Gregg Easterbrook’s recently found himself at the center of a controversy around charges that comments he made on his site about movie violence and Jewish studio executives demonstrated antisemitism. As I made clear in an exchange with Josh Cherniss this summer, I tend as a Jew to try to cultivate a healthy
skepticism of that charge – it’s an ugly one, those who deploy it too easily risk both defaming those who don’t deserve it and lessening the weight of the charge against deserved targets. This looks to me pretty clearly like a case of choosing words poorly and missing the implications they held for someone else reading them. But what struck me in this case is not the unfairness of the charge, but one particular and problematic line used in defense:

From Josh Chafetz:
GREGG EASTERBROOK IS MOST EMPHATICALLY NOT AN ANTI-SEMITE. It would be impossible to work at TNR and be anti-semitic…

From Andrew Sullivan:

He has worked for many years at The New Republic, testimony in itself that he is hardly anything even close to anti-Semitic.

I’m not sure which problematic argument is being advanced here:
That someone who works for an “enlightened,” respectable publication could not be antisemitic?
That someone who works with many Jewish coworkers could not be antisemitic?
That someone who works for a magazine that staunchly supported the war in Iraq could not be antisemitic?

Lemme know what I’m missing. Otherwise, it seems to me that Sullivan and Chafetz reached the right conclusion for awful reasons. This brings me back to Norman Podheretz’ execrable argument that under the Talmudic principle of bitul b’shishim, Pat Robertson’s advancement of the theory that Jews had collaborated with free masons and Illuminati to cause every war in American history by controlling the international monetary system could be excused because of his support for the Israeli Government – and the ADL‘s decision to give Robertson an award. I have no reason to believe that Pat Robertson couldn’t have gotten himself a gig with the New Republic in his heyday if he really wanted one – or that if he did, he would become any less prejudiced.

I mentioned this story a few weeks back. Gregg Easterbrook of TNR is now asking why this story – Southern Republican Governor, citing Christian imperative, calls for redistribution of wealth from rich to poor – has gotten little play in the mainstream media. I think Easterbrook and I agree that the media has been unfortunately complicit in the co-optation of Christianity in the public political sphere as a bastion of social reaction divorced from its economic progressivism (in other words, it’s time to put the “Worker” back in “Catholic Worker,” or – in Michael Lind’s formulation – put the “Liberal” back in “National Liberal”). Easterbrook suggests that this is because the mainstream media hate Christians. I think the problem is that the mainstream media hate the poor.