Monday, October 20, 2003

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Odds & ends on anti-semitism

In no particular order:

  • Tech Central Station is running a slightly revised version of my take on Mahathir's speech from last Friday. See if you can spot the minor revisions!!

  • Speaking of that speech, here are the highlights of the the Daily Times of Pakistan editorial about it:

    Dr Mohammad’s speech has 4223 words and 59 paragraphs. Out of these, his direct or indirect references to the Jewish people, the Palestinian problem, Israel, Zionism and Western policies only make up 373 words. And these 373 words include the line: “Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing”. This sentence alone should make clear to anyone accusing Dr Mohammad of anti-Semitism of the absurdity of the charge since he makes a clear distinction between the Jewish people and the state of Israel....

    We fail to see why anyone in the West should quibble with what Dr Mohammad has said. Clearly, what has caused the uproar are his remarks about the Jewish ‘control of the world’. And pray, how is he wrong on that count? Is it any secret that there is a very powerful Jewish lobby in the United States that all but controls that country’s political system? Is it a secret that without the unstinting support of the United States, Israel could not have survived and gone from strength to strength? Is it any secret that the Nixon administration resorted to the biggest airlift in Oct 1973 since the crisis over Berlin after the then Israeli premier Golda Meir rushed to Washington in the face of advancing Egyptian armour? Is it any secret that the United States has killed (or compelled members to water down) every single resolution the United Nations Security Council has tried to bring against Israel? Is it any secret that the United States has multiple joint weapons development programmes with Israel? Is it any secret that scores of American politicians have seen their political careers come to an end at the hands of the Jewish lobby and Jewish money? Is it any secret that a sizeable number of Washington’s neo-cons are Jews? Is it also any secret that they pushed the United States into a war with Iraq and the reshaping of the Middle East, an enterprise for which they had prepared a blueprint back in 1995, much before the events of September 11, 2001?

    Thanks to's trusted South Asian correspondent A.A. for the link.

  • Roger Simon links to this Agence France-Presse story in which Mahathir thanked French President Jacques Chirac for blocking an official European Union declaration condemning the anti-Semitic portion of his comments. The key quote:

    "I never thought the Europeans would be against me," the New Sunday Times quoted him as saying. "I can't understand them. I'm glad that Chirac at least understands. I would like to thank him publicly."

    Solomonia points out that this thank-you has unnerved Chirac to the point of being more explicit in his condemnation. He links to this Haaretz story reporting that Cirac has sent a personal letter to Mahathir that contains the following paragraph:

    "Your remarks on the rule of Jews gave rise to very strong disapproval in France and in the world... these remarks can only be condemned by all who preserve the memory of the Holocaust."

  • I'm a bit surprised there's not more big media coverage of ESPN's decision to turn Gregg Easterbrook into a non-person. For the latest, go see Glenn Reynolds, Meryl Yourish, Aaron Schatz, and Howard Kurtz. UPDATE: Mickey Kaus weighs in as well.

    Yourish reports that Easterbrook's firing has had significant costs, since his ESPN payments were, "a huge chunk of his income." Howard Kurtz quotes Easterbrook saying, "This nuclear-bomb response is dramatically disproportionate to the offense,"

    Now, I think ESPN erred in what they did, but I have to wonder whether Easterbrook's comments now contradict his comments from two years ago (thanks to Don Williams for the link) on the costs of free speech:

    William Blackstone, the English legal theorist closely read by the Framers, argued that the essence of free speech was forbidding prior restraint: Anyone should be able to say anything, but then must live with the aftermath. A citizen should possess "an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public," Blackstone wrote in his "Commentaries"--which James Madison consulted often while working on drafts of the First Amendment wording--but "must take the consequences" for any reaction.

    The reaction to free speech, Madison thought, would be part of the mechanism by which society sifted out beliefs. Protected by Madison's amendment, the Ku Klux Klan can spew whatever repugnant drivel its wishes. Society, in turn, shuns KKK members for the repugnant people their free speech exposes them to be. No one expects the KKK to speak without a price; its price is ostracism...

    [W]hen the novelist Barbara Kingsolver says "the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder," or the novelist Arundhati Roy says George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden are "interchangeable," these statements are safeguarded. But readers may fairly respond by declining to buy Ms. Kingsolver's and Ms. Roy's books, and bookstores may fairly respond by declining to stock them. That these authors have a right to their views does not mean publishers and bookstores must promote them. It is censorship if books are seized and burned; it is not censorship if books are tossed into the trash because their authors mock the liberty that made the books possible. Indeed, expressing revulsion at the sight of a Kingsolver book is itself a form of protected speech....

    Speech must be free, but cannot be without cost.

    Maybe the cost of Easterbrook's speech in this incident was excessive. But to extend his analogy, if a bookstore has the right to not promote a book, then ESPN has the right to not promote Easterbrook.

  • A final thought on Atrios' criticism of Easterbrook. I think that he makes a good point in this post -- namely, that Easterbrook assumed way too much about Eisner and Weinstein's faith. There's also an interesting discussion between him and Josh Marshall on the mores and clubbiness of DC insiders. Start here, then go here, then here, then here and here.

    However, Atrios concludes his last post by saying, "I find the rallying around him rather creepy." You know what I find creepy? Anonymous bloggers hypocritically lambasting Easterbrook and other bloggers with the guts to write under their own name.

    A hypothetical: what happens if Atrios had posted something equally offensive? Does he lose his day job? No, because of his anonymity. He clearly prefers it this way, and I'm not saying that bloggers must out themselves. However, the cloak of anonymity does give Atrios a degree of insulation that other bloggers don't have. Say what you will about Easterbrook -- at least he put his real name on his posts. It's not clear to me that Atrios is willing to bear the real costs of free speech that have now entangled Easterbrook.

    UPDATE: Will Baude writes:

    I'm questioning Professor Drezner's implied assertion that anonymous bloggers have some special duty to, say, the Gregg Easterbrooks of the world to defend them from being punished by their employers.

    I wasn't trying to imply that at all. I was trying to imply that the kind of schadenfreude Atrios takes from Easterbrook's current plight strikes me as hypocritical.

    posted by Dan on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM


    What do you think about the claim by one US soldier, prominently quoted around the "anti-idiotarian" blogs that, and I quote "Sadamm(sic) from ... what I have seen with my own eyes makes Hitler look like a school boy."

    Atrios does not rely on his real world credentials to give weight to his words.

    posted by: Hipocrite on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    In Defense of Atrios

    posted by: Will Baude on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    In defense of Atrios and other psydonomynous bloggers like myself; when we say something really dumb/offensive/outright wrong there are a couple of forms of payback available. First we turn off our readers and lose visitors (I don't have that many readers to lose so the cost of my being stupid is really low, but Atrios does have a lot to lose) secondly the larger blogs are able to make some decent money on their readership, so losing readers can inflict financial costs on an anonymous blogger if they are successful enough. Thirdly, blogs are creatures of thick networks, so if Atrios was to say something revolting, he loses part of his network as his linkers start to delink to him. Finally, if the statement is legally actionable, discovering his identity or my identity is not that difficult as soon as slander/libel action is undertaken.

    So yeah, you are right that the costs of saying something really dumb are higher for someone who writes/blogs under their own name, but there are still costs for anonymous bloggers if they say something really dumb.


    posted by: fester on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    Free speech is messy. It includes both telling someone else they are full of ****, and commercial retaliation.

    The government is not supposed to retaliate against free speech. Everyone else can, including employers and other businesses. They should too. That's how free speech works.

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    I'm not sure where hypocrisy fits in and I'm not feeling any schadenfreude, though that is an emotion I'll readily admit to often feeling without shame. I find this issue to be rather disturbing for a variety of reasons, which is why I keep bringing it up, but have never called for Easterbrook to get canned and don't take any delight in the specter of Big Media conglomerates. I'm just disturbed that people think Easterbrook is being treated "unfairly" when in fact he's being treated by normal every day standards the rest of us live with. I'm also disturbed by the gross disparity between the reactions to the comments by Jim Moran and to those of Easterbrook. In my mind they're rather equivalent, with Easterbrook easily coming slightly ahead in the 'bad' category.

    People pick their battles, and regardless of the merits this is a rather odd battle for people to pick given their reactions, not long ago, to Moran's comments. One might even accuse them of playing politics.

    And, yes, for the record I condemned Moran as well, quite harshly if I remember.

    posted by: Atrios on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    I agree that ESPN/Disney has every right to fire someone for speech they disagree with. But we, of course, have the right to criticize them for the decision. For a journalistic enterprise to fire someone for ideas expressed in a column is rather dubious; this is all the more true when it's at another venue on a topic other than for which he's employed to write there.

    posted by: James Joyner on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    Dan, Atrios clearly takes no schadenfreude (pleasure in the pain of others) from this situation - his tone is simply angry at what Easterbrook wrote in this case and recently (does "no" mean "no" in rape, does the ADL have a profit motive in criticizing antisemitism). He does not gloat about the Espn firing - in fact he asks if it was an overreaction.

    Also from what I read in the Israeli and French media, I believe your "this thank-you has unnerved Chirac" take is unfair. You might as well ask why it took Bush so long to personally condemn the remarks, or why every Congressional report on Friday didn't include a condemnation of Matathir.
    It may have been a bad PR decision for the French to have asked for the 17 Oct condemnation to be separate from the material reporting on the agenda, but Solomonia's post is just France-bashing.

    posted by: rilkefan on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]


    The act or practice of a hypocrite; a feigning to be what one is not, or to feel what one does not feel; a dissimulation, or a concealment of one's real character, disposition, or motives; especially, the assuming of false appearance of virtue or religion; a simulation of goodness.

    So do you think the hypocritical anonymous bloggers criticizing Easterbrook actually actually agree that greedy jews are promoting violence in Hollywood?

    posted by: nameless on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    nameless, maybe what Dan was trying to say is that it's hypocritical for Atrios (or other anonymous bloggers) to criticize the _support_ that Easterbrook is receiving, when they don't need that support in the first place (given that they're anonymous, and their blogging is de-linked from their everyday jobs).

    FWIW, I think Atrios says some pretty offensive things (on a personal level) relatively often... but I still read and agree with a lot of what he writes. And I was (pleasantly) surprised when he characterized Easterbrook's firing as an overreaction; that wasn't what I expected to hear...

    posted by: Gabe on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    "nameless, maybe what Dan was trying to say is that it's hypocritical for Atrios (or other anonymous bloggers) to criticize the _support_ that Easterbrook is receiving, when they don't need that support in the first place (given that they're anonymous, and their blogging is de-linked from their everyday jobs)."

    Maybe, but it still wouldn't qualify as hypocrisy, which means you profess something that you do not truly believe.

    posted by: nameless on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    in defense of Atrios (why is this necessary at all?): unlike Easterbrook he's writing in his own free time. And, as has been pointed out above, on that scale he's vulnerable. He can't be fired from Eschaton because he isn't employed there.
    that aside, I'm troubled by the Daily Times of Pakistan story. As clear as the anti-Semitism in Mahathir's speech was, the things they list are more or less correct AFAIK. Now it is clear to me that the involvement of Jews in these matters is accidental and irrelevant except where Israel is concerned, and in that case there are valid reasons for things being the way they are. So that leaves me troubled by their defense of anti-Semitism, but I can't come up with a rational counter argument why they are wrong.
    It is not satisfactory to argue for the irrelevance of what they state as far as anti-Semitism is concerned, because I then might be forced to concede that relevance is circumstantial and they may have a point form where they're standing.
    Can anyone help me there? How does one argue against this shit?

    posted by: markus on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    I'm not sure I quite buy Dan's argument, but it's pretty simple: It's hypocritical to argue that Easterbrook should face the economic consequences of his controversial speech while simultaneously shielding oneself from the consequences of one's own speech via a cloak of anonymity.

    posted by: James Joyner on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    I'd like to know why exactly people think that anonymous bloggers cannot, or should not, be fired if what they write offends their employer?

    Most people who care have already figured out that my name isn't really Zathras; someone who cared a lot could find out what it is without much difficulty. Most people posting online are in that position, and the real identity of bloggers is even less a secret than mine is. If Easterbrook, why not you?

    Actually I would argue that someone writing for a news organization like ESPN should have greater freedom in his commentary than an anonymous blogger, because news organizations risk their credibility if they make it appear that nothing critical about them may be said by anyone they employ. They are evidently willing to take this risk a lot, and one reason must be that they are so seldom called on it.

    posted by: Zathras on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]


    Before you start defending Gregg on his noivce status, you need to know that he's be taking his comments from TNR and putting them word for word into his ESPN column. This has been going on since his blog started - and although I can't find the column now, I'm pretty sure I read his Eisner rant on the Tuesday, October 14th TMQ -- not TRN. ESPN has removed the entire directory from their website so I can't check and see it's that's the case.

    Gregg's been writing TMQ for over 4 years (first on Slate, then on ESPN) - before the word blogging became common. He's asked for commentary and received it. He knows how blogging works; he's written about it. He's no innocent.

    who read TMQ for 4 years

    posted by: T. on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    T.: here's the cached version of Easterbrook's last TMQ column. No mention of "Kill Bill." His October 7th column doesn't mention it either.

    Atrios: my apologies if I misread the schadenfreude on this issue. I do think there's a difference between the appropriate consequences for Moran, who's a public official and party leader, versus Easterbrook, who's not.

    posted by: Dan Drezner on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    Atrios doesn't get paid for his work (except very modest donations). If Gregg Easterbrook were a taxi driver (or whatever it is Atrios does in RL), I would very much oppose his having been fired from the cab company for his dumbass remarks. If Atrios were appearing pseudonymously at ESPN for decent freelance wages, I'd say "fire him too". The only difference, and it isn't trivial, is Atrios would be spared the personal embarrassment that will dog Easterbrook for some time.

    (Do they play American-style football in Malaysia?)

    posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    "It's hypocritical to argue that Easterbrook should face the economic consequences of his controversial speech while simultaneously shielding oneself from the consequences of one's own speech via a cloak of anonymity."

    You can call it hypocrisy, but it doesn't fit within standard definition of the term. I suppose you are free to invent your own definition and hope it catches on. It sounds like you are calling the anonymous bloggers cowards rather than hypocrites, no? After all, the anonymous bloggers are not arguing that Easterbrook had no right to blog anonymously himself. I suspect that Easterbrook would not have wanted to blog anonymously because, in contrast presumably to Atrios and others, his name was his big draw.

    Anyway, I think the whole anonymity question is a red herring: the criticisms should stand or fall on their merits.

    posted by: nameless on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    What I found most interesting about Mahathir's speech was not what he said about Jews. It was what he said about Muslims. To wit, Islamic fundamentalism and traditionalism has stunted the development of the Muslim world for decades, resulting in their present relative weakness. Especially notice the line about the Jews 'thinking instead of striking' (paraphrase). Mahathir could be greatly vindicated if leaders of the Muslim world would use this speech as an opportunity to publicly turn their backs on the Islam of the Taliban and the Jihad-mongering bin Ladens of the world.

    posted by: TNB on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]


    Certainly ESPN is within its rights to fire Easterbrook -- that is not the question. Of course they have the right to fire him for any reason they want to. That doesn't make it the right thing to do.

    And if Eisner is really trying to shut down Easterbrook's career, as Gregg claims, then this issue is a lot bigger.

    posted by: Ryan Booth on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    I have no problem with arguably anti-Semitic comments by media personalities, expressed in their capacities as such, destroying their media careers. The example made of Easterbrook will have a welcome chilling deterrent effect. Tough for him if he didn't mean it. Anti-Semitism should be radioactive.

    I'd have had a problem with purely commercial retaliation, and especially that made possible by media concentration. The Disney Corporation has a bad reputation in this respect.

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    "Speech must be free but cannot be without cost."

    Fair enough. But the cost must be proportional to the offense, or else it is censorship of one kind of another, isn't it?

    If my congressman, Twit Moran, chooses to call Jews warmongers in a public forum, with media present, I want to know about it and then I, as a voter, can tell him he's out of line and vote him out of office (God willing). Moreover, that remark was of a piece with a longish list of public and private antics which call into serious question his fitness for his job.

    Gregg Easterbrook, a writer I am barely familiar with, appears to have no such infamous record to his discredit (on the contrary, much in his favor). He wrote one mildly distressing paragraph (please, that's really all it was). Now he's out a significant chunk of his income. Where's the proportionality, people? Shouldn't the punishment fit the crime?

    And one more thing--good on you Dan for drawing a bright line between named/demi-celebrity blogging and anonymous blogging. If I throw a stone at a guy, especially if that stone hits and does real damage, I should be willing to show my face.

    posted by: Kelli on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    About anonymous bloggers - In a world with Sullivan, Kaus and Glenn Reynolds, the problem clearly is not anonymous bloggers.

    posted by: Barry on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    There is often an attack on the anonymous, but truth is dan, as I am sure you'll agree, that anonymity comes for many reasons and is much to be treasured in our democracy past and present.

    I think you're mistaken to think atrios guilty of schadenfreude (in this instance) and thank you for recognizing that, but I think you're more mistaken to attack the anonymous as hypocritical.

    I am not sure why Atrios is anonymous. I am glad that being anonymous allows him to post as he does. His is a valued voice.

    Near as I can tell, we don't know why Easterbrook was fired: anti-semitic remarks, lambasting Eisner, or being caught fucking the dog. No one is talking about the real reason and lots of bloggers are speculating madly. Silly.

    Atrios was the first I saw to peg the real story -- not the antisemitism, not the firing, but the media consolidation.

    Yourish has her knickers in a twist along with everyone else because the income is a sizeable portion of E's annual income.

    E is widely published and respected. If he can't find a replacement position quickly, the problem is media consolidation and Disney owning too much of everything.

    Anonymity is a wonderful thing. It makes free speech possible. It's only as cowardly as Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson. It's down right un amurican to diss it.

    posted by: anonymouse on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

    I can see now that E is saying he knows it was Eisner.... The story is still thus one of media consolidation.

    Fucking with the Jews? That wasn't E's problem. Fucking with someone from Hollywood and the media.... Maybe Katzenberger will hire him.

    posted by: anonymouse on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]


    Thanks for the clarification on the TMQ posts. Hmm, I must have read it on the blog then. Well, I still stand by what I said about posting his exact same comments in two places and his understanding of blogging.


    posted by: T. on 10.20.03 at 11:35 AM [permalink]

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