Like a growing number of people who’ve grown up surrounded by them, the scolding liberal schoolmarm is my least favourite type of person. Naturally, therefore, I like the free-for-all atmosphere of the new Twitter (even if the new ‘X’ branding is absurd).
Elon Musk is a man who wants to get at the truth in an admirable, small-r republican way: through the cut and thrust of debate and civic participation, as opposed to scolding those who dissent. If he breaks social taboos, we don’t hold it against him. We blame his personality quirks, not malice.
I also get defensive about anti-Semitism. I’ve had some nasty experiences in this area. You see, about 12 years ago I got wrapped up in a political scandal in Ireland. Like many people back then, I had a little blog on one of those platforms like WordPress or Blogspot. Unlike most bloggers, I think I did something useful. I discovered some facts about David Norris, who was at this point the front-runner in the country’s Presidential race and those facts then contributed to the ruin of that campaign.
I did nothing special here. The facts were easily discoverable. I would hope and assume that the information I disclosed would have come out eventually in any case. The only difference is that those facts would have come through the filter of the more friendly, legacy media rather than the dangerous keyboard warriors who inhabited the blogosphere.
The story had an Israeli angle. Norris’s ex-lover is an Israeli activist, far to the political left, with troublesome penchant for young Arabs. All rather in the tradition of Foucault. His lover got into legal troubles, and Norris tried to lean on the Israeli courts to help him. Plenty has been said on this. But this happened to take place in Israel. Word got out that I am Jewish, and that I wrote pro-Israel content. I was immediately accused by a legion of people online of working for Israeli intelligence, or the Israeli embassy in Dublin. Writing from a modest North West London maisonette, I wish it were true.
Some of the accusers were in high places and should have known better. An airhead of an Independent TD, Finian McGrath, asked for a Parliamentary inquiry on the matter. Norris himself played both sides, distancing himself from the rumours when interviewed by Ryan Tubridy, but stoking them at the same time in his autobiography, A Kick Against the Pricks.
I get the nature of anti-Semitism, and conspiratorial anti-Zionism. Many will say the latter is not the same thing. I don’t want to get bogged down in that question. I know there are people out there who see Jews behind every tree, and who want Jews taken down a peg.
Which brings me to #BanTheADL. It’s a campaign being promoted by some unsavoury people you wouldn’t want to meet. But I also have no doubt that the ADL is an organisation that actually harms Jews.
The ADL, you see, is an arm of American liberalism that wears a slightly Jewish garb. It tends to take positions on immigration or transgenderism and claim these are Jewish issues. I get offended by this. I don’t think it should matter if most Jews came to America during the Ellis Island era. What if high levels of immigration isn’t all that good for a society and economy? Jews should not be obligated to take a position on immigration simply because we are Jewish.
There is indeed a lot of anti-Jewish defamation on the internet. I see fake quotes from the Talmud on Twitter all the time, or fake quotes from rabbis saying Jews must push multiculturalism to destroy Europeans. They often get thousands of likes and retweets. I think an organisation called the Anti-Defamation League should spend more time debunking these allegations rather than taking a position on critical race theory.
I should stress I’m not an American. I’m glad Anglo-Jewry tends to be more conservative in politics and religion, with less crazy representative bodies. But I see this American Jewish tendency creeping into Britain.
The Board of Deputies here has called Jews an “immigrant community” and criticised our Home Secretary for her position on refugees. I find the idea of an “immigrant community” offensive. You are either British or you are not, and there should be no pressure on Jews who have been here for generations to identify as immigrants, when so many of us are British – or in other countries Irish, or French, or Spanish as the case may be.
There’s a good chance that mass immigration has increased housing costs in Britain, while holding down wages and productivity. I don’t want Jews to be associated with this policy, especially when a lot of British Jews are skeptical of mass immigration. After Protestant Christians, Jews were the most likely religious denomination to vote for Brexit.
I see the ADL’s campaign against Elon Musk as another manifestation of the left-liberal attempt to prevent a second 2016, by policing the action on social media under the guise of fighting “misinformation”. This is as much punditry as a public service. It is certainly not a Jewish issue, and Jews – as Jews – shouldn’t be dragged into it.
The Author, JOHN CONNOLLY, is an anglo-Irish writer and lawyer.