The worst thing about Macklemore’s antisemitic performance in Seattle last Friday is not that he dressed up as a hook-nosed, black-bearded Jewish caricature (in a non-ironic fashion). Nor is it that he performed his song “Thrift Shop,” driving home the stereotype. Nor is it that Macklemore pulled his stunt despite being fêted by Hollywood as a symbol of tolerance for gays, winning awards and accolades for his 2013 anthem “Same Love.”
No–the worst thing is Macklemore’s defense.
“A fake witches nose, wig, and beard = random costume. Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody,” he tweeted.
It is hard–indeed, impossible–to believe that someone with an exquisite sense of identity politics and racial symbolism would not understand what he did. (Though it is now far easier to understand Macklemore’s 9/11 Truthism: it may not be the only conspiracy theory he embraces.)
Macklemore is apparently relying on the idea that such mockery of Jews is so familiar as to be unremarkable. And, indeed, amateur videos of the performance show the crowd enjoying themselves. No one is booing, much less walking out.
Jews are not in danger of persecution in the entertainment industry. But there is a double standard. Donald Sterling says racist words in private, and is now a pariah who stands to be stripped of his basketball team. Macklemore stages an anti-Jewish performance in public, and is greeted by cheers, shrugs and giggles.
How ironic that the man who sang about “same love” indulges the “same hate” of the world’s darkest years.
Macklemore’s stunt was not just an error, or a blind spot. It reflects a gay rights movement that has become increasingly intolerant, and a popular culture that tolerates that intolerance, without a hint of self-awareness.
Update: Macklemore has apologized.