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Mainstreaming Hate, Take Two

The response to Lee Smith’s follow-up

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Lee Smith’s column this week has received only 102 comments (I say only because last week’s column is up to 257). Unlike last week’s column, which quite a few people on the Internet had something to say about, there were relatively few reactions; of the principals mentioned, only Andrew Sullivan responded (“Smith is a Likudnik crank”). Why the smaller response? For one thing, this week’s column was in part a defense and clarification of last week’s, so it was by definition less provocative. For another, this week’s column was, in my opinion anyway, more careful than last week’s, specifically in the way that it handled the link between bloggers and their commenters.

(Okay, I’ll lay my cards down: I did not like Lee’s column last week; I thought it sloppily seemed to blame bloggers for their commenters, which is a fallacy. This week’s column, however, argues more persuasively and with more nuance that certain bloggers are sounding dog-whistles to certain commenters, and while I do not agree with every word of it, I urge folks of all political stripes to give it a full read, because that argument deserves to be grappled with. Also, while I am generally inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, I do think Stephen Walt* needs to respond to one charge Smith made: Namely, what the hell is he doing linking to this?)

Meanwhile, blogger Pejman Yousefzadeh published a long, good, consideration of Lee’s first column over the weekend.

“The mainstreaming of anti-Semitism,” Yousefzadeh argues,

need not occur solely and exclusively via the explicit repetition of the most openly vile anti-Semitic verbal sewage. One can take a large body of work into account, take note of the picture that is drawn from that body of work, and even absent specific objectionable statements, become disquieted and disgusted by the larger context of that work.

This is debatable! But it is worth debating, rather than merely writing Lee off. Please take a look (or a second look) at Lee’s second column, and continue the debate.

Playing With Fire [Tablet Magazine]
The Case of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer [The New Ledger]
Related: Mainstreaming Hate
Lee Smith Ups The Ante [Daily Dish]
Earlier: So That Happened

* Mr. Walt, if you’re reading this: You say you’re an Alan Furst fan; check out our recent podcast with him. Kumbaya!

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PS I’m going to take a wild gander and say that the reason this column is provoking less outrage is because honestly there is only so much time in peoples’ lives to spend defending themselves to absurdists like Lee Smith. He is clearly not happy so long as anyone is criticizing Israel, so why bother engaging him?

The benefit of the doubt is worth it when there isn’t an enormous paper trail. Then it’s just whistling in the dark. The fact is, these writers traffic in gross overstatement, although probably for different reasons. We have to acknowledge this. It’s not a dog-whistle, it’s a clarion.

Andrew Sullivan has conceded that he writes out of the passion of the moment and has at times reacted to hate mail he’s received on account of his opining on Israel. It would be nice if people with his prominence could rise above insults, or at least not let the hostility they engender seep into their writing. But this seems antithetical to Sullivan’s self-described method.

For the sake of providing evidence of Sullivan’s tendencies, I would cite these recent examples. He writes about how Jewish friends of his tell him he’s hurting them. (He claims he’s not trying to, but I detect a note of gratuitous pleasure when he’s letting the ‘neocons’ have it.) But he then goes on to say that these friends are essentially good people EXCEPT for their support of Israel, and adds something along the lines of “Thank God younger Jews aren’t like this.’ It’s that dichotomy that Leon Wieseltier alluded to, of Good Jews and Bad Jews.

Another recent, egregious post of his excerpted from a piece written by Andrew Exum, the military analyst, about a visit to Israel in which an Israeli military commander used offensive epithets to describe Arabs. Exum expressed shock at this, but when on to describe his appreciation for Israel and Israeli culture, and notes that this was episode was not indicative of the views of most Israelis. BUT, Andrew cut off the second section of the post, only including the anecdote about the derogatory description of Arabs. HOW is that any different from what Andrew Breitbart pulled recently, heavily editing that controversial piece about race? It’s not different at all; Sullivan is cut from the same cloth as Breitbart, which is why he can’t stand him.

Could we also please acknowledge that Lee Smith is brilliant, and that if you haven’t lived in the Arab world, and haven’t read his book, The Strong Horse, you are missing out on some blazing insights into the region?

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I would like to say ditto to this post.Many thanks for the effort you make for this.

A persons character is but half formed until after wedlock. -C. Simmons

Why are fish no good at tennis? They don’t like to get too close to the net!

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Mainstreaming Hate, Take Two

The response to Lee Smith’s follow-up

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