This is a topic about which I will reliably lose my temper, so let me try to stay in control.
It’s an undeniable fact that there’s a level of casual bigotry against Muslims that is permissible in our media that would not be permissible against any other group. That’s why The Atlantic can yet again publish a piece that takes as its subject the unique violence and threat posed by Muslims, a subject it has published many pieces about already in this young year– including its immediate prior cover story. There are many, many things to dislike about Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest smear of Muslims: its classic bogus-trend-story failings, its utter reliance on hearsay and disconnected anecdotes, its uncorroborated claims, its constant use of weasel words and dishonest qualifications, its heavy reliance on the passive voice to make accusations and claims that cannot be meaningfully parsed by its audience. All of it coming from someone who has ground the same axe against the same people for his entire career and who is bent on reaching the foregone conclusion that Islam is the enemy of the civilized world. The response to this post will inevitably be more scolding that I don’t believe in European anti-Semitism or take it seriously. That isn’t true. Rather, I will simply point out: if the case is clear that European anti-Semitism is rising, then it can and should be made honestly. Goldberg, instead, relies on all of the tropes of dishonest reporting, fake trend-spotting, and misleading readers.
One point of Goldberg’s is the most absurd, the most toxic, and the most dangerous. Goldberg argues that there is a chance that Europe’s Muslims will form a coalition with Europe’s rising far-right political parties. He then explicitly analogizes that possibility to the conditions that led to Nazi party. This is utter, absurd lunacy, an idea so inherently ridiculous and straightforwardly wrong that it should totally disqualify his piece even from the many people who are bent on agreeing with it. As his own reporting makes clear, Europe’s actually-existing far-right parties hate Muslim immigrants and would never, ever form a coalition with them. The National Front, a white supremacist group, they’re going to get cozy with a bunch of poor Arabs and Persians? Really? Golden Dawn, which literally contributed to war crimes against Serbian Muslims? They strike you as a group eager to join forces with Muslims? The English Defence League, a movement that started explicitly to harass and exclude and degrade Muslim immigrants in the UK? Really? Indeed, the very rise in those far-right parties that he describes is happening because of anti-Muslim sentiment. The very idea of explicitly Aryan-supremacist, pro-white, anti-immigrant, pro-“Western civilization” parties forming a bloc with the very people they are rising up to oppose is so farcical that only a publication as motivated by intrinsic bigotry as the Atlantic could allow it to be published.
And the thinking behind it is prejudiced on its face. See:
This is merely a direct example of something that is filling Twitter right now, which echoes Goldberg’s thinking: the assertion that Europe’s Muslims, millions of largely-impoverished brown immigrants who face constant xenophobia and harassment, are in fact a unified bloc similar to a political party. The idea that disparate and unaffiliated people, coming from dozens of countries, speaking many different languages, practicing different forms of Islam, different in culture and politics, can be analogized to the Stalinist Russian government of the 1930s is, simply and unambiguously, bigoted. To take a vast swath of humanity, one that has no shared party affiliation and no consistent allegiance, that comes from myriad backgrounds, that seek different things, that live separate lives, and to treat them as a unified group that can be fairly hated and feared is nothing other or less than the basic, corrupt logic of racism and bigotry. It can be called no other thing. And that is the logic of Jeffrey Goldberg and The Atlantic.
Big Media Twitter is, of course, sharing this article with enthusiasm and gusto, championing Goldberg for his “courage” at telling them what they already believe. An industry full of self-described liberals rallying to the Drudge siren, waving the same flag as some of the most virulent and explicit racists of our time, so proud of their own iconoclasm and refusal to bow to “political correctness.” And all, of course, waged with the threat of accusations of anti-Semitism, as if the refusal to ignore the palpable Muslim-hatred of the article constitutes de facto hatred of Jews, as though asking Jeffrey Goldberg to conform to the most basic requirements of journalistic rigor is anti-Semitic, as though calling out the absurdity of comparing impoverished immigrants to the proto-Third Reich could stem from no other place than anti-Semitism. I have this crazy belief: that if it is in fact true that Europe’s Jews are threatened on a historical level, then journalists can prove it without every dishonest reporting tactic ever employed; that it can be proved without literally analogizing poor brown immigrants who control no governments or militaries to Hitler’s party; that it can be done by someone who wasn’t responsible for one of the greatest failures in the history of journalism. Do you take those to be entirely unfair requests?
I don’t doubt that the many, many media insiders who are pimping this narrative don’t see themselves as hating Muslims. But with Muslims, and only with Muslims, they are willing to accept and repeat the basic logic of prejudice: that a group of immensely diverse people deserve to be feared and opposed because they share a religion. To praise Goldberg’s piece is inherently and unambiguously to assert that a 12 year old boy from Azerbaijan is in some fashion the same as a 65 year old man from Yemen and a 33 year old woman from Indonesia, that in each and every case they are to be feared as members of a potential fifth column. That’s bigotry; that’s what that is. Goldberg is a bigot, someone who has made the demonization of Islam his career’s most central and most constant subject, and The Atlantic is a bigot’s magazine, with an insatiable appetite for pieces that place the world’s ills at the feet of Islam, and the people who draw paychecks from the magazine are handmaidens to bigotry. And if telling that plain truth invites the responses I get whenever I criticize this particular magazine– aggressive emails from its employees, dark muttering about consequences, the assertion that I will be unemployable for speaking out in this way, and so on– then that’s the way it goes.