Reality continues to unravel around right-wing bloggers' belief that Rachael Ray's paisley scarf was an act of pro-terrorist "hate couture." Now Gershom Gorenberg at the Huffington Post discovers that Luchina Fisher, on the ABC News website, has pinpointed the person who got the ball rolling—the woman she describes as "pro-Jewish blogger Pam Geller."
Now, you may be asking yourself, "What the hell is a 'pro-Jewish blogger'?" Does this mean "pro-Israel," "pro-Zionist," or just "a big fan of Judaism"? I guess I'm a "pro-Jewish blogger" by some definitions, in that I like lots of Jews and the things they do. I wrote a post praising Jules Dassin's movies! I link to Ayelet Waldman's booklog! That makes me "pro-Jewish," right?
Well, what Pam Geller is, in fact, is a paranoid anti-Islamic and anti-Arab blogger. One of these people who sees the sale of a New York office building to an investment group including Kuwaitis and Qataris as part of "the quiet jihad," of "Islam buying up the West piece by piece." In the process of staking out this turf she becomes a fervent supporter of Israel and of the political rights of Jews around the world—although mainly to the extent that Jews as a people can be made to symbolize her own politics. As she quotes Caroline Glick, "the Jew is emblematic of human freedom, of competition, of rights, and when [others] want to strike [those] down because of their ideological preferences for different forms of totalitarianism their first target is always the Jews."
This is the neoconservative symbolizing of the Jews, of course; and it meshes nicely, in that weird marriage of neocons with the Evangelical Christian right, with the apocalyptic idea that the creation (and then destruction) of the State of Israel is a prerequisite to Christ's return and His establishment of a capitalist, pro-American Millenium upon the earth. By contrast, old-school conservatives saw the Jews as emblematic of collectivism, socialism, and threats to competition, and so their first targets were usually the Jews too. The one thing that all forms of right-wing extremism agree on is that Jews make useful emblems, but are best not viewed as human beings with a wide range of values.
And yes, I believe Geller herself is Jewish. It's not unusual for political madness to lead people to flatten their own ethnicities into cheap symbols. She's also a follower of Ayn Rand, which means that everything she writes is shaped by a personal madness projected onto the world in the form of phony rationality. In her continuing fascination with Rachael Ray's paisley scarf she quotes a woman named Julia Allison (the editor of Star magazine, apparently), to the effect that the scarf furor is "political correctness gone wild." "The fact is," Geller retorts, "wearing the keffiyeh is political correctness gone wild. Moral inversion, the inability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil is the sickness in our society." Randians, rather like Jerry Falwell and other extreme proponents of Evangelical "cultural conservatism," love to build great edifices of nonsense on other people's cultural accessories. Tinky-Winky, paisley scarves, they are all fodder for enraged obsession and grandiose denunciations. As different as such extremists seem to be (for Randians congratulate themselves on their anti-mystical "rationality" while Evangelicals rail against intellectualism's rejection of faith), they're psychologically identical. Certain they know the one truth, passionate in denouncing people of different opinions, and, you should pardon the expression, fucking nuts.
But picking at extremists, though good old-fashioned fun, doesn't really get us anywhere. What's disturbing here, as Gorenberg and Geller both point out from their different perspectives, is the willingness of a journalist on a mainstream news site to describe an anti-Muslim hardliner as "pro-Jewish." The implicit labeling of Arab-hating as a "Jewish" position—and thus of openness to Arabs (and ethnically-inspired scarves, for that matter) as "anti-Jewish"—is dangerously, catastrophically wrong. So wrong, as Gorenberg writes, that we wish it could be dismissed as satire: "If this was not written at the Onion editorial offices, I'm supposed to understand that in the alternate universe of America, 'pro-Jewish blogger' is the proper term for someone who engages in wild xenophobic rants against anything possibly or impossibly associated with another religion. I wouldn't have thought of that. I don't think most Jews would have thought of that."
This is how far from human reality the insane dialectics of the past seven years have driven us. This is how quick we are to cartoon and misunderstand each other. This is how hard it has become for us to talk about ethnicity and religion, war and peace, without stumbling into a thicket of fear, anger, and misapprehension. In the end, though, we should be grateful to the stereotyping Luchina Fisher and the pro-Jewish Pam Geller and the chickenshit executives of Dunkin Donuts and the cultural jihadist Rachael Ray. Because it's in considering such madness as this that we start do our own reality-checking, that we start to crave sane conversation.
And it's such a fun way to do it, too. I mean, Dunkin Donuts and the cultural jihad! No satirist could make this up.