As a rule, I do not read the Federalist, a nasty little far-right propaganda outlet that has lately drifted from a down-market National Review to a slightly upmarket Breitbart. But last week someone subscribed me to the magazine’s daily newsletter—presumably as some kind of sick joke—and on Thursday a curious story caught my eye. “The Trump Team Is No More Anti-Semitic Than Democrats Are,” declared the headline of an article by Joshua Seidel, best known as a proud Jewish supporter of the alt-right. Here is how Seidel’s piece opens:
We all know the stereotypes for Jewish women and girls: Aggressive, demanding, pushy! Maybe some might say “whiny”!
If you’re a Jewish man, you’ve either given voice to these opinions or privately considered them while walking home after another argument or sitting in a restaurant feeling emasculated. “All stereotypes are true” Murry Rothbard [sic] once said, and we all know there’s truth to this one. Yet what kind of non-Jewish person would DARE to voice to the same opinion? Clearly, only Hitler. Or Stephen Bannon.
Seidel explains that, according to Bannon’s ex-wife, the Breitbart News executive chairman “didn’t want his kids going to school with ‘whiny Jewish girls.’ ” Does that make him anti-Semitic? No way! Seidel notes that Bannon’s résumé “includes opening Breitbart in Israel, working with Goldman Sachs, and some time spent in Hollywood.” Get it? There are a ton of Jews in the banking and entertainment industries, and Bannon worked alongside them. Therefore, he could not possibly be anti-Semitic.
Now, Seidel actually misquotes Bannon’s ex-wife, who, in reality, claimed that Bannon said he “doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.” (Emphasis mine.) The real quote includes an outright statement of anti-Semitism, which Seidel conveniently elides. He also ignores the other alleged (and corroborated) instances of Bannon’s anti-Semitism. But none of that really matters to Seidel, because Bannon supports Donald Trump, and Trump supports Israel. (Except when he doesn’t.) Seidel then criticizes my recent article about anti-Semitic threats by Trump supporters, calling it “unbelievable,” “morally wrong,” “disgusting, bigoted, and unfair,” and “a slap in the face” to America, which is a pretty serious charge for one short piece, but I’ll take the compliment.
Anyway, the fascinating thing about Seidel’s rant is that it is itself plainly anti-Semitic. I do not mean that in the abstract or theoretical sense, but rather in the sense that it explicitly affirms an anti-Semitic stereotype that is especially prevalent in the United States—that of the spoiled, whiny, “emasculat[ing]” Jewish woman. Apparently the editors of the Federalist are perfectly OK with a writer complaining about how too many “Jewish women and girls” are “aggressive, demanding, [and] pushy.” And they are OK with it not because it is acceptable in any ethical sense—it is obviously not—but because Bannon said it, and Bannon must be defended.
This rush to embrace anti-Semitism in order to legitimize the Trump team’s anti-Semitism is ominous. The Federalist has attacked plenty of vulnerable minorities in the past, but it has never before gone after Jews so venomously. Yes, Seidel’s (rather incoherent) piece is meant to be lighthearted—perhaps even a kind of quasi-in-joke, since Seidel himself is Jewish. But the peddling of crude anti-Semitic stereotypes often precedes and precipitates a much darker turn toward Jew hatred. Keep an eye on the Federalist and its ilk as they traffic more and more in this kind of alt-right bigotry. Their job is to expand the outer edges of what mainstream conservativism will tolerate. And in Trump’s America, anti-Semitism is back on the table.