Michael Kinsley gets it. He takes note of “Where Did the Vampire Squid Come From?”, which pointed out that Matt Taibbi’s description of Goldman Sachs — “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” — bore a striking resemblance to an old Nazi cartoon.
Where did Taibbi come up with his description? I wrote that I didn’t know but that he had a lot to answer for. His response to the charge of anti-Semitism, made by many others besides me, was a “blanket denial.” He called the accusation “preposterous,” as well as “completely ridiculous and not at all relevant,” because “the question of religion was so far outside my thinking while writing this piece that I never even considered it.” Religion? How about that other “r” word — racism?
Kinsley doesn’t buy the denial either, even if, as he notes, “It ought to be possible to criticize Goldman in the harshest possible terms — if you think that’s warranted — without being tarred as an anti-Semite.” He can’t help wondering, and neither can I, how “such a sophisticated writer” as Taibbi could “actually not know about the stereotypes and ancient lies that [his] passage echoes,” or that he could “actually be surprised that there would be people calling his article, fairly or otherwise, anti-semitic.”
It may be possible to call Goldman Sachs a bloodsucker without being an anti-Semite. But is it possible to call Goldman Sachs a bloodsucker and then be surprised when you’re called an anti-Semite?
“Certainly any explicit suggestion that Goldman’s alleged misbehavior and its Jewishness are related in any way is anti-semitic,” Kinsley writes further. “But what about comments about Goldman Sachs that draw on the classic stereotype about Jews and money, without making any explicit connection to it being a Jewish firm?”
Well, as others have pointed out, anti-Semitism doesn’t have to be conscious. In fact, unconscious anti-Semitism is even worse. (See the thorough analysis of this issue, “Greenwald, Taibbi and the new Anti-Semitism,” posted by Winsmith at DailyKos.)
When it comes to implicit vs. explicit, what about Maureen Dowd? Kinsley doesn’t mention her. I dunno why not. You can’t draw a more explicit connection between corrupt bankers and greedy Jews than she did when she ended her column “Virtuous Bankers? Really!?!” with this ancient anti-Semitic stereotype:
I think the bankers who took government money and then gave out obscene bonuses are the same self-interested sorts Jesus threw out of the temple.
What has the New York Times ombudsman said about the matter? So far, more than two months later, nada … not a peep.