Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is Andrew Sullivan an anti-Semite?

I certainly don't think so, and consider it terribly unfortunate that Sullivan has exposed himself to this damaging accusation through his reflexive enthusiasm for all things Obama -- just as he once was denounced as a "neocon" because of his reflexive enthusiasm for all things Bush.

Sullivan got over his unrequited Dubya man-crush, and maybe his current see-no-evil attitude toward Israel's enemies will fade if Sullivan discovers that his new presidential idol also has feet of clay. So while I have called Sullivan a menace to society and advocated his deportation, he's probably not a Holocaust denier or a peddler of blood libel.

My friend Dan Riehl called attention to this accusation against Sullivan, by way of firing a shot at Conor Friedersdorf. I've fired my share of shots at Conor, but I certainly would never accuse him of Jew-hating. The extremely toxic nature of the "anti-Semite" label is such that I am extremely hesitant to apply it.

Consider the case of Taki Theodoracopulos, for example. Taki has been called an anti-Semite so often that some people accept the accusation at face value. But when National Review published David Frum's "Unpatriotic Conservatives" -- one of many ill-advised editorial decisions in the erratic career of Rich Lowry -- Taki responded in memorable fashion:
If this bum Frum thinks he's the only one who cannot see a belt without hitting below it, he's got another thing coming. . . . He is a cheap Canadian careerist who jumped on the neocon bandwagon and is now using anti-Semitism as a stick to beat us with. Mind you, to be called "unpatriotic" and an "anti-Semite" by this shameless publicity hound has to be a compliment.
Because Taki is independently wealthy, he has no need to fear that his career will be damaged by these accusations, and so he seldom even bothers to notice the charges and only rarely responds to them. This has, unfortunately, resulted in Taki's name being used -- as my own name has sometimes been used -- as a sort of Rosetta Stone that allows liberal mind-readers to decrypt the otherwise Secret Code Of Hate that allegedly unites the Right.

This business of liberals trying to tell conservatives who is "acceptable" has bothered me for years, and I don't like it any better when conservatives play the same game. Despite Frum's misguided centrist tendencies, for example, I have risked my populist street-cred by continuing to be his friend (unlike David Brooks, who is the Living Embodiment Of All Things Unholy.) If I can be Frum's friend, shall I allow him to say that Taki is "unacceptable"?

My own indirect connection with Taki has horrified some of my friends, though the explanation is innocent enough. A couple years ago, I was invited to speak about media bias in a panel discussion of the Duke lacrosse rape hoax, where Duke graduate student Richard Spencer was one of my fellow panelists. Spencer subsequently became editor of Taki's Magazine.

When I got an itch to write about "Melissa Beech," who boasted in a Daily Beast column about being a rich man's mistress, it seemed a good time to accept Spencer's longstanding invitation to publish at Taki's (whose proprietor is reputed to have had many mistresses). That first article led to my writing a series a columns about love, sex and marriage at Taki's, a series I hope to continue now that election season is over.

Did I fear the accusation that, by publishing at Taki's Magazine, I was thereby endorsing the alleged anti-Semitism of Taki or some of his magazine's other contributors? Of course not. My philo-Semitic bona fides are so impregnable that I rather suspect Taki and Spencer have caught more grief than I have: "How dare you publish that Jew-loving Zionist fanatic?"

My Zionist fanaticism -- Netanyahu is a pacifist squish by comparison -- once led me to advance a bit of strategic military advice for the IDF, a war-game scenario contingent upon the hypothetical event of my becoming the first Gentile prime minister of Israel.

You might suppose that a thought-experiment so farfetched would be immune to misinterpretation -- as fools often misinterpret hypotheticals -- as wishful thinking, but you would be wrong. Andrew Sullivan gave me a Malkin Award nomination (my third such honor, though I may have lost count) and Sully has subsequently accused me of advocating genocide of the Palestinians.

"Peace Through Genocide" might be profitably marketed as the title of a comic novel by Chris Buckley, or as one of those ironic T-shirt slogans beloved by clever university students, but it clearly has shortcomings as a serious policy proposal.

It should therefore be unnecessary for me to deny that I am advocate of Palestinian genocide but, alas, there is the problem of the irony-impaired Andrew Sullivan, who has spent 15 months fomenting bizarre speculations about Sarah Palin's uterus. To be accused of genocidal hatred by such a notorious fool is an accusation that requires no denial.

Having been slimed by Sully for the indulgence of a far-fetched hypothetical, let me take another wild risk:
If Conor Friedersdorf were a wealthy Greek shipping magnate, so that he could speak his mind without fear of career repercussion, what would he say about Jews?
Nothing bad, I hope, and so I gladly stipulate that Conor Friedersdorf is no more a Jew-hater than Taki.

Or Pat Buchanan. Or Joe Sobran. Or Paul Gottfried. IYKWIMAITYD. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

UPDATE: Ann Altstein Altberg Althouse calls Sully a liar. Sarah Palin's Uterus agrees. Yehuda reveals that Palin's uterus is . . . the Mossad!

Reaganite Republican suspects the Learned Elders of Sullivanism have fomented this blog-war.


  1. Sullivan's anti-Semitic, Robert. No need to beat around the bush. See 'Andrew Sullivan: Anti-Semitic Neocon Derangement', and 'Daily Kos and Andrew Sullivan: Merchants of Hate'.

    Actually, I'm just waiting for Charles Johnson's to join Sullivan in his Jew-hating Israel demonization and terror enabling.

  2. Prof. Douglas:

    I think Andrew Sullivan's nexus of associations over the years (deputy to Martin Peretz, &c.) puts to bed the idea that he had (or has?) a baseline animus to the Jews. Brief exposure to British opinion journalism reveals that such an animus is quite unremarkable there; the writings of Sullivan (and Henry Fairlie) were free of it.

    He never sought the academic career that might well have been his and was only moderately adept at the craft of opinion journalism. The quality of his thought has been declining for 16 years or more, perhaps for lack of proper engagement (by students or colleagues) or perhaps because lust darkens the mind or perhaps because characteristics of contemporary society are such that homosexual men are severely challenged at developing a stable and dignified modus vivendi with it. He is a man aging gracelessly and growing increasingly erratic, which is too bad.

    Promiscuous charges of racism are deplorable and have robbed the term of its force and meaning. That having been said, every once in a while you encounter someone who does have an issue; in that set are Joseph Sobran and the late Samuel Francis.

  3. RS,

    You, sir, are a mensch. And Sullivan is meshugana.

    And Conor still stands by Sullivan, so what does that make him?

  4. I don't know about the others, but Pat Buchanan is a Jew-hater of the first order. Truly, I don't know how you don't see that.

  5. RuyDiaz said...
    Pat Buchanan is a Jew-hater of the first order. Truly, I don't know how you don't see that.

    Basically, Ruy, it comes down to this: I trust Jews to defend themselves, to identify their own enemies and take whatever action (if any) is necessary to thwart genuine menaces. Beyond that, so far as I know, Pat Buchanan hasn't sponsored suicide bombers or trashed any synagogues. Neither has Andrew Sullivan.

    In comparing Buchanan and Sullivan, the question to be considered is, whose readership is supporting policies that imperil the lives of Jews? Whatever you might say about Buchanan's paleocon readers, I'm thinking that Sullivan's liberal readers are more numerous, more influential and more wrongheaded. But these are matters of opinion, and we may disagree without being enemies.

    Thought experiment: Given a choice between a roomful of Buchananites and a roomful of Sullivanites, where would you feel more at ease? There is no "right" answer, but it's something interesting to think about.