Ridiculous "Study" Supposedly Finds Widespread Anti-Semitism on Progressive Websites
Given how ubiquitous unsubstantiated charges of anti-Semitism have become in the debate over the Middle East conflict, I’m tempted to ignore the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs’ recent “report” supposedly exposing the liberal blogosphere as a teaming hotbed of raw Jew-hatred.
It's easy to dismiss. It may dress itself as some sort of empirical research project, but the "study" is transparently devoid of any informational value, intellectually bankrupt and clearly the product of working backwards from a conclusion arrived at on ideological grounds.
But I won't ignore it, because the strategic decision to pin one's political opponents with charges of anti-Semitism only dilutes the power of that word. Then, like the boy who cried wolf, when real anti-Semitism rears its decidedly ugly head the word loses its all-important power to shame. I'm Jewish, and I don't fear sharp-elbowed criticism of Israeli policy on websites, so it's not in my interest to allow it to be conflated with true anti-Semitism, which is absolutely no joke.
Progressive blogs and news sites in the United States are a new field where Jew-hatred, in both its classic and anti-Israeli forms, manifests itself. This incitement is hardly monitored, as many of the most popular blogs are only a few years old and it seems counterintuitive that such anti-Semitic expressions would be found in this political milieu. Monitoring the media for anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli bigotry has so far almost exclusively consisted of reading the major American newspapers, magazines, and journals and attending to the three major news networks, as well as radio broadcasts. However, the huge amount of content in the political blogosphere makes such monitoring - which is increasingly necessary - much more difficult to achieve with any degree of thoroughness.
And they're not going to begin applying any thoroughness here. Ultimately, what the researchers actually found will come as a surprise to few readers: people tend to be mean on the internet.
That is undeniably true. They're mean, cantankerous, undignified, unrestrained and hyperbolic (obviously I don't mean you kids, who are always perfectly dignified). And that's true whatever the subject. For example, in addition to politics, I fancy baseball, and when Red Sox and Yankees fans go at it on the fan websites, it's as fierce as a member of Hamas debating an Israeli settler.
Progressive bloggers (and blog readers, which I'll get to in a moment) can offer some uncomfortable criticism. If one wants to marginalize them as fringe anti-Semites, it's easy enough to find a few saying mean things about their opponents on this issue, as one could with any other. Like baseball. Then if one works, say, at the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, one merely extrapolates some larger, darker message about modern liberalism from that typically unconstrained rhetoric. It becomes more proof -- dubious, but eagerly accepted in some quarters -- of the rise of "new anti-Semitism" on the left.
Having established a point of agreement -- people are mean on the internet -- consider the flimsiness of the evidence the authors marshal in support of their larger thesis, at least when their ominous editorial flourishes are stripped away.