May 20, 2002

UNITY VS. CONFORMITY :

New York is starting to feel like Brezhnev's Moscow : Public debate in America has now become a question of loyalty (Jonathan Steele, May 16, 2002, The Guardian)
What a sad place New York City has become. A vibrant, disputatious town with a worldwide reputation for loud voices and strongly expressed opinions is tip-toeing around in whispers. Grief over the casualties of the twin towers massacre is not the reason (those wounds are slowly healing), but a stifling conformity which muzzles public discourse on US foreign policy, the war on terrorism and Israel. [...]

To enforce this abandonment of reasoned argument in the name of a witch-hunt against terrorists, a strange alliance of evangelical Christians in Congress has come together with the leaders of American Jewish organisations who normally support the Democratic party. "We live in a culture where there is a diminishing tolerance of dissent," commented Abe Brumberg, long-time editor of Problems of Communism, the Soviet-era journal which was funded by the US government.

He drew my attention to a column by Frank Rich in the New York Times. The piece reported that America's foremost Jewish newspaper, Forward, was fielding subscription cancellations for accepting an ad from Jews Against the Occupation. Mainstream papers are also being targeted. "Our press is not being muzzled," Rich was careful to write, "but the dictates of what constitutes politically correct conversation about the Middle East are being tightened to the point that American leaders of all stripes increasingly seem to be in a contest to see who can pander the most to American Jews."


Mr. Steele here demonstrates a confusion that is shared by many on the Left, particularly the European Left. He seems to believe that the current climate of unity in the United States, in opposition to radical Islamic terrorism and to both ant-Semitic and anti-Zionist opinions (the two are somewhat different), is the product of an unhealthy repressive mindset. Mightn't it rather be the case that after a decade of multicultural twaddle and self-denigration, with Bill Clinton apologizing to anything that moved for past American transgressions, Americans have decided that if there's to be a clash of civilizations we'd prefer that our civilization win? So when a Jewish newspaper runs ads that favor the opposing civilization and its readers decide to cancel their subscriptions in response, mightn't that be seen as mere self-respect on the part of people who don't care to be insulted, rather than a new McCarthyism; never mind the inanity of comparing it to Soviet totalitarianism?

UPDATE :
Who's Trying to Silence Free Speech?: Media counterattack against bias charges misses the point : A symbolic protest that calls for subscribers or advertisers to withhold their business for a limited time is not a throwback to Nazi Germany. Those who do not wish to read my work need not purchase any outlet that publishes it. The same holds true of anybody other publication. That's not mob rule, it's just the workings of a free market, without which there cannot be a truly free press. (Jonathan Tobin, 5/20/02, jewishworldreview.com)

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 20, 2002 8:35 AM
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