05.27.2005 Eugene Volokh
Ann Coulter on Jews
I have little affection for Ms. Coulter's style, or for many of her opinions; I've strongly criticized her in the past for things she's written. Still, I wonder whether the Jews/pandering item might be sarcasm gone awry. Here's the context of her quote:
[Al] Sharpton . . . inflamed angry mobs in Brooklyn's Crown Heights, leading to the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum. He incited an anti-Semitic pogrom against a Jewish-owned clothing store in Harlem, Freddy's, ending in a blaze of bullets and fire that left several employees dead. So while the other Democrats talk about their personal tragedies, Sharpton goes around creating personal tragedies.
In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats' other big idea – too nuanced for a bumper sticker – is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There's Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew – along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.
Clark said that when he discovered he was half-Jewish, he remembered growing up in Arkansas and feeling "a certain kinship" with Jewish families in the dry-goods business. (I, too, have always felt a certain kinship with Calvin Trillin.)
The Democrats' urge to assert a Jewish heritage is designed to disguise the fact that the Democrats would allow the state of Israel to perish as Palestinian suicide bombers slaughter Jewish women and children. . . .
Being susceptible to pandering, of course, is not a survival trait -- it's usually harmful to one's survival. That itself suggests that her statement was meant sarcastically, to suggest that in fact a group as savvy as we Jews are (and, hey, we are pretty savvy) can see right through all this pandering.
Moreover, anti-Jewish "bigot[s]" are usually not the first to denounce instigators of "anti-Semitic pogroms," or express concern for Israel. This isn't a categorical rule; we can certainly imagine someone who's both an anti-Semitic bigot and who defends Israel and denounces those who stir up pogroms. If Coulter's other statement were clearly anti-Semitic, one can imagine some such complex set of motivations on her part. But given that her other statement seems at worst ambiguous -- and in my view pretty clearly sarcastic -- these other statements help resolve the ambiguity in Coulter's favor.
So one may certainly fault Ms. Coulter for much; but I don't think one can properly fault this column of hers for anti-Semitic bigotry.
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