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David Rothkopf, an author and scholar, wrote a series of tweets on March 17 that taken together reads as a powerful indictment of the hate speech, anti-Semitic threats and immigrant bashing that Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency has unleashed on our country. If Victor Hugo had Twitter, this is how we’d have read “J’accuse.”
People (including me) have warned about Trump’s embrace of America’s darkest forces from the very beginning of the his candidacy. And we all saw it play out in real time on the streets of Charlottesville during the white supremacist marches there. But what makes Rothkopf’s Twitter thread so important is how it reports and responds in real time to an ongoing barrage of vicious hate.
What prompted the barrage? On March 15 Rothkopf retweeted a set of just-released statistics from the United States Census Bureau that by 2045, Asians, Latinos and African Americans will make up the majority of the US population. The survey said that by 2020 a majority of Americans under the age of 18 would belong to these now-minority groups.
It wasn’t wishful thinking, supposition or fake news. It was the repetition of recent statistical surveys.
“Honestly,” Rothkopf tweeted, “I thought it was just an anodyne data point, well-known to most, but worth reiterating. I commented that our diversity is our strength. Foolishly, perhaps, I thought that was a pretty uncontroversial statement—evident on its face.”
The exact words Rothkopf tweeted were, “This is a coming turning point in American history that will make us culturally richer, stronger and better prepared for the global era. It’s very good news.”
A vocal corner of the Internet read those words as a declaration of war. Immediately Rothkopf’s Twitter feed blew up with unvarnished Jew hatred, creepy, threatening and unapologetic. What was astounding was how fast the digital bilge pumps pushed out the bile.
“It will be an easier economic zone for the globalists to harvest.”
“You wouldn’t happen to be Jewish would you?”
“Hint: it’s not about skin color. It is about enslaving the human race by elite Globalists.”
“110 and never again.”
“Another ethnic globalist shilling for white demographic ruin…”
You get it.
Many of them attacked Rothkopf as a globalist, a common code word for “Jew” that the President himself used over and over when referring to Gary Cohn, the former Goldman exec who resigned as his chief economic advisor.
Many Tweets implicitly accused Rothkopf, who is an American Jew, of being a hypocrite. Would he apply the same standards to Israel? “Turnabout is fair play?” read one Tweet. “Open Borders for Israel.”
That last accusation repeats a favorite meme from the sloppy mind of the hive-right, commonly slung at American Jews who defend immigration. The thought bubble behind it is, If your precious little Jewish state flung open its borders to anyone who wanted in it wouldn’t stay majority Jewish for long, would it? The obvious answer is, So what? Every country has a right to decide on an immigration policy that works for it. American Jews may agree, disagree or be completely unconcerned with Israel’s borders — but they don’t have to answer for Israeli immigration policies. Because they are Americans.
No matter, there is even a blatantly anti-Semitic Facebook group (thank you Mark Zuckerberg) called Open Borders for Israel that has 12,707 followers. It feels very Russian-botty, filled with der Sturmer-level portrayals of bearded rabbis, Harvey Weinstein and, yep, Mark Zuckerberg.
The other phrase Rothkopf got a lot of is, “110 and never again.” That’s another hive-right doozy, a bit more obscure but thanks to YouTube (thanks Sergey Brin) it is gaining some traction. The theory is that over history Jews have been kicked out of 109 countries they have entered and ruined, and America, number 110, should kick them out too before it’s too late. The problem with this idea is that it contains more falsehoods and faulty logic than an Alex Jones broadcast.
Rothkopf notes in his Tweet/essay that none of the hate he experienced is new. What is new is the political moment we find ourselves in.
“These vermin have gained institutional support of a sort they have not had since Nazi Germany,” Rothkopf wrote, adding, “I use that reference cautiously. 33 members of my family were lost in the Holocaust. “
The similarities to 1939 that strike Rothkopf are that while the haters may be a fraction of the population, “they are empowered if not embraced by large segments of the society who see them as a useful way to advance their political aims.”
If you need any new evidence of the truth of what Rothkopf wrote, read this week’s long investigations by The Guardian and the Washington Post into how the London-based Cambridge Analytica, working for Stephen Bannon and far right billionaire Robert Mercer, used sketchily-obtained Facebook data to rile up motley minions of nativists to oppose Brexit and support Trump.
The minority of haters is further empowered by social media, which amplifies voices that, in the good old days, used to carry only as far as hastily mimeographed pamphlets covered in swastikas and plopped onto car windshields could take them. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google, founded in part or largely by American Jews, are the most effective tools of the Jew-haters.
Digital hate, combined with “institutional support,” have real-world effects. The Anti-Defamation League reported a 57 percent increase in reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, the largest single year increase since the ADL began tracking in 1979.
But the effects go way beyond Jews. In fact, in the scheme of things, I’m worried much less about American Jews than about even more vulnerable minorities and immigrants. Homegrown violent extremists who target Muslims, Mexican-Americans and other minority groups pose as great if not greater terrorist threat today than ISIS or al Qaeda, according to the FBI. We don’t need to be paranoid as Jews. We need to be paranoid as Americans.
What sets this moment apart, Rothkopf tweets, is Trump. And his conclusion goes to the heart of the problem.
“While we have struggled with hatred in the past,” he writes, “we have always in the end, not only condemned it but actively fought it and sought to bring it to an end. That is the challenge we face again in this system whose genius remains its ability to constantly perfect itself. But it begins by recognizing that what we are seeing is not just greed or incompetence or stupidity or corruption at the top. We are seeing something…much more pernicious and dangerous. Stopping Trump and those who have allied themselves to him and whom he has embraced is not about simple politics. It is about the salvation of the idea of America.”