, and other liberal issues. Which is sort of funny in light of how criticism from the Left tends to be the opposite: Jews are racist, they have no concept of justice, they believe in ethnic cleansing, they treat women like second class citizens, etc. You can't win.
posted by Mchelly at 11:50 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


And this is where things get tricky, because I don't believe that any mention of Palestinian blood or the blood of Palestinian children is necessarily a reference to the blood libel.

Here is a specific way that my thoughts have changed since reading this MeTa: While I agree with you, and have always agreed with you, I now see why I should be very careful in discussing those things to avoid framing them in ways which help reinforce blood libel. "Not doing it on purpose" isn't enough; it's in "be extremely thoughtful and deliberate so that you don't even do it by accident" territory.
posted by KathrynT at 11:52 AM on January 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


Sorry, I meant to link to the entire thread, not some random comment.
posted by zarq at 11:54 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think comparing Israel to Nazi germany, while tasteless and insensitive, is not necessarily anti-semitic, depending on whether the behavior your talking about is actually comparable to something that happened in Nazi germany.
posted by empath at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


All sorts of things happened in Nazi Germany. I would suggest that unless it's something that defined Nazi German, was never done by anybody else, and Israel is unique in now doing it again, it's an especially nasty parallel to make. There are other parallels that can be made, and, unless Naziism is the only possible comparison, the others are probably better -- and will be taken more seriously.

Onto a different point: I will tell you what I have repeatedly seen: American Jews who do not support the actions of Israel, many of whom do not identify as Zionist, seeing behavior in a discussion of Israel that brings up antisemitic tropes, mentioning their discomfort, and being shouted down as trying to squelch criticism. And then, when they press on, even if they make their point, they are told it is the fault of other Jews that they are not taken seriously, because other Jews have ruined all discussions of antisemitism as far as Israel is concerned by calling things antisemitic when they aren't.

This has allowed actual antisemitism to fester in I/P discussions, and, really, it isn't the Jews fault -- you know, those other Jews that we always hear about who play the antisemitism card all the time. It's the fault of people who say antisemitic things and other people who refuse to take it seriously, and the fault of people who shout down that discussion.

I know there are, in fact, people who say "antisemitism" where they mean "criticism of Israel." But that's pretty easy to distinguish. Was the thing that was said antisemitic? Then it isn't just an attempt to squelch criticism. Are you not sure if it was antisemitic? Ask for clarification, and then do some additional research.

Because otherwise your valid criticism of Israel are being poisoned by Jew-hating, and I would think nobody would want that.
posted by maxsparber at 12:23 PM on January 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


Well, if the Israelis ever do attempt to indiscriminately identify, condemn (using an Aryan "one drop rule,") round up and kill every Palestinian on Earth in ovens and gas chambers, feel free to make an accurate comparison.

Until then, you'll have to excuse those of us who lost family in actual concentration camps during WWII for thinking that such remarks are a lot worse than "tasteless and insensitive."
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on January 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


I agree with that on theoretical principle, empath, but there have been so many egregiously shitty regimes and nations throughout history, that I feel like pretty much any valid criticism of Israel can be just as well served by another analogy. It's not like, unfortunately, there's a shortage of government-perpetuated-horrors or inter-ethnic strife or ghettoization or oppressive classifications of humans out there, picking the Nazis seems inescapably inflammatory.

Frankly, I feel like anyone who is only able to come up with Nazis as an example, even and maybe especially if it's not intended to be a deliberate provocation, is likely to be so caught up in black-and-white narratives and lacking awareness of any of the background historical context of I/P that their criticism or comparison isn't likely to be particularly valid anyway. They'd take in both before and after the war, and wound up lending support to recognition of Israel I think the way Nazis have been depicted in American media specifically, which then became at least a background subtext to a lot of global media, has done a massive disservice to everyone because of that lurking connotation of "cartoonish evil".
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:31 PM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you're looking for a device to score some points, I suggest going with "running the world's largest open-air prison camp" rather than questionable Nazi parallels.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:35 PM on January 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think comparing Israel to Nazi germany, while tasteless and insensitive, is not necessarily anti-semitic, depending on whether the behavior your talking about is actually comparable to something that happened in Nazi germany.

[on preview, what maxsparber and zarq et al. have said above me]

I'm not Jewish, but it seems to me that that particular comparison is in fact inherently anti-Semitic.

Using the Holocaust and associated events as comparisons for anything where millions of people aren't systematically murdered seems really, really wrong to me.

What's being perpetuated by the Israeli state on the people of Palestine is wrong. And it should be called such. However, we have thousands of words and untold metaphors and similes we can use without Nazi Germany being necessary.

Given the horrific associations that that term conjures up, and assuming the speaker/writer isn't actively racist, the only other reason to use the comparison is as an ill-advised rhetorical flourish against Jews. AKA being anti-Semitic.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Using the Holocaust and associated events as comparisons for anything where millions of people aren't systematically murdered seems really, really wrong to me.

Yes, but people compare all kinds of atrocities, present and historical, to nazi germany, because it's generally agreed upon that it's the worst thing that ever happened to anyone.
posted by empath at 12:56 PM on January 16, 2015


> Yes, but people compare all kinds of atrocities, present and historical, to nazi germany, because it's generally agreed upon that it's the worst thing that ever happened to anyone.

People do all sorts of dumb and counterproductive things that we should not imitate.
posted by languagehat at 1:03 PM on January 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


Yes, but people compare all kinds of atrocities, present and historical, to nazi germany, because it's generally agreed upon that it's the worst thing that ever happened to anyone.

But there is special meaning when you compare the Jewish state to the Nazis. It would be true as well if you compared Roma people, disabled people, or GLBT people to Nazis. They were specifically targeted by the Nazis, and so one should be particularly cautious with that comparison.
posted by maxsparber at 1:03 PM on January 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think comparing Israel to Nazi germany, while tasteless and insensitive, is not necessarily anti-semitic, depending on whether the behavior your talking about is actually comparable to something that happened in Nazi germany.

What I notice is that people seem drawn to the Israel/Germany comparison when they do not compare other states which do analogous things to Nazi Germany. I really can't think of a nasty thing that the state of Israel has done that isn't matched by recent acts by the US, for instance, and yet I hear comparisons of Israel and Germany far, far more often (and far, far earlier in the conversation) than I hear comparisons of the US and Germany. This seems like it's structural antisemitism, if nothing else - it is going to create a climate in the conversation where Jewish participants are primed to feel extra anxious/bad/messed-with/conflicted in ways that non-Jewish participants are not. It seems, at minimum, antisemitic because it's going to create a feeling that the conversation could spin off into blood libel, etc, any minute, and that creates minority stress//microaggressive climate, etc.

Also, I think it seems to create the feeling that the state of Israel is a special case, that it has some particular responsibility of behavior over and above what other states do because of the history of Jews and the Holocaust. I don't think you can get around giving that impression when you bring in Nazis. I'm not sure that's exactly what people have in mind when they say "antisemitism" but "you have a responsibility to act better than everyone else because you are Different" seems like a bad narrative.
posted by Frowner at 1:26 PM on January 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


There are ways that the Holocaust was unique, but I'm generally uncomfortable with saying that anything in human experience "was the worst". It would, e.g., be hard to tell a survivor of Cambodia's Year Zero that what they experienced wasn't the worst.

The problem with using hyperbole ("the worst") in relation to Jews or to Israel is that the idea of Jews being "the worst" is a staple of Christian anti-Semitism. After all, they killed God! That's the worst thing anyone could possibly do! A whole lot of consequences flow from this accusation, including the fact that no defense can be made, no expiation obtained (except baptism), and there's no punishment that is too much. Because the Jews' crime was The Worst. This claim also a source of the blood libel: in Matthew 27:25 the Jewish crowd at Jesus' trial shout "His blood be upon us and upon our children!" One version of the blood libel is that, believe it or not, that Jews literally need to consume blood, because they're hemophiliacs or something.

So to the extent that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is a way of saying that Israel Is The Worst, that echoes a classic anti-Semitic trope. But as far as I can tell - having asked some people - it often isn't hyperbole. They really do mean that Israel's actions are the very worst that anyone has done, except possibly Nazi Germany. That, I think, is so irrational that it edges into blood libel territory all by itself.

Incidentally, it would be offensive even if it were just hyperbole. The people who make the comparison very often go on to add insult to injury by asking "how these people who were persecuted could become like Nazis themselves". So it's specifically Jews and Nazis that they're focusing on; they're making the analogy because they specifically want to compare the two.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:30 PM on January 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


empath: “Yes, but people compare all kinds of atrocities, present and historical, to nazi germany, because it's generally agreed upon that it's the worst thing that ever happened to anyone.”

I'm just really going to be echoing Joe in Australia here, but –

That's not the subtext of comparisons between Nazi Germany and Israel.

When somebody says "Microsoft is literally Hitler," the subtext is "Microsoft is the worst." When somebody says "anti-abortion nuts act like Nazis," the subtext is "anti-abortionists are the worst and the most violently restrictive."

But when somebody says "Israel is behaving just like Nazi Germany!" the subtext is – "isn't it ironic? They have become exactly the same as the people they hate!" People don't compare Israel to Nazi Germany simply because Nazism is hyberbolic evil; they compare Israel to Nazi Germany because they find that irony irresistible. And that's the trouble. Look back at the subtext at the beginning of this paragraph: who is "they" in that sentence? The only reasonable conclusion is the irony is supposed to be that "Jews" took the place of "Nazis". If so, that's a ridiculously hyperbolic description of the worst Israel could be guilty of – not to mention an untenable and even execrable identification of "the Jews" with "the state of Israel," extending to the level of making Jews some sort of international conspiracy that has become genocidal.

When we pay attention to those subtexts, it becomes clear that comparisons between the state of Israel and Nazi Germany are almost invariably anti-Semitic. It's another one of these insidious things: a comparison that seems sort of innocuous in its ridiculousness, but that becomes monstrous when we examine it closely.
posted by koeselitz at 2:01 PM on January 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


But there is special meaning when you compare the Jewish state to the Nazis.

I think what I also find especially creepy is that, whether or not people mean to, they are essentially shoring up some people's propaganda wagons, because there are real people in the world right the fuck now, who use the Gaza situation to point at the Holocaust and say "well they kind of deserved it." And fuck those people sideways. So when you, even unintentionally, say "Man, the state of Israel, full of Jews, is acting just like the Nazis, who did it to the Jews" you are effectively minimizing how awful and terrible the Holocaust was and also blaming the victims to a certain extent.

When people say "Jews suffered through the Holocaust, they and "their state" should treat other people better" - and this is a real thing that gets said! - they are being anti-Semitic, by demanding a higher standard for the Jewish people than they demand from others. And disgustingly anti-Semitic, by demanding that the victims of violence prove themselves more noble than everyone else in order to deserve sympathy or respect or be treated as an equal.
posted by corb at 2:09 PM on January 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Again, I think it's a problematic comparison. I don't make it. However, I don't think it is motivated by anti-semitism primarily, and accusing people of being anti-semitic when they make it just serves to shut-down conversation. And this sort of thing is one of the reasons I just never talk about I/P issues here anymore, because it's a goddamned minefield.
posted by empath at 2:12 PM on January 16, 2015


People can make anti-semitic statements without being motivated primarily by anti-semitism in exactly the same way that they can make misogynistic statements without being motivated primarily by misogyny.
posted by Justinian at 2:19 PM on January 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


empath: "Again, I think it's a problematic comparison. I don't make it. However, I don't think it is motivated by anti-semitism primarily, and accusing people of being anti-semitic when they make it just serves to shut-down conversation. And this sort of thing is one of the reasons I just never talk about I/P issues here anymore, because it's a goddamned minefield."

There are plenty of people directly above your comment who are explaining precisely how it's antisemitic. This is starting to look like one of those things where you're digging in your heels against actual evidence, damn the torpedoes.
posted by scrump at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I believe maxsparber, Joe in Australia, koeselitz, and corb have made it very clear why making that particular comparison really is different than just hyperbolically indicating something is "the worst thing ever." Their responses are pretty clear on that front. I'm not sure why defending the right to compare Israel to Nazi Germany as "not anti-Semitic" is an important argument to make.
posted by blurker at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I am saying is that 90% of the time, especially on a site like this, the comparison is just run of the mill Godwinning.
posted by empath at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2015


I never know what somebody intended. I only know what they did.
posted by maxsparber at 2:23 PM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


empath: "What I am saying is that 90% of the time, especially on a site like this, the comparison is just run of the mill Godwinning."

You are in no position to be saying that, unless you've gone through the entire database and run some sort of analysis.

Furthermore, I find it unlikely that even just in YOUR experience, it's "90% of the time".

Let me be as clear as possible: you are showing your ass with this particular sub-issue, and getting it handed to you. You may want to stop digging.
posted by scrump at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why is it impossible for Godwinning and anti-Semitism to coexist?
posted by blurker at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can I just say that it is starting to really bother me how each time the subject of Israel comes up, it feels like Jews need to state that we think that Israel is truly horrible in order to have whatever comes next be taken seriously?

I feel a huge amount of despair at the suffering of Palestinians. I believe in and hope for a 2 state solution. But frankly, I do not believe that either side has completely clean hands. Hamas are not the good guys here, and they're not negligible. Fatah either can't or won't govern. Some of this can be laid politically in Israel's lap. But not all of it. I am horrified by seeing so many kids being kllled. And being forced to hide in bomb shelters for hours a day every day. And being unable to go to school because someone decided that would be a good place to store missiles or launch them. Israel could have achieved all their military objectives in Gaza far more easily - and more quickly - without a ground war. But thousands more civilians would have been killed. They chose to send troops in to go door to door, at a cost of dozens of Israeli soldiers' lives. That doesn't make it okay. But I also don't consider that the action of a marauding morality-free nation.

For whatever reason, and I think LobsterMitten did a good job of summarizing some possibilities for why, Israel is being held to a higher standard than any other nation, while I feel like it's considered to be bad form to call any attention to the actions of Hamas at all.

And while I get that that is the trend of liberal discourse right now (and I'm saying this as a die-hard liberal) (which it also bugs the heck out of me that I feel I have to mention), it also creates a sense that only a Jew who is anti-Israel can be taken seriously about anti-semitism, because otherwise they must be one of those Jews who throws the word around just to deflect attention away from Israel's actions. That is someone Jewish is unabashedly pro-Israel, anything they have to say about anti-semitism w/r/t Israel is immediately bankrupt. I've already been accused of that upthread, and I'm not a cheerleader, just a cynical realist. And it sucks.

Anyhow I'm Orthodox, and sundown's approaching, so I'm out for the next 25 hours or so. So don't misinterpret my imminent lengthy silence to any responses to this post as anything other than absence :)

In any case, I really appreciate this whole discussion and am grateful especially to the non-Jewish MeFites who participated with so much insight and openness.
posted by Mchelly at 2:24 PM on January 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


This is a weird disconnect. There was a time on Metafilter when it was de rigueur for posts involving attractive women, regardless of the context, to include some people saying that they were really hot. It was, as you say, run of the mill. They weren't setting out to be misogynistic. But that doesn't mean they weren't being that way.
posted by Justinian at 2:25 PM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


(Obviously this is in reference to the idea that "run of the mill" Godwinning by people who aren't setting out to be anti-Semitic can't still be making anti-Semitic statements)
posted by Justinian at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2015


I don't think it is motivated by anti-semitism primarily, and accusing people of being anti-semitic when they make it just serves to shut-down conversation

I would encourage you to examine why you feel that, though. Would you say the same thing about sexism, or racism, or classism, if you encountered it? "I don't think their motive was racist, so accusing them of saying racist things serves to shut down conversation"

If you would not be okay with someone saying that, then why are you okay with someone saying it about anti-Semitism? Is it because you believe anti-Semitism isn't as important, or as wrong?
posted by corb at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


empath: and accusing people of being anti-semitic when they make it

No, what happens on Metafilter is people say the comparison is antisemitic. People have only very, very rarely been called antisemites here, and when they have, they usually defend themselves very angrily and vehemently. We've seen at least one or two metatalk posts and comments made by mefites, absolutely furious because they thought they were accused of antisemitism.

I'd like you to please consider that when a Jew identifies an argument as antisemitic, speaks their concerns about it, and has those concerns subsequently dismissed, that is a silencing tactic perpetrated against a minority. It's a punch down, if you will.

Now, if you've read this entire thread, you know that allowing such behavior to continue on metafilter unchallenged sends a wide range of possible messages to many other Jews who read it. From 'hate speech and casual antisemitism towards people like me are accepted and cannot be challenged on Metafilter' to 'my discomfort with this doesn't matter to anyone, and especially not the mods' to 'i am not welcome here.'

I don't know why anyone would be comfortable with that dynamic, especially since there are a myriad better ways to express one's feelings and political positions.
posted by zarq at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


For whatever reason, and I think LobsterMitten did a good job of summarizing some possibilities for why, Israel is being held to a higher standard than any other nation, while I feel like it's considered to be bad form to call any attention to the actions of Hamas at all.

I think Israel is held to approximately the same standard as any other western nation, and I would say the palestinian situation is treated about the same as the apartheid situation was in South Africa. Yes, Israel is treated to a much higher standard than it's neighbors, but that's largely because it's a western-style liberal democracy, whereas most of its neighbors are dictatorships, and it's perceived, rightly or wrongly that the actions of Israel reflect upon the US in ways that the actions of Egypt and Saudi Arabia aren't (and perhaps should be.)

I think the same people here that are critical of the Israeli treatment of palestinians are equally critical of US immigration policy, drone attacks and Guantanamo and the Iraq war.
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Again, I think it's a problematic comparison. I don't make it. However, I don't think it is motivated by anti-semitism primarily, and accusing people of being anti-semitic when they make it just serves to shut-down conversation. And this sort of thing is one of the reasons I just never talk about I/P issues here anymore, because it's a goddamned minefield."

I'm going to quote what corb just wrote, although several other people preceding her also made this point very eloquently:

"When people say 'Jews suffered through the Holocaust, they and "their state" should treat other people better' - and this is a real thing that gets said! - they are being anti-Semitic, by demanding a higher standard for the Jewish people than they demand from others. And disgustingly anti-Semitic, by demanding that the victims of violence prove themselves more noble than everyone else in order to deserve sympathy or respect or be treated as an equal."

I will admit -- and it's unpleasant to admit this -- that my criticism of Israel has been framed in my head (and, for all I know, I've expressed it to others) in these terms. Honestly, it's generally very tempting to criticize the actions of any oppressed group in these terms ("they. of all people, should know and do better"), for all sorts of reasons and, yes, absolutely, if you stop and think about it it's a deeply problematic response and framing which reveals and perpetuates an aspect of the structural oppression.

And it's striking to me how hard it is for people to take a step back and go, okay, that's a good argument, you're making a point about something I didn't realize before and which reveals some problematic thinking on my part, and now I know and I won't do it again. Instead, they harp on this "it's not intentional and, anyway, it's sort of reasonable" defense. This happens all the time in similar discussions, not just this one.

So much gets better when you learn to begin to question your own defensiveness whenever you find yourself in the position of stumbling over this sort of thing. Believe me, I know this from difficult personal experience.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Until then, you'll have to excuse those of us who lost family in actual concentration camps during WWII for thinking that such remarks are a lot worse than "tasteless and insensitive."

To echo something a lot of people have already said here: please don't rhetorically conscript all of Jewish history onto your side of an argument about political rhetoric like this. There are Jews who lost family in concentration camps who disagree with you quite seriously both about this specific question and about the broader topic of how to define anti-Semitism. (I'm one, right here.) You can believe you're educating people and fighting against anti-Semitism here, I can believe you're promulgating unreasonable, overbroad, highly politically loaded definitions of anti-Semitism that will have terrible consequences for open political debate — and that's a question that everyone here should be permitted to debate without any of us bringing our dead relatives into it. You're not any more in the right because of them, nor am I (though of course both of us may have strong feelings about the matter as a result).

People do all sorts of dumb and counterproductive things that we should not imitate.

The question is not "Is making this comparison usually a smart idea, rhetorically productive, and in good taste, and should we do it more?" That has an obvious answer: no, it's ridiculously loaded, generally stupid and insensitive rhetoric, often revealing of historical shallowness if not utter pig-ignorance, and people would be well advised to be extremely fucking careful indeed about it. But the question being discussed is "Is making this comparison always, ipso facto, anti-Semitic?" (And hence automatically deletion-worthy.) The answer to this is also pretty clearly no.

People should be, and are, allowed to make all kinds of stupid arguments on MetaFilter — and there are all kinds of really stupid arguments, even really stupid arguments about Nazi Germany or Israel or both, that are not anti-Semitic. It's an important distinction to make.

it seems to create the feeling that the state of Israel is a special case, that it has some particular responsibility of behavior over and above what other states do

This discussion really seems like it's leading some otherwise-politically-left-identified MeFites to embrace a bunch of right-wing talking points like this one, which is straight from the hasbara playbook. I sincerely don't mean to pick on you specifically but it's really dismaying to see how much of this kind of rhetoric and sentiment (for drawing severe rhetorical limits on criticism of the state of Israel, being quick to impute anti-Semitic "subtexts" to it, etc.) is coming out here toward the bottom of the thread, even after all the protestations above that asked people not to keep pointing out that talking about anti-Semitism is deployed for political purposes in exactly this way — that it's deployed as a way of moving the goalposts on acceptable Western discourse about Israel and Palestine. I am really glad to see a lot of very well-intentioned understanding, and heartfelt political sentiment, coming from a lot of people in this thread, but I will be sad if all this newfound consciousness of real people's diverse lives and experiences is converted into either more sympathy for state-violence apologia or curtailing of the range of acceptable political views to express on this site.
posted by RogerB at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Motivated by anti-semitism" means a few different things, only one of which is "deliberately intended to be anti-semitic". Another is "powered by anti-semitic ideology", whether or not the speaker themself is aware of its origins. You don't have to be conscious of the history of women in asylums to make a culturally routine comment about some girl just being hysterical because it's her time of the month, but that trope reinforces a subtextual and extremely harmful narrative. You don't have to willfully invoke the persecution of the Roma to talk about getting gypped.
posted by Errant at 2:39 PM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think the same people here that are critical of the Israeli treatment of palestinians are equally critical of US immigration policy, drone attacks and Guantanamo and the Iraq war.

I disagree that the rhetoric is the same and I say that as someone who is harshly critical of US foreign policy. The last Gaza thread linked to in this Meta has people talking about how Israel is intent on "exterminating" the Palestinians. And so on. If you can show me where people talk about the USA being intent on exterminating all Muslims or even exterminating all Afghanis or Iraqis I'm all ears and will change my tune.
posted by Justinian at 2:42 PM on January 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


that's a question that everyone here should be permitted to debate without any of us bringing our dead relatives into it.

I want to highlight this, because it is an example of the kind of thing that I find problematic - and I would flag, if it weren't in MeTa. It is, essentially, arguing that an oppressed group should not bring up their lived experience - which includes something as horrific as the bigoted murder of relatives - because it might make the conversation too difficult to deal with, because their suffering is "too loaded."

Being a member of the oppressed group does not give you a free pass to suggest that other members of that class should be silenced or ignored. You are free, yourself, to refrain from bringing up those experiences, but it is not okay to ask - much less insist - that others do so.
posted by corb at 2:46 PM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


People should be, and are, allowed to make all kinds of stupid arguments on MetaFilter

But they're not.

When a Jew argues that a statement is antisemitic, even if they provide evidence to explain why, they get attacked for it. Often by multiple people. Every fucking time. No matter how gently they raise the subject. They get accused of all sorts of nefarious bullshit that is not happening from silencing debate, being politically biased, to calling people antisemites, when they are doing none of those things. If the mods bother to act, they typically announce that everyone is at fault, and shut down all debate. So they're effectively telling people who are targets of hate speech to sit down and shut up.

You and I disagree. I don't speak for you and that's fine. But I left the site because of this dynamic, and won't remain unless it changes. Until that happens, I'm going to speak my mind.
posted by zarq at 2:51 PM on January 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


> Can I just say that it is starting to really bother me how each time the subject of Israel comes up, it feels like Jews need to state that we think that Israel is truly horrible in order to have whatever comes next be taken seriously?

I feel a huge amount of despair at the suffering of Palestinians. I believe in and hope for a 2 state solution. But frankly, I do not believe that either side has completely clean hands.


I am in complete sympathy with your feelings on the subject, but I think you may be misinterpreting the situation. I'm pretty sure (at least, I really really hope) that everyone here would agree that neither side has completely clean hands, and I don't think that any of the Jews here have been saying Israel is truly horrible (at least, I really really hope not). I suspect you're exaggerating to make a point, which is of course standard practice and goodness knows I've done it myself many a time, but I would urge you to avoid it not out of concern for the rhetorical purity of MetaTalk (bless us every one) but just to keep from feeling any worse than you have to. Try to assume that even people who get heated about the actions of Israel (as you apparently do yourself on occasion) would be happy to say their opponents also do bad things; it's true the focus around here is more often on the former (hence, in part, this post), but the one does not exclude the other.

In any event, I hope you're having a good Sabbath!
posted by languagehat at 3:09 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Being a member of the oppressed group does not give you a free pass to suggest that other members of that class should be silenced or ignored. You are free, yourself, to refrain from bringing up those experiences, but it is not okay to ask - much less insist - that others do so.

I'm confused as to why you think it is okay for someone who is not in the oppressed class (you) to tell someone (RogerB) what not to say, when you're simultaneously saying that him doing something similar is "silencing".
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:28 PM on January 16, 2015


I'm confused as to why you think it is okay for someone who is not in the oppressed class (you) to tell someone (RogerB) what not to say, when you're simultaneously saying that him doing something similar is "silencing".

Well, what RogerB is saying is "don't say that", so I really don't think you can call it anything other than silencing. In-group or out-group status shouldn't matter when it comes to any of this: "you can't bring up your experiences" is silencing bullshit, no matter who it's said by and who it's said to.

I got into this debate because Lemurrhea pulled an "as a Jew, I" vote against what I'd felt vehemently for some time about how MeFi handles anti-Semitism and Jewish issues, and I don't think RogerB should feel compelled to talk about his dead ancestors if he doesn't want to or that he should be kept from it if he does want to, no one is suggesting that, but the fact that he doesn't feel comfortable doing it (which I understand) doesn't mean it's legitimate to say "don't do this".

And look, if you feel like Jewish MeFites you disagree with are overrepresented in this thread and presuming to speak for you, speak the hell up. My reaction to Lemurrhea wasn't "how dare you presume to speak up as a Jew while disagreeing with me! by not disclaiming that you're only speaking for yourself, recounting your personal experiences and how they informed your reaction means you are presuming to speak for me!", it was like, well, okay I'm a Jew too, here's my experience, I disagree, neither of us is more valid than the other. I don't see what's so fucking offensive about that being a reasonable expectation for this kind of discussion, no matter the group in question.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:34 PM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, Israel is treated to a much higher standard than it's neighbors, but that's largely because it's a western-style liberal democracy, whereas most of its neighbors are dictatorships, and it's perceived, rightly or wrongly that the actions of Israel reflect upon the US in ways that the actions of Egypt and Saudi Arabia aren't (and perhaps should be.)
posted by empath


I feel like I only hear the "is a Western liberal democracy, and therefore deserves more scrutiny" line when it comes to Israel. I can't recall having seen someone say "China has human rights problems, but it isn't a democracy..." Nor do I hear criticisms leveled at 'democratic' South American or Central Asian countries with severe human rights issues, or even Eastern European nations, with the same viciousness as those at Israel.

And as you even point out, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are examples of states with with at least similar US backing to that of Israel. The relationship between the US, "the West," and Saudi Arabia is significant and (obviously) predates even the existences of Israel. And since the 1970's Camp David Accords, Egypt is very much under US hegemony and is another large receiver of US military aide.

To me the "is a Western liberal democracy" framing has always just seemed a fig leaf...
posted by rosswald at 7:16 AM on January 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


... Internet hasbara ... hasbara playbook ...

Might just be that I spend too much time keeping an eye on conpiracy nutters, but I find seeing "hasbara" being thrown around in this thread a bit disconcerting, given how established it's become as a synonym for "(paid) Israeli/zionist shill" in the more conspiracy-minded and outright racist parts of the anti-Israel crowd, see e.g. how it's usually used on reddit (note the subreddits). It's basically used to accuse people of 1) only commenting to shut down the debate, 2) not even believing their own arguments, since it's all just government propaganda, and 3) lying about who they are and what motivates them.

(Thus of course being an attempt to do exactly what they're accusing the other side of doing, but that's par for the course in conspiracy circles...)
posted by effbot at 9:23 AM on January 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


RogerB, I think you are in a distinct minority among Jewish people who think that comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany is not incredibly problematic. It is such a very pointed comparison that to my eye, ear, and mind it is always anti-Semitic. I have no other way to read a comparison that deliberately chooses such an inflammatory and devastating historical moment. It reads to me, frankly, as a veiled threat. "I don't like what the Jews are doing in Israel, and let's not forget what the world does to Jews they don't like…"

There are tens of other examples im the rest of the world of what people claim to want to accomplish with the Nazi comparison, but for some reason the gulags, Armenia, concentration camps for American Japanese, and Rwanda don't come up as often. It's true that South Africa comes up, which to my mind is a much better exemplar then Germany.
posted by OmieWise at 5:26 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think Israel is held to approximately the same standard as any other western nation [...]

"Western nation" is kinda vague; I mean, does it include Turkey? Or, with respect, does it include the USA?

Anyway, this perception might be because most criticisms do seem ostensibly reasonable, whether they're ultimately justified by the facts or not. Similarly, most stop-and-frisks are ostensibly reasonable; it's only when we look at them in aggregate that we can see that they're disproportionately aimed at young Black males.

For what it's worth, I think countries' human rights abuses should be scrutinised; I wish all countries were scrutinised as much as Israel is. That being said, both Ban Ki-moon and his predecessor, Kofi Annan have criticised the UNHRC for its "disproportionate focus on violations by Israel" for, among other things, condemning Israel almost as much as every other country in the rest of the world combined. In fact, "a review of alleged human rights abuses by Israel [is (uniquely)] a permanent feature of every council session".

So even if Israel were held to the same standard as any other countries (which I doubt), it's scrutinised more than other countries and is criticised more than them. As measured by international condemnation, Israel is "the very worst". This condemnation parallels the role of Jews in European mythology as being the people guilty of the worst sin and the worst crimes. I think it would be naive to treat the parallel as irrelevant.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:12 PM on January 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Thank you JinA for this metafilter. I can finally articulate why comparing Israel to Nazi Germany made me so uncomfortable. I am not Jewish but I live in Ontario where there is a lot of casual and overt antisemitism
posted by biggreenplant at 5:17 AM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


sgt.serenity: "My goodness, actual reasonable modding ? Whatever next ?"

Can you please either try to make a constructive comment or shut up?

Making a wild guess here, I'm not too sure if a thread on hate speech is quite the place for yourself either, going by your self righteous, grandstanding misrepresentation of what I said.
Quite clever accusing a self policer of interrupting a thread that's self policing though, top marks.

RN is a great mod that listens to people, so please don't claim I'm having a go.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2015


That comment was from 4 days ago?
posted by Justinian at 6:47 PM on January 18, 2015


The only thing I want to say is that for me the only way I compare the government of Israel to Nazi Germany is in the sense of "people decided to destroy you for something, and so it's worth considering the reasons you act why you do, and maybe not target people for a single point of identity."

For me, it's kind of the same thing as gay male populations being discriminatory; we've suffered at the hands of that anti-human bullshit, and so we should know how it feels, and not do it to other people.

HOWEVER. All caps because this is important. Comparisons of that nature are considered inherently anti-Semitic, so gonna be mindful about not doing that ever again.

I think, however, there is an important question/thing-to-consider: when one has been the victim of oppression, I feel like one therefore has a responsibility, through understanding of what it's like to be under the thumb of someone else, to never ever contribute to oppression. How, and I mean this as a very serious question, does someone bring up that question with regards to the government of Israel without doing so in an anti-Semitic manner?

Please, I really want to be clear: I personally divorce the notion of Jewish people from the actions of the Israeli government in the exact same way I divorce the notion of the Finnish people from the actions of the Finnish government. I would like to know how to criticize the governmental action without implicitly criticizing the actions and beliefs of people who may or may not be allied with that government; Jewish people around the world are no more responsible for what Netanyahu chooses to do than my Muslim friends are responsible for what Islamist terrorists choose to do in their name.

So what is the best way forward?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:08 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I personally divorce the notion of Jewish people from the actions of the Israeli government in the exact same way I divorce the notion of the Finnish people from the actions of the Finnish government.

Except Finnish people have, generally, Finnish citizenship; Jewish people, though eligible for it, do not as a whole have Israeli citizenship. And there are Israelis who are not Jewish.
posted by jeather at 7:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah which is why I do not hold Random Jewish Person responsible for the actions of the Israeli government, no matter how much others might wish to do so. I had a serious question there and would love to hear answers if Jewish people are interested in giving them.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:44 PM on January 18, 2015


But it's a weird comparison, and it brings up that Jewish/Israeli conflation that is a problem. I am, to some very small extent, responsible for the Canadian government. Because I'm a citizen of this country, because I vote, etc. But I lack any responsibility at all for the US government. And I am equally as unrelated to the Israeli government.

Saying that you believe I, as a Jew, am not responsible for the Israeli government's actions -- a country I have never even visited -- and that this is comparable to me being not responsible for the Canadian government's actions -- a country I have voted in since I have been 18, tells me that the relationship between Jewish and Israel is the same as the relationship between Canadian and Canada, and it isn't.
posted by jeather at 7:54 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


That's not an answer to my question, which is "how does one criticize the actions of the Israeli government without being anti-Semitic?"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Other than not using Nazi Germany as the benchmark, not invoking antisemitic tropes like child killing and ruling the world with money, and not blaming all Jews for the actions of the Israeli government, I think you can go ahead criticizing the Israeli government like you would any other government.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am not obliged to answer your question. I am taking issue with the framing, because I think it's an example of -- not anti-semitism exactly, but a conflation of Judaism and Israel that is next door to it.

One way you could more effectively criticise Israel is not to bring up Jews, even (especially) in the context of how you don't hold them all as a bloc responsible.
posted by jeather at 8:33 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thank you, ChuraChura. I guess what I'm saying is that from both sides there seem to be the following assumptions, a lot of the time but not always:

1) You're criticizing all Jews and I'm on board
2) So many people mean "I am criticizing all Jewish people" when criticizing the Israeli government

I want to avoid both of those things--the second more than the first, because the first I am happy to disabuse of their notions with fire and brimstone.

What I'm saying is, I don't want to be one of Those People who use criticism of the Israeli government as a fig leaf and I am asking how to do that in a respectful way.

Never said you were obligated, jeather, and please don't read into what I am saying other than the words I am actually using. I am asking how to be a more respectful person, period.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


"...when one has been the victim of oppression, I feel like one therefore has a responsibility, through understanding of what it's like to be under the thumb of someone else, to never ever contribute to oppression. "

I responded to this and didn't end up posting it, but since it's still not been responded to, I'm just going on record to say that I think this is extremely and destructively wrong.

Mind you -- I understand why you'd think that way because I've thought that way and I feel it's a perfectly human way to think. But it's weak or badly flawed in principle and very destructive in practice.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:39 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only thing I want to say is that for me the only way I compare the government of Israel to Nazi Germany is in the sense of "people decided to destroy you for something, and so it's worth considering the reasons you act why you do, and maybe not target people for a single point of identity."

As far as I follow your idea, you believe that Jews collectively have a sort of moral consciousness; and the fact that many of them were persecuted by the Nazis should lead them to not persecute other people. But "the Jews" breach this duty, because the State of Israel (for which "the Jews" are presumably responsible) persecutes people.1

Oddly, this sort of moral sensitivity never seems to be expected from anyone but Jews. Nobody talks about the responsibility of Armenians, or Irish expatriates, or anybody else with a historic experience of persecution. Nobody today says that African Americans, who suffered under inequitable laws and business practices, have a special duty to treat people fairly. It's always Jews. Anyway.

My experience tells me that the actual lesson taught by persecution is usually "other people are not going to help you." But if you assert that "the Jews" should have learned a different, a better moral lesson, and that they failed to do so - aren't you really saying that Jews, collectively, have a moral failing? That Jews are less moral than everyone else? I submit that this is adding insult to injury, and it is really a classic anti-Semitic idea dressed up as concern for Jews' moral well-being.

1 I don't accept that the Israeli government does "target people for a single point of identity", but let's not get into that here. MeMail me if you want to discuss it privately.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:45 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I responded to this and didn't end up posting it, but since it's still not been responded to, I'm just going on record to say that I think this is extremely and destructively wrong.

Really? I have a very hardwired belief that those of us who have been oppressed have a duty to not visit that oppression on others. Doing so invalidates most of what we have to say.

The history of Jewish people is much, much more complex, and I don't think there is another grouping of humans who have been so systematically oppressed.

As far as I follow your idea, you believe that Jews collectively have a sort of moral consciousness; and the fact that many of them were persecuted by the Nazis should lead them to not persecute other people. But "the Jews" breach this duty, because the State of Israel (for which "the Jews" are presumably responsible) persecutes people.

1) I believe that the Israeli government should have a moral consciousness, not Jewish people collectively

2) I believe that holds true for any oppressed group; speaking as a gay man I believe that we need to stop oppressing trans people and women, because we know how awful it is to be oppressed.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:51 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


(I don't want to make an artificial distinction between 'trans' and 'women,' I was trying to say that not all trans people are women, and may have worded poorly.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:55 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess what I'm saying is that those of us who have been stepped on have a responsibility to not step on others, because we know how much it sucks to be on the receiving end. That doesn't mean we have to be nice or accommodating!!!!! Just that we need to be mindful. That's all.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:00 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "I think, however, there is an important question/thing-to-consider: when one has been the victim of oppression, I feel like one therefore has a responsibility, through understanding of what it's like to be under the thumb of someone else, to never ever contribute to oppression. How, and I mean this as a very serious question, does someone bring up that question with regards to the government of Israel without doing so in an anti-Semitic manner?"

My brother-in-law is Armenian. Like the Jews, the Armenian people were subject to a violent, horrific genocide in the 20th century. Like Israel, Armenia partly came to be a state because of the genocidal violence suffered by ethnic Armenians.

However, not one person has ever said to my California-born, US-citizen brother-in-law that Armenia should be held to a higher standard of human rights because they were recently victims of a horrific genocide and, prior to that, subject to 600 years of oppression by the Ottoman Empire (and predecessors). In fact, most people say things more like, "Wow, Armenia has a pretty violent and fucked-up past and exists in a difficult part of the world with political options that are highly constrained by its location, uneasy relationships with some of its neighbors, and electoral desires of its people who still recall living under Soviet oppression and whose grandparents survived -- or didn't -- a genocide. It's no wonder that politics there are often sub-optimal and subject to lasting problems stemming from the circumstances of its founding." And definitely nobody has ever demanded of him, "Why aren't you speaking out about the persecution of the Yazidi in Armenia?" Because that would be fucking ridiculous because he's American, not Armenian.

You can just say, "I'm concerned about human rights violations in Israel" without having to add, "BECAUSE OF THE HOLOCAUST" to the end of the sentence. You can just be concerned about human rights violations in Israel without lecturing victims of oppression on how they're being un-oppressed wrong. You can just identify what you think the problem is without saying, "And see, it's IRONIC that you have this problem because you yourself were once oppressed!"

Human rights are not a sliding scale based on how oppressed your past was, with people coming from more oppressed backgrounds held to higher standards. (Which is, really, can be a form of rhetorical oppression of "You're STILL not good enough! We expect MORE from you!") The obligation to respect human rights is absolute. You're not more or less obligated based on who you are; you're just OBLIGATED, full stop, because you exist in the world.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:00 PM on January 18, 2015 [46 favorites]


I've been looking for a way to write a response like this without sounding argumentative (which says something in itself, that I am still self-censoring), so thanks Eyebrows McGee for putting it so well.
posted by blurker at 9:07 PM on January 18, 2015



However, not one person has ever said to my California-born, US-citizen brother-in-law that Armenia should be held to a higher standard of human rights because they were recently victims of a horrific genocide and, prior to that, subject to 600 years of oppression by the Ottoman Empire (and predecessors).


Well, I would. But perhaps I'm a minority there, and I am totally willing to accept that most won't.

All I'm saying is that if you've been kicked (hey, fag here, been kicked!) there's a serious moral discontinuity in kicking others. That's all.

The obligation to respect human rights is absolute.

Yes.

You're not more or less obligated based on who you are; you're just OBLIGATED, full stop, because you exist in the world

I disagree. Those of us who have been hurt have a responsibility to not visit that hurt on others. If we do, what moral leg do we have to stand on?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:09 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


By that reasoning, people who have not been hurt have no responsibility not to hurt others.
posted by jaguar at 9:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think, however, there is an important question/thing-to-consider: when one has been the victim of oppression, I feel like one therefore has a responsibility, through understanding of what it's like to be under the thumb of someone else, to never ever contribute to oppression. How, and I mean this as a very serious question, does someone bring up that question with regards to the government of Israel without doing so in an anti-Semitic manner?

By not focusing solely on the Holocaust and by not making idiotic Nazi comparisons. There's a reason that we have a word that defines bringing Nazis into a conversation destructive to reasonable discourse. ("Godwinning.") But even worse... from a different angle: Holocaust denial is at heart an attempt to undermine Israel as a legitimate Jewish homeland. If enough doubt is cast on whether the Holocaust happened, or of the magnitude of the murders, it becomes easy to say Jews didn't need a homeland of their own to act as a safe haven, post-WWII. In a way, casting Israeli Jews as Nazis can be seen as related to Holocaust denial: an attempt to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish homeland.

The simplest solution is to keep Nazi comparisons out of it.

One could easily talk for weeks on end about many aspects of Jewish philosophy and history that relate to our oppression and persecution, including how we have been vilified, tortured, forcibly converted and slaughtered for centuries for simply being Jews. One can also speak about the various ways Israeli culture addresses that history. Such as the rise of the Masada's symbolism in the 20th century, from Isaac Lamdan's poem to the Warsaw ghetto uprising to the fortress' current symbolism for Israelis and visitors to Israel. Masada is the second most popular tourist destination in Israel, and its story lends itself well to discourse about current Israeli politics.

But "Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame
Jews for “why things go wrong.”
(pdf file: "Playing the Nazi Card." Worth reading, imo.) So it behooves someone raising the subject to take care in what they say collectively about Jews. Also, to try to be accurate when describing what's actually happening in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. (For example, calling the Occupation 'genocide' is moronic. The Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank are experiencing a high growth rate.) Voiced concerns (and there are many valid ones) should be grounded in fact, not hyperbole.

We should all be capable of discussing such things without using antisemitic tropes. Nor should we worry that by taking antisemitism out of the discussion, we're somehow silencing people's opinions. If a person can't get their point across without using Judeophobic hate speech, that should rightfully be considered their problem to get over and not something we should be attempting to accommodate.
posted by zarq at 9:17 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


No, jaguar, everyone has a responsibility not to hurt. And if you have been hurt, you have more of a responsibility to not make others feel as bad as you have.

We should all be capable of discussing such things without using antisemitic tropes.

Yes. And what I was asking was how to do so without being anti-Semitic. Nothing more.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:20 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes. And what I was asking was how to do so without being anti-Semitic. Nothing more.

I understand.
posted by zarq at 9:24 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just say "I don't think Israel should be doing X."
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you shouldn't dig in on this and instead stop and think about the fact that people who generally agree with you are disagreeing with you on this particular thing.

I sort of split the difference on what both Joe in Australia and Eyebrows McGee wrote about people only holding Israel to this higher standard your are discussing. Because I have heard people talk about all sorts of historically oppressed groups in terms of expecting them to not oppress another group -- it's certainly not limited to Israel. However, I also agree that it's greatly heightened and peculiar in some ways with regard to Israel.

But Eyebrows McGee hits the important points squarely in that last paragraph of hers:

"Human rights are not a sliding scale based on how oppressed your past was, with people coming from more oppressed backgrounds held to higher standards. (Which is, really, can be a form of rhetorical oppression of 'You're STILL not good enough! We expect MORE from you!') The obligation to respect human rights is absolute. You're not more or less obligated based on who you are; you're just OBLIGATED, full stop, because you exist in the world."

On a theoretical basis, the necessary implication of holding historically oppressed groups (or individual people who've experienced oppression, or individual people who've suffered injustice, for that matter) to a higher standard is that you're holding people who haven't experienced these things to a lower standard. And that's really weird because there shouldn't be a lower standard. I can't say, well, I've never been beaten almost to death so I didn't quite realize that beating someone almost to death was a bad thing to do. This isn't the sort of thing that ought to admit of degrees of culpability. The minimum standard is "don't do it".

On a practical basis, this just becomes a means of vilifying an oppressed group and/or silencing/ignoring them. And we see that happen every day.

I do understand where you're coming from on this, emotionally and intuitively. I very strongly feel the same things. I personally feel the moral imperative you're describing -- a primary response that I've had in my life to the injustice and suffering I've experienced is to oppose the injustice and suffering of others. I have a very hard time understanding how it is that people don't recognize the similarity of what they've experienced to the experiences of people who are otherwise different than themselves. I get very frustrated about this. But .... well, the thing is, not everyone is like me and you. And, as discussed, there are numerous severe problems with holding people who've suffered injustice to a higher standard.

It's okay to hold yourself to that higher standard. But not others.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


All I'm saying is that if you've been kicked (hey, fag here, been kicked!) there's a serious moral discontinuity in kicking others. That's all.

Recognize when you're kicking others. Usually, when they say, "Ow, you're kicking me."

You can criticize the government of Israel, and you should. You should also be cognizant of why you are so intent on criticizing the government of Israel, as opposed to, say, Turkey, and learn to spot the anti-Semetic bullshit intertwined with criticisms of Israel.

There's a lot to unpack in the Western Left's antipathy toward Israel. It's unsettling how little of it actually involves the state rather than the concept.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:34 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


you're holding people who haven't experienced these things to a lower standard

I'm not. I guess... it's that thing about politics, where one needs to avoid the appearance of impropriety, if that makes sense?

Everyone needs to not be an asshole. There is no question. There is, however, a need to not even appear to be an asshole in even a remotely-similar-if-you-squint way that people have been assholes to you. That's all.

Like, us gay men people need to not be assholes to trans people and AFAB people. We need to avoid even seeming like being assholes. Because we lose all our credibility if we do; a common refrain on MeFi is "fuck you, got mine."

Those of us who got ours need to not pull the ladder up after us. That is absolutely the only point I was trying to make here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:35 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


You can criticize the government of Israel, and you should. You should also be cognizant of why you are so intent on criticizing the government of Israel, as opposed to, say, Turkey

Criticize them too, and the UK and USA and my own government and and and. Was asking how to without being smacked by "well why aren't you on them as well?" and nothing more.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:37 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm merely asking why you'd want to - the UK and the US and Russia and Turkey are far more virulent and toxic to their own populace and the world at large. What makes Israel such a hot-point for you?
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:42 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Who said it makes it a hot point for me? We're discussing Judaism and Israel in this thread so that is what I focused on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:44 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I see what you're saying, fffm, there's not punching down, and then there's saying that if you've ever been punched down at, you have an additional obligation to avoid punching down - logically, that addition means that people who've never been punched down at have a lesser obligation. Your logic winds up holding people more accountable the less power they've had historically, and, reciprocally, holding those who are on top and have been for recent memory (rich, educated, white, native-English-speaking, cis, heterosexual, white, Christian men) less so.
Sadly, I think it takes as much time to unlearn bigotry and punching down for me (pretty high up the hierarchy, but still with some membership in classes of oppression) than it does that Guy on Top. I don't think we are, any of us, really all that great about throwing off the endless social messages about who's human and who's not quite a real person, even when we have good intentions.
posted by gingerest at 9:57 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


fffm: So, we're veering from hypotheticals to actuals? Hmm.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


1. I don't think the state of Israel should be doing all manner of stuff it's doing.

2. I don't think imposing what I think the Israeli people should have learned from the horrors of the Holocaust helps me much in pursuing #1.
posted by philip-random at 10:08 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I see what you're saying, fffm, there's not punching down, and then there's saying that if you've ever been punched down at, you have an additional obligation to avoid punching down

For me, I don't think the former has a lower obligation. I think the latter person has a greater obligation. To take it away from politically-fraught examples, I think someone who has been savagely heartbroken in a relationship has a slightly higher obligation to not break the hearts of others, if that makes sense? If you know more about a thing, you have a responsibility to be more careful about that thing, whatever it is. And we all have an obligation to not be assholes.

I don't think we are, any of us, really all that great about throwing off the endless social messages about who's human and who's not quite a real person, even when we have good intentions.

I guess what I'm saying is that I feel if you've been not quite a real person there's a moral obligation to not make others feel not quite like real people that perhaps is a bit more intense than the usual background of "hey, don't be a jerk." Does that make more sense?

2. I don't think imposing what I think the Israeli people should have learned from the horrors of the Holocaust helps me much in pursuing #1.

I wish to emphasize again that when I make these criticisms they are about the Israeli government and not the Israeli people. In the same way that I think the American people have learned about the horrors of how minorities are treated while the American government doesn't care.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:18 PM on January 18, 2015


For me, I don't think the former has a lower obligation. I think the latter person has a greater obligation.

Do you understand that this is not logical? I'm not talking about the validity of the feeling; I'm talking about the actual logic. Because I think if you step back from your feelings and understand what people are saying about your logic, this will make more sense to you.
posted by jaguar at 10:21 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm enjoying the discussion about this point. I just want to note that fffm's position on this has a rich biblical background.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 10:27 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I understand what you are trying to say, jaguar. I feel like what we are trying to say to each other may suffer from the lack of nuance available in text that would be pretty obvious in person. The only thing I can really say is: there is a baseline of human behaviour that we accept, and for me, I think if one has suffered something one has a greater obligation to avoid inflicting that suffering on others, when possible, because one knows how terrible that feels. The logic seems clear to me (kind of a mirror version of "do unto others"), and knowing your expertise if this seems like disordered thinking to you I would welcome a MeFi Mail from you to explain why, because I think that sort of granularity might be a derail here.

tldr version, "do unto others" is mirrored by "don't do unto others what has been done unto you," for me. Does that make logical sense to you?

We all have a responsibility to not smack someone else. Those who have been smacked know what it feels like and have a responsibility to not revisit that abuse on others, I guess.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:42 PM on January 18, 2015


I don't think it's disordered thinking -- sorry if anything I said implied that -- and I agree that we should all be able to use past wrongs done to us to develop compassion for others.

But I don't think that means historically oppressed groups should therefore be held to a higher standard of behavior than anyone else, and that's where I'm trying to point out the logical error: If I say we both have the same number of bananas but I have more bananas than you do, that doesn't make any sense, right? If I have more bananas, then you have fewer bananas. So if I have a greater responsibility for something than you, then you necessarily have a lesser responsibility than I do.

And as others have said, the issue with following that to its logical conclusion is that it's kind of a reverse Oppression Olympics, where the person or people who have been most traumatized are being held up to the highest standards of behavior, often by outsiders. It's one thing to hold yourself to higher standards, it's another to use a group's or person's oppression against them. Doing so tends to increase oppression -- in this case, by painting Jews as somehow uniquely violent, because the implication is they "should" be much gentler, given their history -- rather than decreasing it.
posted by jaguar at 10:54 PM on January 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


I guess, to use your analogy, all of us should have the same number of bananas and some of us should recognize that we should see that some people have fewer bananas and not too far in the past we had fewer bananas than others and should perhaps be more careful about banana distribution.

I do not feel that Jewish people are unique in needing to be more careful about who has how many bananas than anyone else who has had fewer bananas.

Been fucked? Don't fuck others.

That's my basic feeling here. Or maybe "been privileged? don't un-privilege others."

Yes! intersectionality is a thing! and it is important! Comes back to: don't pull the ladder up after you. That applies to Jewish people and Black people and First Nations people and Me. I've been stomped doesn't give me the right to stomp others--I think that logic is clear.

All I am saying is, being hurt shows you how much it sucks to be hurt. And, hopefully, tells you (and me!) why not to hurt others.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:06 PM on January 18, 2015


I am agreeing with you so hard right now jaguar.
posted by Justinian at 11:07 PM on January 18, 2015


The logical inference of your position, fffm, is that I as a straight white (nominally) christian male have the least responsibility to be just to other people. While I personally appreciate the slack you're trying to cut me I don't think I necessarily deserve it.
posted by Justinian at 11:10 PM on January 18, 2015


That is the opposite of what I am saying, Justinian, and being purposfully misunderstood is my new baseline for "Nope, not bothering to interact with people who can't be bothered to read what I am saying" so thank you for noping me right out of this thread.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 PM on January 18, 2015


It's not the opposite of what you're saying, though. You're making logically inconsistent statements and insisting that what you're saying is not what you're saying.
posted by Justinian at 11:18 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, I'm not. Do whatever you do, I'm done with trying to teach nuance here. Nobody's interested.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:19 PM on January 18, 2015


You asked why people find bringing up the Holocaust as a reason Jewish people should be less aggressive than others to be anti-Semitic. People answered that it's a problem because it implies that Jewish people are not allowed to be like everyone else but instead should be judged by a different standard, which is something that reinforces the otherness of Jewish people.

At this point, you don't seem to be listening to what anyone's saying as much as pointing out why there should be a different standard for oppressed people and non-oppressed people. If you want to continue to believe that, that's fine, but expect people to point out that that's a problem if you bring it up in the future.
posted by jaguar at 11:23 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


that comment was from four days ago?

I hope reading the reply doesn't knock him off his penny farthing.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:36 AM on January 19, 2015


I'm done with trying to teach nuance here. Nobody's interested.

Assuming you are sincere in wanting to know how to engage in this type of conversation without giving off any possible appearance of anti-Semitism, the text of yours that I've copied here is I think part of the problem.

Whether it was your intention or not, and even if your heart very well was in the right place, it is difficult for me to read that statement (and honestly the whole batch of your latest comments in this thread on the responsibility of historically oppressed groups) and not feel like you are trying to "teach" me how to best behave as an ideal minority. Even using your own status as a member of a different oppressed group (one that is not the subject of the post) as a bona fide, it is still a way of "othering" me, implying that the coincidence of my birth gives me an "extra" responsibility to think and behave in a particular way.
posted by The Gooch at 6:37 AM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


You can just say, "I'm concerned about human rights violations in Israel" without having to add, "BECAUSE OF THE HOLOCAUST" to the end of the sentence. You can just be concerned about human rights violations in Israel without lecturing victims of oppression on how they're being un-oppressed wrong. You can just identify what you think the problem is without saying, "And see, it's IRONIC that you have this problem because you yourself were once oppressed!"

Human rights are not a sliding scale based on how oppressed your past was, with people coming from more oppressed backgrounds held to higher standards. (Which is, really, can be a form of rhetorical oppression of "You're STILL not good enough! We expect MORE from you!") The obligation to respect human rights is absolute. You're not more or less obligated based on who you are; you're just OBLIGATED, full stop, because you exist in the world.


I agree, (and don't believe this is what fffm was saying) but I also think that internally amongst Jews, an examination of lessons gleaned from our own history needs to be part of the ongoing conversation regarding both the Palestinians and Israel's place as a Jewish state in the world community.

Large swaths of Jewish theology, ritual and culture that focus on the way we have been treated in the past. It is an inseparable part of Israeli history that even manifests as a theme in most of our religious holidays. A joke raised upthread is one of my favorites: nearly every Jewish holiday can be summarized as "They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat." One could easily argue that freedom to live, worship and govern ourselves is a core Jewish value. The Golden Rule has a place in Judaism as well. See Leviticus 19:34 and a few other passages.

We can't divorce ourselves from the past. It's made us who we are. I think that as Jews we are obligated to examine these problems with that unique perspective. American Jews certainly seem to. We're one of the most strongly liberal groups on social issues in American politics.
posted by zarq at 6:38 AM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just to clarify: By this:

I agree, (and don't believe this is what fffm was saying)

I mean, I don't think fffm was trying to highlight that irony or oppress the oppressed.
posted by zarq at 6:46 AM on January 19, 2015


I think that part of your problem, fffm, is that your relying really heavily on analogies to how you feel about the responsibilities of LGBT people, because that's a group with which you identify, and those analogies are kind of imperfect. In particular, when you're talking about Israel, you're talking about a political entity, and there aren't any gay nation-states. For me, as a Jew and as the great-granddaughter of people who died at Auschwitz, the feeling of obligation that you're talking about totally informs my moral sensibility. But I bristle when outsiders demand that I be held to higher moral standards than the great-grandchildren of the people who killed my relatives, and I also don't think that's a good or fair way to look at concrete geopolitical issues like how various states handle questions of national security.

(And yeah: I'm not Israeli. I've never been to Israel, don't speak Hebrew and can't follow Israeli politics in any sophisticated way, can't vote in Israel, and have no more influence over what Israel does than you do. My relationship to the Israeli government is in no way analogous to a Finnish person's relationship with the Finnish government.)

I also think that you're missing some of the nuances about the lessons Jews have learned from our history. The Holocaust definitely taught my grandparents that oppression is bad. But they already thought that oppression was bad, so that wasn't the big lesson. The big lessons were: you can never trust your feeling that you're safe and respected and equal, because that safety can be ripped away really quickly. You can never trust your neighbors, even if they seem totally friendly, because they could turn on you and arrange for your family to be killed. You should not ignore the voice in your head telling you that everything is about to go to shit and you should run, even if other people tell you you're being paranoid. When the shit hits the fan, nobody is going to save you, and you will only survive based on your own resources, ingenuity and, mostly, luck. I really struggle with the legacy of those lessons, because I think they're often pretty false and unhealthy. But my point is that they are vastly more complicated than a simple "don't oppress people, because oppression hurts." It does; we shouldn't; but we also gleaned a lot of things about how tenuous our survival is, and I think you have to understand those things to understand where we're coming from.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:49 AM on January 19, 2015 [27 favorites]


> It's okay to hold yourself to that higher standard. But not others.

This is succinctly and perfectly put. Anyone is free to feel that they, having been oppressed, shouldn't oppress others, just as they are free to feel that they, having enjoyed the benefits of public expenditure, should pay their taxes cheerfully, or whatever other ethical decisions they choose to make. But they are not free to impose those choices on others, and they should not even consider putting down other people who have been oppressed for not sharing their views on the obligations pertaining thereto. As others have pointed out, the idea that A has more of a responsibility than B but B doesn't have less of a responsibility than A is incoherent. It's not some subtle thing that is too hard to explain to the oafs in MetaTalk, it's just wrong. It makes sense to you because you're human and if there's one thing we humans are good at, it's making all our contradictory feelings and ideas fit together in our own minds. But if you're finding that when you express something everybody is telling you it doesn't make sense, your response should not be to grumble about the company you're keeping, it should be to reexamine your ideas. Like IF, I used to feel the way you do in a vague sort of way—it's a very attractive idea—but eventually realized it didn't make any sense, and stopped.

The only obligations an oppressed people have are the same obligations all humans share (though, again, any individual person is free to take on whatever obligations they choose). To expect Jews to be "better" in some way than others is anti-Semitic, period. Try to steer clear of that.
posted by languagehat at 8:16 AM on January 19, 2015 [15 favorites]


Yeah, typically this sort of discussion doesn't go great:

A: (To oppressed group) How do I avoid seeming -ist?

B: (Members of oppressed group) Well, don't do such and such.

A: But I want to do such and such and it makes sense to me! Now answer my question about how to not seem -ist!

B: But you're still doing the such and such.

A: You don't understand nuance.
posted by maxsparber at 9:19 AM on January 19, 2015 [15 favorites]


Apropos of very little:

* of the ~6,500,000 ethnically Finnish people in the world, ~1,400,000 do not live in Finland

* of the ~5,500,000 inhabitants of Finland, ~400,000 are not ethnically Finnish
posted by DaDaDaDave at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2015


I feel like I only hear the "is a Western liberal democracy, and therefore deserves more scrutiny" line when it comes to Israel.

The other thing is, honestly, the "Western" categorization is highly problematic. When people talk about "The Western World" or "First World" or suchlike, they are reinforcing "Countries with majority white populations are the only important ones, or the best ones."

When you consider the list of who people consider "Western liberal democracies", it's largely a whites-only club, with the exception of Israel. Coincidentally, perhaps, Israel is also the country who comes in for the most condemnation, despite being far from the most powerful or even the worst offender in aggregate.
posted by corb at 1:20 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are many issues to worry about in the world Joe, but if you find that people do not want to listen then you usually need to say it more meaningfully or whatever, which often involves fewer actual words and more thought or a better author, source, etc. for quotation.

Amusingly, there is an interesting sounding #OpDeathEaters tag floating around anarchist circles, which I never really managed to decipher on twitter. Sadly marienbad's fpp on #OpDeathEaters got deleted for linking tabloids.

I submitted a metatalk post about that deletion and topic, mostly because I was disappointed in not learning what the heck was going on. Apparently cortex deleted my metatalk post from the metatalk queue for not being focussed enough.

Now less than a week later, Vice did all work :

Behind Anonymous’s Operation to Reveal Britain’s Elite Child-Rape Syndicate

I've no plans to write a post about that topic, but now there is an easy read from a respectable source. :)

It took a lot of words to get vice to write that article of course, but twitter is a place for what's going to become news, while sites like metafilter are discussing what has already been news.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:36 PM on January 19, 2015


Apparently cortex deleted my metatalk post from the metatalk queue for not being focussed enough.

There shouldn't be any "apparently" here; I wrote you a detailed email that same morning asking for clarification on what you were aiming for with that metatalk because it wasn't clear to us; we didn't hear back from you for a couple days and so taz followed up via mefimail; you told her you didn't regularly check the email address you have in your account but that you'd take a look at some point because you were too busy at that moment to do so. We haven't heard from you since as far as I have seen.

Communication about this stuff only works when we actually have an open channel and hear back from you. Which is not an obligation on your part, ultimately; if you're too busy or not bothered enough to follow up, that's not a huge deal and it can just stay dropped. But it feels weird to have you trot that out now at the tail end of a random metatalk thread about something entirely else just to reraise the subject without bothering to actually contact us directly about it when we've explicitly reached out to you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:07 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


And down the rabbit hole we go again. fffm bent over backwards to be respectful, to absolutely separate the Israeli government's behavior from any generalizing of the Jewish people, but his point drew defensive rejection because it involved thinking and seeing with more than eyes that were prefocused within a tiny box. Then the usual pile-on ensued, the rejection of his thought becoming instead a suggestion that he's completely clueless and has no understanding of what the Jewish people have experienced, etc. The separation of Jewish people from Israeli government behavior was lost as the crowd here took him down and, in the end, he's told he doesn't "understand nuance." I think the lack of understanding is intentional and I don't think it's fffm's, but that's just what I think.

There are statistics to be found to confirm whatever a person's looking for, right? One of the most overused statistic shows that those who were beaten as children are more likely to beat their own children. I suppose that came to be because when they found children who had been beaten and abused the parents claimed that the same thing had happened to them as children, so what's the big deal? The old, "Well my father used to whup me with a belt and it didn't hurt me none" line - that's likely the source of such brilliant BS. What isn't examined is the number of people who were beaten, neglected, brutalized, denigrated, terrorized as children who went the exact opposite way, who would die before they'd consider hurting their children. That's who fffm is talking about and those are the people I know well - there are thousands of us who were treated horribly way back when we were kids (no - I don't mean spanked or put on restriction, and "time outs" weren't even "invented" until much later) and I believe the great majority of us raised our children without half they discipline they probably needed because we'd experienced so much injustice at the hands of our own parents we served the least amount of injustice upon our children as we possibly could.

Yes - a moral imperative to take a higher position, to stand taller than those who abused us, even to intervene when we see adults verbally or physically abusing children, because children can't fight back. That's what fffm is talking about and it couldn't be any more clear to me; the fact that that position gets the negative reaction it does should, but doesn't really, surprise me.

We're supposed to learn from history - our own and that which others bring to the table. Jewish people have been persecuted for centuries, true enough, and genuinely important from the standpoint of what's ingrained in their culture, to fight for their own position and rights and sovereignty - to refuse to be oppressed anymore. That is, however, true for many Muslim cultures also, for indiginous people around the globe, for descendents of African slaves, for Mexicans, Nigerians, Syrians, Russians and Ukrainians, Japanese - all those people just want to be able to live quietly and decently in a homeland of their own without war and bloody death around every corner. Almost every country has been through hell at one time or another and the people have suffered terribly and continue to, right now. Women have been kept barefoot and pregnant, with almost no rights of their own, right here in this country, and homosexuals are just now beginning to feel acceptance, but it's all a matter of baby steps. Fifty years ago - and that's not much when compared to the plight of centuries-old cultures - women were just beginning to have careers, you couldn't get birth control unless you were married, girls had to wear skirts to school, abortion was completely illegal, wearing makeup was okay but not too much or you were considered slutty, and most importantly - father ruled the roost and it was your job to keep him happy. Homosexuals were all closeted unless they lived in one of those "weird" places like San Francisco where tourists went to see the "fags" - God, it was terrible. Two men holding hands ran a high risk of being killed; then AIDS hit and set back any progression of gay rights for another 30 years. There was more tolerance of lesbians, but that's because lesbian love titillated men. Now we have same-sex marriage, TV shows that feature gays, and there are laws moving into place that prohibit discrimination against someone for their sexual orientation. It ain't much, but it's progress. The KKK was active and very rarely were they even slapped on the hand. "Cowboys" and "hippies" hated each other and a group of motorcycles roaring down the road sent mothers to scooping up their kids and running for the house because bikers were all Hell's Angels and they'd kill you.

The point is that things change all the time - if we let them - if we encourage them to work toward tolerance and freedom - but the history will remain forever, and everyone has a history. Awareness of the history of your own ancestors and your own "group," be it women, gays, black, Jewish, Japanese, Cuban, KKK - whatever - that history IS your history. So do you want to go backwards and get back at all those who gave your ancestors or your group hell years ago or do you want to deal with what's going on today by moving patiently and respectfully but persistently forward into something better for your people?

I think we have to pick our battles, not just stand with raised sword and wait for someone to get too close and stumble, then lop off his head. But that's just me.

fffm made a sincere effort to be respectful and learn and contribute a different angle to an issue that's not going to go away with or without variation in approach, but he was put down because "nuance" - huh.
posted by aryma at 2:11 PM on January 19, 2015


Um, Five Fresh Fish was the one who claimed that people who disagreed couldn't understand nuance. What on earth are you talking about?
posted by maxsparber at 2:16 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I meant the other FFF. You've got me utterly flummoxed.
posted by maxsparber at 2:18 PM on January 19, 2015


I don't think that's what was happening, aryma. From my read, fffm was saying that Jews, as a people, are more obligated to keep from oppressing other people because they have been oppressed. It's the "they should know better" defense, which I can completely understand from a gut-feel perspective, but I believe is the wrong way to generate expectations. I will quote Eyebrows McGee here, because it was so well put:

Human rights are not a sliding scale based on how oppressed your past was, with people coming from more oppressed backgrounds held to higher standards. (Which is, really, can be a form of rhetorical oppression of "You're STILL not good enough! We expect MORE from you!") The obligation to respect human rights is absolute. You're not more or less obligated based on who you are; you're just OBLIGATED, full stop, because you exist in the world.

This is the crux of the "nuance" argument.
posted by blurker at 2:24 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Secondly, fffm was denying the clear and logical implication of his position. If those who have been abused have a greater moral imperative to rise above and not abuse others, it is logically impossible for that not to mean that those who have not been abused have a lesser imperative to not abuse others. Words have meaning and you can't claim both that the abused have more of an imperative and that those who have not been abused do not have less of an imperative.

And people are rightly rejecting the idea that we should base our expectations about moral behavior on who much a group of people have been historically abused.
posted by Justinian at 2:30 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


aryma, it looks as if you've really fixated on this idea that this thread is some sort of gang attack on dissenting viewpoints and for that reason have chosen to ignore, or perhaps are just unable to understand, all of the things that fffm has been arguing in this thread.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:35 PM on January 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


There are many issues to worry about in the world Joe, but if you find that people do not want to listen then you usually need to say it more meaningfully or whatever, which often involves fewer actual words and more thought or a better author, source, etc. for quotation.

Bullshit.

The problem isn't that Jews on Metafilter are not using small enough words or acceptable sources. Because when they point out references they believe are antisemitic tropes using excellent sources, they're still attacked. Their concerns are still dismissed.

People say things like "Everyone knows you can't criticize Israel on MeFi without being called an antisemite." Except, as many have pointed out in this thread, that hardly ever happens on Metafilter. And when it does, it usually gets called out by people on both sides.

But in accusing others of trying to silence them, they effectively silence their critics.
posted by zarq at 3:07 PM on January 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


What fffm is saying makes sense to me on a deep, personal level. Being subject to oppression opens your eyes to it, makes you feel it, in a sharp and unforgettable way that no amount of hearing others' stories ever could. No matter how much or how little one has in the way of wisdom and compassion, one is always morally obligated to apply as much wisdom and compassion as they can.

To take jaguar's example with the bananas, if we are each obligated to put all our bananas in a basket every day, then if I have seven bananas, I have to put all seven of them in the basket. And if someone else have five bananas, they "only" have to put five in the basket. But it's still all of us giving our all.

There is also a separate obligation to try to increase our understanding; we do this through conversations like this one and in many other ways. To go back to the analogy, if we are trying to 100% eliminate all -isms, then we need to collectively put 100 bananas in the basket. Someone who had seven bananas and put them all in the basket is helping us get closer to that goal. Someone whose privilege insulates them from these issues and only have five bananas to give? They have more work to do, to go out and get more bananas to contribute, if they're going to do their share.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 3:09 PM on January 19, 2015


It is just that it is literally victimizing people twice - once by the original perpetrator, then a second time by the obligation to adopt a certain moral/advocacy stance, when non-victims aren't held to that same standard.
posted by rosswald at 3:20 PM on January 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


The bananas were a math problem, not a metaphor.
posted by jaguar at 3:35 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I've gotten anything out of this thread, it is a deeper level of sympathy towards victims of other forms of prejudice and oppression that don't come off as obvious to me since I'm not a member of the victimized group and a keen understanding of how frustrating it can be to express those thoughts out loud when others appear to be ready to pounce at the first opportunity to reject your concerns if they weren't stated absolutely perfect.

For example, reading aryma's most recent comment makes me sympathize with the women on Metafilter who get frustrated at "If only you would state your case in a nicer way, people might take your concerns about sexism more seriously" type of comments, since that is more or less what she's done here to Jewish members of the site and it's a really shitty thing to experience.
posted by The Gooch at 3:40 PM on January 19, 2015 [15 favorites]


The point is that things change all the time - if we let them - if we encourage them to work toward tolerance and freedom - but the history will remain forever, and everyone has a history.

Immediately following the kosher supermarket incident in Paris, CNN interviewed a Jewish guy who lived in the area. When asked if he was planning to emigrate to Israel after what had happened, he said that he was. And then he gave his reasoning: "In Germany, the optimists wound up in the concentration camps. The pessimists escaped to New York."

I disagree with this on several levels. Israel is not safer than Paris, for one thing. For another, it's inappropriate to blame those who died in the Holocaust for their own deaths.

But man, I still found the comment sobering as hell.

fffm was asking how Jews' lengthy experience with oppression can be discussed with regard to Israeli policies in a respectful, thoughtful way, without causing offense. I do believe that is possible.

But aryma, you're saying something else entirely. Telling Jews that things will change over time, presumably for the better... really? Because clearly, that's not happening. Or telling us that the attempted genocide of our people is no different than the racism or sexism experienced by any other minority group. Also a crock. It's nice that you think history should be left in the past, gotten over and ignored. Except, antisemitism isn't ancient history. It's current events. I urge you to read through that list. Shootings. Molotov cocktails thrown. Desecration of religious sites and graveyards. People being physically attacked. The damned thing is endless. And it only covers 2014.

Consider please, whether telling a minority group how they should react to constant, ingrained and in some cases institutionalized oppression on a global scale can possibly be constructive.
posted by zarq at 4:15 PM on January 19, 2015 [25 favorites]


I made a very generic comment without reading the thread, well 2-3am here, apologies zarq.

Actually I still haven't read the thread, but I searched through reading all your comments. ;) In particular, your Yad Vashem comment is quite informative, thanks.

I'm dubious about "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" though because all states should be called out for their fascist tendencies, sometimes with very strong language. Ala this ioerror tweet :

Learning about special Nazi terms in German makes me sick when I read English versions in modern American newspapers.

It'd be perfectly fine to write the same about the contemporary Israeli press, if it were actually true.

It's obviously problematic if someone draws such comparisons with the long term goal of the forced relocation of millions. I suppose one should read it thusly if say Al Jazeera writes it, especially now that their credibility just took a major hit.

In any case, Yad Vashem states that "criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic", which I think lays out a critical distinction.

After reading your comment, I suppose that if I wanted to say "Israel doing X is like Nazi Germany doing Y" then I suppose I'd be clear about that and maybe link your comment or the Yad Vashem article claiming and exception to that one in particular.

In practice, I don't discuss Israel too much since it's a small country of limited influence. And some issues are less cut & dried than with large nations that face zero existential risk from non-nuclear adversaries.

Also, fascist is almost always the more precise term anayways, ala American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, etc.

It's useful to have considered all this though, thanks.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:34 PM on January 19, 2015


Maybe you should have read the thread and the very excellent discussion before commenting. Sara, while excellent, was not the only voice.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:07 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sara? What'd I miss?
posted by Justinian at 9:24 PM on January 19, 2015


you missed zarq being autocorrected into 'sara'
posted by MoonOrb at 9:38 PM on January 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh. Newfangled hand-computing mechanisms.
posted by Justinian at 9:50 PM on January 19, 2015


LOL
posted by zarq at 10:11 PM on January 19, 2015


As I said, there is almost always a more precise term, like fascist, that does not Godwin the thread, but I can point out in greater detail situations where specific parallels should be drawn to the Nazis.

In particular, if you can draw a sound parallel between a harmful practice protected by mass media euphemisms and Nazi euphemisms then that's a pretty powerful tool. Examples :

- 'Verschärfte Vernehmung' is exactly what the US termed 'enhanced interrogation'

- I donno if/when the U.S. used the term "special treatment" but that's claimed elsewhere.

- Australia named it refugee policy the Pacific Solution

All these observations do not Godwin a thread dealing with the CIA torture program, Australian treatment of refugee, etc. because they address specifics historical terminology. In practice, Israeli leaders are presumably much better at avoiding such slip ups, but similar observations would not be anti-semitism if Israeli leaders used similar terms. They would however go against the "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" guideline by Yad Vashem, which is why I disagree with that one.

I'm thrilled to know about the Yad Vashem guidelines overall of course because it vastly simplifies the question of what is and is not anti-semitism.

Also interesting, Chomsky & his interviewer's observation that American caricatures of Arabs in 1992 use old Jewish stereotypes (search: caricatures).
posted by jeffburdges at 10:24 PM on January 19, 2015


Awareness of the history of your own ancestors and your own "group," be it women, gays, black, Jewish, Japanese, Cuban, KKK - whatever - that history IS your history. So do you want to go backwards and get back at all those who gave your ancestors or your group hell years ago or do you want to deal with what's going on today by moving patiently and respectfully but persistently forward into something better for your people?

I'm just quoting this because I think it basically speaks for itself.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:35 PM on January 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


jeffbrdges:
In practice, Israeli leaders are presumably much better at avoiding such slip ups, but similar observations would not be anti-semitism if Israeli leaders used similar terms. They would however go against the "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" guideline by Yad Vashem, which is why I disagree with that one.

The thing is, Israeli leaders avoid those things because they are extremely sensitive to just why people, and especially why Jewish people, shouldn't use them. When Jewish leaders use Nazi terminology, you bet your life they are called out on it, loudly, by Jews, before it even hits the media. It wouldn't be considered anti-semitic to Godwin a direct, equal comparison. It's because those are so rare that this arises. The day I see a direct comparison between Israeli government actions and that of the Nazis, I will join in the shouting. There just isn't one. It's not giving Israel some "get out of criticism free" card no matter what they do. It's asking people to only hold Israel accountable for their actual actions, not the far-worse actions of others that if they're not careful maybe they'll also perpetrate.

fffm:
I wish to emphasize again that when I make these criticisms they are about the Israeli government and not the Israeli people.

If it helps, don't forget that the Israeli government wasn't a victim of the Holocaust. Some of the Israeli government are even Arabs. And more than half of Israelis are Sephardic Jews, mostly from Arab nations, who took a completely different flavor of persecution to push them to Israel.

But if it's okay to take a step backwards, what fffm was saying is a profoundly Jewish value.
Once there was a non-Jew who came before Shammai, and said to him: "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding. The same fellow came before Hillel, and Hillel converted him, by saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary, go and learn it." - Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a
It's more than the Golden Rule of 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' - If you wanted others to give unto you a million dollars, you could give money away every day, and that would be a nice thing for you to do, but good luck on getting anything back. Saying 'don't do the bad thing that was done to you' is more strongly proscriptive, and does more good for the second party. And this isn't an obscure passage. Rabbi Hillel was considered one of the greatest rabbis in Jewish history, and many of his teachings are still followed today (he's the inventor of the 'Hillel sandwich' in the Passover haggadah, among other things). He considered that to be the entirety of the Torah. It is really important that people who have suffered use that knowledge to stand up when others are suffering. But as others have said, that is a personal value.

Holding a country responsible for an individual's (or that individual's grandparent's) personal suffering is a tall order. The Holocaust is not a stick we should use to hit people over the head with. They've been hit by it enough.

Aryma, I do think you have come into this thread in good faith, and you definitely have been piled on here, and that's no fun. Please remember that this is one thread, with a hugely disproportionate number of Jews in it for the rest of the site, on a topic that a lot of us find incredibly important. We see things differently than you, and it is entirely possible that we see them differently than the majority of your friends. That's what makes it a minority viewpoint. It's also pretty likely we see things differently than you may once have been taught in church -- for all the talk of 'Judeo-Christian values," Judaism and Christianity really don't have all that much in common philosophically. Judaism has no value of 'turn the other cheek', for example, which could be what you are struggling with - why won't we just let this go? Because we don't share that as a value - even those Jews who are not at all religious - because it's a Christian value. Though as a personal choice, there are probably lots of Jews who do act that way, on a regular basis, because we're not all the same.

I think most of us here are trying to get to a place of understanding, or at least fumbling toward a way to talk about a difficult topic without making it too offensive to some of the participants to have the talk at all. And I really appreciate everyone's participation and patience so far.
posted by Mchelly at 6:40 AM on January 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


jeffburdges, I'm pretty suspect of your involvement here. It seems to boil down to wanting to preserve the ability to compare Israel to Nazi Germany. It doesn't engage substantively with any of the reasons people have said that seems like a bad idea, none of which have to do with excusing bad behavior on the part of the Israeli state. Further, you admit to not having read the thread, which is much more nuanced than one link to Yad Vashem. What is your goal here?

aryma, your comments in this thread have gone past the point of disturbing to me into the realm of anti-Semitic. Your unwillingness to engage the discussion and your inability or unwillingness to understand what people are saying here, make your comments discounting of the experience of Jewish members of the site.
posted by OmieWise at 6:42 AM on January 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


I made a very generic comment without reading the thread, well 2-3am here, apologies zarq.

No worries. Sorry for being so aggressive as well. It's a hard topic, and after being away from Mefi for a few months, I am finding it harder to put my thoughts into words the way I used to.

Actually I still haven't read the thread, but I searched through reading all your comments. ;) In particular, your Yad Vashem comment is quite informative, thanks.

No problem. It's important for the purposes of this conversation for us to all understand what antisemitism is and how it may manifest in online discussions. The Yad Vashem list isn't complete or all encompassing, but it's a decent jumping off point. Please read the rest of the thread for more. I second stoneweaver: this entire thread is filled with superb comments -- and most of them are way more informative and eloquent than anything I had to say. Go! Read! :)

I'm dubious about "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" though because all states should be called out for their fascist tendencies, sometimes with very strong language.

By all means, call out Israel for its policies all you like. I do.

But be aware that for many of the reasons outlined in this thread, bringing Nazis into it will change how quite a few of us feel about what's being said. Especially if such comparisons aren't fact-based. Especially if the comparison isn't direct and equal. (They're almost never those things.) People may (rightfully, imo) consider hyperbole unfair or an expression of Judeophobia instead of valid criticism. Worse, they're instant derails. Conversation grinds to a halt, while people react.

Nazi references aren't really necessary, are they? There's certainly been no shortage of fascist or oppressive regimes in the world. If a person needs to make comparisons, they have all of those to chose from. In my not-so-humble-opinion, if someone can't think of a single fascist state to compare Israel to other than the one that slaughtered millions of Jews to make their point, that seems problematic.

In any case, Yad Vashem states that "criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic", which I think lays out a critical distinction.

It does.

After reading your comment, I suppose that if I wanted to say "Israel doing X is like Nazi Germany doing Y" then I suppose I'd be clear about that and maybe link your comment or the Yad Vashem article claiming and exception to that one in particular.

Nazi comparisons are a minefield, and one many Jews are hypersensitive about for a lot of reasons. If you present something thoughtful, honest and fact-based, some people might have less of a problem with it than a context-less or hyperbolic accusation.

On preview, I see mchelly's excellent reply to you. Thank you, mchelly.
posted by zarq at 8:03 AM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


> aryma, your comments in this thread have gone past the point of disturbing to me into the realm of anti-Semitic.

While aryma's comments are making me want to bang my head repeatedly into a wall, I don't think they're coming from the realm of anti-Semitic so much as the realm of "I don't understand what these people are talking about, but rather than listen and learn I'm going to blurt out the first piece of ignorant blather that comes into my head and then when people call me on it I'm going to double down and insult everyone at great length because they made me feel bad." We all have relatives like that and try to avoid them at holidays.
posted by languagehat at 9:30 AM on January 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Comparing Israel's policies to Nazi Germany should only be used as a purely rhetorical move, since any analytical comparison is going to get you nowhere and there are much more appropriate analytical choices, like Apartheid or colonialism. Its also a pretty shitty rhetorical move because it is needlessly polarizing and carries with it a whole lot of unnecessary baggage. I generally don't know why people do it, unless they just want to shout and yell and say exaggerated things.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:37 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Interestingly enough, the US media's comparison of Israel's enemies to the Nazis (and in particular, Nasser to Hitler) help increase support for Israel in the US during the 1950s.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:05 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


While aryma's comments are making me want to bang my head repeatedly into a wall, I don't think they're coming from the realm of anti-Semitic so much as the realm of "I don't understand what these people are talking about, but rather than listen and learn I'm going to blurt out the first piece of ignorant blather that comes into my head and then when people call me on it I'm going to double down and insult everyone at great length because they made me feel bad."

Well, sure. And I was pretty careful not to say that she herself is anti-Semitic. My point is that in a thread like this people are going to make boneheaded comments. A couple of boneheaded comments should be looked at with charity. Once you get multiple people telling you that you aren't getting it, and that you are making them uncomfortable, for one to keep making boneheaded comments (again, particularly in a thread like this) makes the effect of one's comments anti-Semitic, regardless of intent.
posted by OmieWise at 10:21 AM on January 20, 2015


And just to be clear, we're almost 700 comments in, with 12 comments from aryma, and at least two general comments directed at her that her comments are making people feel strange.
posted by OmieWise at 10:23 AM on January 20, 2015


> And I was pretty careful not to say that she herself is anti-Semitic.

Oh, I know. I didn't think you thought that, and I don't think that. But you're right, she should be aware of the whiff her doubling-down gives off.
posted by languagehat at 12:01 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a further aid to understanding, it is the case that any accusations of antisemitism against someone for criticizing Israel made on metafilter will be swiftly deleted. To be sure, they are very rare, and very likely a thing of the past, but it has happened to me on here, and again the comment was quickly deleted.

So anyone saying that criticizing Israel on metafilter will invite accusations of antisemitism is very likely wrong. However, please also remember that public intellectuals who criticize Israel in the US very often face accusations of antisemitism or worse. What this means is that anyone who writes about Middle Eastern politics for a living is very very aware and cautious not to get called an anti-Semite. So just because it doesn't happen here doesn't mean it doesn't happen in the real world, and it doesn't mean its an irrational worry. Fortunately, metafilter is better than meatspace, which is why we are here I guess, although clearly there is room for improvement as this thread has demonstrated.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:58 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


cortex: "I'm being wordy about this because part of the territory I'm trying to navigate is sussing out what things different people feel like constitute examples of (and just for the sake of reference I'll partition this into three example groups, I don't mean to suggest this is a particularly meaningful or ideal method of breaking it down):

1. active, intentional anti-Semitism
2. more culturally-inculcated passive anti-Semitism
3. just kind of dumb/thoughtless/messy comments that occur in the vicinity of the subject of Jews or Judaism.

And to be clear, I think all of those are worth talking about, and worth talking specifically about where we as mods, and we as a community, can try to do better about objecting to or taking action in response to problematic stuff. I'm not breaking them into groups so I can say "anything below 1 doesn't count"; I'm doing it because it seems like there are structural differences in how stuff arises on the site and being clear about those will help us talk about it.

Because I also think part of the friction that comes out in these discussions is that people don't always know where one another are partitioning these things, or really agree at what sort of threshold something should be called anti-Semitism, or at what sort of threshold something should be for-sure deleted and on what grounds. Certainly for me it's helpful to have a clearer idea of where my disconnect with someone who's uncomfortable with something on the site is, whether it's because I'm not having the same read on a comment or have different expectations about whether it's actionable or just simply came down on the other side of the fence on a borderline comment/post/whatever."


Back in September, restless nomad said the following:
What kind of action are you asking for, zarq? Are there comments you specifically want deleted? (That is, as you surely understand, rather too late for most of them.) Do you want official word from on high that one thing or another is generally deletable? That's probably possible, although the nature of I/P threads means that without a mod literally camping the thread and reading each one as its posted, we're not going to get to anything in time to delete it because the response is so fast and overwhelming. LM above explains the complexities of that quite well.

This subject is a noise machine, from my position. Nearly every statement made is made in the strongest possible terms, and I don't personally know enough on the subject to parse them fast enough to sort through them. And I'm probably the mod with the biggest personal stake in the subject - I am Jewish, and have Israeli family. If it were a topic in which it were even possible for people to flag and move on, it wouldn't be this big a goddamned headache, but that's not the case, and so we're left trying to manage a subject in which every single participant feels personally attacked in the vilest possible terms. If you want mod intervention, please be more specific, and please understand that involving *us* means that *you* are going to have your options restricted, because you can't both wade into the fight and have us refereeing.
We're nearly 700 comments in. If we work with cortex' breakdown of the three general categories those comments fall into, can we ask the Team's opinions about ways each might be handled in the future? I realize that every situation is different, and am not asking for formal, "Inscribed in the FAQ" policy changes. But it would be good to know your collective thoughts on the matter, now that some of us have clarified our concerns.

Is the team is considering changing the ways they handle each of those categories when they arise? Does the Team believe moderation changes are necessary or even possible, or not? If so, what we as a community can do to help?

restless nomad and Lobstermitten raised and explained some points in September that should probably be addressed:

1) I/P threads, especially about attacks that kill civilians, tend to both move very quickly and be quite heated. We've been given the impression that with reduced staff (and perhaps the addition of the FanFare site expansion?) Team Mod no longer has the resources to babysit a single thread for hours. This means that unless a mod sees a troublesome comment quickly, it may be judged 'undeletable.' Which may not be a bad thing. The best way to keep the peace isn't always going to be deletions.

Keeping in mind that no solution is going to be perfect, if deletions become impossible, is this a fixable problem? Is there a tool in the mods' armamentarium that would help? A less aggressive response perhaps? Or do you think that's futile?

2) Would more links and reading material be helpful to the Team, to assist you in parsing these issues? For example, Bentobox Humperdink linked to an excellent global survey of attitudes towards Jews.

3) Would it be helpful if we collectively flagged comments that concerned us more? Or tried to help keep conversations calm in those threads by respectfully asking people to be polite to one another? Other than being more civil to one another, how can we, as members of the community assist the Team?

4) Is there any way of moderating those conversations that won't result in Jews who feel they're being attacked, being told to shut up? I know I'm harping on this and I apologize if I sound like a broken record, but personally, I found it really upsetting.

--

For whatever it's worth, and obviously this is only my opinion.... I think y'all generally handle "#1" incidents (active, intentional antisemitism) reasonably well. You've deleted comments, given time-outs or banned (for example, Jimmy Havok) a small number of people over the years. For the most part, I think incidents of the #3 variety are usually handled reasonably well, too.

But I do think there is room for improvement regarding comments that fall into the second category.
posted by zarq at 4:46 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Interestingly enough, the US media's comparison of Israel's enemies to the Nazis (and in particular, Nasser to Hitler) help increase support for Israel in the US during the 1950s.
posted by MisantropicPainforest


I have to admit, I found this comment... off-putting, I guess?

For one thing I would appreciate a cite - I did a cursory scan of the Wikipedia page on the Suez crisis and found nothing. And I suppose I read the comment (along with its preceding comment) as "using the Nazi comparison is wrong, especially when comparing it to Israel. Oh and BTW, the comparison was actively made by the US media [!] to demonize Israel's enemies and bolster Israel's position."
posted by rosswald at 4:46 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here you go. This is at the level of academic historical scholarship so yes it will not be in a place like wikipedia.

You read of my comment is right, but what is wrong with my comment?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:05 PM on January 20, 2015


Both the point and the context of it in this thread seemed weird to me - though I partially feel like I have to somehow get access to this article/book to respond fully.

In a blue thread your statement would have pinged my radar, but not enough to comment. Here in this thread (and especially considering the subject) I figured I would broach my... reading of the comment.
posted by rosswald at 5:17 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


ok...
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:19 PM on January 20, 2015


I posted one more comment just before bed last night in response to the boldly highlighted KKK in MMM's answer to my earlier comment and it was deleted. That's okay - no problem - but I feel I should be able to respond do the implied accusation that I'm in league with the KKK. I want to simply state here that I do not in any way support the KKK - I detest racists in every form they take - whether they wear a hood or shave their heads, whether they wear a badge or occupy a seat in Congress - a racist is a racist and I very definitely do not support them.
posted by aryma at 5:40 PM on January 20, 2015


I can't read the article, but if it helps, here's some historical context.

US foreign policy towards leading powers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East under the Eisenhower administration first took the form of a modified Marshall Plan, managed by Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. During the 50's and 60's, the US was most concerned about Russia allying itself with leading countries in those regions.

Post WWII, King Farouk of Egypt meets with President Roosevelt, who tells the King he supports Egypt's efforts towards self-determination and end British colonial rule (The British had occupied Egypt since 1882.). This was a problem, as the US was also allied with Great Britain to prevent the spread of communism in Europe and the Middle East, and the British relied on Egypt for oil. But US anti-communist rhetoric at the time emphasized people's natural right towards self-determination, so that's the diplomatic hand they played.

The Truman administration reportedly helped the Egyptian military stage a coup, deposing Farouk. Truman then refuses to send aid and military support to the new regime.

In 1953, Eisenhower takes office. Under the Dulles plan, we then sent large amounts of aid and military equipment to Egypt, in an attempt to nudge the Egyptians towards a pro-Western democracy & capitalism and away from communism, and help them free themselves from British colonialism. This backfired spectacularly. Egypt turned nationalist and anti-imperialist. In 1955, Nasser shunned the US, shifted towards more socialist policies, embraced Russian aid and purchased their military equipment. He spoke extensively about pan-Arab nationalism in an attempt to unite the region with his country taking a leadership role among Arab nations. Then he abrogated the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 with Great Britain, prompting the Suez Crisis. To the US, Egypt allying in any way with Russia was considered calamitous. It's likely this was in part a tactic by Nasser to gain US concessions.

Because of all of this, Nasser and the Egyptians were vilified for a year by the US press. US media, who had previously been tepid regarding Egypt's ongoing war with Israel, started aggressively supporting the latter country. The Suez Crisis changed things. Eisenhower supported Egypt against Great Britain, France and Israel. Egypt demanded that the US remain neutral towards Israel, and we were. The only aid sent by us to Israel was food. And for a brief time afterwards, the US was practically beloved by Arab states in the Middle East.

Then Lyndon Johnson took office. And things began to shift.
posted by zarq at 5:54 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


None of that necessarily disputes the article's conclusions, of course. :)
posted by zarq at 6:09 PM on January 20, 2015


(I am just glad I didn't have to pay $40 for it)
posted by rosswald at 6:10 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Heh.
posted by zarq at 6:22 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


the US media's comparison of Israel's enemies to the Nazis (and in particular, Nasser to Hitler) help increase support for Israel in the US during the 1950s

MisantropicPainforest, my problem with that comment is that it's a multiple derail: firstly, it's totally irrelevant to the issue of whether Israel/Nazi comparisons are intrinsically antisemitic; secondly, it's basically an invitation to some in-depth analysis of US foreign policy in the 1950s, use of rhetoric in same, US attitudes towards Nazi Germany in the post-WW2 era, and so forth; and thirdly, it really looks like a way of implying that Israel used comparisons with the Nazis, so why can't its critics use those comparisons ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:58 PM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Metatalk has always been the most free-form area of the site, with little side conversations branching all over the place. We're talking about comparisons of Jews and Israel to the Nazis, so some historical context isn't out of order.

it really looks like a way of implying that Israel used comparisons with the Nazis, so why can't its critics use those comparisons ...

The US media isn't Israel. More accurately: "Israel's supporters used Nazi comparisons, so why can't its critics?" Which is an answerable question that MP hasn't actually asked.
posted by zarq at 3:44 AM on January 21, 2015


I'm not the Comment Police, but if someone asks "what is wrong with my comment ", well, those would be my objections.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:55 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


the implied accusation that I'm in league with the KKK.

I see no such implication. What I'm seeing here is a highlighting of the fact that you seemed to compare several minority groups, among which were Jews and the KKK. That is probably not something anyone should be doing, and it's best to avoid even the appearance of doing so.
Plus, I don't think it's a good idea to tell members of these groups how to deal with their groups' pasts. It sounds awfully condescending.

Aryma, this thread is not about you. Okay?
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:56 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, just to maybe steer things back to the main topic here, folks have exerted quite a bit of effort to share thoughts and information on the topic of antisemitism and antisemitic framing as they relate to the site, so it would be great to carry on with that discussion and keep this thread productive. We are paying attention and appreciate the hard work that so many of you are putting in to explain and break down the issues. Thank you.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:52 AM on January 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


it really looks like a way of implying that Israel used comparisons with the Nazis, so why can't its critics use those comparisons .

Wouldn't discussions on metafilter go better if we don't assume the worst of others?

In the comment above it I said: "Its also a pretty shitty rhetorical move because it is needlessly polarizing and carries with it a whole lot of unnecessary baggage. I generally don't know why people do it, unless they just want to shout and yell and say exaggerated things."

Or what zarq said.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:52 AM on January 21, 2015


which reminds me. I'd intended to do this last time ...

METAFILTER: just want to shout and yell and say exaggerated things
posted by philip-random at 8:33 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


WTF? Are people comparing Israel to Nazism?

Are they turning into some sort of academic argument saying "no no, good chap. I don't hate jews, I'm just saying that they remind of of Hitler". What the fuck?

Comparing someone or something to Hitler/Nazis is especially heinous and evil. Doing it to an ethnicity that has felt a lot of pain because of that party is especially nasty.

Perhaps rather than metafilter defending itself from accusations of anti-semitism, it should define anti-semitism.

Maybe what we need are for people to realize that anti-semitism isn't just going around and putting yellow stars on jewish people. Maybe its saying a few sentences that upset a large amount of people.

I'm not a fan of Japan's whaling, but I'm not gonna be all "Japan's whaling is akin to it dropping an atomic bomb on nature".

You know what you're doing. Don't be an asshole.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:54 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


and if you don't know what you're doing, please stop being an ignorant asshole
posted by philip-random at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2015


A two week absence from the site really doesn't pair well with trying to catch up on and respond to a 700+ comment MeTa in which your previous FPP/MeTa participation has been cited as part of the problem, so I will stay out of the particulars of the most recent developments that unfolded while I was away, and instead just say the following for the record regarding previous events:

1. I feel that Mchelly's comment here, while capturing most of the general flow of those events into a tidy set of bullet points, goes awry in spots, particularly in item number 7, where people are said to have acted as if they "...knew more about what constituted actual anti-semitism and that the others were either too stupid to understand their points or not acting in good faith." I share Mchelly's desire to not re-read and re-hash that discussion -- certainly a low point in my participation on this site -- but since I was part of the group of people he/she is talking about (and the subject of much of the back-and-forth in the ensuing MeTa), I feel the need to register my objection to that characterization.

2. I'm very happy that zarq is participating again.

That's really all I really wanted to say. Thanks.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2015



WTF? Are people comparing Israel to Nazism?

Are they turning into some sort of academic argument saying "no no, good chap. I don't hate jews, I'm just saying that they remind of of Hitler".


Please don't conflate Jews with Israel, and please don't conflate criticism of Israel with criticism of Jews.. Jews in the US have a wide variety of opinions and dispositions toward Israel. There is no unified Jewish position on Israel. Moreover, Israel itself isn't populated entirely by Jews--IIRC of Israel's 7 million citizens only 5 million are Jewish. There are about 2 million Arab citizens (not just residents) of Israel. Moreover, a wide number of people can get Israeli citizenship even if they aren't themselves Jewish (like me). These people, if they decide to become Israeli citizens, can vote (this includes the millions of Arab Israelis who can vote.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:22 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see no such implication. What I'm seeing here is a highlighting of the fact that you seemed to compare several minority groups, among which were Jews and the KKK. That is probably not something anyone should be doing, and it's best to avoid even the appearance of doing so.
Plus, I don't think it's a good idea to tell members of these groups how to deal with their groups' pasts. It sounds awfully condescending.


As the originator of the comment in question, yes, exactly. I am also not interested in behaving "respectfully" towards people who are contributing to inequality or marginalization (of anybody, not just groups of which I am a member), and I don't hold "patience" as some kind of inherent virtue in these kind of struggles, either. If the choice is between "patient but slow-moving progressivism" and "burning shit down to a degree that's ultimately self-destructive in addition to being destructive of oppression", like any reasonable human being I reject that, but most of the time that's a false dichotomy and those are not the only two choices on the table. I also really have no interest in what some random outsider thinks might be "best for my people", especially considering that as this thread shows, it's not something that "my people" (aka, "you people") necessarily agree on. That's all grist for a completely different thread, though.

No matter how "charitably" it's expressed or how much "good faith" it's exponents supposedly show, a reactionary view of the world is still reactionary, even if it's deluded into thinking it's progressive.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


MisantropicPainforest: “Please don't conflate Jews with Israel, and please don't conflate criticism of Israel with criticism of Jews.”

No, I think you're missing the point. The conflation of Jews with Israel isn't happening in the objection to the comparison between Israel and Nazism. Comparisons between Israel and the Nazis themselves seem deliberately designed to trade on the notion that "the Jews" and "the state of Israel" are identical, with no space between them, by evoking the bitter irony that the victims have become the victimizers. So if you'd like to object that Jews and Israel are being conflated, you should talk to anyone wishing to compare Israel with Nazi Germany, and ask them to stop doing so.
posted by koeselitz at 11:42 AM on January 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I share Mchelly's desire to not re-read and re-hash that discussion -- certainly a low point in my participation on this site -- but since I was part of the group of people he/she is talking about (and the subject of much of the back-and-forth in the ensuing MeTa), I feel the need to register my objection to that characterization.

This isn't helpful. If you are identifying something as a low point of your participation, the thing to do is apologize and strive to do better. If you're saying that something is mis-characterized, it's on you to explain how exactly. It's also looking a whole lot like you're trying to tell people that they shouldn't feel like something was antisemitic when we're saying "Yes, it was."

I wouldn't normally say anything at this point. I would roll my eyes and chalk this up to background noise. But this is how it happens that the site feels like there's an undercurrent of antisemitism. When it gets called out people don't say "I am sorry." They say "No it's not!" or "But this one particular right here, let's talk about that instead." And that's a problem.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


When it gets called out people don't say "I am sorry."

The record shows that I did in fact apologize. I'm not linking to it, nor will I debate whether it was enough of an apology by your standards or anyone else's, but it's easy to find linked above, and it was sincere. That doesn't mean that I don't get a chance to register my objection to how those events were characterized, nor does it mean I'm responsible for any particular burden of proof simply for being the person responding to the erroneous account rather than the one who first posted it.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:14 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, could we somehow come up with a baseline set of expectations for participation in this thread that the mods are comfortable with? It does suck participating in a debate for 700 hundred comments and then seeing people waltz in, admitting to not reading, and essentially just laying a big turd right in it by demanding that everyone start back over at square one because they're too damn lazy to read and like it's somehow the other side's job to "defend themselves" against a bunch of accusations and defensive posturing that's already been hashed through exhaustively.

Really, is "if you cannot accept that other people are finding things on the site anti-Semitic in good faith, please stay out of the thread" an unreasonable expectation for participation? It seems unbelievably shitty for the mods stance to basically be "Jews of MeFi who find there to be a climate of anti-Semitism, please elucidate why and make suggestions for improvement" while also allowing every lazy wanker who is not really interested in the issue except for defending their own personal honor to wade back into the fray with "SILENCED ALL MY LIFE/expressing an impression of a comment as anti-Semitic is a silencing technique" willy-nilly and begin the cycle anew.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:17 PM on January 21, 2015


tonycpsu said that he objected to the characterization that he was acting in a way where the people he was disagreeing with were stupid and/or acting in bad faith. It was an objection to characterization about how he himself was acting. Perhaps you are referring to a different comment?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2015


Yeah, could we somehow come up with a baseline set of expectations for participation in this thread that the mods are comfortable with? It does suck participating in a debate for 700 hundred comments and then seeing people waltz in, admitting to not reading, and essentially just laying a big turd right in it by demanding that everyone start back over at square one because they're too damn lazy to read and like it's somehow the other side's job to "defend themselves" against a bunch of accusations and defensive posturing that's already been hashed through exhaustively

Oh, this. So very much this.

It's a long thread, so I understand folks not wanting to read through all of it, but now we're having to have the same arguments over again. This has been a great discussion, but I'm starting to get that whack-a-mole feeling. It's exhausting.
posted by blurker at 12:26 PM on January 21, 2015


It does suck participating in a debate for 700 hundred comments and then seeing people waltz in, admitting to not reading, and essentially just laying a big turd right in it by demanding that everyone start back over at square one because they're too damn lazy to read

If this is a reference to me, please know that I read the entirety of this MeTa before posting. What I said is that I wasn't following it as it unfolded, so I would not weigh in on this particular situation (involving Joe's spiked comment/post) because these things often look different in real time than when you get to a MeTa late. I wouldn't have chimed in at all were it not for my previous contributions being cited as part of the problem -- which they were! -- but, in my view, not in a way that I thought was fairly summarized by the comment in question.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:27 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


2. I'm very happy that zarq is participating again.

Thanks. I do appreciate the apology you made in the other thread, so thank you for that as well.
posted by zarq at 12:28 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's not something you can object to in good faith. "Your behavior came across this way to me, regardless of how it was intended" is actually what tonycpsu is objecting to in any case, and in this particular discussion that's utterly unproductive and essentially derailing. "But I didn't mean it that way!" is not the damn point. To be blunt, this isn't about anyone's personal motivations or personal ideological purity, and to have it derailed again and again and again by a bunch of idiots essentially white knighting for themselves is very, very tiresome. And I am not talking about any one person in particular here, which itself is part of the problem.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:28 PM on January 21, 2015


But that's simply not what happened. tonycpsu was not objecting to how his behavior was interpreted, which if he was your points would be spot on. He was objecting to Mchelly's comment:

The tweets-aren't-anti-semitic advocates doubled down again, both in the FPP and in the Meta, saying that not only were they not anti-semitic and that this was a silencing technique, but that they - most but not all of them non-Jewish - knew more about what constituted actual anti-semitism and that the others were either too stupid to understand their points or not acting in good faith.

So Mchelly said that tonycpsu said that he knew more about what constituted actual antisemitism and that the people he was disagreeing with were stupid and/or in bad faith. Mchelly said that tonycpsu said that, not made people feel that way, which is quite different and worthy of an objection if tonycpsu did not say those things.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:33 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Your behavior came across this way to me, regardless of how it was intended"

is much different from how it was actually said, which was:

"What happened was..." (itemized summary of events).

Anyway, I've said what I felt I had to say, and in the interest of not making this Another Thing, I'll step away.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:35 PM on January 21, 2015


Are we supposed to see a big difference between having accused others of acting in bad faith and saying that "it becomes difficult" to assume others are acting in good faith?
posted by Area Man at 12:44 PM on January 21, 2015


No, but there is a big difference between:

1) You are dumb and are acting in bad faith and I know more about xyz than you

2) You are giving me and others the impression that you think we are dumb and are acting in bad faith and that you know more about xyz than us.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:49 PM on January 21, 2015


I think there's a point where we have to accept people at their word when they say, "I sincerely apologize for my role in escalating tensions here, and promise to pay more attention to how my arguments will be read by people with a different perspective and a more personal stake when it comes to defending against hateful speech."

And then hope that at the next opportunity, things will improve.

I also think that sometimes, when a person says they would like to walk away, we can let them.
posted by zarq at 12:50 PM on January 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Mchelly's statement objected to by tonycpsu, highlighted by me for clarity: 7. The tweets-aren't-anti-semitic advocates doubled down again, both in the FPP and in the Meta, saying that not only were they not anti-semitic and that this was a silencing technique, but that they - most but not all of them non-Jewish - knew more about what constituted actual anti-semitism and that the others were either too stupid to understand their points or not acting in good faith.

MisantropicPainforest: So Mchelly said that tonycpsu said that he knew more about what constituted actual antisemitism and that the people he was disagreeing with were stupid and/or in bad faith. Mchelly said that tonycpsu said that, not made people feel that way, which is quite different and worthy of an objection if tonycpsu did not say those things.

MisantropicPainforest: Wouldn't discussions on metafilter go better if we don't assume the worst of others?

Take your own advice. Mchelly never actually singled out tonycpsu specifically in that bullet point, even if you pretend that statement wasn't an impression of the actions of a group of people and was instead a direct citation of a specific statement. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to be rules lawyering that statement, which again was disclaimed extensively and phrased very gently and mildly at the time, other than pure idiocy or deliberate trolling.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:50 PM on January 21, 2015


Since we are at the 'dumb or trolling' part of the conversation, I guess its over.

Again, again, what zarq said.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2015


What a charming disavowal of any personal responsibility in getting that thread to this stage, and how excellent and charitable of you to insist that your participation is what marks a thread as being over or not.

I want to be clear, I don't think this thread or the actual issue itself is a lost cause, but I certainly think an awful lot of people are actively interfering with those of us, on either "side" and regardless of individual personal stands on any number of the sub-issues, who are still trying to do work in good faith and make actual progress on the issue of "let's try to make MeFi a place that feels unwelcoming and somewhat anti-Semitic to a number of MeFites".
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:01 PM on January 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


That should be "that DOESN'T feel unwelcoming, etc etc."
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:12 PM on January 21, 2015


I don't know if FFM or Aryma are still reading this thread but I can offer a very practical reason not to make rhetorical allegories to the Holocaust or the Nazi party. While the holocaust casts a huge shadow over Israel, with regards to how the state was formed, not all Israelis have the same connection to it.

People have been emigrating to Israel for 70 years from around the world. People have been giving birth to new Israelis for 70 years. Some of the oldest generations of immigrants are survivors who escaped the camps or people who escaped the threat of the camps, and some of them are (random example) Canadian retirees who couldn't serve in the War.

Of the younger generations, there is literally no first hand experience of the Holocaust. There can be very direct, personal, visceral experience through family and friends and community members, there can be less direct experience, and there can be literally none. There are Jews to whom the Holocaust is a story from history books, a bogeyman the rabbis use to encourage us to date Jewish, a bunch of sad films that reliably win Oscars.

Increasingly, the politicians in Israel and the people voting for them have and will have very, very different experiences of the Shoah and of Israel. There will be Israelis who grew up with a very real feeling threat of terrorism coming from Palestine and there will be some who grew up feeling safe, who went to school with Palestinians, and those who didn't really deeply interact with Palestinians but were friendly with the ones who manned convenience stores and restaurants on Saturdays. There are peers of mine who grew up listening to hip hop and laughing at caricatures of Hitler in The Producers and Family Guy, who will move to Israel because it's the only place they reasonably can, who became orthodox or radicalized or just fell in love on Birthright trips, who will move there specifically to advocate for Palestinian human rights, but will have to serve in the IDF under Netanyahu first. And they will all be Israelis.

There are Jews who preach that the "lesson" of the Holocaust was that "we" deserved it for assimilating too much into European culture, for not being vigilant enough. They aren't thinking "we were oppressed so we shouldn't oppress others" but "let's never be victims again". Some of them view the Palestinian people, every man, woman and child as a threat. Some of them will advocate for a swift show of power in retaliation for any lost Israeli life.

Some Orthodox Jews from very similar communities as the ones above reject death, refuse to serve in the army, and recognize Israel as a secular state, and a convenient way for them and their forebears to escape Europe, but not the Jewish homeland, because the scripture (a/o scriptural commentary) says that a land gained through bloodshed cannot be legitimately ours.

So there's not just a diversity of Israelis but a diversity of lessons learned by the Holocaust, for those who choose to learn anything at all.

What is much less diverse, though definitely not unanimous, is the number of Jewish members of the Metafilter community who find it offensive to make analogies to the Holocaust or the Nazis in criticism of Israel when it is not directly pertinent.

*and the battered woman syndrome/victims become victimizers analogy just felt intensely sleazy.
posted by elr at 4:33 PM on January 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


That asterisk bulletpoint at the end of my long comment may have been a misread. It was something I inferred in the talk about how victims *should* act but it's not outright in the text and not the hill I mean to die on.
posted by elr at 4:49 PM on January 21, 2015


> Some Orthodox Jews from very similar communities as the ones above reject death

Great comment; could I ask you to expand on the quoted bit? I know it's a derail but this is MetaTalk and the tail end of the thread and nobody's paying attention and I'm dying to know what is meant by "reject death."
posted by languagehat at 9:33 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I suppose it may be an auto-correction of a typo - perhaps it was "reject that"? The phrase "reject death" doesn't ring any bells for me, unless it's the counterpart to "choose life".

I can't be sure that it's an error, though, because Jewish philosophical responses to anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the Holocaust are a rabbit-warren of meticulously-constructed minor differences even before you get to theology.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2015


Jeather linked to a blog post by David Schraub, above. I've been reading his stuff and he's very good.

People who are comfortable with academic analyses of discrimination might appreciate a link to the actual paper: Playing with Cards: Discrimination Claims and the Charge of Bad Faith. I don't have enough background in the subject to assess it properly, but it seems to offer a useful explanation for the some of the dynamics that have been reported here.

Another relevant post is Criticizing Israel without it Seeming Anti-Semitic is Hard (and That's a Good Thing). I can't possibly do his argument justice, but I will say that it has made me reevaluate my approach to discussions of a number of other contentious issues - including at least one current FPP.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:16 PM on January 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Joe in Australia, I really liked the last of the articles you linked, and I look forward to reading the rest when I have a bit more brain power (it's been a long day).
posted by jaguar at 6:37 PM on January 22, 2015


I also reject death, but that's because I'm a closet Zurvanite.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 7:28 PM on January 22, 2015


> Joe in Australia, I really liked the last of the articles you linked

Same here. Thanks for posting it.
posted by languagehat at 11:16 AM on January 23, 2015


I have been reading David Schraub's blog for many years now, and though I don't agree with him on everything, he always makes careful, intelligent arguments and his archives are well worth reading. I'm glad Joe went through to find other of his posts, because I have trouble remembering them separately.

Mods: you could do worse than reading the articles and posts linked here by him, as well as the links in those posts, as a "how do we respond to accusations of anti-semitism" starting point for how you want to deal with things in the future.
posted by jeather at 1:44 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


taz: "We are paying attention and appreciate the hard work that so many of you are putting in to explain and break down the issues. Thank you.

OK. Thank you. I posted this comment three days ago. Could you or someone else from the mod team respond to it, or indicate whether you will be doing so?
posted by zarq at 4:06 PM on January 23, 2015


Sure, yes. I'm the person who's around tonight so I will be back in a while with some thoughts, and then other mods will weigh in when they are around.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:25 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Keeping in mind that no solution is going to be perfect, if deletions become impossible, is this a fixable problem? Is there a tool in the mods' armamentarium that would help? A less aggressive response perhaps? Or do you think that's futile?

Regarding I/P threads themselves, I would say continue to flag problematic comments and we'll continue to watch them. If it's a fast-moving thread with lots of responses, yes, it will be difficult to curtail things, but we can keep doing our best to keep things on track and remove egregious stuff (I wouldn't write off deletions as impossible). Going forward I would ask members to try and keep the arguments and disagreements civil to keep them from spiraling out of control. We'll try to step in and leave mod notes were appropriate to keep conversations from getting heated.

3) Would it be helpful if we collectively flagged comments that concerned us more? Or tried to help keep conversations calm in those threads by respectfully asking people to be polite to one another? Other than being more civil to one another, how can we, as members of the community assist the Team?

What helps the most beyond flagging is when people drop us a note on the contact form why they flagged something, especially if it wasn't deleted or acted upon to your satisfaction or if you spot something weird that might not be super obvious on first read. If you are flagging something along the lines of cortex's three points that might fall slightly in point 2 or 3, if it may seem open to interpretation or might reference something in a subtle way, a contact form response can really clear those up and let us know where to put more energy and effort.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:12 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


TIL that while I would absolutely bristle at the suggestion that I was anything close to an anti-Semite, I have definitely casually absorbed a lot of attitudes that are informed by institutional anti-Semitism, and that I have a lot of thinking to do.

I just want to second all of this - what a deeply educational thread. I really appreciate the bravery and thought that went into so many of the comments (and I am struck by the thought that people I'm close to IRL may have wanted to tell me similar things, but weren't comfortable or couldn't find the right words). Joe in Australia, I have frequently disagreed with you in the past and I'm sure I still often will in the future, but what you have done in this thread is terrific, and I am truly grateful.
posted by naoko at 6:37 PM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've said that I'll have some thoughts here, but in composing them I keep writing a version that's far too long. So for now I will just say, Matt's right, flag things and write to the contact form, those are the most useful things you can do, since what is reasonable as a mod intervention will so often depend on the exact wording and the specific situation.

I will say, regarding the Nazi comparison-
This is deletable in most cases, and please do flag it. I think we've already been deleting this kind of comparison (in recent times) when it's explicit and we see it in time. This works, because it's a single well-defined thing, it's easy for members to understand where the line is, what counts. And it's easy to understand what the rationale is -- even if not everyone agrees that it's (automatically) antisemitic, still the comparison is going to be super inflammatory and make discussion suck. People can just make their point another way.

Some of the other particulars we've discussed in this thread are trickier, will involve more borderline cases, and will need to be hashed out more on a case-by-case basis with input to the contact form.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:40 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's on to us. Everybody be cool.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:34 PM on January 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm already wearing my Members Only jacket. That's as cool as it gets!
posted by Justinian at 5:03 PM on January 25, 2015


Thank you, mathowie and LobsterMitten.
posted by zarq at 12:47 PM on January 26, 2015


Joe in Australia, I have frequently disagreed with you in the past and I'm sure I still often will in the future, but what you have done in this thread is terrific, and I am truly grateful.

Thanks.

I've been giving some thought to the criticism of my tone. I don't think I'm that bad, but whatever. The thing is, a number of Jewish posters here have said that they had previously been reluctant to come forward about anti-Semitism. At least one closed his account; there are probably other ones who walked away without saying anything. I was in two minds about doing that myself. I'm sort of glad I didn't, but the early responses here were pretty damn harsh. I really didn't expect that reaction from some people.

There have been a couple of recent MeTa FPPs that started talking about misogyny, and (what do you know) out came the snide remarks and very extensive take-downs. At least three MeFi users appear to have closed their accounts as a consequence. I think that's a valid choice, it's not the victim's job to educate the aggressor, but that reaction slowly thins the ranks of anyone who might speak up.

So yes, perhaps my tone isn't what it might be. That's a classic way of avoiding criticism but the claims aren't exclusive; I might be a jerk and MeFi may have a problem with anti-Semitism. But here's the deal: if you drive out the reasonable people, all you have left are the jerks. I suppose I may be snotty, prolix, satirical, pompous - but it looks as though I was the last one standing. It's not much to be proud of, but it's mine.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:11 AM on January 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


An attempt to restore Lublin’s Jewish past. (A derail, but the thread's pretty much dead and I have a feeling a number of people who have participated in it would be interested in this fascinating and moving post.)
posted by languagehat at 2:21 PM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Could the staff expand more on the deletion of this post?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:03 AM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


We chatted about it over email a little this morning after it went up and then started immediately collecting flags; my feel on it was pretty much what's in the deletion reason, that it's not a really great article to be a reason to iterate through a couple dozen variations on a pointedly anti-Semitic cartoon.

And I say that as someone who is sort of into the "let's look at some weird internet for weird internet's sake" sort of stuff. It just seems like it should be...better? To be worth the trouble. Better at least than Buzzfeed taking a sort of aimless "but who is the mysterious man behind THIS DRAWING OF AN EVIL JEW, and it's a shitty drawing in the tradition of a long history of shitty drawings that are bad, but oh by the way here's A FEW MORE DRAWINGS OF AN EVIL JEW boy there sure are a lot of versions of THIS DRAWING OF AN EVIL JEW on the internet, but anyway they guy who drew it is apparently this guy but anti-Semitism is bad but also this guy doesn't seem like as much of a raging anti-Semite jerk as you'd think, I mean just look at this picture of him, but also it's bad but also HEY LOOK PATTON OSWALT POSED IN A PHOTO WITH HIM, WHAT'S THAT ABOUT, PATTON, HMMMMM" approach to the whole thing, anyway.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:22 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Huh, that's not at all my assessment of that piece.

I mean, I do agree that there's some concerns about the decision to include so many examples of offensive imagery -- but I don't think that's cut-and-dried because it's surely very relevant to include them when they're being written about. Even so, there's the problem of giving more exposure to things that really shouldn't get more exposure and that the ultimate result is often the opposite of what's intended.

But that aside, I disagree about the merits of the piece itself. Basically the article is arguing that it's easy to just say that the really noxious stuff must necessarily be the product of white supremacists and the like, but the truth is that there's a whole lot of other people who use and promulgate the really noxious stuff who aren't white supremacists and who have various rationales for doing so. That photo at the end wasn't irrelevant or meaningless, Nick Bougas (the cartoonist) was frequently published in Jim Goad's magazine, which published a whole lot of loathsome crap, and Oswalt claims it as an influence. He's clearly friends with both these men and thus the photo.

Which is kind of the point, and it's not a small thing. There are people very much like Bougas and Goad here on MetaFIlter -- not as many as there once was, but they're here -- and they are a huge force on the internet. I think that a lot of folk would be much more comfortable with the idea that the most iconic piece of virulent antisemitic artwork on the internet was the product of the Nazis or the like than with the idea that it's the product of a friend of Patton Oswalt.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:51 AM on February 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah single link Buzzfeed "journalism" on an offensive stereotype on a super touchy topic seems like not the place the mods might want to put their limited efforts.

"it’s easy to make an argument that “Jew-bwa-ha-ha.gif” is the most widely seen anti-Semitic image in history."

"You could stop right there and say that Nick Bougas is the most widely disseminated anti-Semitic cartoonist of all time and not be wrong."

Really? I felt like the article was going for some sort of harder-hitting point and never got there. Pretended to do "research" and mostly just Googled.

The whole"ironic racism" angle is difficult as it is, same thing with threads about false rape allegations. I can totally see why people would want to dig into a discussion about that issue, but it's pretty difficult to do in a super-mixed population website and people are going to have the same anti-semitism 101 discussions and wish they could be having more complex discussions but can't because ... it's still MetaFilter. Nothing wrong with that post specifically but nothing great about that article either and the weird gotcha at the end seemed to be a bump-set.... for a discussion about Oswalt which probably wasn't what the OP expected? Maybe?

Making an article about ironic sexism/racism/anti-semitism is something that can totally be done, and I'd argue should be done, would be a good post and inspire discussion, but probably needs to be done differently from that one.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:19 AM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


As the OP I didn't think it would be anything really do to with Patton Oswalt. I didn't think it was "ironic racism" either and would not have posted it if I thought it was. I thought the the article was an interesting look at the image and the history of it. But, I also understand that people think about things differently than I do.

I'm not sure what the quotes are for around "journalism" here. I guess maybe it's better thought of as an op-ed?

Regardless, I wish it had stood, but I also realize why it didn't.
posted by josher71 at 12:01 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with IF (and josher71, of course); I thought it was an interesting article and I'm glad I saw it before the post disappeared. I can understand why it collected a bunch of flags, but I think the deletion was wrong. Thanks for bringing it up, the man of twists and turns.
posted by languagehat at 8:50 AM on February 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


As one of the people who flagged the article in question, I agree the deletion was a borderline decision, but I still think it was warranted. I didn't think it really had anything to say; it was basically an exercise in shit-stirring.

(The paragraph quoted in the FPP was the closest it came to making any sort of argument; a more useful piece might have had that near the start and developed it further, rather than using it as a segue to the ultimate point of "here is a picture of Patton Oswalt with the guy who drew this cartoon.")

I'd be all for a post that engaged anti-Semitic iconography, its history, and those who employ it, in a thoughtful and/or enlightening way. This article wasn't it.
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:10 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"...rather than using it as a segue to the ultimate point of 'here is a picture of Patton Oswalt with the guy who drew this cartoon..."

I'm beginning to wonder if the criticism of the post isn't really a veiled defense of Oswalt.

I think it's an egregious misreading of the piece to say that its raison d'être was to take a swipe at Oswalt. The writer researched the history of this bit of artwork, got quotes from a number of people associated with it and its history, and established that the artist responsible is not some Nazi or neo-nazi, but someone associated with an influential counterculture. And Oswalt is closely associated with this counterculture. He name-dropped Goad on Conan. I don't think the Oswalt association was central or important to the piece, but I do think it was a relevant footnote that emphasized its argument.

And the artwork itself is ubiquitous, as you can see if you do a reverse image search.

I totally don't understand the claims that this was a weak, aimless piece. I think it self-evidently is not. I'm wondering if people actually read it (versus skimming it). And I wonder if it being Buzzfeed and this weird desire to defend Oswalt -- explicitly, or implicitly in the form of claiming that the photo was irrelevant or misleading or "shit-stirring" -- aren't factoring heavily in this analysis.

I do understand having problems with it just because the images are so offensive and their messages are so offensive. I viscerally experienced a desire to shower after reading it, and that's not an exaggeration. And so I can understand people flagging it for that reason. But the rationales for its deletion above all argue that even absent the presentation of the actual imagery, the article lacked value and seriousness, basically that it was sensationalist and vapid. This seems to me to be quite false.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, Goad also wrote The Men Who Taste Jews in Their Sandwiches, which has always struck me as stupidly ignorant about Jews and Judaism, changing a clever concept into a clumsy attempt at satire.

Ironic racism and sexism rarely go over well on Metafilter, most likely because it's easy to misread sarcasm as someone's actual feelings in a text medium, and these are topics that people have strong opinions about. The combination can lead to arguments and misunderstandings. Neither of which are conducive to pleasant conversation.

Yet once again we're left to ask if a post could have given rise to an interesting discussion or not, because it was (apparently) deleted before being given the opportunity. Were any comments deleted?
posted by zarq at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2015


I want to reiterate that I don't see ironic racism in that article.
posted by josher71 at 1:02 PM on February 9, 2015


It's part of the conversation about the cartoon. At the end of the Buzzfeed article, it's discussed whether Bougas could have created the image in reflexive response to political correctness, as "race-baiting hipster" ironic racism.
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on February 9, 2015


Ok, I misunderstood. I thought you were saying the piece itself was ironic racism rather than having a part dealing with ironic racism.
posted by josher71 at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Were any comments deleted?

Nope, no comments were deleted. It was a weird borderline post, the buzzfeed story had some interesting parts but a lot of shaggy dog story of them figuring out who the original artist was (which could have cut thousands of words from the piece if they just got to that point faster), and the end did feel like a big Patton Oswalt "gotcha" moment. We got flags and email about it immediately, and I talked it over with other mods who sided with deleting rather than keeping it.

In a perfect world, if it wasn't at buzzfeed and didn't have any ironic jokey tone (and didn't keep repeating the images and include an animated one dancing around) and maybe had a warning on the post that offensive imagery was ahead and didn't read like a overlong story with a stinger at the end, instead taking a more academic approach about the history of anti-Semitic caricatures, I think it could go ok.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2015


I'm wondering if people actually read it

Yes, I actually read it. I thought the general arc of that article seemed to end on the weird Patton part and as a result seemed to be a lot more about the Goad/Bougas cult-of-personality (in the absence of actually getting a comment from Bougas) and the weird hyperbolic assertions of the author (which I quoted) than about actual anti-semitism except in the briefest of ways.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:26 PM on February 9, 2015


I'm beginning to wonder if the criticism of the post isn't really a veiled defense of Oswalt.... I'm wondering if people actually read it (versus skimming it).

Approximately all I know about Oswalt is that he exists, and, yes, I actually read it. (More than once now, in fact.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:46 PM on February 9, 2015


It's not just Patton Oswalt who's a red herring; Jim Goad is not directly linked to the cartoon at all. He's basically a second innocent-by-association defense for Bougas. Bernstein's thesis is:
The cartoon was signed "A W Mann", the pseudonym of Nick Bougas, under which he drew a lot of racist cartoons for an undoubted racist, Tom Metzger.
As far as that goes, good detective work, interesting result. But Bernstein goes on to make some stupid and tendentious arguments for Bougas possibly not being racist, despite being a significant contributor to Metzger's hateful program:
Bougas dated someone with a Jewish name - would a racist do that?
We don't actually know that Bougas dated his "galpal" Sandra Weinberg or that she is Jewish, but yeah: that's quite possible.
Bougas, using his racist pseudonym, appears in this photo wearing a "flamboyant" hat and a handkerchief around his neck. Would a racist do that?
That's ... a really stupid argument. Incidentally, Bernstein doesn't seem to notice that the people in the photo - including Bougas - are wearing black uniforms with a Nazi emblem on them. Bougas' "ironic" racism, at this point, is pretty well indistinguishable from actual racism.
Bougas also illustrated Jim Goad's magazine, who published an "anti-PC zine".
Once again, that's a pretty thin refutation, given that (a) even racist cartoonists probably draw innocent stuff sometimes; and (b) some of Goad's writings are pretty clearly anti-Semitic. The cited illustrations that Bougas drew for Goad are, once again, signed with a racist pseudonym and are awfully misogynistic.

So Bernstein's argument really comes down to: maybe all of Bougas' racism is just irony, because look! Here he is with a couple of ironic racists! What Bernstein needs to ask is whether Oswalt (and possibly Goad) are hanging out with Bougas specifically because they're ironic racists, and Bougas is not.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:45 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"But Bernstein goes on to make some stupid and tendentious arguments for Bougas possibly not being racist, despite being a significant contributor to Metzger's hateful program..."

That's not how I interpreted it at all -- my sense is that the point was that Bougas and Goad and others don't fit our expectations of what people who traffic in virulent hate speech are like, but the hate is there, nevertheless; and that Bernstein wasn't arguing that any of these people are "innocent". I certainly don't see any of them as innocent. I seem them as toxic.

There's a whole subculture and personality type that's all about saying the most hateful things under the banner of being contrarian and freedom of expression and humor/satire and the courage to say what others won't, and the claim is always that somehow, in some way, this hate speech isn't the same as that produced by the the groups we generally associate with hate speech. But it often functions the same way and there's a lot more of it and very often it's just a facade for people to opportunistically express hateful ideas that they believe just as strongly as the usual suspects but with plausible deniability. I don't see these people as being "innocent" in any way whatsoever.

Goad doens't need to be linked directly to the cartoon because he wrote stuff himself and published other cartoons of Bougas's that are just as hateful in their own right. Bougas and that cartoon are not anomalous and therefore exist way over there, far apart from this subculture; rather, they're of a piece with it.

That's why I felt the article was good -- it wasn't a defense of Bougas and the subcultures he's a participant within, it's an indictment of them.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:33 AM on February 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's ... a really stupid argument. Incidentally, Bernstein doesn't seem to notice that the people in the photo - including Bougas - are wearing black uniforms with a Nazi emblem on them. Bougas' "ironic" racism, at this point, is pretty well indistinguishable from actual racism.

Whoa. Didn't notice the Wolfsangel symbol until you pointed it out. Good catch.
posted by zarq at 7:51 AM on February 10, 2015


I agree with just about all of Ivan's comment, above; I thought the article was very interesting, and I was surprised to find out it had been deleted.

Much of what people are saying above could have been a fairly good thread on the blue, and I thought the article itself was quite good at talking about the overlap between the nihilistic appropriation of racist imagery and the use of racist imagery as intentional propaganda. It kind of circles around a lot of the issues that were brought up by the Charlie Hebdo malarkey, but with its context being early-third-millenium-internet rather than postcolonialist France.

From the standpoint of discussion of "PC-ness" as a concept, and the people who choose to identify as opposers of it, I think the article was good. From the standpoint of discussion of internet history and the web's grosser subcultural corners, I think the article was good. I actually thought the whole thing was much better than the Buzzfeed Paul Elam article that got posted around the same time, and similar to, say, this article about the history of another particular set of racist imagery.

Anyway, this is not to say that the posting of that article is a hill I wanna die on or anything, just that I disagree with that deletion, and am glad that I saw that article on twitter so I could read it and think about the ways in which PC backlash manifests.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:11 AM on February 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


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