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Saying “Donald Trump is openly boorish” doesn’t have the same kind of ring to it. His desire to appeal to Christian conservatives isn’t really a secret.This bothers me in the same way the accusations that Ken Livingstone is anti-Semitic bother me. He might be able to modulate his message a little bit to his audience, but it wouldn’t be revealing a totally new side to his personality. Back during the primary, Ted Cruz said he was against “New York values”. It takes a lot of word-I-am-apparently-not-allowed-to-say to frame that as a “confirmation”. I understand he is now having to defend himself in front of a parliamentary hearing on anti-Semitism. I think of the medieval burghers who accused Jews of baking matzah with the blood of Christian children. Is there any sense in which his comments reveal that, in his heart of hearts, he really doesn’t like Jews?A chump might figure that, being a Texan whose base is in the South and Midwest, he was making the usual condemnation of coastal elites and arugula-eating liberals that every other Republican has made before him, maybe with a special nod to the fact that his two most relevant opponents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were both from New York. Meanwhile, back in Realityville (population: 6), Ted Cruz was attending synagogue services at his campaign tour, talking about his deep love and respect for Judaism, and getting described as “a hero” in many parts of the Orthodox Jewish community” for his stance that “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.” But he once said “New York values”, so clearly all of this was just really really deep cover for his anti-Semitism. Unlike Ted Cruz, former London mayor Ken Livingstone said something definitely Jew-related and definitely worrying. I think of the Russians who would hold pogroms and kill Jews and burn their property. I think of people who killed various distant family members of mine without a second thought. That he thinks of them as less – even slightly less – than Gentiles?The British press framed Livingstone’s comments as an explosive revelation, an “aha! ” They’re really like…people who describe the 1930s in a really awkward and ill-advised way? It’s a story only if the weird awkward description reveals more important attitudes of Livingstone’s and Labour’s that might actually affect the country in an important way. and whatever”, I may be more inclined than most to believe his claim that no anatomical reference was intended.But not only is nobody making this argument, but nobody even seems to think it’s an argument that has to be made. But even if he was in fact talking about her anatomy – well, we’re back to Livingstone again.But it seems fair to say that calling Hitler a supporter of Zionism was at the very least a creative interpretation of the historical record. I don’t think even his worst enemies suggest that during a hypothetical Livingstone administration he would try (or even want) to kick the Jews out of Britain, or make them wear gold stars, or hire fewer Jews for top posts (maybe he’d hire more, if he makes his hiring decisions the same way he makes his dating decisions).
Also, gaffes are royal roads to the unconscious which must be analyzed obsessively. “Why did they laugh more at mine than any of the others? The bartender answers “They’d never heard that one before!Saying things that sound like dog whistles has itself become the crime worthy of condemnation, with little interest in whether they imply anything about the speaker or not.Against this narrative, I propose a different one – politicians’ beliefs and plans are best predicted by what they say their beliefs and plans are, or possibly what beliefs and plans they’ve supported in the past, or by anything other than treating their words as a secret code and trying to use them to infer that their real beliefs and plans are diametrically opposite the beliefs and plans they keep insisting that they hold and have practiced for their entire lives. This is from the New York Times in 1922 (source): I won’t say we should always believe that politicians are honest about their beliefs and preferred policies.But sophisticated people immediately detected this as an “anti-Semitic dog whistle”, eg Cruz’s secret way of saying he hated Jews. By the clever strategem of using words that had nothing to do with Jews or hatred, he was able to effectively communicate his Jew-hatred to other anti-Semites without anyone else picking up on it. A month or two ago a British MP named Naz Shah got in trouble for sharing a Facebook post saying Israel should be relocated to the United States. That if he were to end up as Prime Minister of Britain, this would be bad in a non-symbolic, non-stupid-statement-related way for Britain’s Jewish community?Except of course the entire media, which seized upon it as a single mass. Fellow British politician Ken Livingstone defended her, and one thing led to another, and somewhere in the process he might have kind of said that Hitler supported Zionism. During the Nazi period in Germany, some Nazis who wanted to get rid of the Jews and some Jews who wanted to get away from the Nazis created the Haavara Agreement, which facilitated German Jewish emigration to Palestine. Does he just say dumb things, or do the dumb things reflect some underlying attitude of his that colors his relationship with Jews in general?
But I am skeptical when the media claims to have special insight into what they really think.