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Yair Rosenberg: Israel Is Not a White Colonial Project

December 20, 2023
Notes
Transcript
The left is lazily applying American ideas about racial identity and intersectionality to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg joins guest host Ben Parker today.
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08
    Welcome everybody to the Bulwark podcast. I am Ben Parker, senior editor at the Bulwark sitting in for Charlie Sykes. And I know at this time of year, people like to talk about hope and happiness and goodwill toward men and the best that we can be And I’m sure we will have some of that coming up for you all later in the week, but that’s not what we’re doing today. Instead, we’re gonna talk about a fascinating topic that to do with, you know, people being dark and evil and terrible. We’re gonna talk about antisemitism, and we have the best possible guests to talk about this subject joining me is Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:40
    You’re Rosenberg, staff writer at the Atlantic, and author of the Deep Shettle newsletter. Yeah. You’re thanks so much for joining me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:46
    Well, thank you for having me. As you noted, if I show up in your studio, you know something terrible has happened, but hopefully we’ll make a little sense of it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:53
    Yeah. That’s that’s basically our mission statement. Isn’t I gotta say I’ve been reading almost everything you write. I may have missed one or so to hear there since before you were at the Atlantic, I’ve been wanting to have this conversation with you for so long. So I’m glad we finally get to do But before we dive into it, how did you get on the anti Semitism beat?
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:11
    Is that something you always wanted to write about? Did you choose it or did it choose you?
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:15
    Well, you know, I was covering American politics, and then I said, this is too depressing. So I’m gonna need to pick up some new material. And so then I went to Israel Palestine, and then I was like, no, that that’s either. So, then I went to anti Semitism. The real answer is that most things I write about, as a journalist, come from the things that motivated me to get into journalism in the first place, which is I think this subject is really important, but I feel that there is you know, a lacuna in the coverage or it’s not covered in the way or in the depths that I would have liked.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:44
    And a good thing about the journalism profession at best is that if you can explain something that other people can’t explain, editors will often say, well, would you write about that more for us? And so I didn’t even intend to be a journalist as my profession, but just started writing about the things that I thought were, you know, important but undercover, and I kept getting opportunities. And then here I am, I’m very fortunate to have the job that I have And one of those topics was anti Semitism. I was very curious also about I wanted to write about religion, particularly minority religious groups. So I’ve written about Muslims and Mormons in the American context, not just choose, but of course that also gets the prejudice towards minority religious groups and that includes, things like anti Semitism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:22
    Did I expect it to be this big of the story? I I didn’t, and I I wouldn’t have liked it to be. I I think that, like many American Jews I thought of it more as a it’s a global story for sure. It’s a story that tells you something about Europe and the Middle East, and there is an element dividend to the American story, but it isn’t the same. And it it still isn’t.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:42
    But it’s a bigger story than I would have hoped that I think a lot of people would have hoped.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:45
    Yeah. I think that’s right. But what is it about antisemitism or other forms of religious prejudice that keeps it interesting. Well, how do you avoid writing about the same thing over and over and over, you know? This group, you know, hates that group, and that group hates this group, and, you know, what keeps it fresh?
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:01
    So I would say that, you know, you learn about each of these stories from each other. There are certain interesting commonalities you discover, the more you look into prejudices towards different groups, and it helps you to understand those communities and their experiences better. And you also learn about the unique characteristics of, different prejudices better, the more you do it. And you realize that it’s not sort of like a buy one, get one free situation where I understand this form of racism. So now I understand this other one or I understand, you know, prejudice towards Jews.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:27
    So I understand prejudice towards Muslims. And a good reporter who’s covered this stuff in some depth can actually do a really good job showing you where those things intersect and help people make analogies and also show you where they’re different so that they’ll see things that they otherwise would have missed. And, you know, at my best, that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s a challenge. I try to write about this stuff in non jargony plain spoken terms that the average person could understand and also write about them in in a way that doesn’t assume you’re a bad person because you might have accepted some stereotypes about this or that community because everybody has blind spots and everybody grows up filling those in.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:03
    And too often, I think sometimes the media discourse about these subjects sort of assumes all good people already think this, and you’re a terrible person for not already understanding it, and it actually scares people away from the conversation, and it scares people from just learning and growing, which is what really all we all we should be doing. I don’t assume you already understand why something is bigoted when I write about it. I try to explain it. I try to show you in careful detail. Maybe it requires some history.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:27
    Maybe it requires some analogies. But the sort of thing that can, make this, less scary conversation is a weird thing. Right? I write about anti semitism in a way that’s designed to make it a little bit less scary and more approachable. And also sometimes a little funnier.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:40
    Right? And I think you need to have a sense of humor when talking about darker things because it also helps people to engage with the subject rather than stay far away from it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:48
    What I wonder is you sort of mentioned that some of it is just sort of, you know, everyday bigotry born of ignorance that we all have in some measure in another. And how much antisemitism, I guess, in the world or in the country would you say is of that type? Are there multiple kinds of antisemitism, I guess, is my question is it really sort of a bunch of different related phenomena that are from different people and times and places, or is there sort of one core that defines what we mean when we talk about it. What’s your perspective on that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:15
    Yeah. So if you brought in some good historians and academics, they could debate this for you for hours. Right? Is there some over, you know, overarching to antisemitism, or is it a bunch of discrete errors that connect in certain ways, but are otherwise distinct. In my writing, I tend to distinguish between two different kinds of anti Semitism that we see today.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:34
    Right? One is you mentioned is the personal. Right? This is the kind prejudice that we see in many communities towards communities that are not like them. Those people are too black, too Jewish, too Muslim, right, too different from me, and I don’t like them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:46
    And a lot of times people think that is basically what antisemitism is. So I spend a lot of time saying that is a real thing, but there’s another form of antisemitism that is actually quite pervasive and also historically more deadly, which is this conspiratorial nature of antisemitism, the conspiratorial narrative surrounding Jews, which doesn’t just say I don’t like Jews because they’re different. It says I don’t like Jews because I think they’re the secret string pulling puppet masters behind all of the world’s social, political, and economic problems. And that kind of anti Semitism where you get things like, you know, the great replacement theory that you see motivating various attacks around the United States that sort of stuff where people are, you know, in the Middle East talking about how the Jews control the media, right, or the Zionist control the government or the economy, all that sort of stuff. That kind is, you could actually have no problems with any choosing your life.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:38
    You could have lots of Jewish friends and say, you know, I like to choose on an interpersonal level, but as a collective that I imagine, right, they’re this malign force on the world. And that has motivated a lot of people to just, like, lash out at Jews. When you look, if you scratch beneath the surface, it’s one of the worst anti Semitic acts in the United States in recent years, whether it’s that Texas synagogue that got held hostage by a Muslim extremist or the massacre of Jews at Pittsburgh Street of Life synagogue and numerous others. There was a shooting at a Jersey City Kosher supermarket by some, black extremists of the, you know, Hebrew Israelite sect. All these people demographically, ideologically, they look very different from each other, but they all bought into conspiracy theories about Jewish control and, malign Jewish influence.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:22
    And so I try to spend some time explaining that conspiracy theory and all the different types of people, believe it, and why people fall for it. I think a lot of people have a handle on the idea that, you know, there’s a personal prejudice that looks like antisemitism, but they don’t always have a handle on this, which we might call one of the unique characteristics of antisemitism, which is different. Than some of these other prejudices.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:41
    Yeah. One of the other things that I think is unique. Well, maybe it’s not unique. Maybe you should tell me is that you have people who legitimately believe in the conspiracy theories and are, you know, basically legitimately nuts. But you also have in the history of anti Semitism, people and often governments who use these conspiracy theories in a sort of instrumental purpose.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:01
    You know, the greatest example is the protocols the elders design, which is a forgery by the, Russian imperial government to basically blame the Jews for everything. So is that unique to antisemitism that it’s used instrumentally in that way. Does Andy some doesn’t have a purpose to some people?
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:17
    So I don’t know if that use is unique because you always have demagogues who find the various prejudices that appeal to the masses to be politically useful to them. Often, when you play with fire, you end up getting burned, and it turns out you can’t control it and, think we’ve seen plenty of that in the United States and many other places. But antisemitism certainly gets instrumentalized. People use it because they recognize a lot of people example, wanna find someone to blame for something going wrong in the country, and you could either look within and say, what did we do wrong that led to this economic collapse, or you could look without and say, who did this to us? And a really good scapegoat throughout history has been the Jews.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:51
    Why? Because Jews have been around a really long time, and they’ve been a minority pretty much everywhere they’ve lived other than the modern state of Israel and a few other short periods time. Choose our tiny, tiny people, and then when you spread us around in different places, we’re even smaller. And so people find it very easy to scapegoat minorities that are different from the majority. And choose have for, you know, hundreds, thousands of years been that minority.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:11
    And so they end up getting on the receiving end of that human tendency, that instinct. And that’s how anti feminism can be useful. Right? Because, if you’ve had some sort of social, political, or economic collapse, you have a a stab in the back. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:23
    Germany isn’t doing well after, you know, perhaps not ill advisedly having a big role in World War one, but it isn’t it easier to say that the Jews did this to us. And these sorts of things, I are very, very convenient. But, of course, in the Middle East, you very often have, when things are going wrong in various autocracies, it’s much easier to start talking about what the malign, you know, Israeli scientist conspiracy is doing and to let people come out and protest against that than to protest against the government. And the authoritarian regime that is actually gets responsible for people’s lives and responsible for those problems.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:55
    Okay. But let’s focus on one particular example in the Middle East you know, scanning this headline, the Denmark, Netherlands, and Germany authorities arrested people. This is a few days ago. Some of them with links to Hamas. For planning to attack Jewish targets.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:08
    I assume we’ll find out more as the case is developed, but assuming that reporting is true for the time being, what is Hamas gain? By apparently having people go attack Jewish targets in Europe. I mean, if you were Hamas and you were subject to an existential threat in Gaza, Why would you waste any of your time or resources attacking Jews in Europe rather than, you know, the IDF, which is actually coming after you in the tunnels?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:33
    One thing to understand about Hamas is that it is a constitutionally anti semitic organization that is committed to eliminating juice. And it believes in all of a lot of these conspiracy theories that the protocols of the elders of Zion right there. She has to choose her behind all the world wars, choose her behind, the social political economic problems. It’s right there in their official charter, which they never disavowed. And there spoke people repeat things along these lines with some regularity.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:58
    And so the rank and file people who are affiliated with they believe these things. And so to them, you know, choose our targets of opportunity, but especially if you’re at war with the Jews right now, which is how they perceive it. They don’t just perceive themselves as war with Israel. It’s, to them and it’s basically interchangeable. They interchange Jews and scientists in their rhetoric.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:16
    While there are Jews elsewhere too that can be attacked. That’s not the only, you know, sort of terrorist attack that’s been foiled against Jews. We don’t really hear about these in the media because thankfully they get foiled. And it’s sort of the paradox of this stuff, which is that it gets foiled before it happens. So it’s not as big a deal, but they, you know, the authorities in Brazil earlier in the war also foiled a terrorist attack.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:33
    And I’m sure there are others that we’re not hearing about. And there are, I’m sure, various stages of seriousness and so forth, but, this is a thing that that happens But to them, all the Jews are just this maligned collective. So you’re not just at war with the the Israeli army, you’re more would choose in general. Again, they represent a very extremist movement is not obviously how most people who are credit goods of Israel or most people who are, you know, most people are, you know, Muslims or Arabs. This is not how they’re thinking about it, but it’s certainly how Hamas is thinking about
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:00
    Right. Right. And you you talked earlier about the sort of two different kinds of anti Semitism that you see. I I will get to this a little later, but I think there might actually be three. But, you wrote in October that Hamas is less committed to national liberation than to Jewish elimination.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:15
    And they are obviously a violent, organized, painstaking, thoroughly ideological and religious group. And that is very different from what’s also been in the news lately, which is the sort of campus left kind of antisemitism, which is ideologically incoherent compared to Hamas, which has, like, an actual charter and is more spontaneous and is less organized. Is there a relationship between these two things or are they completely separate phenomena that happened to overlap a little bit by coincidence.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:49
    You often have this phenomenon in general of American college students over the decades, sort of romanticizing various militant groups abroad often anti western ones, and they have this completely different notion of what they are and what they represent and what they’re doing than what the real group actually believes and does. And to me, as someone who, like, spends a lot of time covering the actual Middle East and what’s going on there, and then you go into college campus discourse, there’s very little resemblance. Very often to how it’s discussed, setting aside questions of, you know, who’s right and who’s wrong and prejudice or not. I wouldn’t say that a bunch of people who are, you know, chanting from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free on a college campus or necessarily chanting it in the way that it’s understood by Hamas, which means we’re gonna cleanse all of the Jews either we’re going to expel them. We’re gonna kill that is not often when you if you actually press people on it, they might not even understand what the chant means.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:34
    There has been some, you know, pulling done on this and studies done on this by actual academics, which you might have seen in the Wall Street Journal, by a UCLA professor, I believe, where he found that most people don’t know on college campus, which had this, like, what the river is and what the sea is. And when they find out, they’re like, oh, yeah. I’m not I’m not so down with that slogan. Right. And others, when they they chant it, they might think, oh, we could have just one state with all these roads and palestinians living together in peace and harmony.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:56
    This is a political arrangement that posture is rejected by overwhelmingly by Israelis and Palestinians on the ground, which is like the one of, like, two things that they can agree upon. But being wrong about what a realistic political arrangement is is not the same right as calling for, you know, cleansing all of the Jews. They think that they’re they’re supporting one thing, but they aren’t as read in on what Hamas is actually doing. You know? And so I I I would say they’re not exactly the same.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:21
    And also when I focus I tend to focus in my writing, groups like Hamas or groups like Hezbollah, which is the Lebanese militia that’s to Israel’s North. It’s currently, you know, firing on their civilian areas in his the evacuation of some one hundred thousand Israelis already and killed people within Israel. And this is barely making any news or headlines in America. Right? And then both hezbollah and Hamas who are funded by Iran, right, which is a holocaust denying mega power, right, that has a tremendous amount of resources and uses it to fund proxy wars around the Middle East and including, on multiple waters of Israel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:54
    So those people, you know, because their form of what I would say anti Semitic anti zionism pretty straightforwardly. They’re very open about being anti Semitic and being anti zionist and how those are connected. You worries me more than people with placards on a campus, especially who don’t necessarily know as much about the issue as they should, but are in a long running tradition of people like that on campuses on all issues.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:15
    That’s more or less what you wrote in November. You wrote whatever one thinks of these students. They mostly have placards, Iran, and its militias have guns, and they are happy to use them. Which seems to me so obviously true that I wanna argue with you about it. I totally agree with you that the people who are willing to blow people up and kidnap them and do terrible things are more dangerous in the short run, but isn’t it easier to destroy a foreign organization that has a command structure and hideouts and a logistical infrastructure like Hamas than it is to kill a domestic ideology that just sort of pops up among people.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:55
    In the long run, isn’t it really more and again, I’m arguing devil’s advocate, but isn’t it really more dangerous to have people here believing dangerous things and people abroad believing dangerous things?
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:06
    Well, if it’s all just about beliefs, sir, it’s one thing, but it’s what are people doing with those beliefs? And what people are doing with those beliefs in the Middle East is attempting to literally eliminate by mass murder and other means existing country. Whereas people on a college campus might be, you know, in one way or the other supporting some of that, but they aren’t actually able to affect that really one way or the other. But also as, like, that thing I mentioned with this, you know, the study that was done by this UCLA professor, very often, people can be, reasoned with what it is simply an ideology about facts overseas, you can, in fact, tell people some more facts, and they can say, oh, wait. So the thing is a little bit more complicated or different than I thought it was.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:45
    I don’t think I could really, you know, like a UCLA professor could do some, you know, study on Hamas members and then say, well, here are some facts that you might wanna know. And then they’d be like, well, you know what? That has changed my opinion of this matter. Right? So I think there is some fundamental differences between Hamas members and, even someone who I might have really strong disagreements with on launch campus.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:03
    No. True. And I just wanna quote you one thing from that from that Wall Street journal article you mentioned, they did a survey to see, students who agreed with the slogan from the River the sea, Palestine will be free if they could name the river and the sea, and a majority could. And then they showed a bunch of these students who profess to agree with the slogan a map of the Middle East and identified the Jordan River in the Mediterranean Sea And after seeing the map, seventy five percent of those students, there’s only a total of eighty. So it’s a small study, but seventy five percent of the students change their minds.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:33
    So, you know, little information can go a long way. I do wanna ask you another question about campus anti zionism, anti semitism, it sometimes blurs, with the understanding that we have agreed that the people with guns are more dangerous. When did anti Zionism at least? Become wrapped up in anti colonialism and the white settler thing. I’ll admit that it was sort of news to me after ten seven that Israelis are considered settler colonialists and white for that matter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:07
    So the settler colonial paradigm is one that has been used in various academic contexts to discuss a whole bunch of different countries, whether they’re founding or various other actions they took after they were founded when they expanded the territory. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable paradigm actually to apply to Israel’s continuing designs on the West Bank where it continues to build settlements at the direction of, you know, very committed actors who are currently in the Israeli government. Like, many kinds of academic ideologies as they become more and more popularized and then they enter, like, I don’t know, TikTok form. It starts to become this catchall that then it relates to everything and becomes much, much less useful and frankly sometimes very offensive and not actually how it was originally used. In a much more rarefied intellectual context.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:50
    I mean, so then some of you get things like the entire state of Israel is settler colonial which is strange because what colonial power are the Jews when they were basically kicked out and expunged from pretty much any country you would claim they should go back to, whereas the state of Israel, the West is on land, that is the historic homeland that the Jewish people is filled with relics of the Jewish faith with all the Jewish holy sites, which conveniently predate all of the non Jewish holy sites, write all those sorts of things. It doesn’t justify one claim over another claim. There are people who live there who have all legitimate claims. That’s the core of this problem, but it says that this is not a colonialist project. It’s different groups with legitimate claims, you might say indigenous claims of certain sorts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:31
    Although that, of course, different scholars will dispute the nature of that term. And so, but when you take, like, settler colonial from a certain context of, like, Israel and the West Bank in post nineteen sixty seven, and now you start saying, well, now it’s all of Israel, and then you start adding in American identity politics and saying, The Israelis are the white settler colonials. You get into really strange places because, of course, half of Israelis at this point, more than half are decided from Mizrahi, that is Middle Eastern and North African Jews from Muslim and Arab countries, from which they were pushed out, persecuted, expelled depends on the context, where they’ve lived for centuries, right, before Islam. And then Israel has found it, and a lot of these countries decide that we’re going to, as we’ve seen now during this work, people take out or Android Israel on Jews locally. And also a lot of Jews who are in those countries said we’ve been living a second class citizens for a while, maybe we should go somewhere where we might be, not second class citizens.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:20
    And then they do that. And, of course, it turns out that, the ashkenazi Jews and and the Mizrahi Jews in Israel don’t necessarily get along. Right? And Mizrahi Jews faces fair amount of persecution themselves. But over time, they’ve, you know, really taken up a lot of, cultural and political power.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:34
    Netanyahu’s political base in Israel is predominantly when we had that visitors and viewers might remember this huge controversy in Israel before the war over the overhaul of the Israeli judiciary, which was being initiated by Netanyahu and his government. Now the people who were so in those vocal supporters of sort of gutting the Israeli judiciary in the name of giving more power to the people were Miss Rocky Jews on the right who said that we’ve been disempowered by an Ashkenazi elite in all these institutions, and this is necessary. And that the people who are mostly against it were Ashkenazi Jews on the left. So if you’re, like, making this out to be some sort of, you know, white settler state, it none of its politics make any sense. You have no idea why netanyahu’s in power.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:10
    You have no idea where his political base comes from. Just can’t understand what’s going on, and then you can’t affect it. But it sort of, like, begins as, like, a useful academic idea. I mean, you could say the same thing about something like intersectionality, which has some really interesting insights to tell us about how prejudice operates. I’ve used it in my in my writing a bit about antisemitism, but then when it becomes pop sectionality as applied on college campuses and used to apply to a million different issues of conversations, it basically loses a lot of its intellectual rigor and starts making contradictory and problematic claims.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:40
    And I think that happened, with settler colonialism as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:43
    Yeah. I think that’s right. And I think also part of what gets missed in this conversation is exactly well, it’s two things. One is exactly how for lack of a better word, diverse Israeli society is And also it is the imposition of American sort of race conceptions onto a region where those don’t really make sense. So as you said, half ish of all Israelis are descended from middle easterners, right, instead as opposed to Europeans.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:11
    So if you put an Israeli and a power city next to each other, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell who is who. But there are other kinds of Israelis too besides Ashton as a man who’s writing theirs. It’s large number of Ethiopian Jews, Right? Which I think if you were coming at this with a purely American racial sensibility would confuse you because they’re the only ones in the situation who are, you know, Bulwark. And there’s small numbers of other communities too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:32
    There are, you know, Indian Jews who are living in Israel now and there are Chinese Jews. And anyway, a lot of this gets sort of smooshed into American sort of racial understanding, which just does not apply.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:44
    It’s a very American thing to do. You know, we are the main character the world and all of our ideas get imposed on everybody else. Everyone else has to speak English. We will not learn a second language, Right. It’s it’s one of the privileges of being American that you can do this sort of thing, but it can make for some really lazy analysis.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:01
    And it’s why America sometimes has problems in the Middle East because sometimes we are applying our own paradigms to paradigms that are not, you know, totally different. And we have to really try to understand societies from within if you’re going to actually, influence them in some way. Right? And so, like, part of this is is that, you know, if you want to understand is really exciting, maybe you don’t like, for example, the right wing government of Benjamin, and the general drift of Israeli politics for quite some time, under him. You need to understand why he got elected and who are his voters and things like that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:31
    If you’re not able to understand, say, the identity politics of Israel and the different populations and why they have the politics that they do, like, why are miss Rocky choose traditionally more right wing? Ashqanazi Jews, well, Ms. Rocky Jews lived in the Middle East, right, in Muslim and Arab countries, and they got kicked out and they felt dispossessed. And so they look around and they say, I don’t trust your piece of paper for peace and all of this stuff. None of these people can be trusted.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:53
    We need to, like, you know, have hard power and things like that. They find those to be more compelling arguments. And if you want to assuage those, you have to address those. But if you just pretend to weigh these people and just say this is giant white colonial state of a bunch of people for Brooklyn, you’re gonna have a lot of problems even reaching anybody there, let alone impacting the political discourse.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:13
    Okay. Situated somewhere between the armed, organized, really urgent antisemitism of Hamas and their ilk, and the unarmed disorganized, not nearly as dangerous campus anti Semitism. There is the armed but disorganized right wing antisemitism that you described of individuals in the United States motivated by conspiracy theories shooting up synagogues and kosher grocery stores and things like that. Give me your hierarchy of anti semitic threats. Where do the right wing not jobs fit in?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:45
    With the sort of left wing campus cranks and the major terrorist organizations.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:51
    My answer to this is always the rankings are deceptive because typically, and this is not why you’re posing the conversation, but in general, in our potters in reality, you know how this works, which is that people say, well, where’s the real anti dismant. What’s the biggest threat? And then the idea is we don’t have to talk about the other ones. And almost always the biggest threat is very conveniently the one that’s happening with other people. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:13
    It’s the other party. It’s the perpetual sin of the people I already disagree with on everything else. And you might be pointing to real anti Semitism, what you’re really doing is making sure everyone’s looking over there. Because it enables you to not have to confront any antisemitism where you are. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:27
    So if you’re on a college campus, you’re not gonna be able to, like, solve for Hamas. Like, it ain’t gonna happen. Right? You’re I don’t know. Maybe you wanna, like, go and parachute down and good luck to you, but you’re not going to be able to fix, you know, some like that kind of violent to some underground.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:39
    At least, it’s not your problem, and you can’t really do much about it. But you can do something about antisemitism that might be going on in your college campus community and just making sure if there’s like pro palestinian protests, then it doesn’t lapse into that. And, like, that’s a legitimate thing you can do. Right? If you’re a right wing person involved in politics in America, and you notice anti Semitism has been creeping into all different parts of, sort of the, you know, Republican base and certain types of discourse about Jews and things like the great replacement theory and certain popular personalities who, you know, have sanitized versions of these things.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:10
    You can speak out against it. And you can say that’s not something that I support, and that’s not something our party should do or support. And you’re gonna have much more impact in those spaces because people listen to people who are part of their own community and they trust. And if you’re like a left winger and trying to police right wing anti semitism or a right winger trying to police left wing anti semitism or an American trying to police, you know, middle eastern anti Semitism and so forth or reversed, you’re mostly gonna make very little headway because you don’t have the credibility in those communities and the connections to change anything, which is why it’s sort of cross free to signal against anti Semitism outside, but it costs a lot to, stand up to anti Semitism inside. So it’s understandable why we tend to have the outside conversation and not the inside conversation like, I would acknowledge all the things that you just listed, and I would just say, people listening and watching, think about what communities you’re in, and that you’re part of, and that can be political, it can be social.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:02
    Right? You can be, like, you know, I’m, you know, part of this, you know, this is what I do at work. This is what the industry I’m in, things like that. And you can make a difference in those places because people will listen to you. And you also feel more satisfied once you do it because you might actually make, you know, like railing against something you can change actually is kind of innovating, and it can be very depressing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:19
    And so, but you can, it might be harder. You might have a hard conversation internally, but in the end, you often will find that people can shift and can change, and you can make a change. But only if you really are willing to look inside instead of out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:30
    Okay. Quick detour because you talked about projection and people always pointing to the other side to point out their problems rather than at their own. And, you know, once you’re talking about projection, you’re basically talking about Donald Trump. And you have one of the most interesting ideas about Donald Trump that I think I’ve read, which is and I’ll I’ll just summarize it here, but feel free to fill it in further, which is that in my words, not yours, Donald Trump is basically what we would normally call an antisemite, except all of the qualities that antisemites typically ascribe to Jews, Trump actually likes because his worldview is flipped upside down. He thinks Jews are kind of selfish and only looking out for their own and good with money But he also warns Jews against voting against him in his Russia Shauna message.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:14
    What do we make of this guy? And I guess the real question is, is he getting worse?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:19
    Those are two good questions. We’ll start with the the general theory to to, you know, sort of spell out for people. I wrote about this in the Washington Post some years ago because Donald Trump confuses a lot of people when it comes to Jews because He’s got, you know, Jewish grandkids. He’s got a Jewish daughter, right, and son-in-law. And, he will say, you know, I’m a big fan of Israel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:36
    I’ll do this or that thing for Israel, so forth. But then he’ll also say ridiculously anti Semitic things at the same time or that sound anti Semitic, like the Jews used to control Congress or the Jews you know, you still whatever controlled the New York Times and the Jews are always looking out for Israel or they want to own their own politicians, which is a thing he said to the Republican Jewish Coalition back during twenty sixteen campaign. So what is going on? And the answer is, Trump accepts all of these anti semitic stereotypes jews that they’re punished, that they’re self interested, that they only look out for themselves. But of course, that trump sees as the highest ideal for a person.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:08
    Those are things that he thinks everyone should do. Right? That is like the Trump philosophy. And so he looks at Jews and says, these are my kind of people as long as they’re adhering to anti Semitic stereotypes if they end up acting like, you know, more left wing shoes and they don’t adhere to those things. And they don’t, like, sign up for his program, and then he’s like, well, then you’re not, but you’re the bad kind of shoes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:28
    But he doesn’t have a problem. And this is not unique to Trump, to and that’s something I’ve written about. This is a saying that’s attributed to a bunch of different, intellectual. It’s hard to know who first came up with it, which is A Fylosemite is an anti Semite who likes to use. And that’s unfair.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:40
    There are a lot of Fylosemite who just like to use. But there’s a certain kind of Fylosemite that simply says, Yeah. Jews are scheming, conniving, and clever, and they run all the banks in the economy. And that’s why I want one of them to be the guy who handles my finances, and I want to read all their books so I could find out how to be as clever as them, and I want them to be on my team. And you will find this, you know, I wrote about it in the context of Asia.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:02
    Automation countries where there aren’t even a lot of Jews. There are a lot of positive associations with Jews, along with Jewish like cleverness and industriousness and, you know, utility with money. Which isn’t really related to real Jews, right, but it’s related to these cultural stereotypes. It’s certainly better than believing those things and hating Jews for them. Rather than I believe those things, but I admire them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:21
    But you can see in some context, once people buy into the stereotypes, it’s like a coin and you can flip it phylosemitic to anti Semitic pretty easily. And this gets to your second question about is Donald Trump getting worse? Right? So there is this case in South Korea where there was a big controversy within Samsung, which is, a company that is accountable for a remarkable, a large share of the GDP of that country. People do not realize and they were debating whether I think to spin off a certain subsidiary and a minority investor named Paul Singer, who’s a Jewish finance here based in the United States was against this particular move because he said it would be bad for the long term future of the company and shareholders, but know, a South Korean ruling family that really controlled the majority of Samsung really wanted to do this, but they didn’t just debate it on the merits as the debate got more heated cartoons and articles started appearing in the South Korean press talking about how those, you know, manipulative Jewish vultures are coming in and trying to tilt all this against our best interests.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:16
    And this sort of thing shocked a lot of people because South Korea is known as one of these biosimilar countries where people really love Jews. They sell like sort of weird kitschy extracts of the Tomo translated into English as, like, how to get rich and learn how to be industrious sort of guides, just by the way, not a good good way to read that Tom, but you will end up very confused. But that’s the sort of thing that they did. And there’s articles at the New Yorker about this. It’s been done for a long time.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:38
    They were shocked that they could see this sort of antisemitism in the public sphere, but all that happened is that the Fylosemitic coin had been flipped. When it became convenient for some people in power to do it. And so Donald Trump expresses a lot of anti semitic stereotypes, but he expresses them positively. But should he decide that he’s really angry at Benjamin D’ Danielle or certain types of Jews, like all the liberal Jews who aren’t voting for him that he yelled then and threatened on social media? He could be quite comfortable trafficking in those stereotypes and using them negatively.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:06
    And I think the, you know, if we get a second trump presidency, we’re gonna get a sort of live you know, stress test of whether or not Donald Trump will, you know, will or won’t flip that coin. And in what circumstances, I think one of the things holding him back is the fact the historical accident that he has a daughter who converted to Judaism and married a Jewish guy. And so that changes, like, what he’ll say or what people might say to him if he says certain things. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we’d already have gotten to a much darker place, much more quickly. And because Donald Trump has these notions about Jews and two, not news to your viewers has a general conspiratorial world view, which is very congenial to antisemitism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:42
    Right? He has all of the ingredients. He’s the sort of person that when I’m reporting on certain people, I know it’s often a matter of when, not if, that they’re going to end up expressing some anti semitic conspiracy theory. Again, they may have no personal prejudice towards Jews. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:54
    So someone like RfK junior who I don’t think has any problems with any real living Jewish people that he’s ever met. But he, like, started just randomly spouting about how the coronavirus might have been, you know, genetically engineered or whatever not to target, you know, certain types of shoes. And it’s like bizarre, but it’s again, once you’re a conspiracy theorist, right, you’re gonna end up encountering anti semitic conspiracy theories because antisemitism by the oldest conspiracy is in the book. So you’ll end up encountering one of those and you’ll end up expressing it. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:20
    So the more you swim with conspiracy theorists, and someone like Donald Trump does that all the time, more likely you’ll express anti Semitic conspiracy theories. And so, you know, so I think is he getting worse? Right. I think he is getting worse. I mean, when you’re not having, you know, dinner at Marilago with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, if you’re not know, swimming in certain dangerous waters.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:36
    You know, it’s the sort of thing that will continue to fester and grow and then get reflected back in the sort of, you know, voices that get empowered in the republican base. Because Trump empowers certain voices on the far right and brings them closer and closer to the mainstream as a result. But he’s been doing that since two thousand and fifteen. And that’s how you get a Nick Fuentes who nobody would have heard of, right, in the position that he’s in now of of some influence. And so, you know, all of that stuff, you know, it has gotten worse.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:01
    Right? How bad it’s going to get? I couldn’t tell you. But it’s not static, and then you’re right to ask about it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:06
    I would almost argue it the other way. I think you know, I think it was twenty nineteen. You had that piece in the Washington Post. We basically said Donald Trump believes all these anti Semitic stereotypes And I think a lot of people miss what I took to be your your larger point, which is not Donald Trump as an anti semite, even though he has Jewish family, it was This is the guy who thinks in stereotypes and conspiracy theories, and this was you published this years before the Italian space satellites and hugo chavez and dominion voting systems and all the rest of it. I mean, that’s really the the danger, I think, is not that people who are conspiracy theorists will become anti semites, but that if someone shows that that types of thinking that make them any semite, they become a conspiracy theorist about all sorts of things.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:47
    Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:48
    Well, it’s, you know, it’s it’s both. And to, like, elaborate on the point about it being dangerous and getting to dominion and, you know, the election. One of the things I’ve written about on, you know, in multiple contexts is that conspiracy theorists are really bad for democracy. Because democracy is this notion that we can collectively get together to rationally solve our problems, you know, whatever they might be. And we vote and we empower people and we figure out what’s wrong, and then we act to change those.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:13
    And maybe we get the diagnosis wrong, we do something wrong, but we’re actually actively able to figure that out. If you think there’s some shadowy cabal, it’s actually running the whole show. Right? And there’s actually some string pulling Jews behind the scenes who are responsible for everything. Well, then you spend all your time chasing imaginary Jews instead of solving the real causes of your problems.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:30
    And so the more you empower conspiracy theorists and cranks in your society, the more antisemitic it will probably get, but also just the more inept it will get at fixing itself at self diagnosis. And so that’s like why antisemitism is like a fundamentally anti democratic ideology because it teaches people that actually no matter how you vote, matter who you vote for, no matter what you do as an individual actor, none of it matters because they choose are the ones behind the scenes, making all the decisions, the Pittsburgh shooter, you know, the shoot of Life synagogue literally had a cartoon that he posted on GAB on his social media account, which was, you know, it was called the illusion of choice, and it shows like character looking down two pathways. And, one side, it’s like the right and one side, it’s the left, you know, Republican Democrat. But then if you look carefully, the paths then converge at the end, and there’s just, you know, a a caricature of, you know, a hook nosed you rubbing his hands together. And on top of it, it says Zag, which is zionist occupied government.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:24
    Right? So the idea is you have the illusion of choice in voting for a Republicans or Democrats left or right, but in the end, the Jew makes the decision. Like, it’s a fundamentally disempowering movement. It destroys people’s faith in democracy. And so, you know, to have people who are enthralled on that running your country seems like a really bad recipe for being able to, like, have elections and to do them right and for people to trust them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:44
    That’s why, like, we see the rise of conspiracy theories and anti sexism together hand in hand and it’s not a coincidence.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:49
    Amen. Now I’d like to transition from the hyper irrational to the super rational because you mentioned that you had a list of legitimate reasons why people could be anti zionist, but not anti Semitic. And I think this is an important point to drill down on because I would say sociologically or as you observe it in the real world, the Venn diagram of anti zionism and anti Semitism is not quite a perfect circle. But it’s pretty close. But ideologically or rationally, or the realm of pure ideas, it’s totally legitimate.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:24
    To be an anti zionist without being an anti semite. So can you tell us a little bit about what your your legitimate anti zionist reasons are?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:31
    So good question. So I wrote this piece, which we titled when anti zionism is anti Semitic because that’s a question that a lot of people have. Like, when do these two things become the same and in what situation? That I pointed out that a huge number of anti scientists were very straightforwardly and unashamedly antisemitic, right, whether they’re Hamas or hezbollah. Or the Iranian regime.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:49
    Right? And a whole bunch of other actors out there who are, either openly anti Semitic or if we judge them pretty straightforwardly on the things they say, whether they admitted or not they are antisemitic. But that being said, there’s a whole bunch of specific cases where you have people who have legitimate reasons for understanding themselves as anti zionists. Now I wanna do a quick methodological note, a terminological note, which is people use anti zionists to mean different things, and that leads to a lot of confusion of this conversation. To a lot of people, actually, I think in the mainstream discourse these days, if you’re on social media, when they say anti Zyanis, they just mean I’m very critical of Israel.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:23
    They don’t mean, I don’t think Israel should exist. They don’t really know very much about, like, the history of Zyanis or what that means. And they’re just saying, well, maybe I really hate Benjamin Dutanyal. I really hate right wing as we are the governments. I don’t like the occupation or settlements.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:34
    I want them to stop, and I’m an anti scientist because of that. Because zionist means I support Israel. And so anti zionist means I don’t support Israel because of all these things that is doing. Now that creates a lot of problems because a lot, you know, anti zionist in the original conception and the way that of most Jews, I think, understand it because Jews came up with Zionism is Zionism is the idea that Jews should have a homeland in their historical land in in the state of Israel, and that Israel should exist. And then there are many different understandings of what Israel should be like and so forth.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:01
    Sign is just that Israel should exist. So if you’re sure you’re anti scientists, they hear that and they say, you wanna destroy Israel. And they think that you are the people like Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran, And so you have all these people who are like sort of at each other’s throats, and sometimes it’s just because they’re using the words differently. And so you have somebody calling them as an anti zionist because I want to end the occupation, and you have someone who’s calls themselves a scientist who also hates netanyahu and wants to end the occupation. And the two of them think they disagree.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:25
    Right. And they don’t. And so when I say you can be an anti zionist and not be anti semitic, so one, if you’re just, like, a very strong critic of Israel and Israeli policy and Israeli government, That’s not anti Semitic, and also you’re probably not really an anti scientist that traditional says anyway. But in colloquial usage, you are, and that’s it’s fine. And you’re not being anti Semitic.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:41
    You’re just doing whatever one does, which critique state actors, whether they had states or anybody else. Then you have people who might be anti sinus and say that Israel shouldn’t exist, and there are different reasons why people might say Some people might be principled anti Jonathan Last. There are people who really hate nationalism in ethnic nation states. And they think they’re the root of a tremendous amount of strife and suffering in the world. And they oppose them all, and they would like Israel to go away and all the rest.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:03
    And they might think Israel’s the easiest case because it’s when it’s more threatened and more contested. And so maybe we have a better shot. So they focus a little more on Right? They might be a Jewish person who particularly is offended by the existence of Israel because they don’t like its actions of its government or they don’t like the existence of nation states in general, but they’re really, really angered by Israel because this is the state that purports to speak in their name and people connect to them whether they like it or not. And so somebody who disproportionally is Jewish and disproportionately focuses on Israel sins.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:30
    They’re not being anti semitic. Right? They’re just being this kind of anti there are ultra orthodox Jews in the world who have never aligned with zionism because they have a theological view that, jews should not return to Israel until the messiah comes, and then they would form a religious state in Israel. Instead, you have a secular state that was formed by secular Jews, largely speaking originally And so it’s just completely separate from their theology, and they have no particular ideological commitment to it. And at the extreme end of those, you have, like, very strange cultish groups of ultra orthodox Jews who go and hang out with, like, you know, the Iranian president and, like, give thumbs up and, and those people are really despised by pretty much every across the spectrum.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:06
    But, like, they exist. And, like, you know, you those people who are, like, you know, Attoboyne, the supreme leader of Iran, that that’s actually anti Semitic, but the belief right, that being theologically and non or anti zionist, that is that is obviously non anti semitic.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:18
    Yeah. We don’t give them turns of the space laser.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:20
    Yeah. And so, like, there are all these cases that exist. The question is whether people have, like, done the homework to actually be part of any of those groups. Right? Or if they point to those examples in order to excuse the fact that they’re actually engaging us in form of antisemitism by saying, well, here, like, it’s true that antisemitism isn’t necessarily antisemitism.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:37
    And so therefore, I can’t be antisemitism. Which it doesn’t follow. Right? Just because there are absolutely multiple intellectual cases to be made for non anti semitic forms of anti zionism doesn’t mean that you, yourself, haven’t done this thing. And we’ve seen plenty of examples in recent days, both violent and, you know, in terms of arguments or various other interjections in the public discourse that are pretty straightforwardly anti Semitic.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:59
    That call themselves anti zionist. Right? When people have, you know, Shada at synagogues, they vandalized how the cost memorials they’ve, you know, with things like, you know, writing free Palestine on them and things like that. So one, this helps know Palestinians. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:11
    You’re wrapping your prejudice in their plight, and then that ends up tiring their plight with your prejudice. All of that stuff, like, you can’t just turn around and say, well, you know, anti sodism isn’t necessarily anti semitism, and now I’m gonna be begun this synagogue. Right? Like, that doesn’t work. And so you know, the the annoying answer when I give people, they’re like, as how do I know if something anti zionist is anti Semitic because, like, you have to ask a few follow-up questions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:31
    You have to just, like, actually look at what the person is doing, why they’re doing it. And, usually, people will tell you who they are pretty quick. If you do this on social media, just ask, you know, a couple follow ups to the person. Like, do you think it’s okay to, you know, attack a Jewish institution in, you know, Europe over something that’s going on in the Middle East? If they are yes or no, they’ll tell you something about what form of anti scientists have they subscribed to.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:54
    I actually this is a piece I haven’t written, but I I ought to write a list of questions that you can basically ask You can also ask people about run of the mill anti Semitic conspiracy theories because you’ll be people who tend to be anti Semitic anti zionists tend to be anti Semitic on other axes too. So if, you know, who actually did nine eleven. Amazingly useful question, you know, did the Holocaust happen as, is traditionally understood? Right. If you just ask these, like, questions that might seem crazy, but you ask them to people who call themselves anti and they answered them wrong, you’ve learned who they are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:19
    Right? And you’ve learned that perhaps they’re not a good faith interlocutor in this conversation. And so that that’s what I would say. I do think it is important to, like, distinguish between, you know, criticism of Israel, including very harsh criticism of Israel Ron DeSantis Semitism on an intellectual plane. Because otherwise it becomes impossible to actually have a normal conversation about Israel, like you’d have about any other country and make it better.
  • Speaker 2
    0:43:41
    Know, the great thing about having a country and the great thing about democracies that you actually can improve the country, but you have to be able to have that conversation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:47
    Both Israel and the United States. I mean, it applies to both we would be remiss if we didn’t talk a little bit about the relationship between anti semitism and free speech starting with the three university presidents of whom is no longer university president, Liz McGill, of, Penn was asked to step down because of her performance. And I’ll just say, let’s leave aside all of the sort of reviews of their performance and how they said what they said. And, you know, you can go watch the video and decide for yourself if it makes your spine tingle or not. I don’t think they acquitted themselves very well, but I’m also not convinced they gave the wrong answer.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:25
    To the question. You’re someone who not only makes this living off of free speech, but I don’t think so very seriously. So, like, what do you think of the answers they give, which is basically we allow for someone to say, you know, the Jews should be driven from Palestine to the Sea as long as they don’t make it into some sort of action like harassment. What’s your what’s your opinion on that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:44
    So I think that the thing that they kept coming back to in their answers is that whether something is antisemitic harassment or bigotry and within their codes of conduct comes down to it being context dependent. Right? So if you’re going and chasing around a Jewish student and yelling free Palestine at them. Right? That could be a form of harassment and is taking this sort of political point and weaponizing it in an anti Jewish way.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:06
    And you have a middle case where you’re like going and disrupting classes and, you know, yelling on a fog cord from the river to the sea. Palestine will be free and make it really hard for people to actually do what they’re there in university to do. Right? And then you have another, you know, just a totally different case where people are having a rally in the quad, right, and they might be chanting the same slogan. And those are all very different.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:23
    And so it really does matter. University really should be exercising careful judgment on each of these cases and figuring out what each of them warrants and whether there should be punishment or whether it’s perfectly fine. The reason why their answers were poorly received is one they they conveyed them rather poorly. They used very lawyerly language, but also because of the context that colleges for some time, many universities, including elite ones, have thrown this context and nuanced dependent standard out the window in many other situations. In an increasing array of cases where you have dissent or criticism or things that offend certain progressive pieties, you know, and certain types of micro aggression.
  • Speaker 2
    0:45:57
    And so there’s a lot a lot of things where you would say, well, yeah, shouldn’t we look at that in context? We have a greater latitude for this. You know, you have some, you know, crazy cases. You may have remembered this one, but there was a particular professor who was teaching some sort of a class about do and it was meant talking about doing business in China, and he used a particular word that in Chinese sounds like it’s a Chinese word, but it sounds like the n word. And some student heard it and misunderstood it as him saying the n word.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:22
    He had not sent the n word. He had used the Chinese word, had nothing to do with it at all. Right? That’s a classic example of nuance and and intent, right, mattering, and context mattering. The professor was penalized anyway.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:33
    And you have, like, you know, that’s an extreme case, but you have a fair number of these sorts of things where this level of careful parsing of what the person meant to say where it’s saying the intent matters not just the impact isn’t applied. Right? Instead people say things like words or violence and, the subjective receipt of a statement matters just as much or more than the intent of the speaker saying it. Right? All of those things have become sort of, you know, watch words on many campuses.
  • Speaker 2
    0:46:56
    And suddenly, when it comes to, speech that choose find subjectively offensive or worse. People are just like, wait, we gotta get out the Nuance, microscope. And that looks not like principle, that looks like a prejudice. They ended up looking like they’re Hippocrats. That also I think upset a fair number of people.
  • Speaker 2
    0:47:13
    But the answer to hypocrisy is to align, you know, your actual policies your values and stop being hypocritical, it’s not to chuck the values out the window further, and they were right to say, that we need to actually start moving back to a nuanced standard I would like to hope that if they’re gonna do that on pro Palestinian speech, which they should, they will also do it on many other kinds of speech and open the space for discourse on campuses. Not close it, which is, often I think how a lot of people have perceived campus discourses for some time. So, yeah, so I agree with you that, like, they were giving the technically correct answer they gave it in one of the possible ways. They also, when they’re asked, do you condemn genocide, you have to understand the context of that and just give an emotional, like, you know, aspirational explanation of what you’re doing and saying, obviously, I find genocide abhorrent, right, and if any of my students on campus experience that I would be really upset about it, course, in every individual case, we wanna give, you know, be extremely fair and judicious and make sure that we’re understanding what people are saying and why they said it and investigate each of those cases individually.
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:09
    Know, like, that’s how you have to answer that question. Instead, they just gave the lawyer answer and looked very callous. And so, you know, there’s a lot of lessons you could draw from this, you know, from the sort of professional to the, broader free speech route.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:20
    Okay. Whoever’s going to be the next president of Penn. I hope you’re listening because next time you get asked that question, and you very likely will be, that’s how you answer. But, from the should we say the depressing to the ridiculous, the other claimed avatar of free speech is Elon Musk. Who has led a bunch of conspiracy theorists back onto the website formerly known as Twitter and also has shared some anti Semitic tweets himself while, of course, also, I don’t know if we know this for a fact, but it’s pretty obvious, tipping the skills to boost his own reach on the site.
  • Speaker 1
    0:48:51
    Isn’t he also a free speech advocate? I mean, what’s the difference? Here. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:48:55
    So, I mean, the thing with Elon is that he uses the language of free speech, but very clearly actually just means speech I like versus speech I don’t, which is Unfortunately, a very common thing in the free speech space. Most friends of free speech in America, I think, are fair weather friends, and they are for free speech up until they have the power to restrict the speech they don’t like, and then they exercise that power. And in a certain sense, that’s what we saw in the congressional hearings and the whole debate over the college presidents which is you have, you know, sort of, academia in its strongholds where it has the power it has been restricting speech on a whole variety of sort of left wing pieties. Then when it comes to Congress, and suddenly it is, you know, the congress person asking the questions who have the power, then suddenly they appeal to neutral principles in defense. And meanwhile, you had all of these conservative critics of college campuses for quite some time saying you guys are closing down space for debate And discourse, what about free speech?
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:46
    Right? Because they don’t have the power on campuses, so they’re appealing to new mutual principles. But then they come to Congress and they’re like, you gotta shut down all these pro Palestinian rallies. Right? So everybody here is is being a hypocrite.
  • Speaker 2
    0:49:55
    They’re being a selective sensor and a selective snowflake. And what we really need, of course, is people just sort of, you know, come with a set of principles that they will all adhere to no matter how they feel about the specific subject at hand. And it would be a good thing if that is what this led to. I’m not super optimistic about it, but that would be obviously much better and just coming up with more and more ways to restrict speech to make more and more people It’s like, well, why don’t you also restrict this speech and also restrict that? I mean, that seems to me counter to the point of a university where you want more discourse on these issues, not less.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:25
    And you say, we are a platform for the smartest and best people to hash these things out and hopefully come to something better. The idea is the university could possibly know they answered all these for people showed up just seems extremely dubious to me. And I think, you know, it’s a problem. I think in general, the sense that a lot of people on campuses have where they they already know the answers before they start the conversation strikes me as a very anti intellectual and, you know, not making anything better. And I do think you know, obviously, I wouldn’t say this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:50:52
    I’m a journalist. Right? I have a self interest, but I think that the more we actually hash these things out, the more likely we are to come to not necessarily agreement, but understanding, and a healthier way to deal with even the most controversial and incendiary subjects in our public discourse.
  • Speaker 1
    0:51:05
    So I think that’s basically right. I would be comfortable if the universities took that line and Twitter at a more rigorous, speech policing policy don’t think Twitter is quite the reason to be as protective as universities.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:18
    Yeah. Well, I would also say I’ll put it differently. Here’s here’s what I would say. Private companies and private universities. Have the right to do whatever they want.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:24
    They could come up with their own set of rules. And what you really want is actually just that set of rules to be public and transparent and applied fairly. And you might find that, like, one platform is much more permissive, and one platform is more prohibitive. And it might be even more prohibitive in a right wing direction or prohibitive in a left wing direction. But you would know what you are getting.
  • Speaker 2
    0:51:42
    And then people could sign up for the one that they want, whether that’s a social media platform or a college. But what we have instead is sort of these sort of arbitrary rules that are ended being done by bureaucracies or material billionaires, all sorts of weird actors who make these decisions ad hoc on the fly, and that just creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty and distrust. Because you never actually know what’s gonna happen next. Right? And before Elon, previous Twitter management was doing that with a different set of ideological you never knew what you could say about the coronavirus and what particular, you know, offenses against left wing priorities you could say or you couldn’t say And now you don’t know what particular offense is against right wing parties you can and can’t say and all that stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:17
    And if you’re a journalist covering Elon Musk, maybe you’ll get Zap tomorrow. Maybe you won’t. Right? You don’t know. That’s what destroys trust.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:23
    Right? And that’s what makes these things unworkable. It’s not that you have more restrictions or less. It’s that you’re not open about what they are, and you’re not transparent in applying If Elon wanted to make a rule saying you’re not allowed to criticize Elon Musk and made it that, like, a thing, right, he could do that and if people would decide whether they wanna be on the platform when that’s a rule. But it would be fair because it’s his right because he owns it and he did it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:42
    I would advise not to do it. But it’s fair. But the difference is is that one day he might decide you I don’t like this article, so I have this journal and then three days later he puts the he laughs them back on. Right? At other times, he’s like, oh, no.
  • Speaker 2
    0:52:53
    I always let people criticize me. Right? So it’s sort of the material nature of it, the uncertainty of it, college campuses, one day saying this kind of speech, we’re gonna be very protective of students, and we only care about the impact, not the intent, and then the next day saying we need context and nuance. You gotta have just a consistent set of rules, whatever those rules are, and then people can sort it out by the market. And they’ll decide, I wanna go to that university or I don’t.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:13
    Right? I wanna use that social media platform, or I don’t.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:16
    Yeah. You’re Rosenberg. Thank you so much for joining us. South Frederter at the Atlantic author of the Deep Shadow newsletter. Thank you all for listening to the Bulwark podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:53:24
    Charlie Sykes be back in the new year. And in the meantime, stay tuned because someone else will come back tomorrow and we’ll do this all over again.
  • Speaker 2
    0:53:30
    Secret Podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, an engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
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