You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

I hear what that dog whistle means

The Baltimore Sun

Last week I reposted on Facebook a short guide to code words: “globalist,” “Soros,” “New York values,” and others, all to be translated as “Jew.” How do I recognize such terms as dog whistles by bigots? Because it is not terribly difficult to go on to the internet and find them used in explicitly anti-Semitic posts.

A couple of colleagues with conservative views took offense at the post, saying that it “creates a stereotype of conservatives like me,” and both stoutly denied harboring any anti-Semitic attitudes. I believe them. I have worked with them. And I respect their political views, even when I do not share them. They are responsible people.

But I think that it is a mistake to frame this discussion in some pat conservative/liberal context. Let me explain why.

Anti-Semitism is the oldest and vilest prejudice in Western culture. You can draw a straight line from the hostility toward Jews in the Gospel of John to medieval pogroms, to the expulsion of Jews from England and Spain, to the Holocaust. You can wrap in as well the genteel variety: T.S. Eliot’s aping the attitudes of the British upper classes, American country club exclusions, and nearly all of the Christian denominations.

Given our political polarization and the nearly universal access to the internet, it is not surprising that white supremacists have been emboldened to go public, to attack immigrants, to attack African-Americans, and, inevitably, to attack Jews. And in their efforts to make reprehensible views more broadly acceptable, they are trying to piggyback on the conservative movement.

This is not the first time. Fifty years ago William F. Buckley had to purge anti-Semites and Bircher cranks from National Review.

So anti-Semitism is not a conservative issue—though it is an issue for conservatives. And liberals. And moderates. For all of us, who need to recognize the code words and not get taken in.

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