November 18th, 2007


Not a pleasant topic

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.

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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.