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Get with the Pogrom
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Get with the Pogrom

The eternal return of antisemitism on the idiot right.

Kanye West during a meeting with then-President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House on October 11, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Dear Reader (Not including the AI scabs looking to render me obsolete),

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb when I say that antisemitism is bad for a lot of reasons. I’m going to skip the worst and most obvious of those because writing about things like pogroms and the Holocaust is a downer. Besides, if you have to be persuaded that such things are bad, you’re unlikely to accept my arguments to the contrary.

Instead, I want to focus on the stupidity of antisemitism. If you know a lot of Jews—as I do—the idea that they are secretly conspiring to run the world is just really dumb. Put five Jews in a room, you’ll get seven opinions. This is even true about the stuff a lot of non-Jews think all Jews agree on, like Israel or what constitutes a good bagel. Sure, if you narrow the question at a really fundamental level—“Should Israel exist?” or “Is a doughnut a bagel?”—you’ll get something akin to a broad consensus. But once you broaden to second order questions like “What should U.S. policy toward Israel be?” or even “What should Israel’s policy toward Israel be?” the bickering revives.

So, the idea that a bunch of Jews “control” or “conspire to control” anything starts to sound really dumb the moment you start thinking it through. The only way it works is if you think of Jews not as people, but as an abstraction. Even then it doesn’t actually work because it can only make sense if it’s based upon conclusions you reached before reasoning. Jews are overrepresented in this industry or that profession, and so you start with the conclusion that it’s unfair, unjust, or rigged in some way and then reason backward from that conclusion.

If you start with a zillion dots on a canvas and are allowed to connect only the ones you want while erasing all the others, it’s pretty easy to connect the dots to create any image you like. 

But before I get back to the Jooooz, this points to another reason why antisemitic conspiracy theories are stupid: Conspiracy theories in general are stupid. No, not all of them. But the vast majority of them. This is a difficult distinction to explain because our language doesn’t offer a pithy way to delineate between a legitimate theory of a conspiracy—the mob controls the sanitation business in New Jersey—and a whackadoo “conspiracy theory”—Col. Sanders puts an addictive chemical in his chicken to make you crave it fortnightly. We don’t really have different terms for the non-paranoid suspicion of a conspiracy and the ridiculous kind.

The best way to identify a legitimate theory of a conspiracy is that serious conspiracies don’t require a lot of “theorizing.” The Bolsheviks were conspirators, but it didn’t take a lot of guesswork and grandiose suppositions to figure that out. You only had to listen to what the Bolsheviks, you know, said and watch what they did.

Meanwhile, paranoid conspiracy theorists—and conspiracy theorists who pander to the paranoid—have tells:

  • If you ever find yourself arguing that the lack of evidence just proves how deep the conspiracy goes, you’re on Team Whackadoo.
  • Also, if your theory only works if you first assert—without evidence—that you know the “real” motives of your supposed enemies, you’re probably on Team Whackadoo.
  • If you lost an election, a business deal, or whatever else for fairly clear and obvious reasons and the only way to explain why you lost is to ignore the obvious and assert that a secret conspiracy thwarted you, you may not be on Team Whackadoo (though you probably are). But you’re basically admitting not just that you lost the contest, but that you’re an actual loser.

That’s the other thing about conspiracy theories—they are very attractive to losers. Admitting that you failed because you weren’t good enough (or because you’re not that bright, or because you didn’t do your homework, or because “Your paintings are pedestrian, Herr Hitler,” or simply because no one likes you) is hard. But if you failed because the lizard people, the billionaires, or the bagel-snarfing Rothschilds conspired against you, that makes you not only a Very Important Person, but a kind of heroic martyr. Or at least that’s what losers tell themselves:

For instance:

This is a pretty concentrated example of the idiocy much of the right has been infected with—losing has become proof of the conspiracy. As Rudy Giuliani told the speaker of the Arizona House, “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence.”

If antisemitism is the socialism of fools, conspiracy theories are the philosophy of losers.

Just asking questions.

But as Ye probably said when he was told he needs psychiatric help: Let’s get back to the Jews.

Many people have been credited with coining the aphorism “antisemitism is the socialism of fools.” For years, I used to correct people who said Lenin or Marx said it. It was August Bebel, I’d insist. But I was wrong too. It was almost certainly Ferdinand Kronawetter, an Austrian liberal politician in the second half of the 19th century. The politics of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire make the fine print on your iTunes user agreement seem simple, so we’re not going to dive too deeply into that stuff here. But Kronawetter aimed that barb at his fellow left-wingers in the Austrian parliament who had become drunk on Jew hatred. (Again, I said it gets confusing, but German nationalists were left-wingers because the right was dominated by defenders of the Hapsburg imperium. Nationalism begins as a liberal cause in the age of empire.)

Anyway, Kronawetter was vexed by the antisemitism of Georg von Schönerer, a fierce pan-German nationalist (and an early hero of Adolf Hitler, who borrowed from Schönerer, among other things, the practice of using the term “Fuhrer” and that whole “Heil” greeting thing). Because of his commitment to teutonomania, Schönerer abandoned Catholicism for the “purer” German faith of Lutheranism and became a prominent anti-Catholic bigot as well. Anyway, the relevant bit is that the German teutonomaniacs believed that racial purity was not merely consistent with egalitarianism and social justice, it was a requirement. There’s a lot of literature about the problems of “ethnic nationalism,” but there’s a lot less about “ethnic socialism,” even though the two were largely the same thing in the beginning. Schönerer’s slogan was “through purity to unity,” and unity meant socialism as much as it did nationalism.

The antisemitic German nationalists insisted that capitalism was rigged by Jews to favor Jews—after all, how else could you explain Jewish wealth? Jewish poverty—very much a thing in the 18th and 19th centuries—remained somehow invisible. When (mostly poor) Jews started migrating to central Europe, fleeing Russian pogroms, Schönerer beat both Renaud Camus—widely cited as the inventor of the “Great Replacement Theory”—and the tiki-torch brigades of Charlottesville to the punch by a century. “If we don’t expel the Jews, we Germans will be expelled!” he proclaimed.

(Here’s a free suggestion for some Philip K. Dick wannabe: an alternative history novel in which the Jews actually expelled the Germans, launching a century of teutonic “Zionism” among the Germanic diaspora. It’d be some wild stuff.)

But here’s the thing: Virtually none of the antisemites in the news know any of this, because the great thing about being a fool is that it requires very little homework. Which brings me to Milo Yiannopoulos, who had this to say about the dinner he helped set up:

Nick and Ye didn’t discredit Trump’s 2024 campaign with that dinner meeting. Trump did that himself by having the most boring low energy announcement speech in history. He did it by continuing to suck the boots of the Jewish powers that be who hate Jesus Christ, hate our country, and see us all as disposable cattle according to their “holy” book. Trump WILL start putting Jesus Christ first in His campaign messaging or he WILL be left in the dust of someone who does. It’s that simple. We’re done putting Jewish interests first. It’s time we put Jesus Christ first again in this country. Nothing and no one is going to get in our way to make that happen. 

And here’s Steven Crowder explaining that Ye’s only sin was being “imprecise.”

He’s not wrong about everything. Look, is there a conversation to be had about secular humanists with Jewish last names in Hollywood exploiting people in the performance arts? Yeah! Yeah! And by the way that happens in the conservative movement too. Behind the scenes. People sign contracts and they don’t know what they’re signing? Yeah it’s true. Is there a disproportionate number of people with Jewish last names in higher banking [sic]? That’s an argument that can be made.

Is it an argument? Really? I mean, it’s arguably an observation. But it only becomes an “argument” if you think it’s relevant. And for Crowder, its relevance amounts to an affirmative defense of Ye’s outright pro-Nazi antisemitism. Also, who are these Jewish people making conservatives sign contracts the conservatives in question are too stupid to read? I suspect Crowder is offering a confession of sorts here.

Just to address the slimy insinuation head on, let’s concede that Jews are overrepresented in some professions. I think it’s true. The fetid, bigoted question left unaddressed is: Why? My answer is that Jews are rich—not in financial capital, but in the social and cultural capital that fosters success in a free society and leads to financial capital. Work hard, educate your kids until they can’t stand it anymore, save, pick a profession that doesn’t guarantee wealth but does protect against poverty, etc. My late father-in-law, who swam the Danube to escape the communists and earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, used to tell my intellectually inclined wife: If you really want to test yourself, go to school with a lot of Jews. He meant it as a compliment.

Meanwhile, the unstated explanation for Jewish success from people who count noses in Hollywood or Wall Street is that Jews are pulling strings and rigging the system. Logically, this is very similar to some left-wing conspiratorial complaints about “white supremacy” or the “patriarchy.” But when aimed at white people or, especially, white men, these neo-peckerwoods retreat to arguments about merit or sex differences. I think those arguments are usually correct (depending on the specifics). Only Jews get the warmed-over Marxist treatment, with smarmy insinuations of conspiracy and exploitation.

This is where the blunder twins of the socialism of fools and the politics of losers fist bump. “Form of a stupid bigot!” “Shape of a failed demagogue!”

During the Bush years I used to smack around the left for its bravery on the cheap. The anti-war left would act like it was heroic and dangerous to “speak truth to power” about the Patriot Act, as if they were putting their lives on the line to criticize Bush. This crap is far more sinister. First of all, there were legitimate arguments behind the anti-war left. But even if it was paranoid and delusional to think that showing up at a Code Pink rally made you some sort of Martin Niemöller or Alexander Solzhenitsyn, at least they were picking fights with an actual administration filled with actual people in power who could respond to specific allegations. For this garbage to be brave you have to believe that “the Jews” are a sinister, organized, and monolithic force in the first place.

If I said to you, “I’m the only person brave enough to challenge the Amish cabal running Big Tech,” you’d recognize that I’m compensating for my low self-esteem with my idiocy. But this is more sinister, because while no one believes that the Amish are secretly ruling Silicon Valley, a lot of people think that the Jews are running everything (I’ve been getting hate mail from them for more than 20 years). And if some Jews respond the way any other group would respond to such calumny, these idiots get to say, “See, I told you the Jews would come after me.” Heck, if non-Jews who just don’t like antisemitism respond with outrage or disgust, the cowardly bigots get to claim the Jews made them do it. Jews didn’t take away Ye’s sneaker contract, but they get the blame for it.

That’s because antisemitism, more than any other conspiracy theory, is non-falsifiable. And more than any other conspiracy theory I can think of, antisemitism actually gets people killed.

William F. Buckley worked very hard to purge antisemitism from the ranks of the respectable right. He thought it was a moral imperative to remove that taint from conservatism. Of course, he wasn’t risking falling into disfavor with a mentally deteriorating rapper or criticizing a former president’s choices of dinner companions. That’s a level of bravery even Steven Crowder and his band of nodding gibbons can’t muster.  

Various & Sundry

Canine update: The Fair Jessica left for Slovakia (via Prague) last night. (She’s doing more interviews for her biography of her father.) The dogs did not approve, and I was a little worried Pippa might try to hide her passport. But all in all the girls are doing great. Not only has Pippa recovered from her surgery, it seems to have put newfound pep in her waggle. I do have to take Zoë to the vet on Monday (please don’t tell her). She has a build-up of fluid in her back that we want to get checked out. Also, I want to complain about her breath. You know that scene in various cop shows and movies where they pull the floater out of the river and unzip the body bag? The stench causes the grizzled vet to mutter, “My God” as the rookie runs off to a corner to barf. That’s the dingo’s breath these days. My complaint is that the vet pulled several bad teeth on the promise that it would fix her breath. Instead, it’s only gotten worse, to the point where each exhalation distorts the air like the surface of a Phoenix airport runway in August. I leave for Istanbul to meet TFJ next week. Kirsten will take in the beasts while we’re gone, so I’m not worried about them. Gracie will stay at Chez Goldberg with one of her favorite courtiers.

ICYMI

And now, the weird stuff

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, enormous lizards roamed the Earth. More immediately prior to that, Jonah spent two decades at National Review, where he was a senior editor, among other things. He is also a bestselling author, longtime columnist for the Los Angeles Times, commentator for CNN, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. When he is not writing the G-File or hosting The Remnant podcast, he finds real joy in family time, attending to his dogs and cat, and blaming Steve Hayes for various things.