Worst. Defense. Ever.


Dana Milbank, something of a Glenn Beckologist (he wrote a book about the provocateur), drags Joe Lieberman over the hot coals in the Washington Post this weekend for considering an appearance at Beck’s Aug. 24 rally to "restore courage" in Jerusalem.

By the end of a conversation with Lieberman, the columnist appears to have aroused second thoughts in the Senator:

Lieberman, who knew Beck back when he was a morning DJ in New Haven, may have missed some of the broadcaster’s recent feats: hosting a guest on his show who describes as “accurate” the anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; likening Reform rabbis to “radicalized Islam”; calling Holocaust survivor George Soros a “puppet master,” a bloodsucker and a Nazi collaborator; touting the work of a Nazi sympathizer who referred to Eisenhower as “Ike the Kike”; and claiming the Jews killed Jesus.

“Obviously,” Lieberman said after I presented some of this to him, “that’s troubling stuff.”

At the Daily Caller, David Brog, whose organization, Christians United for Israel, has invited Beck to keynote its summer Washington conference, takes the cudgel to Milbank’s column.

A couple of things make sense — Beck apologized profusely for the remarks about the Reform rabbis; a couple of things, Brog is wrong — Milbank is not accusing Beck of the evangelical millenialism Brog has proven to be a caricature, he is accusing Beck of a specifically Mormon strain of apocalypsism. Not only that, Milbank emphasizes that, generally, Mormons have abandoned this tenet of End Times theology, and Beck is pretty much a lone purveyor. So Milbank is certainly not guilty of "bigotry," as Brog says.

One argument by Brog may technically be right, but is probably the worst defense against charges of anti-Semitism I have seen in a good long while. My bold:

Milbank leads his argument by claiming that of the thousands of guests that Beck has had on the air over the years, one guest — G. Edward Griffin — once made an anti-Semitic comment. Milbank notes that Griffin described as “accurate” the anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

But Milbank leaves out some rather relevant context. Beck had Griffin on his show to discuss the Federal Reserve, not the Protocols. Even more importantly, Griffin’s position vis-à-vis the Protocols is exactly the opposite of what Milbank asserts. It turns out the Milbank pulled his one-word quote from an article in which Griffin argues quite passionately that the Protocols are a forgery and a tool of anti-Semites. His point is that while some of what the Protocols say about the world might be “accurate,” readers shouldn’t be fooled into believing that the document is authentic.


UPDATE: David Brog responds:

I disagree with a number of points you made about my piece Dana Milbank Loses It.  But I found one of these issues to be particularly troublesome.  In commenting on my discussion of one G. Edward Griffin, you make the same exact mistake that Dana Milbank made.  You jump to the conclusion that anyone who sees anything "accurate" about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion must be an anti-Semite.

But this isn’t necessarily so.  And it’s specifically not so in the case of the Griffin article at issue.  What Griffin sees as accurate in the Protocols is the conspiracy theory at its core — that certain powerful people are pulling the strings and controlling world events.  And yes, these conspiracy theories are often anti-Semitic in that they feature Jews as the ones doing the pulling.  But in the article in question, Griffin explicitly and repeatedly takes the Jews out of the equation.  After demonstrating that the Protocols are a forgery, Griffin stresses that most of those involved in the actual conspiracy at issue are not Jews.  He pleads with his fellow conspiracy theorists not to run down the blind alley of anti-Semitism but to stay focused on those actually wielding power. Any fair reading of this article makes it clear that we’re dealing with a conspiracy theorist but not an anti-Semite.  There is such a thing.

Please remember, the term "anti-Semite" does not mean someone with whom we disagree, or even someone we think is crazy.  It means someone who hates Jews.  Since Milbank is the one making this accusation, then he bears the burden of proving it.  So far he has not.

But look how far your emphasis on this one line of my article has taken us from my main point, which is the absence of any proof that Glenn Beck is an anti-Semite.  Even if Griffin were an anti-Semite, how does that make Beck one? The fact that Beck once had this man on his show to discuss a completely different topic (the Federal Reserve) says nothing to me about Beck’s views on Jews.  Do we really want to play this game of guilt by the most fleeting of associations?  If you want to go down that road, then President Obama’s years of association with Reverend Wright certainly make him an anti-Semite.  But I don’t believe for a second that President Obama hates Jews.  Nor does Glenn Beck.

Anti-Semitism and racism are the most serious accusations we can make.  We dare not cheapen them by hurling them against those with whom we disagree on other matters. If Dana Milbank doesn’t like Glenn Beck, then he should stick to criticizing the man’s actual views rather than leveling false charges of anti-Semitism.

Now, me again.

The problem, I think, is Brog’s initial defense of Griffin, not in my reading of it. In his reply to me, Brog elaborates that Griffin is a conspiracy theorist but not an anti-Semite. Maybe (more in a sec), but anyone who has read the Protocols (as I, unfortunately, have), knows that acknowledging its forged provenance while assessing it as "accurate" is small comfort. The book in its essence is anti-Semitic. The work’s plagiarism is so irrefutable that more than one anti-Semite has conceded the point while maintaining its vision is true. 

As for Griffin: It’s true, he goes out of his way to say that the book’s anti-Semitism is a "trap" that drives off the true path those who in good faith believe in conspiracies. And Griffin is certainly a conspiracy theorist:

This diverts attention away from the real master planners – some are Jews but most are not – who are building a New World Order based on the model of collectivism. People who accept the authenticity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are not likely to be paying much attention to what is happening in the Rhodesian and Leninist camps – and that’s where the action really is.

Yes: Those Rhodesian and Leninist camps. Don’t ask. I didn’t.

Brog says you can be a conspiracy theorist without being an anti-Semite, that Griffin explicitly extracts Jews from the equation.

The Protocols, I would argue, inextricably wraps one into the other. Its thesis is rooted in ancient notions of Jewish control, and extracting "Jewish" from "Jewish control" does not make it less dangerous, it only sublimates the hostility.

Consider the Soviets, who celebrated Yiddish and Jewish culture and freedom from religious coercion, while demonizing not Jews but "rootless cosmopolitans."

How did that work out?

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