Glenn Greenwald and the Neocons

Greenwald has another post on the “Israel Firster” controversy.  It’s easy to miss this in Greenwald’s typical avalanche of verbiage, but he (finally) acknowledges that the term was originally coined by anti-Semites, and is “gratuitously inflammatory.” He analogizes it to using the word “fascist”  to describe contemporary politics or making comparisons to Nazis.

This, however, is just a side point in a screed that among other things takes to task Jeffrey Goldberg and others for “smears.” The accusation that Goldberg is accusing Greenwald and others of being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel as a way of attempting to silence them.  Goldberg can speak for himself, as he has previously in response to Greenwald. [UPDATE: VC Commentor Eyeysay notes that Greenwald was far from precise in characterizing Goldberg's comments.]

But what I find remarkable is that in a post devoted to “smears,” “silencing,” “trite attacks,” and the misuse of language for political purposes, Greenwald refers to Goldberg as a “neocon,”  even though, to my knowledge, Goldberg’s political views are centrist leaning a bit to the left, and Goldberg has no obvious associations with the Commentary crowd or other centers of neocon thought.

More within my direct sphere of knowledge, Greenwald links to one of my posts while putting me in the category of “neocons like Goldberg.”  I’ve written about neoconservatism a fair amount, and when I’ve provided a normative opinion, I am always very critical (for example, here and here; there are other examples, but the VC’s move to a new host seems to have ruined the links, at least for now.)

Really, the only relevant things Jeffrey Goldberg and I–a moderate and a libertarian, respectively–have in common, and therefore the only reason to refer to us as “neocons,” is that we are both Jews who are far more favorably inclined toward Israel than is Greenwald.

Most of Greenwald’s readers undoubtedly have no real clue as to what neoconservatism is, beyond that it is associated somehow with conservatism, with Israel, the war in Iraq, and with Jews, and, from their left-wing Salonish perspective, is somewhat sinister. Assumedly, however, Greenwald knows better, and is simply using “neocon” as a slur, a way of relying on his readers’ prejudices against anything associated with the word “neocon” to discredit his intellectual adversaries, in exactly the same way he claims that the “neocons” are using slurs to discredit him and his allies. In fact, the only reason to associate “neocons” exclusively with Jews and Israel is to try to silence the other side with a slur.

So, if Greenwald wants to have an honest, intelligent debate on Israel and related matters, he can start by acknowledging that neither Goldberg nor I are “neocons,” apologize for suggesting otherwise, and promise to blog more responsibly in the future.

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