Glenn Greenwald’s Double Standards

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 20, 2012

Commented on quite nicely and succinctly by David Bernstein, who closes an apt post with an apt observation:

Obviously, Greenwald’s sensitivity to offensive language depends on whether he likes/agrees with the target. When his favored candidate, Barack Obama, was being attacked by John McCain, he was extremely quick to accuse McCain of racism. When pro-Israel activists and politicians, a Greenwald-disfavored group, are being attacked by his anti-Israel compatriots, suddenly they are inherently immune from any hint of anti-Semitism (a form, of course, of racism) unless, perhaps, they are wearing swastikas and celebrating Hitler’s birthday. And the fact that Greenwald can and has come up with examples of where some of Israel’s supporters have used charges of anti-Semitism in inappropriate or exaggerated contexts is quite irrelevant to the point, just as it would be irrelevant to Greenwald’s post about McCain is someone pointing out that charges of racism against Obama’s opponents are often inappropriate or exaggerated.

It ought to go without saying that the hypocrisy of Greenwald, et al. would be laughable if the subject matter were not so serious. Incidentally, is it mere coincidence that we don’t have “firsters” when it comes to other groups in the United States with ties to other countries? We don’t, after all, hear about “Ireland-firsters” in the Irish-American community, or “India-firsters,” or “Pakistan-firsters” in the Indian and Pakistani communities. But we hear about “Israel-firsters” all the time, and as Professor Bernstein points out, the term was invented by neo-Nazis to seek to marginalize Jews, and to revive anti-Semitic tropes regarding the supposed dual loyalty of the Jewish people. One would think that the sordid history behind the “Israel-firster” accusation would prevent its use in what we would like to think is a decent, civilized, and evolved era. But the rankly offensive neo-Nazi origins of the term–not to mention the intellectual shallowness that goes into the use of the “Israel-firster” charge–don’t stop people like Greenwald from trying to mainstream it in the discourse of the day.

It should be obvious that Greenwald, et al. are guilty of tremendously consequential intellectual and moral failings in their choice of words and arguments. And indeed, I imagine that this truth is obvious to everyone . . . except the very people seeking to popularize this brand of despicable rhetoric. This latter group would die of shame, if only its members understood when one ought to be properly abashed over one’s conduct.

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