Eric D. Snider


Snide Remarks #679


by Eric D. Snider

Published on January 8, 2013

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I want to talk about anti-semitism. That's because I don't understand it, and I like talking about things I don't understand, as evidenced by my lecture series "How to Program A Universal Remote Control."

If you have trouble keeping your bigotries straight, anti-semitic is the one where you hate the Jews. The one where you hate the branch of linguistics concerned with meaning is anti-semantics, and the one where you hate sending messages with flags is anti-semaphore, and both of those are not real things. The term "anti-semitism" was coined in (SURPRISE!) Germany and refers to prejudice against Jewish people, even though the word "Semitic" refers to all the descendants of Shem (son of Noah), not just the Hebrews but Arabs, Babylonians, Assyrians, and so forth.

So there is one thing already that I don't understand about anti-semitism. You really shouldn't call yourself anti-semitic unless you hate Phoenicians as much as Jews. The term has been around for a while, though, so I guess it's too late to revise the definition.

But the main thing about anti-semitism that I don't understand is how people decide to dislike Jews. With regular old racism, I get it, because there's a physical component. You can see that someone is different from you, and if you've been taught that "different" means inferior, well, there you go. You make your judgment as soon as you see the person. It's not right, but at least it's a gut-level reaction. And it's binary: they're either OK or they're not. Granted, some of the more persnickety racists will measure out their contempt for mixed-race people based on what fraction of black they are -- thus proving that everything, including racism, can be made worse with math. But never mind them. For the most part, it's not a case-by-case thing, it's one or the other, and you know immediately. You're not going to be friends with a black guy and then, after a year, find out that he's black.

It's different with anti-semitism. You don't necessarily know that a person is Jewish when you meet them, unless they're doing something obvious like wearing a yarmulke or optioning your screenplay. You could be friends with someone for a long time before discovering he or she is Jewish. I'm always finding out that some acquaintance of mine who I didn't know was Jewish is Jewish. "Huh!" I say to myself. "How about that!" And the only note I have to add to my mental file for that person is the Hanukkah thing. Everything else stays the same.

But what if finding out that my friend was Jewish meant I had to HATE him from now on?? Yikes! How do you just switch over like that? It seems like it would be a lot of work, mentally, to go through and erase the positive feelings and replace them with "JEW!JEW JEW!" It would be exhausting!

That's the difficulty of anti-semitism: it requires commitment. There must be times when an anti-semite learns that a friend or acquaintance is Jewish and then has an internal struggle over it, a real crisis of faith.

"Ted? Ted is a Jew? Aw, man. I like that guy! A bunch of us play poker at his house sometimes. Are we sure he's Jewish? Was his mother Jewish? That's how it's transmitted, you know. Through the mother. She is? Both parents? So he's full-blown Jew. Shoot. Well, maybe he's an exception. They can't ALL be bad, one hundred percent of them, realistically. I mean, the white Christian race is superior, but I'm honest enough to admit that some white Christians aren't that great. Like Kevin Smith. That guy's a load. Kevin Smith is definitely a worse person than my Jewish friend Ted. As an anti-semite, do I have to loathe and despise Ted just because he's a filthy Jew, regardless of everything else? I do? Oh, right. That's sort of the basic principle of being an anti-semite. Well, I don't like it, but I guess that's what I signed up for..."

I'm not even sure what it is that we're not supposed to like about Jewish people. Like I said, at least racism has a visual element, and once you see that someone is black or Asian or whatever, there are plenty of negative stereotypes to look for in them. But all there is for the Jews is that they're supposedly greedy. They like money. You know who else likes money? Everybody. Literally every person. Oh, Jews will try to get a good deal on something? Try to save money? Try to get more value for their dollar? WHAT MONSTERS.

So I guess my point is, people who hate the Jews probably don't have a good reason for it, so I hope they stop doing it. The end.

(For the record, I am not Jewish. People have told me that they thought I was Jewish, but I think the word they were looking for was "sarcastic.")

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This item has 16 comments

  1. wyogram says:

    "That's how it's transmitted." You always make me laugh. Thanks for highlighting the stupidity of hate.

  2. Seanette says:

    I've never understood how someone can claim to be a Christian while hating Jews, since Christ Himself was a Jew.

  3. Silentkid says:

    Something that really sucks about this whole Jewish situation is that Words With Friends doesn't recognize the terms "Jew", "Jewish", "Hebrew", "Hebe", and the like. Total garbage. ;)

  4. Tara says:

    "all there is for the Jews is that they’re supposedly greedy. They like money. You know who else likes money? Everybody. Literally every person. Oh, Jews will try to get a good deal on something? Try to save money? Try to get more value for their dollar? WHAT MONSTERS." Literal LOL. Awesome. :)

  5. Autumn says:

    Perfect example of why humor should be Speaker of the House in common sense land. Nicely done!

    And "silentkid," I'm afraid Words with Friends is going with their proper noun exclusionary rule on that one, which would point to that they're anti-anti-Semitic, right, Eric?

  6. Lobo Oz says:

    It's much like the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Do you have to ask someone her religion when you meet her so you will know whether to hate her or not?

  7. Jason says:

    I'd never seen the connection between racism and math before. It's not half bad.

    Great article--the "logic" used by racists and hate-mongers worldwide has always been lacking.

    Here's something I don't understand, though: Famous Jewish entertainers that put out Christmas albums. Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, probably 3/5 of N'Sync. Sure, money and all, but seems unintentionally ironic.

  8. Jack B Nimble says:

    @Silentkid - Words with Friends uses the Scrabble Dictionary 4th Edition. The 1st and 2nd editions did have the word 'jew' with the definition 'to barter down.' Starting with the 3rd Edition of the Scrabble Dictionary potentially offensive words such as 'jew' were removed due to complaints.

  9. VDM says:

    You're kind of speaking to the choir, with your audience. Tell it to the Palestineans, see if they're cool with it.

  10. Rich says:

    My spontaneous eruption of laughter moment: ". . . thus proving that everything, including racism, can be made worse with math." Brilliant.

  11. Big Drew says:

    VDM +1

    Plus, "optioning your screenplay" is a classic.

  12. Another Eric says:

    @Lobo Oz: Your comment reminded me of a girl from one of my classes at BYU who visited Ireland. Someone asked, "Are you Catholic or Protestant?" and she answered that she was a Mormon. The person then said, "But are you a Catholic Mormon or a Protestant Mormon?"

  13. Charity Brighton says:

    There are people who have constructed physical symbols to make it a little easier to be bigots (such as the stereotype that Jewish people have large noses).

    I always thought Words with Friends always declined proper nouns like that. Can you make "Islam", "Muslim", or "Christian" or "Hindu"?

  14. SilverRain says:

    As someone who lives in a Hatfield/McCoy situation (aka. Salt Lake City,) I can shed some light on this. There is a complicated series of subtle cues that allows people to reveal their Mormon-ness or non-Mormon-ness or anti-Mormon-ness that then frees the other person to hate to the appropriate degree.

    After much practice, it becomes automatic and subconscious.

  15. whea-wix says:

    I teach a class called Understanding the Holocaust. This is the main question my students have, "So...Why the Jews?" We have to start in Ancient Rome to explain modern day antisemitism. Great article!

  16. neanderthal bi says:

    Great article, yep im trying to get to the bottom of it too, ive tried really hard to be anti semitic, watched all the old hitler vids, david duke, islamic videos, and im starting to feel a little tiny bit anti semitic but i must say its a bit of a dissapointment. I know theres an epiphany just waiting for my IQ to pierce the mystery, which is obviously apparent, with history and the bible and so forth, dont know any jews personally, which may be a setback.

    I think maybe its the mystery of it that is the allure, sort of a self fulfilling mania, but im certain thats wrong.

    I think maybe they are super evolved ..genetic bottlenecks etc selection pressures, subsequent high IQ success .. (furthering some sort of success envy), and then maybe they (the jews) really are susceptible to some weird control freak genetic superiority complex, from suffering the frustration of the retardation of the hoi polloi, plebians etc and enterprise the crap out of them as an outlet or something.

    I still dont know what it is (anti semitism) but im getting closer. Im certain its a real thing, its esoteric, its cryptic, its so niche,and perverse, i really want to know what it feels like to be anti semitic

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