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Mainstreaming Hate, Take Two

The response to Lee Smith’s follow-up

Marc Tracy
July 30, 2010

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.

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

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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