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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mask Slips- Racism on PBS

The liberal establishment is under such stress over the possibility that Israel might succeed in protecting her own people that they are letting the mask slip a little. The latest is Bill Moyers giving us a raw peek into the consciousness of The Saint of PBS. Talking about Gaza and going back to the book of Deuteronomy, he referenced the biblical commands to take the promised land and jumped (I am not kidding!) to this outrageous bit of racism: “So God-soaked violence became genetically coded.”

Funny, isn’t it, that he would say that about the Jews not the other side of the Gaza conflict who routinely kill Journalists, film makers and other superior beings.

Essay questions:
1. What would PBS have to do if Moyers said that black people are genetically encoded to eat fried chicken and watermelon?
2. What will they do about this? (crickets chirping)

It is amazing that Jews still donate to PBS (Palestinian Broadcasting System).

Richard Landes has a wonderful piece on it here.

12 comments:

Nancy Coppock said...

So where did the rest of us get our encoded violence? Right....Hitler "caught" it from his victims? I'm trying to figure this out, but I seem to be missing a link or two, here.

Moyer's children may need to make sure Dad's insurance covers extended stay at mental facility.

truepeers said...

Perhaps Moyers' accusation was inarticulate and not quite what he was trying to say: that Jews' think they have a right to violence in defense of their genetic-cum-national inheritance, e.g. that they don't intermarry, Christianize, and merge with the rest of us. In other words, hate Israel because they don't respect the leftist fantasy of a world without war and nations. The Isaelis are modern and yet they cling to the old ways, throwing into doubt the "real" (fantasy) meaning of our modernity.

That would still be antisemitic, but a little more "normal", if you will.

Kae Gregory said...

Solomon led me here. I posted this on his blog.

Its like Shlomo HaMelech said, "All is vanity". Moyers, like those in every generation, in every society down through the ages have supposed that their achievements, their ideology, their intellectuality, their audience, has granted them morally superior judgment. He, like the others, fails, or refuses to believe that others in generations before him could have ever soared to these levels of wisdom. "Obviously, morons, its genetic," he magnanimously informs us. Condescending to us to let us draw our own conclusions. Eugenics any one? The level of self importance and conceit that would allow Moyers, or anyone to pass judgment on the Jewish nation in this way shows staggering vanity. The same empty vanity that Shlomo HaMelech alluded to that has led to the deaths of millions of Jews (and other innocents) down through the ages. Racism is putting it mildly.

Derrida said...

Why did you choose to end your transcript where you did? Perhaps because it doesn’t fit your narrative and your zeal to smear an honest man. When you go back to the original statement (it’s at about the 5:12 mark for those of you who would rather skip over other sober and interesting thoughts on the Gaza violence), Moyers’ very next words are: “A radical stream of Islam now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.” It’s clear with anyone of even middling intelligence that Moyers is not singling out Jews but in fact the biblical source of violence encoded in the human race in general. I’m thrilled at Conservatives’ new found zeal to root out anti-Semitism (because we all know where traditionally anti-semitism has resided in this country), but I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to exercise a little of dignity and rigour in your readings and analysis. Moyers could have been more precise, you can question his theological acumen, but I think it’s pretty obvious that Moyers is not being anti-Semitic.

Read Moyers' exchange with Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League.

lgude said...

Yes, on the face of it Moyers seems to be claiming a absurd Lemarkian transformation of Jewish genes. I read it that he meant a kind cultural genetic encoding metaphorically. You know, the endless stream of God soaked Jewish warriors pouring out of the Middle East sweeping all before them and establishing the infamous Jewish Empire. Oh, it didn't happen...that was the Muslims. Funny how absurd accusations are often a form of confession.....or just very frightened people suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Yaacov Ben Moshe said...

Derrida, all I left out of Moyer's stuff is the double speak with which he attempted to camouflage his condescending attack on the honor of the Jewish people.

It is Ironic that you point to his exchange with Foxman as it actually shows quite starkly the intellectual dishonesty into which Moyers is willing to descend in order to cover his outrageous equation of a people defending themselves with the bloodthirsty cult that has, as one of its foundational principals the genocide of Jews. What he has done is the very definition of moral equivalency. Add to that the fact that he insisted on repeating two blood libelous news reports which were quickly discredited and are now considered to have been further example of Pallywood and you have a very slick and smarmy Jew-hater who does not have the balls to show his real face to the public but tut-tuts about the plight of the poor Palestinians and whips witlessw left-leaning liberals to new feats of idiocy.

Your remark "I’m thrilled at Conservatives’ new found zeal to root out anti-Semitism (because we all know where traditionally anti-semitism has resided in this country)" is exactly such leap into willing stupidity. All of the governments who have made anti-Semitism part of their official program in the last century have been leftist totalitarian states. The modern left is a cesspool of Jew-hatred. Look around you, Derrida, who throws anti-Semitic epithets at Pro-Israel rallies? It is primarily the communist/socialist/progressive multiculturalists and moral relativists. The flaw in their (and apparently your) thinking is the same as that in Moyer's They think that all cultures are of equal value. Which leads them to the conclusion that there is nothing worth defending. This is why Israel's force is thought os as disproportionate- why proportion is even a question. Peace is held by the left to be the most important thing so for one to use violence is the ultimate wrong. In their minds this makes the little rockets Hamas sends over the border bad but small. When Israel uses more force to end a "small bad" and to protect her people it is viewed as a "bigger bad" because progressives do not believe that Israel (or anything else) is worth fighting for.

Only the morally bling, intellectually challenged or anti-Semitic will buy that one.

Derrida said...

Rather than spewing right wing canards and talking points (for instance I see in several rightard places that Moyers has degenerated further in blood libel), would you just point in his piece on violence in Gaza to Moyers' use of moral equivalence, blood libel, and anti-Semitism, or is the problem that because you see him as a Liberal and all Liberals in your warped little world are anti-Semites, you must insinuate into his text an anti-Semitism.

Look, I was just asking for a little integrity and decency in your reading. Malicious misreading and disingenuous thinking is the last thing we need right now. I'm reminded of Arendt's linking of the banality of evil to a question of thinking. It's not just a matter of otherwise good people doing nothing, it's also a matter of bastardizing critical thinking (e.g. Eichmann's appeal to Kant's categorical imperative as the reason he obeyed).

I remain, unless proven otherwise, convinced that your imputing anti-Semitism to Moyers statements on Gaza is false cynical and not in good faith. Unlike you I am not precommitted to find anti-Semitism in all Liberals, but if it is there I will surely point to it. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that, as a democratic socialist, I'm just as suspect of Liberals as you are. Like everyone I'm ideologically committed, just try to be a little less chauvinistic than Conservatives, for whom chauvinism seems like second nature.

Yaacov Ben Moshe said...

You are full of fight but not much for strategy are you, Derrida? It is easy to accuse me of “spewing right wing canards and talking points” but you really ought to watch your self when you do it. It’s really very comical to see you try that one and, in the next breath, refer to those with whom you disagree as “rightards” and then a moment later, you tell me that mine is a “warped little world”. You seem an earnest if humorless, dullwitted chap so I’ll explain this to you: If you want to be a credible interlocutor do not accuse someone of using canards and then go and fill your diaper with two rather nasty. You look a fool, poor thing, and you stink.

You are a fine one, asking me to show “a little integrity and decency” in reading. I addressed the moral equivalency question in my reply above but you either didn’t read or understand so I’ll give you a hand here.
In his reply to Foxman, Moyers says “And although I specifically referred to “the rockets from Hamas” falling on Israel and said that “every nation has the right to defend itself, and Israel is no exception,” Note that he uses a venerable trick of rhetoric, the passive voice, to minimize the impact of the “rockets falling on Israel” (oh dear, another one “fell” just now), while he characterizes the Israelis as “shelling” the Palestinians. So he minimizes the violence of Hamas as the initiate their avowed plan to annihilate Israel and he demonizes Israel’s defensive response. A masterful wordsmith, Moyers is good but the more he talks the deeper he gets.

He also makes no mention of the fact that Hamas deliberately uses their own civilians as human shields or that the alleged Israeli atrocities he refers to have both had serious doubt cast on them. It appears likely that they were staged or otherwise faked, as has turned out to be the case with every other allegation of intentional Israeli atrocity in the past- Jenin, al Dura, Kfar Qana- you name it. Yet Mr. Moyers repeats the reports as fact, as justification for calling the Israeli action an onslaught. This characterizes the restrained and careful Israeli actions as “onslaught” and “slaughter”. Would place Israel in a paralyzing double bind:
On one hand he considers them to be entitled to defend themselves (as if they need his permission) on the other hand, he wants, from the vantage point of his snug PBS studio to be able to pass judgment on what a fitting defense would be.

You want a canard and a talking point? How about proportionality? Israel always has done and continues to do their best at separating Hamas from their human shields and killing only the combatants but that is not enough for Saint William. He uses what all media professionals know to be suspect examples to imply that the Israelis are no better than those who want to murder them. He pointedly ignores the distinct difference in the morality of the two sides. He pretends that he has just walked into the room and sees Israel beating up the Palestinians without any of the background. According to him, it is an onslaught and a slaughter and he blames Israel, not the hate-filled murderers who have caused the problem and intentionally placed their own people between them and the tiger they had taunted.

And he crowned his assault on morality with the remark that first caught our attention- the one he has already backed away from as “obviously not sufficiently precise”. (Ah, suddenly the man who has made words his trade, lo these many decades, has found more of a problem with the words than the thought behind them) Not only did he imply that it was the bible that “genetically encoded” violence in the Jewish people, he goes on to say, “A radical stream of Islam now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. Israel misses no opportunity to humiliate the Palestinians with checkpoints, concrete walls, routine insults, and the onslaught in Gaza. As if boasting of their might, Israel defense forces even put up video of the explosions on YouTube for all the world to see.” Casting the two sides as equally savage and implying that Israel “humiliates” the Palestinians by having check points and walls, none of which existed until they were reluctantly employed to protect Israelis from suicide bombers! Laying the blame for these things equally on Israel is a deep, immoral wrong.

This is moral relativism, Derrida, leveling the moral difference between two sides of a dispute and then applying spurious “evenhandedness” that injures and impugns the party that is morally superior.

Mine is not a “malicious misreading” you can remind yourself of Kant, Eichmann and Arendt all you want buddy, none of that philosophical name-dropping is going to make what I have written “false cynical and not in good faith”. It is not.

Your remarks, Derrida, are a different story. Your personal attacks and aggressive attitude were uncalled for; and I wonder about the motivation. You seem, like all socialists, to be prone to cults of personality and fascistic fervor. Saint William appears to be one of your icons, a fact that, given your apparent veneration of Jacques Derrida, should be of concern to Mr. Moyers. I have often wondered about those, like you, who by taking the name of a dead celebrity as your pseudonym seem to be embedding yourself in the bloated carcass of the dead man like a fat, greasy maggot. Is it because you do not have any intellectual or spiritual strength yourself, that you need to suck it from the rotting corpse of your hero?

And why not have a live hero? Perchance a living man of some substance would get wind of your piracy of their essence and squash you like the worm that you are?

If this seems like a disproportionate response to you, you have not been paying attention.

Derrida said...

First, let me retract the personal, facetious stuff. I just thought since you like dishing it out, you might like receiving it as well. For the record, you're right in calling me on it and claiming that it has no place in debate. For the record also, let me say I don't stereotype the right, and while while there are many rightards (as well as leftards) I don't count you among them. Let me try a a more reserved tack.
Casting aspersions on people, especially semantically and historically loaded bombs like "racist" and "anti-Semite", I believe should be done very carefully because when misapplied it diminishes victims and perpetrators alike.

In your post you claim that Moyers stupefyingly used the bible to jump to an "outrageous bit of racism". You continue stupefied that there is not a single mention of "the other side of the Gaza conflict who routinely kill Journalists, film makers and other superior beings." My basic point of departure is that either you were lazy or malicious, for the very next lines in the commentary are “A radical stream of Islam now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.” Seems to me that qualifies as saying something about "the other side", and not a nuanced, guarded something, but an unqualified acknowledgement that radical elements of Islam want to eradicate Israel. This acknowledgment was not buried or hidden but the very next words uttered after the very words you try to use against Moyers to label him a racist.

However we want to quibble over Moyers remarks (questions of nature vs. nurture, questions of theology and biblical exegesis etc.) seems to me that Moyers is trying to outline a genealogy of the Gaza conflict rooted in humanity's propensity for violence, and more narrowly, in a family feud arising from Abraham descendants. Aside from this, I think Moyers' original piece touches on several other interesting points. How do we honour or pay witness to the unjust casualties of war, even if inescapable and intrinsic to war (in Gaza doubly jeopardized by shameful tactics used by Hamas and that civilians are essentially trapped in the theatre of war)? Does the inalienable right of a state to defend itself come without limits or scrutiny?

I understand that because of the gravity of anti-Semitism, due vigilance rooting it out wherever it lurks is required, but it seems this was more about discrediting Liberals and Leftists (as Jew hating Islamists) than about ferreting out anti-Semitism. That's all I'll say on the matter, you're welcome to have the last word.

truepeers said...

My basic point of departure is that either you were lazy or malicious, for the very next lines in the commentary are “A radical stream of Islam now seeks to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.” Seems to me that qualifies as saying something about "the other side", and not a nuanced, guarded something, but an unqualified acknowledgement that radical elements of Islam want to eradicate Israel.

-but this is one of the most well-worn of moral failings: admitting the eliminationish nightmare while at the same time giving the blame, or at least some of it, to the Jews. It's a smug righteous way of saying I'm above all that, a pox on both their houses.

pst314 said...

"but this is one of the most well-worn of moral failings: admitting the eliminationish nightmare while at the same time giving the blame, or at least some of it, to the Jews."

Spot on.

This creating of false moral equivalences is something that post-modernists are notorious for doing. It's one of the reasons why postmodernism has been characterized as nihilistic.

I mention postmodernism because your debater seems to worship Derrida. (His blog profile says "No one has ever brought more rigour, integrity and dignity to thought and to the praxis of writing than did Jacques Derrida.")

In fact, Derrida is a very unfortunate choice of names if one claims to value "integrity and decency"--or even merely honesty. Derrida played a particularly shameful role in the notorious de Man scandal: A researcher discovered that postmodern icon Paul de Man was a Nazi collaborator during WWII who wrote anti-Semitic newspaper columns in occupied Belgium. Derrida came to de Man's defense, penning a turgid article attempting to creatively reinterpret the evidence so as to absolve de Man of all guilt and viciously attack the discoverer. Then, when various academics tore apart what Derrida wrote, Derrida launched a vicious personal attack on them.

truepeers said...

pst,
Whatever Jacques Derrida's failings in that affair, anyone who wants to understand his intellectual legacy, and its limits, will I think be best served by studying the response to Derrida in the discipline of Generative Anthropology. GA takes up one key idea of Derrida's while transcending the relativism and metaphysical games and initiating a truly new era of humanistic thinking.

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