There are two things Glenn Greenwald and I have in common – which is two more than I realized only an hour ago.
He has the flu, according to his latest ‘Comment is Free’ post, and I have flu-like symptoms due to a recent ill-advised flu shot.
The other more substantive commonality pertains to one acknowledgement in his post – one of seven miscellaneous observations by the Guardian’s new U.S. blogger.
In the context of complaining about the alleged recent smearing of Matt Stoller (former Democratic staffer and MSNBC producer) as a racist, Greenwald pivoted to make a broader point:
“There are few things more reckless and disgusting than publicly smearing someone as a racist – easily one of the worst things you can say about someone in America, for very good reason – purely for partisan gain. That’s especially true when you are well aware that you have no basis for the accusation.
For years, neocons did the same thing with “anti-Semitism” charges. They seized on a real and serious problem – anti-Semitism – and converted it into an exploitative, opportunistic weapon to punish those who deviated from their political views, particularly on Israel. The worst part of that behavior – aside from ruining people’s reputations by casting them as bigots without any cause – is that it dilutes the power of that term and makes it no longer effective to use when it actually appears.
That is precisely what spouting knowingly baseless accusations of racism achieves. Obviously, racism plays a substantial role in motivating some of the hostility toward the first African-American president, just as anti-Semitism plays a role in some hostility toward Israel. That’s precisely why it’s so vital to avoid casually exploiting those terms for gross partisan opportunism: because people will stop taking the terms seriously when they genuinely arise.
Few things are lowlier than tossing around those accusations purely to discredit someone for partisan gain. It happens often, but this case is particularly egregious given the accuser’s admissions in the comment section combined with the total lack of retraction or correction by that blog.
While I was shocked to read Greenwald acknowledge that “anti-Semitism plays a role in some hostility toward Israel”, I gather from his additional complaint about those who “exploit” the term “anti-Semitism” to “discredit” people that he may have been stung by criticism about his own record of advancing Judeophobic narratives concerning ‘dual loyalty’ and the danger of ‘Jewish power’.
I’ll leave you with a brief selection of quotes by Greenwald and you can judge for yourself if he has been unfairly smeared as a commentator who subscribes to anti-Semitic calumnies. (These quotes were documented in a report I wrote about antisemitism on progressive blogs for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in 2010.)
Glenn, the floor is yours.