The Reactionary Utopian
                     February 8, 2007

by Joe Sobran

     After accusing various popes, saints, politicians, 
celebrities, and even my humble self of anti-Semitism 
over the years, the columnist Richard Cohen is shocked to 
find that he has been accused of anti-Semitism himself. 
I'm surprised that he is shocked. He has written 
critically of the state of Israel, and he's now one of a 
number of liberal Jews (the historian Tony Judt is 
another) finding themselves in the same dock. How could 
he not have seen this coming?

     This genie has been out of the bottle for a long 
time. It isn't just Jews, of course; any number can play 
(except Christians, who are to blame for so many evils). 
When Senator Joe Biden tried to pay Barack Obama an 
innocent compliment the other day, he found himself 
facing the charge of implying that black politicians 
speak poor English, don't bathe, and wear baggy zoot 
suits. Watch what you say. Another columnist, David 
Brooks, has written that the word "neoconservative" is 
now an anti-Semitic code-word for "Jew."

     Never mind the Jews who call themselves neocons. 
"Self-haters," no doubt. I've always liked Woody Allen's 
reply to that label: "It's true that I'm Jewish, and I 
don't like myself very much, but it has nothing to do 
with my religion." Liberal though he is, Cohen is subject 
to spasms of common sense and humor, either of which can 
be perilous. Humorlessness is threatening to become our 
national religion. A country that considers Robin 
Williams funny is already in deep trouble.

     Sports fans know that the names of their teams are 
apt to be found "deeply offensive" to alleged spokesmen 
-- oops, spokespersons -- for this or that ethnic group, 
such as Indians -- oops, Native Americans. Once upon a 
time somebody named a Boston baseball team the Braves, 
thinking it was innocuous, a way of saluting brave 
warriors (teams aren't named for creatures that are held 
in contempt, such as rodents, but for beasts and people 
associated with power and valor, such as lions and tigers 
and bears); Babe Ruth played for them for a while. Later 
they moved to Milwaukee and nobody complained. It wasn't 
until long after the Braves had moved to Atlanta that 
outrage erupted. Maybe it would have been more prudent to 
call them the Atlanta Persons.

     The forces of Organized Touchiness never rest. That 
includes the Joke Police. The only safety lies in bland 
solemnity. America is littered with the casualties of the 
bigotry wars -- people who have asserted, suggested, or 
said things that might possibly be construed to imply 
anything that Al Sharpton or Abe Foxman finds 
prejudicial. Never say anything that reminds these people 
of slavery or the Holocaust, unless you are prepared to 
do a lot of groveling. Even Marlon Brando had to crawl 
after blurting that Jews run Hollywood.

     It's no use saying you're not prejudiced; that's 
what bigots always say. Anyway, how would you know? 
Bigotry may be unconscious. That's what makes it so 

     At the moment, the gravest offense against 
minorities is Holocaust denial. It's worse than actually 
murdering them. In fact you might be more readily excused 
for defending the Holocaust than for expressing doubt of 
its occurrence.

     With millions of new Mexican, Muslim, and Asian 
(don't say "Oriental," let alone "Chinaman!") immigrants 
pouring in, we can expect an intensification of the 
Sensitivity Sweepstakes. I tremble for my country when I 
reflect that the Almighty has a sense of humor and that 
he cannot suppress his laughter forever.

     Here on earth, in the Land of the Free, you are 
guilty if accused. Even if you haven't actually lynched 
or gassed anyone, you are guilty of having been accused. 
It's not up to you to say whether you are a racist or 
anti-Semite; even if the charge is false by objective 
standards, you obviously did something to make someone 
want to make a false charge. Simple logic. I must have 
done something to make Richard Cohen accuse me, and now 
he must have done something to make someone else accuse 
him. Let's not get bogged down in irresolvable issues of 
truth and falsehood.

     But doesn't this mean anyone can be accused of 
racism and anti-Semitism? Now you're getting the idea! In 
the Soviet Union, anyone could be accused of "anti-Soviet 
activities," a term that would have been useless if it 
had ever been clearly defined. Your own show trial may be 
just a matter of time.


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