Not a pleasant topic - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Not a pleasant topic
Sunday, 18 November 2007 at 08:40 pm
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I have been going back and forth about whether I should say anything about the recent stuff about antisemitism in the LJ fandom community which turned into a huge sprawling kraken of nastiness. I kind of wasn't going to, because I'm not really in fandom, so why should I get involved and attract a portion of the horribleness to myself? Still, browsing stuff the other day I came across a really powerful essay on the topic by synecdochic. synecdochic is a Big Name Fan who is also a pro writer, and knows LJ better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. And she gets to the heart of this issue, expressing it in far better terms than I could ever manage.

I'm not going to collect a whole list of links to people making unbelievable crass remarks. Other people have done that better than I can, and for me to get involved at that level would just be stirring the muck. In summary: one Jewish fan posted to her journal complaining that the major fannish events fit in with the Christian holidays and clash with the Jewish ones. Somehow this was read as her accusing the organizers of one such event of being deliberately antisemitic, and there was a general outcry of "But we're fandom! Nobody in fandom is antisemitic!" The ensuing controversy, which was about two thirds storm in a teacup LJ wank and a third actual political discussion as far as I can judge, got absolutely out of hand when it was repeatedly and conclusively demonstrated that in fact, yes, there are antisemitic elements within fandom.

I have to say, I am not shocked and horrified by this discovery. There are a lot of people who are involved in fandom, and furthermore there is a community norm of people not only adding to their friends lists, but becoming rapidly intimate with total strangers based on enjoying their fanfic or analytic writing. Some of these strangers then turn out to be antisemitic, or at the very least incredibly insensitive. There is no excuse for any of it, but the very fact that it's surprising is evidence of naiveté. Ironically, this naiveté can exacerbate the problem; fandom is supposed to be a wonderful open-minded welcoming diverse community, and in many ways this is true, but just because people from disparate backgrounds enjoy bonding over an appreciation of gay sex, it doesn't mean that everyone in the community is completely free from prejudice. But because many people who are outsiders in their general lives have found acceptance within the fandom community, they find it hard to deal with the idea that there may be unsavoury elements within their new social group. Therefore, blatantly racist remarks are often greeted with frantic denial, and the deniers can end up defending or even siding with the racists, even though their intentions might not be directly racist.

This kind of thing leads to the targetted getting quite badly hurt, and feeling literally unsafe in their virtual communities. I'm not talking about the "therapy culture" sense of not being allowed to say anything mean in case you upset people, I'm talking about people who are actually scared, and with good reason, because people they thought were their friends turn on them in a way that attacks the core of who they are. And a way which is a threat because it reflects the real life attacks that they may face as a member of a sometimes despised minority.

There's the level of antisemitism which involves calling Jewish people nasty names. Yes, this did happen in the course of the controversy. And no, LJ is not the only place where that goes on. But there's also the level of antisemitism which is resentment that Jews get all these imagined advantages as a result of sympathy for what happened in the Holocaust. I only wish I could say that statement is an exaggeration or a caricature, but people seriously and literally complain about this. Some facts, then:

The Holocaust continues to affect people now. People who personally have to live with the traumas, people who lost their entire families, people who have been forced to spend their whole lives in countries where they don't feel at home, people who have been brought up by traumatized parents. I can't even begin to describe the cultural losses which make the whole Jewish world immeasurably poorer, even without the direct personal effects. It is by no means ancient history, and it's incredibly insulting to tell those affected to "move on" or "stop whining".

Antisemitism still exists today. Some of it comes from those who explicitly identify as neo-Nazis (yes, they're still around too!) but a lot doesn't. There are plenty of Jewish people who are not personally much affected by antisemitism, but that doesn't make it ok that many people are. And it's not just nasty words in LiveJournal kerfuffles; it's the whole sordid story of institutional and personal discrimination, vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries, and even personal violence all the way up to racist murder. Let me spell this out: someone I know personally was killed for antisemitic reasons in 2003. It happened in Germany under the auspices of an American organization, which is by way of saying that antisemitism isn't confined to far-off barbaric countries any more than it is confined to ancient history.

Antisemitism isn't wrong only because the poor Jews suffered in the Holocaust. Antisemitism is wrong because it's racist and cruel. When people protest about antisemitism, they're not asking for Jews to be given special consideration because of what happened in history, they're asking for Jews to have the basic right to go through their lives without fear and abuse.

Yes, there are some Jews who are unpleasant or evil people. That doesn't justify antisemitism. Fighting antisemitism doesn't mean nobody is ever allowed to criticize anyone Jewish, as racists often allege. Fighting antisemitism is purely and simply part of the fight for justice. It might not be your fight, and that's fine; there is so much suffering and injustice in the world that everybody has to pick which causes they are most dedicated to. But it's still wrong to obstruct those who do support Jewish causes by complaining that it's not fair that Jews get all these "special" protections.

I assume all these things are pretty obvious to anyone likely to read this. But since they are not as obvious as they should be in the general world, I think it's a good idea to reiterate them. Anyway, read synecdochic's piece (and if you have the stamina, the intelligent but long discussion of it). She also has some good stuff about the rhetorical uses and abuses of the concept of Nazism, the misapplication of Godwin's law and the like.


Moooood: angryangry
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synergetic: default
From:synergetic
Date:November 18th, 2007 11:18 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry
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I'm not sure I agree about the Holocaust being relevant anymore.

I'm Polish and my family suffered in Poland, generally at the hands of the Russians. I have family members alive who live on, in different countries, with members of their family gone, some lost in Siberia, some shot in the camps at Katyn.

My point is this, the past can poison the present. There should be a time to let it go because it does more damage to the present. For example the Polish government's stupid attempt to demand compensation for WW2 sixty years on, when Poland and Germany are locked together in the EU towards the common good and in security against the horrors of the past.

These people, they're dying out and they'll be gone soon. They've lived with the tragedies and the hardships and they survived them. I think we owe it to them to bury the past hatreds with them, to forge a new world free of the hatred that scarred them. Otherwise, their gift to our generation will only be more hatred and suffering.

I'm not sure if that was what you're saying and I apologise if not but... anyway.
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redbird: default
From:redbird
Date:November 19th, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)
3 hours after journal entry, November 18th, 2007 07:24 pm (redbird's time)
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It feels as though you have just told me that my mother's experience is irrelevant, but that's okay, because you expect her to die soon. Your relatives may wish to bury the past, and I have no desire to force them to think about it, any more than I would force anyone else to relive personal trauma.

I don't know where you get the confidence that we can bury anti-Semitism, or the other prejudices that led to mass murder during the Holocaust, by forgetting those millions of deaths. People who resent Jews because of imagined privilege after the Holocaust are blaming the victims. They are objecting to the statement "you should not abuse us."

Prejudice is by no means a dead issue in the EU. (If it were, there would have been no far-right bloc in the European Parliament to fall apart because the Romanians who hate Romany discovered that the Italians who share that prejudice also hate Romanians.)
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synergetic: default
From:synergetic
Date:November 19th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
20 hours after journal entry
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I've been thinking more about what I've written and I do agree both that you can take what I've written to mean that your mother's experience is irrelevant and that this is right and proper. I definitely do not stand by that and that is most certainly not what I meant, even if what I wrote could be interpreted that way. I apologise for hurting your feelings through my unclear wording. I only mean my comments to apply to the political situation of blame, which very strongly reminds me of border skirmishes where country X invades and takes part of country Y, which takes it back some time later, nothing changes but the same strip of land causes resentment to both countries for hundreds of years later.
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pplfichi: fairy
From:pplfichi
Date:November 21st, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 01:17 am (pplfichi's time)
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I take your point, though I think it's only partially relevant: Land is one thing, but some people hate Jews simply because they are Jewish.

Antisemitism is a form of racism, only many people don't seem to see it that way (because many Jews have white skin or something?), and that means that Jews are discriminated against and attacked. More specifically, land is irrelevant because the Nazis were not picky about geography, they sought to dehumanise and destroy Jews wherever they found them. Some people think the Nazis had the right idea. They are extremists, but they still need to be combated.

Antisemitism has a long and ugly history, and I feel it is forgotten by many, except in relation to the holocaust. Now if more people would realise that antisemitism didn't go away with the Nazis and that they didn't weave it out of thin air, perhapses examined their own prejudices, then we might get somewhere in eradicating it. Perhaps if people would also look at their other prejudices... but, hello wishful thinking :/

Also, attempting to apologise is a good thing! :)
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synergetic: default
From:synergetic
Date:November 21st, 2007 03:54 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry
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I'm having problems seeing how my post is linked to Antisemitism and why I am receiving a long lecture about Antisemitism, unless you want to just rant, which is fine by me. All I meant by the post is that the Holocaust should not be used anymore in arguments about Antisemitism and I implied in the post through my unclear wording that it shouldn't matter for the individuals were involved which I definitely did not mean and, coming to think about it, I may have argued at completely cross-purposes with livredor if she only meant the later.

As for Antisemitism, have you ever thought that some people hate just to hate? Jews are a great target for the haters for various reasons, ranging from the fine tradition of Antisemitism in Western countries to their refusal to integrate into the host societies in which they live in. In the past, Jews were always good to persecute because you get quick taxes if you needed them because you were the Lord and had overextended yourself and you could whip your peasants up into a frenzy. It amazes me how much hate and bloodshed can be caused by such cold rational people in history.

I must admit, I don't find it limited to Antisemitism alone that we as people are no more tolerant towards others then we were yet we think we are because we have ascribed legal protections for these groups. People seem to subscribe to viewpoints where the logical conclusions are that other groups must die and yet think themselves heartily tolerant because their society prevents them from enacting their own viewpoint. You've got to wonder what kind of a fucked up system causes such thinking. On the other hand, I think it's human nature to do such things because there are always other individuals in the way of our happiness and it's to easy to think life would be better without them there. When I first realised that it was scary but as I counted up the groups who wanted me dead (and the groups that I wanted dead) it all started to be less scary and more commonplace and tragic.
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pplfichi: fairy
From:pplfichi
Date:November 21st, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
3 days after journal entry, 11:12 pm (pplfichi's time)
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Ah, okay. I just linked it back into antisemitism because that's the topic of the OP. This is possibly a thinking too much error, I wasn't trying to have a rant at you there, honest!

I suspect we may want to take this off livredor's journal...
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pplfichi: fairy
From:pplfichi
Date:November 19th, 2007 01:45 am (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, 01:45 am (pplfichi's time)
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This turned into a rant. If this is unacceptable, I apologise and will delete it.

I'm not sure I agree about the Holocaust being relevant anymore.

With respect, I don't feel you have the right to say this. I too am polish and large portion of my family simply doesn't exist any more; between then, the Germans and the Russians exterminated them. For those few that remain of the effected family branches that do still exist the pain is plainly visible if the subject comes up and you cannot say that is irrelevant. They have moved on in a sense, but that cannot take away the what they suffered and the trauma and pain they experienced. To say that that is not relevant is, frankly, an insult to their experience and to the experience of the many that died.

Considering that anti-semitism is alive and well, and that far right groups have some sway (have you looked at Poland recently?), and that various groups do have reason to fear for their safety and livelihoods, can you really say that the holocaust is irrelevant?

I do agree that it is right to try to move on from the terrible events of WWII, but we all have a duty to ensure that they won't be repeated and that groups such as the Jews (and the Roma, and homosexuals etc) are not attacked or oppressed.
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synergetic: default
From:synergetic
Date:November 19th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
20 hours after journal entry
(Link)
See reply to redbird above.
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pir_anha: default
From:pir_anha
Date:November 19th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
3 hours after journal entry, November 18th, 2007 05:08 pm (pir_anha's time)

Re: Not a pleasant topic

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*guh*. sorry, i bailed out when the german twit whined about how they had already paid $60 million in reparations, how much more did it take. warning, rantage at a tangent to your point ahead:

aside from that number being wrong because she didn't do her research sufficiently before spewing (it was $60 billion last i checked), that means she was whining that it cost germans a whopping $10 per person killed in the camps. *stunned silence*.

i dunno, me, i am totally fine even with the $10,000 per person the $60 billion gets us to, and i think that gets us off cheap. as if one could put a monetary value on that sort of loss anyway. but i see no reports of survivors living the high life of the idle rich while germans on the whole are impoverished -- that whiner there is well enough off to have herself a computer over which to moan on LJ about how unjust the reparations are. as if she grew up in a vacuum. don't you know, it's all her own hard work that got her where she is!

and that's just the start of the rant i feel forming. mustn't go there, where the children of privilege think they get to tell the ones who lost their entire families when to get over their pain.

i think desh has a point worth considering -- that for victims it is good to "get over it" (where "it" is a certain kind of demoralized mentality that prevents one from living as good a life as possible). but it's not for non-victims to tell them that, and sure not as one of the first things that is being said about the crime. and while it bugs me when some people see anti-semitism in every criticism of israel, vigilance against anti-semitism in general is necessary because it's not like otherwise the real instances of it go away all by themselves.
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