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[personal profile] defrog
I’ve seen all the dithering about Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN), her apparent tendency to say things about Israel that play into anti-Semitic tropes, and the subsequent House resolution to condemn anti-Semitic speech, which eventually blossomed into a more generic anti-hate speech resolution.

Aaaaaand you know, blog.

1. Having read Omar’s comments, I’m inclined to believe that she’s genuinely trying to raise legitimate questions or criticisms of Israeli government policies and the lobbying influence of groups like AIPIC, but has a tendency to express them in ways that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic dog whistles.

That in itself is something I think needs to be discussed a lot more than it is, for a couple of reasons.

One: the thing about dog-whistles is that by nature they have double meanings – they allow you to say racist/anti-Semitic things without actually explicitly saying them. The obvious problem is that they often tend to be terms or phrases that people often say with no racist intention whatsoever. Which means if someone says them, it is entirely possible the person said it without knowing it could be taken in a racist way.

I know this because I’ve seen a lot of comments blasted as racist and anti-Semitic that I had no idea had that kind of connotation. As an easy example, I had no idea that “sleepy-eyed” was a slur against Jews until Trump described Chuck Schumer that way. So I can see why Omar could easily fall into that trap.

Two: If we’re basically saying that we have to be very careful about how we talk about Israel because it might accidentally conform to some anti-Semitic conspiracy trope, we are in essence allowing the anti-Zionist conspiracy kooks to direct the conversation. We are allowing them to dictate how we talk about it and what we can and cannot say, which is making it extremely difficult to have conversations about legitimate issues because if we say the wrong word – regardless of the intention of the speaker – we’ll be handing ammo to the Nazis or playing into their rhetorical hands.

That last bit may be true. And I do believe that words have power, so it’s good practice to use them carefully in any situation, especially when it comes to public discourse, although not to the point of crafting bland sentences that say nothing, convey no emotion whatsoever and offend no one.

I’m just troubled by the notion that anti-Zionist conspiracy kooks have successfully turned any discussion about the Israel-Palestine issue into a verbal minefield. It gives them power that I’d rather not be giving them, if you see what I’m saying.

2. I’m not really impressed with the Republicans jumping all over Omar on this because they clearly only seem to care about anti-Semitism when Democrats do it. Right-wing anti-Semitism is a far more frequent and bigger problem – not least because it has actually resulted in people getting killed. Most Republicans haven’t had a thing to say about that, and when they do it’s usually some half-assed “both sides” trope.

Also, given recent history and the fact that a lot of conservatives are still warning about Sharia Law as if they actually know what it is and how it works (they don’t), I’m reasonably sure their sudden interest in condemning anti-Semitic rhetoric has a lot more to do with the fact that (1) it’s coming from both a Muslim and an upstart freshman who they associate with the dreaded AOC squad, and (2) it’s a political opportunity to get Demos to either throw one of their hot riding stars under the bus or make excuses for her, which enables Republicans to keep turning a blind eye to their own anti-Zionist wing. Honestly they’d be fine with either outcome.

3. Anyway, the Demo house resolution has been passed, and they managed to do it without calling out Omar specifically. But it's unlikely that the issue will go away, even if Omar manages to express herself more carefully.

Which doesn't seem likely – not because she’s uninterested in avoiding anti-Semitic word traps (I think she is) but because (1) Omar tends to speak honestly from the heart – which is admirable, but the heart can get us in trouble sometimes when we let emotion control our tongues (especially on Twitter), (2) politics has always been about twisting yr opponent’s words around and pretending they said something that they didn’t, even if your twist makes no sense whatsoever, and (3) it’s 2019 – this is the age of manufactured outrage. Omar could tweet something about a bad experience with Wal-mart’s exchange policy and every pundit on Fox would spend three hours each on how outrageous it is that Omar is harassing and terrorizing hard-working Americans in an all-American company like Wal-mart. Or something.

Freedom of speech (just watch what you say),

This is dF


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