Saturday, January 31, 2009

O'Reilly doesn't understand liberal Jews, either.

Apparently Dennis Prager isn't the only one who can't wrap his brittle mind around Jews supporting liberal causes. O'Doofus offers us two scintillating anti-discussions. The first one takes place with Dennis Miller in early January during the midst of the Gaza War, ostensibly in the context of defending Israel against rabid protesting hordes:

The money-quote:

O'Shmuckface: The antisemitism is over-the-top, and I can never understand... why most American Jewish people are liberal, when, every time, when Israel is attacked, the far-left takes the side of the people against the Jews.

Miller: Well I think the Diaspora has become more disengaged from the heartland of Israel over the years. I'm not even Jewish but I feel great empathy for the Jewish people over there. I agree with you, I sometimes look at the elections that go on, and I think that, "Don't you want to be on the side of the guy that's going to be more pro..."

O'Dipshit: You'd think that ever Jewish American would be conservative in this country. But they're not. And I don't know how they justify it, like that guy Dershowitz, that complete fool...

[Interlude: As soon as he mentions Dershowitz, Bill starts to foam at the mouth. This is a little funny, since some of Dershowitz's positions over the years (specifically regarding the legality of torture) are not necessarily mainstream liberal ones, and certainly not far-left-- but also because the only substantive reason Bill dislikes him is because he ripped him a new one in a book review a couple of years ago. Relevant to the discussion? Not so much.]

Some thoughts: First of all, it is funny to see two right-wing Christians discussing the supposed political blindness of left-wing Jews without the slightest shame. I can't wait until next week when the O'Reilly-Miller caucus will regroup to discuss the respective failings of blacks, women, and gays.

Second, I like the suggestion that Dennis Miller is more pro-Israel and more "engaged" with Israel than the majority of Diaspora Jews. I would never deny that there are plenty of disengaged Jews in the Diaspora (disengaged, I would add, from many facets of Jewish life, not just Israel), the idea that Dennis Miller, that paragon of depth and substance, can somehow show us the way is not terribly convincing. While there is no question that some Jews simply don't care about Israel, there are plenty of others whose ambivalence is due to conflicting values and emotions-- for instance, believing that Israel's behavior should be a model for the rest of the world to demonstrate Jewish pride and accomplishment as opposed to an embarassment and pariah on the world stage. Unsurprisingly, O'Reilly and Miller have no understanding of such a dichotomy-- all they see are good guys and bad guys.

Third, O'Reilly's contention that, given the facts on the ground, all American Jews should be conservative is just as wrongheaded as the counter-argument I sometimes hear that all American Jews should be liberal. American Jews are not a monolith, and neither is Judaism. The ideal scenario is not one where Jews uniformly vote one way or the other, but rather one in which they are well-informed and vote their consciences, hopefully with some input or guidance from their understanding of Jewish tradition and values. Even better would be a case where the balkanization of American-Jewish life was ratcheted down a few notches and people did not feel stigmatized or isolated if their politics did not match the majority opinion within their denomination.

O'Reilly's bone-headed idea that Jews should vote Republican because Republicans support Israel devalues indivudal autonomy, assumes that all Jews are robots with the same "Israel uber alles" programming, and, perhaps most importantly, perpetuates the strawman that there is only one way to be "pro-Israel." This came up last Passover at my seder, one of our (non-Jewish) guests, an old friend of my parents', is also one of the few center-right people we know. Part of what I like about this man, who I'll call J, is that he is very well-educated, reads voraciously, has good arguments to back up his opinions, and is never afraid to have a polite and relaxed political discussion. At one point during the seder, the talk got onto Israeli politics (not my doing, I was trying to keep everyone together long enough for me to have time for bentshing). We started squabbling a little back and forth and discussed the issue of evangelical support for Israel, as well as Bush's support for Israel versus what support could exist under a Democratic administration, and I said that I thought there were different kinds of support for Israel depending on the circumstances; that a true friend sometimes needs to help a nation make difficult decisions it doesn't want to instead of helping them not deal with them. J confronted me with a very simple question: do you think there is a non-military way to support Israel? I said yes, and that my belief was that Israel was safer with more allies rather than less, that the more support it had on the world stage, the more flexible it could afford to be, rather than assuming that it could not trust other countries and shouldn't care about world opinion at all, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of isolation, which could be a lot more dangerous since it then is entirely reliant on its military, and US goodwill, to defend itself.

I'm not arrogant enough to think that the conversation at my seder table was some brilliant political discussion. But I'll take a wild guess and say it's a hell of a lot more substantive and authentic than Bill and Dennis' uninformed rants about the politics of American Jewry.

Here's another recent screed. This time Bill has deigned to have an actual member of the tribe participate. Not surprisingly though, he's stacked the deck by having it be a conservative Jew who will agree with everything that emanates from his Ein Sof. Take it away, morons.

O'REILLY: "Unresolved problem" segment tonight, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas seems to be holding, but tensions are still very high. Here in the USA, far left PBS guy Bill Moyers said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL MOYERS: Every nation has the right to defend its people. Israel is no exception. All the more so because Hamas would like to see every Jew in Israel dead. But brute force can turn self-defense into state terrorism. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: And that's his thesis. Now what makes the situation interesting is that PBS heavily markets to liberal Americans in big cities. And that includes a sizeable Jewish population. With us now to comment, FOX News media analyst Bernie Goldberg, author of the upcoming book "A Slobbering Love Affair about the Media and Barack Obama."Look, I think most of our viewers don't care what Bill Moyers says anyway. He's pretty much defined himself as on the fringe of the left. Very low viewership for his program. Doesn't really have a lot of influence anymore. But PBS, to alienate a sizeable amount of Jewish viewers, that's going to almost put them out of business.

First, let me just say I always love it when Bill prefaces a discussion of something by saying, "Nobody cares about this." Not that I don't think it's sometimes true, but... well, then what exactly is the point of the segment? To talk about how nobody cares? What? Also, why would alienating Jews put PBS out of business? Are we such a powerful donor group that we have the power to shut down PBS? Since when?

BERNARD GOLDBERG: Well, as far as Moyers is concerned, I don't think he's worried about what Jewish viewers he's going to lose because, I mean, we may not want to think of it this way, but the vast majority of people who religiously tune in each week to watch Bill Moyers agree with what he says.

O'REILLY: Even Jewish viewers?

GOLDBERG: You know what? Some Jewish viewers of course are not going to like the comparison.

O'REILLY: The Anti-defamation League.

GOLDBERG: They wrote a letter... Because to call Israel a terrorist state is not something many Jews will like. But don't think Jews are monolithic on this, because I know enough Jews for whom liberalism will trump anything else. And they behave and think the way most liberals think. Not -- in other words, it doesn't matter if you're Protestant or Jewish or Catholic, they think the way liberals think. And that means some of them. Some Jews agree with Bill Moyers.

Yes, and some Jews agree with Bill O'Reilly. And most Jews probably are on some spectrum between the two, depending on the topic. I find it mind-boggling that Goldberg starts his commentary by cautioning O'Reilly not to pigeonhole Jews as monolithic, only to go on to characterize both liberal Jews and liberalism as monolithic. News flash: not only was Moyers not saying Israel and Hamas are the same, even if he had been, Moyers is neither patron saint nor Pope of liberalism. If you're going to bash liberal Jews, why not at least use a liberal Jew as your strawman?

Then they start discussing the larger liberal movement:

O'REILLY: Do you believe that the mainstream media, the network news, "New York Times," favors Hamas over Israel?

GOLDBERG: Let me broaden it out just a tad. I think the mainstream media in particular and liberals in general hate power. And that's why they don't like Israel. And, frankly, Bill, that's why a lot of them don't like the United States of America, although they would deny that. They love the underdog. And this is the part that makes me crazy. They love the underdog even when the underdog violates every one of their liberal values. The underdog, supposed underdog in this case, hides among civilians. The underdog hides its weapons in civilian areas. The underdog uses children and women and old men as shields. And the underdog fires rockets every day into civilian populations, including school rooms. And yet, liberals in America, in the media and out, this is amazing, side with the so-called underdog.

This is actually a useful and valid observation-- sort of. The analysis is accurate, but its scope is too small. There is no question that liberals are very distrustful of power. At the same time, I would argue that many conservatives are, as well-- what is the rejection of big government if not a suspicion that centralized power will be misused and lead to tyranny? The difference when it comes to distrusting power domestically is that liberals fear government power but also realize it is the only way to implement social reforms on a mass scale, so they have to figure out a way to make it work to their advantage. In theory, conservatives do not. On the world stage, things are a little trickier. Liberals do like to support the underdog, particularly the supposedly-principled "people's opposition" to corrupt or fallible governments or military structures. However, there are also conservative narratives of world events which try to spin their champions (which can also be deeply flawed and far from consistent with conservative morality-- Contras, anyone?) as the underdogs as well, standing alone and fighting the good fight against almost overwhelming odds- Reagan's view of the USSR as "the Evil Empire" versus the only other Superpower, the US, comes to mind.

Bill then moves on to bashing Europe as the land of Antisemitism part five (which actually may not be all that true anymore), and reminds us once again that JEWS HAVE MONEY.

O'REILLY: But there are two elements here. There's the anti-Semite element.


O'REILLY: Which is Europe. You know, Europe, despite what they say, they're still very anti-Semitic in Europe.


O'REILLY: My opinion.

GOLDBERG: You're right in that opinion.

O'REILLY: OK. And then there's the Moyers' far left element. And I think you nailed it that doesn't like any power at all. If you have a centralized power, you're bad.


O'REILLY: You must have done something bad to get that. So there's two elements here. But again, you know, I think that - I disagree with you. I think PBS is damaging itself very gravely.

GOLDBERG: Among regular liberals?

O'REILLY: Among a very affluent part of the population that gives them money.
Sigh. Butler, fetch me my bullion cannon. Let's see if we can't shoot some gold into Bill's house- at least we can break a few windows.

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