CNN report on anti-Semitism probes both far Right and far Left

To even review this CNN special report by Dana Bash, “Rising Hate: Anti-Semitism in America” (CNN Pressroom) as “another” one hour documentary film will seem provocative to some.

But I can certainly provide some personal entrances to the subject.

In 2004-2007, when I worked as a substitute teacher in northern Virginia, I recall that in some ninth grade English classes the students were reading (a translation of) Elie Wiesel’s Night. I don’t recall that the kids were told (when I was there) that this was the first of a trilogy including 'Dawn' and 'Day'.

In November 2018, I made a two-day (Sunday-Monday) car trip to Pittsburgh and visited the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh Sunday night after the mass attack on Oct. 27, 2018 at a service by someone who had announced his intentions on Gab.  Recall, Gab had become a free-speech microblog service like Twitter, which had the reputation of attracting right-wing extremists thrown off Twitter.  The censorship had already started.  Gab was unplugged by its host although it has long since been reborn.  Gab had been in no position to know the direct threat the perpetrator had announced in time to stop it.  But it was accused of attracting “the wrong people”.

The documentary starts with an account of a hostage taking in Colleyville, Texas in January 2022.  The rabbi and several congregants had been able to run when the perpetrator became tired and distracted in “negotiations” with law enforcement.  Colleyville is NE of Fort Worth, and I believe I drove through it as I started my 4-day weekend in that area of the country in late May of this year.

The documentary then covered the controversy about journalist Julia Loffe, writing about Melania Trump and some connections in the Trump family, as a way to introduce a certain paradox:  Trump has many business connections to the Jewish community in NYC (including the Kushner family, for example) and supported Israel, to the point of wanting to move the US embassy to Jerusalem (from Tel Aviv).  Yet anti-Semitic attacks increased dramatically during the Trump years.  Why?  It is said to result from a combination of Internet amplification of tribalism (egged on probably by Russian trolls in 2016 and beyond) and Trump’s own lack of willingness to go out of his own way to explicitly condemn white supremacy, especially after Charlottesville.  But Trump, in his 2016 campaign and early days in office, really never made racist or anti-Semitic statements when interpreted literally;  it was more in context of pleasing  rural working white people suddenly exposed to the risks of immigration and foreigners, by attacking the 'elites', usually the corporate and academic 'libs'.    

But the events to follow would show the extreme and violent tribalism on part of the extreme right.  A young promising concert pianist (playing the Chopin Fantasy-Impromptu) attempted an attack and was arrested in California, leaving his fans befuddled as to his extreme beliefs.   He had apparently been 'inspired' by the Christchurch, New Zealand attack in March 2019, and had written his own manifesto following the ChristChurch one, about 'great replacement'.  In some areas of the extreme 'Christian Right', some men are motivated by feelings of racial purity as something that turns them on in connection to patriarchal values.  'Manifesto' has almost become a bad word these days, of people who talk but cannot fit in to social roles in normal society well.  The manifestos were talen down quickly despite the practice in the past of leaving them up.

During COVID, some extremists blamed 'Jews' for the pandemic and lockdowns, despite the emerging debate about China’s behavior in late 2019 as well as in early 2020 when the pandemic broke out first in Wuhan. Suppression of responsible debate on origins in social media (esp. YouTube) in the early days pf the pandemic may have exacerbated the problem. Gay men, particularly, have been accused of presenting public health threats, as I covered in reviewing CNN's reports 'Deep in the Pockets of Texas' July 25.

The report finally gets into anti-Semitism on the far Left, in the context of Zionism viewed as a form of colonialism.  A young woman explained that the far Right threat is like that of a tornado and immediate, where as the far Left threat to Judaism is more like that of climate change.

(Posted on Sunday, August 21, 2022 at 11 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)