Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor of the New York Times, made international news Thursday when he received one, then many, antisemitic tweets from nameless trolls, who clearly enjoyed his shock and horror.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), a news organization, began its report by informing its readers of “Donald Trump supporters’ history of aggressive racism and anti–Semitism” — an absurd, false, and inflammatory generalization, rewarding the trolls again for their provocation.
Trump’s critics are deliberately conflating the candidate with the cacophony, taking a kind of masochistic pleasure in the idea that these creepy tweeps — who can be defeated, by the way, with the “block” button — are a threat to western civilization.
For example, Bethany Shondark Mandel, a notably vociferous Trump critic, claims in Israel’s left-wing Haaretz that if Trump wins the presidency, the U.S. will become “as unpalatable for Jews as much of Europe already is.”
She also names Breitbart News as an accomplice in the coming antisemitic wave: “The Breitbart site, founded by a Jewish conservative who despised Donald Trump, is the darling of the pro-Trump alt-right, especially those with an axe to grind with Jews.”
The article is filled with careless distortions, including the claim that Andrew Breitbart “despised Donald Trump.”
Yes, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pointed out during his campaign, Andrew said Trump was “not a conservative.” But Andrew also admired Trump’s ability to see through the media’s false narratives, and to beat them at their own game.
— AndrewBreitbart (@AndrewBreitbart) January 31, 2012
Andrew, by the way, hated few people outside the liberal media. Among those whom he “despised” was Hillary Clinton, for whom Mandel now says she could vote.
Mandel was the key source for the original article attempting to link Breitbart to the trolls, a piece by Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast claiming the website “unleashes hate mobs.” Mandel said she was so scared she purchased a handgun.
The central premise of the article, however, was demonstrably false: the website had hardly mentioned Mandel. She and the Daily Beast declined to correct the record, despite a rare request for a retraction. The article still serves as a source for Breitbart-bashing.
The notion of Trump as Adolf Hitler, and Breitbart as Der Stürmer, is a contrived and self-serving horror fantasy that not only aims to damage Trump’s electoral prospects, but functions as a conservative version of left-wing “virtue signaling,” now appropriated by members of an elite cohort to identify each other and exclude anyone who declines to renounce the man.
The ridiculous notion that Breitbart News is antisemitic persists within a bubble, a hermeneutic circle whose members repeat, retweet, and reinforce each other’s misperceptions, biases, and interpretative errors.
Take, for example, the recent outrage at David Horowitz’s article attacking Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” for pursuing a third-party effort that, in Horowitz’s view, would endanger Israel by electing Clinton, who supported the Iran deal. Those who merely re-tweeted a screenshot of Horowitz’ headline claimed Breitbart was attacking Kristol for being a Jew. Anyone who bothered to read the article would have known that Horowitz was attacking Kristol, in effect, for not being Jewish enough.
Right or wrong, this is the same argument Jewish conservatives routinely make against radical groups like J Street. Horowitz, who supports Trump and is therefore outside the club, was surprised by the reaction: “I had no idea that this would provoke the reaction it did,” he later wrote.
Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary declared Horowitz’s article had “discredited” Breitbart “in the pro-Israel community.” Note the importance placed on policing rules of rhetoric, ahead of the substantive questions at stake. (This is why Trump exists.)
It goes on. The otherwise estimable Robert Kagan has declared that Trump means fascism has come to America. It is striking how little faith such critics have in constitutional checks on the presidency — how much power they cede, needlessly, to Trump.
It is an article of faith among the #NeverTrump crowd, for example, that the Twitter trolls act at Trump’s (and Breitbart’s) behest, or could be dissuaded by either. In elevating these sockpuppets to international importance, however, #NeverTrump is only encouraging them.
My colleague Milo Yiannopoulos has been attacked for the journalistic act of describing the alt-right, but the critics would have done well to heed Milo’s admonition that many of the trolls are doing it precisely for the reaction it provokes.
The best way to deal with the trolls is to ignore, block, or mock them — not to project them into anything like a real threat. For example, when one of them attacked Ben Shapiro — in friendlier days — I dispatched with said troll as follows:
I wonder if you’ve heard of soap https://t.co/Y9NTuOzVHq
— Joel Pollak (@joelpollak) February 29, 2016
Andrew Breitbart pioneered the art of re-tweeting hateful messages from leftists, to show the hypocrisy of liberal “tolerance.” But when you take anonymous comments more seriously than that, you are not advertising their danger, but your weakness.
And the truth is that Jews are not weak in the United States. We do not have the control that antisemites — both vulgar and elite — like to imagine. Yet we have strong institutions, and we are embraced by the vast majority of the American people. We do not need, and should not seek, the false solace of political correctness — which the “alt-right” delights in tweaking.
True, we are still the biggest targets of hate crimes. We face rising threats from radical Islam and the political left. But right-wing antisemitism remains in decline. Our major challenges are internal — the defection of misguided liberal Jews to the anti-Israel cause, for example, or the fact that we spend money on museums instead of schools. Twitter is a nuisance, at worst.
Moreover, the charge that Trump, and Breitbart, are enabling antisemitism is no different from what Democrats have said about Republicans in every single election.
In 2008, for example, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) called the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate “a direct affront to all Jewish Americans,” tying her to Nazis via a supposed link to Pat Buchanan.
Like abused children who grow to abuse their own, #NeverTrump’s conservatives are subjecting Trump supporters to the same ritual shaming. It is an example of the “crybullying” rampant on college campuses — turning victimization, real and imagined, into a blunt instrument of abuse.
There is more at work here than mere sour grapes over the GOP primary. Beyond the paranoia, there is a narcissism at the core of #NeverTrump, including the idea that they hold a monopoly on virtue. As they fan each other’s anger, they declare their intention to punish, at some later date, those whom they hold responsible for Trump’s rise.
They are becoming the mob they purport to fear.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.