Between Goldberg and Greenwald, heat and light


I’d never heard of David Schraub before Jeffrey Goldberg linked to Scraub’s analysis of Goldberg’s neoconservative-anti-Semitic guilt by association smackdown with Glenn Greenwald.

(Briefly: Goldberg uses Greenwald as an example of how Patrick Buchanan fig-leafs his anti-Semitism at his The American Conservative magazine, i.e., by getting Jews to attack Israel. Greenwald drags out Goldberg’s pre-Iraq war posturings [scroll down, the byline on top is a mistake] to paint him as a neocon. Yes: Nyah nyah nyah.)

I plan on following Schraub’s blog now – he’s scary-smart for 23. His takedown of both Greenwald and Goldberg for leaning heavily on the ad hominen gets straight to it, with nary a wasted word:

I cannot think of a conversation that has this extreme a ratio of heat to light. I think most American Jews have a definitively negative view of The American Conservative, because Buchanan-style conservatism has always been extremely unpopular with American Jews and most Jews do consider him to be flatly anti-Semitic. Greenwald’s writing in that magazine was, at the very least, probably a tactical mistake regardless of the content, if the goal is to persuade the Jewish community writ large that the dovish positions that Greenwald holds are a safe location for them. But I don’t think he himself is anti-Semitic or that there are any grounds to imply otherwise.

At the same time, if Greenwald thinks that "anti-Semitic" gets hurled at anyone insufficiently hawkish regarding Israel, he seems most interested in propagating a counter-norm wherein anyone with views on Israel to his right (unless they’re right-wing anti-Israeli, in which case they’re fine no matter how vile their politics otherwise are) is now a "neoconservative", and thus beyond the pale of legitimate discourse.

And good for Goldberg for highlighting an analysis that doesn’t make him look too pretty. (Greenwald, notably, is not so brave.)

UPDATE: I went back into this post to correct my typo in the title (although Godberg has a ring to it…) But meantime, my colleague Eric Fingerhut pointed out an inherent contradiction in Greenwald’s latest argument: Greenwald argues that hurtling the charge of anti-Semitism is no longer as damaging as it once was, and "once" apparently means as recently as five years ago:

Even five years ago, that sort of smear campaign would send the target — and even his actual or prospective employer — into fits of apologia and fear.

Yet, in the very same post he defends himself against Goldberg’s charges that, essentially, Greenwald has become Pat Buchanan’s house Jew by being published in the Buchanan-founded The American Conservative, by noting Buchanan’s ubiquity:

Pat Buchanan spends his day opining on virtually every MSNBC program that exists; are all MSNBC commentators and hosts responsible for Buchanan’s views?

True enough – and before that, he was ubiquitous on CNN. In other words, Buchanan, has been taking "anti-Semite" on the chin since at least the mid-1980s, when he defended President Reagan’s visit to a cemetery where SS officers were interred. That’s far longer than the five-year frame Greenwald imagines. And yet he’s never (sigh) disappeared.

So Greenwald can’t have it both ways: Either the charge of anti-Semitism once had a potency equivalent in Greenwald’s febrile imagination to a stay in Gitmo – or genuine anti-Semites, of Buchanan’s ilk, thrive despite it. Which is it?

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