Dear Reader (except those of you who really, really should know better)
So I’ve reached the conclusion that arguing that antisemitism is bad has reached the point of diminishing returns.
One of the things that can make this chapter of American life so ass-achingly stupid is that the demand for plausible hot takes dwarfs the available supply. The key word being plausible, because plausibility requires some fidelity to facts and reason.
And just to be clear, I love me some plausible hot takes, particularly about history, because a lot of the established narratives about the past are exactly that—narratives. The literary critic and historian Leon Edel once said that a “biographer is a novelist under oath.” I think that gets at what a lot of history is. Good historians construct narratives about the past they believe are true by selecting the facts that support the story they want to tell—and that they think is true—but also necessarily downplay the facts that undermine that story. Good journalists do the same thing about the present. The best in either field get the weighting more or less right, but there will always be room for alternative interpretations, because life is complicated and people see the world differently. Hindsight is not, in fact, 20/20. If it were, no one would argue about the past. I mean if hindsight were 20/20 why is anybody arguing about the history of the Middle East, slavery, the Catholic Church, capitalism, imperialism, baseball, or, well, anything, including “the Jews”?