On Friday, Gerson — the Encyclopedia-Britannica-kid of speechwriters-turned-columnists — wrote a piece denouncing online bigotry. And, you know, sure. Online bigotry is crappy and shouldn’t be tolerated. Gerson might have gone a bit over the top in comparing the occasional douche commenter to the Nazis, but his heart was in the right place.
Or so I thought. My friend Ezra Klein wrote a response post respectfully suggesting that Gerson’s agita over online incivility might be more appropriately targeted at radio and TV hosts like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, who possess a significantly greater reach than the asshole writing about Jews in comment threads. And then Gerson went apeshit, writing that Ezra "took a short break from Barack Obama’s unpaid policy staff" to attack him. Yes, this from George Bush’s speechwriter, who spent the last two years using the Post‘s op-ed page to explain why you should look past the dead bodies in New Orleans and Baghdad and see the Christian goodness in Bush’s soul. And this from someone complaining about incivility.
Gerson proceeded to huff that Ezra overlooked all the reports raising alarms about online hatred, particularly from Jewish advocacy groups. Well, Gerson overlooked the reports about the relationship between right-wing talk radio, cable and bigotry, such as this preliminary report from the National Hispanic Media Coalition and UCLA. But Gerson doesn’t stop with that obvious omission. This classless non-Jew, so confident of his own virtue, decides to accuse Ezra Klein of indifference to antisemism.
One part of Klein’s post is particularly illuminating. He finds it amusing to belittle the threat of a hypothetical someone he calls “jewhater429, the 97th entrant in a comment thread” — just a few months after an Internet-based Jew hater entered the Holocaust Museum with a gun and killed an African-American guard. Some people have the oddest sense of humor.
What the hell, it’s almost Yom Kippur, so I can always atone for my tone. But seriously: Michael Gerson needs to shut his fucking mouth before he ever even thinks accusing a Jew of insufficient vigilance against antisemitism. I don’t know what lack of self-awareness convinces right-wing evangelicals that they’re the true guardians of the Jews, but that condescending and parochial nonsense is its own form of antisemitism. We Tribesmen do not need some wire-rimmed enabler of one of the most destructive and inept presidents in American history to protect us from the perfidies of the world. It’s us and not him who will pay the price for antisemitism, so if Gerson wants to actually act like a righteous gentile, he can start by not accusing Jews of apathy to their own people’s wellbeing for the sin of not sharing his politics.
So to conclude: Gerson downplays the worst excesses of right-wing hatred, which displays itself through a more prominent and influential platform than does online hatred of any political coloration; and then he hijacks someone else’s religion on a laughably flimsy pretext to defend his blind spots. Good to see, at least, that a Bush administration veteran is at least nondenominational in that approach.