Nobody read this.
Salty, my friend. I wrote the following after seeing your blog post.
Salty, it is certainly true that you are not an antisemite. I never said you were, and I never insinuated you were. I made a statement in which I suggested that some of the thing you had been saying in comments could easily look to an outsider like antisemitic comments (because of their overall form or other features). I took pains to make sure that in that statement to give clear indication (in two separate phrases) that I was talking about appearance, and that I personally did not think this.
Salty, you chose to believe, and this is true of some of your friends as well, that my comment was an insinuation that you is antisemitic. It was not. It was so clearly not that your’s continued insistence on this is deeply hurtful.
Of course, it should matter very little to me if you convince people that I think you are antisemitic. One could argue that it makes no difference to me, and anyone who explores the situation will learn that you wrong about this anyway. But it matter to me because I don’t want you to think this.
You and others asked me to show show phrases that I think could, to a sensitive observer who does not know the context or who does not you, seem to make you look antisemitic. I did not want to do that because it is a messy process and I thought anyone reading over all the comments would see it easily. But you have continued to ask, so I feel I need to comply.
Before you read these, I want you, Salty, to understand this: I personally do not interpret these comments as indicating that you are in any way antisemitic. I don’t. I don’t interpret these comments this way, I do not suggest that they mean this, and I don’t insinuate this. But I was asked to cite examples of comments that I think would look bad, and I said no, and then I was berated by several people named Paul and some other guys for saying no, so here they are. I’ve roughly divided them into groups and provided a bit of interpretive context regarding why someone might erroneously interpret these comments as indicators of antisemitism.
Context: Several sources of information have been adduced including Henry’s opinion (as an actual Jew who lives in Britain), my post in which I refer to colleagues who have made explicit statements, etc. suggesting an antisemitic atmosphere in the U.K. and in other contexts. It has been suggested, though I think this is less likely true, that there is some antisemitism in the atheistic blogosphere. Maybe maybe not. But I regard denial of that without explicit counterargument, and/or denial of that in the way of demanding further evidence without which it can not be accepted as possibly true as seeming very antisemitic, because denial of racism when stakeholders who happen to be victims claim it is an old, tired, nefarious, and highly questionable tactic, especially when done in strong language. So to lead with the denial looks bad and is not recommended of you don’t want to look, accidentally look, antisemitic, even if you are not.
I can’t see what any of that has to do with Gee’s accusations, to be honest. (With the exception of your claim that “The British ‘left’ is anti-Semitic,” which would need to be made in a much more nuanced way and substantiated. As I said, there was some discussion of the matter on that thread after Gee left, involving someone who’s been active in the British Left for decades and whom I’ve never known to misinform.) His claims were, as you note, about the “New Atheists” (us, specifically) and the US “militant” Left. Bullshit in the former, and pretty much bullshit on the latter, though the claim is made so generally as to be pretty much meaningless.
Yeah, SC, I’m really not interested in thoughts on civility from anyone who’s going to call someone one generation removed from Holocaust victims “paranoid” about anti-Semitism.
This is not about the existence or real dangers of antisemitism. His claims about the people he was making them about, if they were honest, were absolutely paranoid, Stephanie. Being a descendent of Holocaust victims would provide part of the explanation for such paranoia. If it is paranoia, then it isn’t immoral, but needs to be pointed out as irrational and not based in evidence.
(And as was pointed out to Gee on that thread, he was the one essentializing Judaism; not that the discussion had anything to do with any such thing as you suggest – if anyone was telling people what they think and feel, it was Gee.)
Henry Gee appears to be blithely ignorant of the real history of Christian antisemitism and the threats it continues to pose today.
What if Henry as a diminutive heavily wrinkled tough old broad who escaped from the holocaust and now goes around to blogs and public events and tells people to go fuck themselves because they don’t get what happened in the 1930s and 1940s and they don’t believe that antisemitism is real and effective and scary today? She would be revered, even by those she told to go fuck themselves.
You know, these “what if” scenarios only work if you hold one part constant and change the other. Here, you’ve changed not only the characteristics of the person, but the person’s behavior. That isn’t what Gee is doing.
The degree of anti-Semitism present in the U.K. and much of the rest of Europe is not the same as general U.S. anti-Semitism or that anywhere in the Western hemisphere.
Unless he was talking about its implications for commenting and commenting policies on UK blogs, I don’t see the relevance. But he wasn’t. He was flinging around wild accusations about the US based on – what? – one person being patronizing? (Not to mention that he’s profoundly patronizing himself.)
In any case, if he wants to have a discussion about it in a relevant context, he needs to be much more specific about what and which groups he’s talking about, and provide evidence for his claims. His dystopian predictions about a more atheistic future were completely off the wall.
in the context of being a Jew living among bad and worsening anti-Semitism without mentioning, even by implication, the Nazis?
Oh, please. Did you read the thread I linked to? I had no idea he was Jewish, and had said many times that no one cares about whether he wanted to ponder religious ideas, and he came back with that bizarre rant about the Holocaust. The conversation had nothing to do with that; he, very uncivilly (and unsuccessfully), threw it into the mix to try to shut down criticism of his ideas after bullying had failed. As I said, [paraphrasing] “You’re criticizing/mocking religion, so you must want to kill me” was a horrible thing to suggest, and as someone who has spent years studying political violence I was particularly offended.
Context:It is possible that taking the side against the subaltern who is making the claim, and again doing so in strong language, could be seen as well as problematic (in this case antisemitic)
Is it civil to come to an atheist blog and accuse the commenters of being Nazi wannabes because they openly challenge religious belief? If that’s civility, I want no part of it.
In the cited case, Gee is blasting away at pharynguloids. That is normal for that blog.
No, it isn’t normal for someone to accuse people in the course of a debate of desiring to torch synagogues and perpetrate a holocaust. It really, really isn’t. (Even among creationists, in fact.) I still haven’t gotten over it. It was a horrible thing to suggest.
Context: Part of what I regard as a ploy in many instances (see discussion regarding the Dawkins anthology as discussed earlier) is to deny the relevant identity marker as part of the dynamic of the conversation. This could be interpreted as denial of Henry’s relevant identity:
OK, I’ll admit again that I have no knowledge of this particular debate; I also have limited knowledge of both Zuska and Gee. But given my limited experience with him (linked to above, and IIRC I thought* he was Asian until he brought it up), I have to ask how “the Jewish thing” came up in this context. Who gives a shit if he’s Jewish? Of what possible relevance is that to this discussion?
and lets throw in one example of what looks like a little paranoia about limitations on the discussion that never happened:
I’m saying engage in the discussion about him or ignore it. “This isn’t about Henry” (repeatedly) sends a signal that you don’t want it talked about.
Context: We may simply differ on what being an asshole looks like, but this could be regarded as one instance of quieting down the subaltern, or trying to:
As a regular reader of (but not commenter on) Pharyngula, I did not see Henry Gee’s comments as particularly stronger or more over-the-top than 10% or even 20% of the other commenters there.
Why his comments were over the top there (or anywhere) has been explained.
I agreed that civility was the point. I was suggesting that Gee and *ahem* others involved in this discussion are hardly ones to lecture on civil discourse (as Ichthyic has explained in the meantime).
Another, denying the argument, or the right to the argument:
What does all that have to do with Henry? It has to do with his cultural expectations for running into anti-Semitism (“some of you probably think”),
People who accuse others of sexism or racism or classism or homophobia have cultural expectations based on their experience. He’s saying that such accusations have no place in civil discourse, but those of “Jew-hatred” do.
He acted as though as a Jewish person he couldn’t possibly act in a way that furthers inequality or oppression (Jewish males can’t possibly be patriarchal, as everyone knows). And he claimed flat out that “the Left hates Jews.” Wow.
Context: I think it has been suggested that accusing Henry of calling Pharyngulista’s Nazis is inaccurate. I’m not sure. But this does not look good in this regard:
He quotes John Wilkins:
“There are plenty of places you can accuse people of being pedophilic communist sexist pigs; don’t do it here.”
There are other comments, but that is all I wish to cite at this time.
Every single one of these comments is a lousy piece of evidence of you being antisemitic. They don’t indicate that, at least to me. But as I have said, I think they could, and likely would, to a lot of people.