The “anatomy” of a slander

My wife took me to a friend’s birthday party on Saturday.  I had a feeling it would be some Women’s March afterparty, and I was right, but hey – if I plan on running for congress I better get used to being surrounded with people who disagree with me.

It actually was okay – for the most part I was able to stay away from the inane kinds of conversations that are the reason I don’t discuss politics with most people.  The one woman I did talk to, though we disagreed we were able to have a productive conversation.

But there was one issue that left me a bit sad.  It was the whole “grab them by the pussy” comment.  See, whenever I hear a charge like this, I don’t like taking people’s word on it.  I tend to go research for myself.   So I did the same here.  Even though the very thought of listening to bugged private conversation about people’s sexual habits leaves me wanting to shower with acid.

But anyway, here’s the infamous clip.  Primed to the moment of the infamous quote.  Enjoy.

Did you hear what he said?  Here, let me put it in context.  “When you’re rich and famous, they let you do it.  You can do anything … [you could even] grab them by the pussy [and they’ll be fine with it.]”

The point he was making is, when you’re rich and famous, women tend to throw themselves at you.  You could do something as outrageous as grabbing them by the pussy and they’re fine with that.  Which was an interesting observation given the context.  Because after they leave the bus and when the lady greets them, she spontaneously hugs Trump but his sidekick needs to ask for an awkward sloppy seconds.  Thus underlining Trump’s point.  And it’s a valid point that merits a discussion of its own.

So I explained this to her, and she got curious.  Curious that someone would actually research the quote for himself. “So where did you find the scene?  On Youtube or something?” she asked.  There was almost an agreement that researching such an issue is pretty sleazy.  And it was … I harbor a resentment for being forced to delve into something like this.

Because with this in mind, we can see the anatomy of such a slander.   I mean think of the utter depravity of someone who thinks putting this out to the public is a good idea.

Someone in the Hillary campaign or in the media favorable to her researched this clip and pulled it out.  They purposely misinterpreted it as Trump saying he goes around grabbing strange women by the vagina.  And they disseminated this idea far and wide.  People who trusted them with the news took this as fact, and it soon became “common knowledge”.  The very idea of factchecking (something liberals love to tout BTW) never entered this conversation.  Skeptics were ridiculed or shamed as misogynists.

An entire reality has now been created where people think Trump and his supporters are running around forcefully grabbing strange women by the pussy.  Down to the rally’s official hat – a pussy hat.  And all sorts of references by young and old protesting this false reality.

Lies will warp a mind into ugliness

And the fact is, we can’t live in a world where everyone factchecks, where everyone is suspicious of everything they hear.  It would be a cold heartless world.  So we find people we trust, and listen to what they have to say, until a time they betray that trust.  And then we find someone else.  It reminds me of a line I heard from Penn Jillette about people who believe mystics.   “It’s not that they’re stupid, it’s that they decided to trust a criminal.”

And that’s what the people who disseminated this slander about Trump are.  Criminal frauds.  They are not to be trusted.  This includes the Womens March organizers, this includes the media, this includes Hillary Clinton, this includes the entire Democratic party as it stands.  They could have run an honest campaign on the issues.  Instead they resorted to this.

And the the thing is, this fraud doesn’t limit itself to this issue.  Black Lives Matter relies on taking out of context footage – footage that always shows some kind of struggle between a civilian and a cop.  They then misrepresent it as a cop shooting a helpless black man for being black.  And build an entire astroturf movement on it.

Ahmed Clockboy was represented as a poor Muslim kid oppressed for his science project, when the reality was anything but.

I could go on but I need to stop.  This issue invokes the kind of moral outrage in me that makes me understand why false prophets were burned at the stake during religious movements.

Because you can’t blame the kids, and you can’t prosecute the ones who incited them.

What Trump means for Jews

An interesting event happened at my Synagogue yesterday – well, it’s so small it’s more of a prayer group, but we manage to get at least ten people together to read the Torah.  Anyway, after the Torah reading, one member turned around, blessed everyone with his Tallit and praised Trump’s inauguration.   Well that triggered another member, who wouldn’t stop railing about how “they’re going to kill Jews now!  They’re going to kill Jews!”

We did what we could to calm down the argument that ensued.  But unfortunately it left on a negative note, with the pro-Trump guy leaving in a huff, declaring “I came from Iran, I am a proud American, you are un-American.”

This saddens me, because this didn’t need to happen.  Both fell victim to demagoguery of one form or another.  But I also see a great opportunity for us as Jews.  We are an intellectual people, and such disagreements in our tribe have intellectual solutions.

That intellectual solution rests in the question: what does Trump mean for the Jews?  How can we peel back all the headlines and election mudslinging to get to some concrete reality of a Trump presidency?

A Trump presidency seems to have great promise for the Jews, and namely for Israel.  As of writing this article, Trump plans an official announcement tomorrow to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.   This is a major reversal of eight years of Obama which sought to put pressure on Israel to move back to 1967 lines, culminating in the UN declaration on settlements last month.

This has been part of a greater declaration that the US needs to rebuild its relationship with Israel, as well as any and all allies who share our values.  And then there’s the fact that every one of Trump’s children (except Barron, who remains unmarried) has married a Jew.

So where does the association of Trump with anti-Semitism come from?  The core of this association is one Richard Spencer, the self-proclaimed founder of the alt-right.  Spencer has repeatedly quoted from Nazi propaganda and spoken critically of the Jewish people,  Although he has denied being a neo-Nazi.  He’s certainly not alone in this.  A number of outspoken Trump supporters have associated Jews with the liberal left and the media they oppose.

Defining the alt-right itself is subject to much controversy already.  I myself defined it much more broadly as a popular reaction to leftist orthodoxy.  And it didn’t help that the first person to popularize it was Hillary Clinton in an attempt to smear Trump with some of his supporters.

Never mind that the Democrats have been saddled with those calling for the destruction of Israel for years now, a big reason many Jews are defecting to the Republican party.

But the media took her announcement and ran with it.  I had been following Trump’s campaign pretty closely for over a year.  I never heard of Richard Spencer until she brought it up.  All the anti-Semitic activity I’d heard about had come from the left, thinly veiled as anti-Zionism.  When terrorists targeted a Jewish supermarket or what they thought was a Jewish owned nightclub, the media just shrugged it off.  Or worse, they blamed gun control or called it an honest criticism of Israel.

But now that they found a way to link anti-Semitism with a criticism of Trump, I all of a sudden heard about the horrors of anti-Semitism.

It doesn’t end with this either.  Ben Garrison, a very popular pro-Trump cartoonist, has seen his cartoons altered by internet trolls to make him look like an anti-Semite.  Not to mention Breitbart’s Steve Bannon has been called an anti-Semite despite having no such history – not to mention founder Andrew Breitbart himself was Jewish.

I could go on listing events (Milo Yiannopoulos comes to mind), but we can see a trend here.  The issue is finding ways to smear one’s opponents by manipulating genuine fears of anti-Semitism.

And these fears are justified.  The man who feared Trump echoed a long standing fear – historically, when the Christians backlash against the Muslims, they go after the Jews too.  The expulsion of Jews from Spain teaches us that.

But we don’t have the luxury of reacting to such fears.  The Nation of Israel is beset by enemies on all sides, and if we lean too comfortably to one side, we are targets to another.  It’s been told politics is like a horseshoe – the more to the fringe one gets on the left or right, the more paranoid anti-Semitism one sees.  Especially on the internet.  If you don’t believe me, just do a Google Image search for “Trump Jews” and see how both sides think he’s either Hitler or a Jewish puppet.

Meanwhile even Trump’s most ardent internet supporters have distanced themselves from the anti-Semitic supporters.  There is nothing to gain and much to lose from any association with them.   Any association of Trump with an actual anti-Semitic voice is many layers removed, and winds up being more slander than innuendo.

So while it is important to keep an eye on some of Trump’s supporters, I don’t think we have much to worry about.  Trump ran on an overall campaign of bringing jobs back, taking care of immigration, and recommitting to our allies.  He won an overwhelming popular mandate on this but has few friends in Washington.  So if he betrays any of this mandate he will be easy prey to his foes.

As Jews we should only be doing what so many enthusiastic supporters doing – giving him the benefit of the doubt while holding him accountable.  I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results of the coming year, but if not, I will be first to speak up.

 

First words

I’ve wanted to do a blog section on this site, but have been unsure what direction I want to take it.  I want this site to be a positive statement about who I am and what my positions are on the issues.  But this is also the age of the internet where everyone has an opinion on everything and it all descends into a Royal Rumble.

So while I want to comment on everything, I prefer to be entertained by the daily hijinks in DC and not get too involved in it.   Because about 98% of it is just theatrics and has no actual policy meaning.

Donald Trump’s confirmation hearings this week are one such thing.  The incumbent of my district, Karen Bass, gave this Facebook Live video where she fully tore into Trump.  She claimed “the shoe is on the other foot now”after all Trump’s theatric attempts to undermine Obama in the past few years.

So let me get this straight.  An elected official has every right to sink as low into mudslinging as a private citizen does?  This is somehow a right and not something you want to rise above?

And this is where I wasn’t sure I even wanted to post on this.  Because the confirmation hearings are pure Royal Rumble hijinks.  But it’s so characteristic of where the Democrats have been for so long.  Donald Trump may have done his share of mudslinging but he also campaigned on a lot of issues.  But the Democrats were so busy trying to tear him down with mud, they never got around to offering their difference on policy.

And this is why I’m so fed up with the incumbent in my district that I want to run against her.  I don’t see her offering anything to my district.  She’s just parroting all the Democratic party talking points.  Which at this point, are nowhere beyond mudslinging.