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Casual Prejudice at Vanity Fair:

Here's James Wolcott's vain attempt at starting a post highly critical of Israel with some humor: "In angry retaliation for the house arrest of Bernie Madoff, Israel has launched a hellacious air assault against Hamas in Gaza ..."

Get it? Madoff's a Jew! Israel is a Jewish country! Israel is retaliating for the arrest of Madoff! Ha, ha!

One would have thought that this sort of "humor" died out at a country club in Greenwich around 1958, but I guess not.

balls deep:
How is Wolcott's attempt "vain"?

--balls deep
12.29.2008 11:09pm
Sua Tremendita (mail):
Dude, you need some sensitivity training. Get over it. Making fun of jews, blacks, hispanics, japs, gays (sorry Professor Carpenter), protestants, etc, is entertaining and brings us closer together.

Here is a joke to balance things out:

How many Palestinians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: None! The lowlifes stole them all. Ha Ha.
12.29.2008 11:10pm
MJMJ:
In 1986 I was with a friend at a country club in Greenwich (first and last time) and mentioned to someone there that I had a cousin in Greenwich named Goldstein, to which this person replied "we have no Goldsteins at our country club." At which point I left. So I'd pick a year somewhat after 1958 as my example.
12.29.2008 11:10pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Wow. Wolcott being an offensive ass. There's a newsflash.
12.29.2008 11:12pm
Big Handle:
This would never happen in Texas.
12.29.2008 11:14pm
Guesty McGuesterson:
Reading that article, one would think Egypt does not exist.
12.29.2008 11:20pm
Albatross (mail) (www):
In 1986 I used to work at a country club in Texas, and a friend of mine (who didn't work there) asked if the club let minorities be members. I posed the question to my boss, who replied, "Hell, yes! As long as they've got money, we'll let anyone in!"

Seems like a different mindset than Greenwich.
12.29.2008 11:26pm
Crafty Hunter (www):
It seems more accurate to say that this sort of joke is normally found in a locker room for juveniles, even today. It's basically the sort of joke told by the kind of person who likes dead baby jokes. I have to say also that it's not even a good bad joke ... it's too silly to rise to the level of simple anti-Semitism. Why pay attention to it at all?
12.29.2008 11:26pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Well, at least he was joking. On a mailing list that I receive, some idiot wrote in all seriousness that Israel is unjustified in responding to Hamas war crimes because the Qassam rockets that Hamas launches at Israel are comparable to teenage hobbyists' bottle rockets! As if bottle rockets weighed 90kg and carried a payload of 10kg of TNT and urea nitrate.
12.29.2008 11:30pm
billooooh (mail):
It is interesting that Mr. Bernstein is apparently more offended by some tasteless humor than he is by the slaughter of women and children, even if the women in children do not share his religion.
12.29.2008 11:32pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

It is interesting that Mr. Bernstein is apparently more offended by some tasteless humor than he is by the slaughter of women and children, even if the women in children do not share his religion.


No, it isn't. That a small number of innocents who have been killed in Gaza (the great majority of casualties are acknowledged even by Hamas to be combatants) is indeed regrettable, but it is entirely the fault of Hamas, which created the need for the current action by engaging in daily war crimes and put those women and children in danger by locating military facilities in civilian areas.
12.29.2008 11:36pm
anon522 (mail):
100 or so Americans have been killed in car accidents today, as predictably as the fact that some civilians will be killed in war. Why does Bernstein care about Wolcott's jokes, but not about the carnage in America's streets? Because they are almost all Christians?
12.29.2008 11:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
This is about as funny as as satirical song about Obama the Negro.
12.29.2008 11:47pm
HURRICANE IKE (mail):
The difference is that Wolcott's comments are true antisemitism, and the satirical song about Obama was a sendup of an L.A. Times piece by David Ehrenstein.
12.29.2008 11:55pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Just think of the opportunities for novel historical interpretation that this approach provides! For example, we can expect a historian to argue that the real reason the Nazis invaded Poland was the negative attitude of Polish musicians toward Wagner.
12.29.2008 11:58pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
You know, I found the humor tasteless and maybe slightly offensive.

I didn't find the bulk of the post THAT vicious though. Most of it was just quoting The Independent op ed piece.

BTW, within a couple of days we will see whether this involves sending tanks and ground pounders into Gaza. If that is the case, I think things will become disproportionate by any reasonable sense FAST. I reserve the right to make a judgement before then, however.
12.29.2008 11:59pm
billooooh (mail):
I just hope that the women and children who were dismember in explosions weren't making any tasteless jokes at the time.

THAT would be terrible.
12.30.2008 12:04am
Blackfaceisfunny:
Is Wolcott desperately trying to make Jane Hamsher laugh again? He's always preening for her and that is weird if you think about it.

Well, maybe not. She's like petting sandpaper and that might be what he's after.
12.30.2008 12:13am
HatlessHessian (mail):
I personally enjoy the new cartoon section in Vanity Fair with the depictions of Jews as rats, cheats sneaking in the background with their fangs barely concealed. 1930's Post-Weimar humor is all in good sport, and certainly everyone knows it's all just a joke.

Of course, that is, as long as no cartoons or jokes are told about Islam. That's a serious matter. God help Vanity Fair if they ever were to joke about Mohammad and his proclivity for the sexual conquest of sophisticated women of ages less than ten, for example. There's nothing funny about joking with Islam (you do know, they'll cut your head off).

Now, back to keeping the Jewish response proportional...
12.30.2008 12:14am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
einhverfr

I live in San Diego. If Mexico, or terrorists allied with the Mexican government, and acting with their tacit approval, lobbed rockets in our neighborhoods, would you honestly expect the U.S. to respond prick for prick? And if so, what do you think the fate of that administration would be come the next election?
12.30.2008 12:19am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
HatlessHessian:

I think there would be a big difference if the Jylands-Posten cartoons had come out of the US: we don't have hate speech laws so there would not have been a sense that the law was applied in a discriminatory manner.

The piece is a good reason why I don't pay attention to a lot of magazines though. I have better things to do with my time than read tasteless and pointless humor of that sort.
12.30.2008 12:21am
PersonFromPorlock:
DB, that 'joke' is so stupidly adolescent that it probably does antisemitism more harm than anything you could say in criticism of it.
12.30.2008 12:29am
kiniyakki (mail):
Honest question not meant to incite angry posting - what is the status of the Jewish settlements? I don't follow the middle-east news that much - and I remember the Jewish settlements taking Palestinian lands was something reasonable people all thought had to stop. If I recall the last I read about this, one of the Israel prime ministers was trying to put a stop to the settlements and pull them back. Can anybody give a ten second update or a link?
12.30.2008 12:33am
HatlessHessian (mail):
einhverfr... I'm curious how the left would handle overt criticism of Islam as they seem incapable of communicating that message. Indeed, some could argue that they are complicit in Islam's lack of recognition of the need to moderate given their inability to send corrective messages.

In the 1700s, shunning was a terribly effective technique for providing moral guardrails in early American society. Open condemnation is equally valuable today when done consistently and objectively, yet our news media has chosen to be silent on the most fundamental of issues. While it's difficult to advocate criminal prosecution for errors of omission and editorial selection that avoids critical dialog of certain communities, I think we all can fully blame our newsmedia for every harm that Islam and other "protected class" fundamentalists commit. The crimes the NYTimes, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, the Washington Post and others are guilty of are no different than that of those who ignored or denied the Holocaust, the killing fields in Kampuchea and other crimes against humanity. I'm determined as many others are to ensure history remembers people like Pinch as enablers of these crimes.
12.30.2008 12:36am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
unhyphenatedconservative:

I live in San Diego. If Mexico, or terrorists allied with the Mexican government, and acting with their tacit approval, lobbed rockets in our neighborhoods, would you honestly expect the U.S. to respond prick for prick? And if so, what do you think the fate of that administration would be come the next election?


Please note that I have not YET said that I think that the Israeli response is disproportionate in this case. I have criticized past cases which I argue have in some cases been tantamount to war crimes.

As it stands right now, the vast majority of the casualties by Hamas's own admission have been Hamas combatants. This is remarkable, but I think that will change as soon as the air war has concluded and the ground war begins in earnest. Israel will be facing the situations we face in Iraq but without any effort at nation building and no sense of legitimacy from the Palestinian people. And they will be fighting in a very dense urban environment. Let's not kid ourselves, that will be a nightmare, and it is not yet clear whether Israel wants to commit to a ground war that Hamas obviously badly wants.

This is more than prick-for-prick right now, but it is still within reasonable operational proportions because the civilian casualties have been remarkably contained. A full-scale ground war will change all that, however.
12.30.2008 12:37am
Blackfaceisfunny:
einhverfr

Nice strawman. Try answering the actual question without all of your strange disclaimers that have nada to do with it.

Would you be OK with Mexico arbitrarily sending missiles into San Deigo?

YES?

or

NO?

Not hard.
12.30.2008 12:44am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
No, it wouldn't. And if we struck back and only killed the military folks doing that, I would have no problem with that.

If, as here, one noncombatant was killed per 4 or so combatants, it would still be hard to argue about.

If we turned around and decided to do to Mexico City what Sharon did to the Jenin Refugee Camps, I would be protesting loudly.
12.30.2008 12:48am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also I would point out that none of this should be seen as supporting Israel's lack of nation-building in areas they occupied, like we have been doing in Iraq.....
12.30.2008 12:49am
Blackfaceisfunny:
And if we struck back and only killed the military folks doing that, I would have no problem with that

Would you support the US placing their strategic weapons in civilian residences?
12.30.2008 12:53am
Morty (mail):
Madoff was a Jew?!!??
Figures.
12.30.2008 12:53am
Ken Arromdee:
If we turned around and decided to do to Mexico City what Sharon did to the Jenin Refugee Camps, I would be protesting loudly.

If we what? Made ourselves victims of biased media reporting that claimed a nonexistent massacre?
12.30.2008 12:57am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Blackfaceisfunny:

Would you support the US placing their strategic weapons in civilian residences?


No. But if you started bombing civilian residences because people had handguns legal assault rifles, and the like, I would have a problem with that.

Nobody I have seen is arguing that there were massive stockpiles of weapons in these homes. If there were, I would expect to see far higher casualties...

Once again though I think Israel is CURRENTLY within their rights, though that could change....
12.30.2008 1:02am
poul (mail) (www):
kiniyakki,


Honest question not meant to incite angry posting - what is the status of the Jewish settlements? I don't follow the middle-east news that much - and I remember the Jewish settlements taking Palestinian lands


no jewish settlement ever took any palestinian land. they were build on disputed land, subject to future negotiations.
12.30.2008 1:19am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
poul:

no jewish settlement ever took any palestinian land. they were build on disputed land, subject to future negotiations.


It is a little more complicated than that. They settled on land the Israeli state claimed after the 67 war, and where nobody was actively using the land. However, if they want to claim the entire territory, they owe the residents citizenship. If not they shouldn't be doing that sort of thing.
12.30.2008 1:26am
Blackfaceisfunny:
Syria and Jordan didn't want anything to do with the Palestinians which were viewed a gypsy's. After WWII, the persecuted Jews, after being subjected to annihilation and "genocide" were decried to there placement. AKA after all the families were murdered they had no place to call home.
12.30.2008 1:30am
greenish (mail):
It's basically the sort of joke told by the kind of person who likes dead baby jokes.

You take that back!
12.30.2008 1:42am
cubanbob (mail):
Now if the Hamas scum were to wear neon glowing clothes that identified them as as Hamas terrorists, I'm sure the Israeli's could just pick them off and not a hurt a single innocent civilian. Really, cowardly dogs those Hamas terrorists, hiding behind the skirts of woman and children.

In the meantime, Hamas is the elected government of Gaza, they and they alone are responsible for civilian deaths.
Gaza was part of Egypt until June 1967. Israel should just quit trying the impossible and cut off all supplies of any kind to Gaza. Let Egypt supply them from their side of the border with Gaza. If the Egyptians refuse to feed their former and most likely future countrymen, that is not Israel's problem. Let them starve, immigrate or surrender. Until then Israel's responsibility is solely to its own citizens and not those of its enemies.
12.30.2008 1:50am
neurodoc:
einhvefr: If we turned around and decided to do to Mexico City what Sharon did to the Jenin Refugee Camps, I would be protesting loudly.
Drawing upon what you deem entirely credible sources, please tell us what you think Sharon did to the Jenin Refugee Camps.

einhvefr: Nobody I have seen is arguing that there were massive stockpiles of weapons in these homes.
How about if massive stockpiles of weapons were not located in homes, but they and other strategic assets, e.g., machine shops to produce rockets, were located cheek by jowl among residences, schools, clinics, etc.? Or you don't think Hamas, like Hezbollah, would put their people at risk that way? You similarly don't believe that the Hamas and Hezbollah have used ambulances to conceal the movement of weapons and fighters?
12.30.2008 1:51am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I enjoy pointless juvenile jokes. This one, however, is also really stupid. I only enjoy those if they are also witty.

I have in the past felt that Israel was behaving unreasonably. It appears presently that the Palestians/Hamas have earned being pounded pretty good. When you fire a thousand or so missiles into a neighboring country, you can expect that it will get a bit peeved, even upset, and respond as countries do.

I suppose civilians will be killed in the course of that upset. That is one reason why, ahem, civilized nations have since the 17th century put their soldiers in uniform and established "military base" so that there are clear distinctions between military and civilians.
12.30.2008 1:54am
lucklucky (mail):
The "disproportionate" argument is one the most idiotic i have ever seen. And in this case i also found it specially morally abject.

First: the fact that are many less Israeli casualities are due to the care that Israeli society care for his citizens. The Radar warning belt that detects Palestinian rockets and warns citizens to get in bunkers, efficient communications and medical procedures that save dozens and maybe hundreds of lives by getting on time. We could got also to security guards that saved dozens of lives, armored bus stations, the wall, etc.

All of this are absent of Palestinian Combatants with the even more depicable behavior of using civilian buildings and assets like ambulances, to wage war, build rockets and move combatants.

So we have Palestinian combatants willingly putting Palestinians civilians at risk and Israeli behavior saving lives of many Israeli civilians, not surprisingly of course that shows up in numbers of casualities and some people found a way of criticizing Israel precisely because of that.
12.30.2008 1:55am
neurodoc:
Gaza was part of Egypt until June 1967.
And while Egypt wanted the Sinai back, it would not take back Gaza, though Israel would very much have liked them to have it back.
12.30.2008 2:00am
Blackfaceisfunny:
And while Egypt wanted the Sinai back, it would not take back Gaza,

Why? Say it?
12.30.2008 2:15am
neurodoc:
Why didn't Egypt want Gaza back, indeed wouldn't take it though Israel would have been happy to have them do so? I can't imagine why Egypt wasn't desirous of that jewel, can you? I am confident, though, that the considerations where Egypt and Gaza were concerned were very different from those where Jordan and the West Bank were concerned.
12.30.2008 2:58am
fortyninerdweet (mail):
Because though they were "cousins" [as it were] they were not nice cousins, and for many generations made themselves unwelcome several times over.

Since that time, though, the "cousins" have been renamed "Palestinians" and are now worthwhile to use as bait to nibble at the evil Israelis. The fact that some "cousins" will reach an early martyrdom is not of very much concern to Egyptians, Jordanians and Saudis, et al - unless, of course, the media is watching.
12.30.2008 3:06am
MikeF (mail):
I remember tuning in to the old Tina Brown show to take a look at some guy named James Wolcott, who'd been using his blog to flame Glenn Reynolds for a few weeks, mostly for how Glenn looked. To Glenn's credit he posted several entries trying to steer Wolcott back to civil discourse, to no avail.

Wolcott came out and he was fat, balding, and wearing a sport coat he must of bought in the 70's. All I could think of was the old Chris Farley line, "Fat man in a little coat" (??), and laugh. It was hilarious that a man who looked like Wolcott was spending all his blog time mocking other peoples looks. The man simply didn't care whether he had anything serious to say. And he still doesn't.

And every time I see Wolcott's name, I still laugh.
12.30.2008 5:01am
pireader (mail):
Professor Bernstein --

I think that you're misreading Wolcott here, seeing the Madoff reference as anti-semitic.

The point of Wolcott's opening sentence is that [in his view] there's no justification for what Israel's doing. His whole point in mentioning the Madoff affair is its wild irrelevance. Like saying--"In angry retaliation for last week's Seattle snowstorm, Israel has launched a hellacious air assault ..."

Why did he use Madoff as his irrelevancy, rather than the weather in Seattle? I suspect that a lot more people in Wolcott's circle are talking about Madoff.
12.30.2008 6:45am
arthur (mail):
Professor Bernstein, what do you think of this one, which also mocks an ethnic group/nationality? Great post, and please keep us all alerted to any other instances of jokes on blogs that you find offensive or unfunny. If you compile the posts into a book, you could call it You Can't Say That! . . .
12.30.2008 7:26am
Joel Rosenberg (mail) (www):
Antisemitism, from the US left? Say it ain't so, Joe Barack Jimmy, Oh, never mind.
12.30.2008 7:30am
arthur, don't strain yourself:
Arthur,

David Post's joke does not "mock an ethnic group/nationality." The ethnic background of the peasant is incidental to the thrust of the joke, as evidenced by Post prefacing it with "say," -- as in "for example" -- when referencing the subject's nationality. It could have been a peasant of some other nationality and the joke would have worked just as well.

Here, by contrast, the joke turns on Madoff's Jewishness and Israel's Jewishness, which the author relates in a topical way. The Jewishness is the thrust of the joke, which would not otherwise work given its topical nature.

The distinction is not difficult to grasp, really.
12.30.2008 7:47am
arthur, don't strain yourself:
Not to mention that the peasant wasn't being mocked. The subject of mockery was the bank. The peasant, in demanding collateral, was being rather shrewd all considered. The joke, as such, was not on the peasant but on the bank -- which finds itself in the reverse position -- that is, on the receiving end of a demand for collateral.

It's a joke about banks. Not Bangladeshi peasants.

Arthur's sense of humor = fail.
12.30.2008 7:55am
Alex Bensky (mail):
As Operation Cast Lead continues, we will find out that a synonym for "disproportionate" is "effective."
12.30.2008 8:26am
Joel Rosenberg (mail) (www):
Alex: from your mouth to Ghu's ear. Operation Cast Lead, though, alas, isn't Israel being serious about ending Hamas' firing of missiles from Gaza, but, rather Israel being serious about imposing a cost.

We'll see seriousness when the warning phone calls stop, and the bulk of the IDF indirect fire is artillery, rather than smart bombs.
12.30.2008 9:17am
grackle (mail):
It was undoubtedly a tasteless joke but it may have been based on actual facts of the Madoff affair
12.30.2008 11:25am
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
It's that idiot Wolcott, David - what else did you expect?
12.30.2008 11:39am
Jim Treacher (mail) (www):
Making a joke about Jews being greedy is fine. Making a joke about Jews being greedy to introduce a jeremiad against Israel is somewhat less fine.
12.30.2008 12:51pm
gasman (mail):
An israeli was heard on NPR yesterday stating that the current conflict won't end until the palastinians are wiped from the map. Sadly, and ironically remeniscent of Ahmadinajad's comments about Israel.

Israel must ultimately find a path away from armed action, because they are doomed on the path where they are mortal enemies of the surrounding nations.
Israel has nukes, but cannot eliminate the threat to its existence with them; too many arab nations and too much land to win in a nuclear exchange. For the arab world however, they can win (with winning narrowly defined as eliminating israel with nukes). A couple nukes would completely eliminate the country by blast effect on the cities, and fallout on the country side. The effect will be quite disparate; while a few middle east countries will be bombed back to the middle-ages, few will notice the difference their present state; israel will be wiped clean off the map.
12.30.2008 1:14pm
Ubertrout (mail):
Honestly, although I didn't laugh at the Wolcott line, I was at least mildly amused. And I'm a frum jew who thinks that, if anything, Israel isn't doing enough.

The kind of curdled offense taken reminds me of the way the bloggers at Feminist Law Professors respond to...anything involving women that is in any way less than reverent. Maybe there's some context I'm missing, but this doesn't seem to be worthy of your attention.
12.30.2008 1:31pm
catchy:
The joke isn't remotely funny, but a conservative on PC patrol?

Where are all the mocking comments that Wolcott should enroll in 'sensitivity training' or that DB should lighten up?

i hate to see the right-leaning commentariat suppressing this reflex. Let it out, folks!
12.30.2008 2:45pm
wfjag:

As if bottle rockets weighed 90kg and carried a payload of 10kg of TNT and urea nitrate.

I take it, Bill, that you haven't attended a West Texas 4th of July BBQ. After the small stuff (like you mention), the really big fireworks are set off.
12.30.2008 3:06pm
Alexia:
I liked America better when we had thicker skins.

It's a joke. Lighten up.
12.30.2008 3:27pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
There's nothing like news reports of Jews standing up for themselves to bring the Jew-haters out of the country club bar, UN headquarters, Elysee Palace etc. screaming about morality.
12.30.2008 3:36pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

That a small number of innocents who have been killed in Gaza (the great majority of casualties are acknowledged even by Hamas to be combatants) is indeed regrettable, but it is entirely the fault of Hamas, which created the need for the current action by engaging in daily war crimes and put those women and children in danger by locating military facilities in civilian areas.


Or police stations. Or universities.
12.30.2008 6:32pm
Seerak (mail):
Wolcott? He's the loon who was openly rooting for hurricanes to hit a city just a few months before Katrina, wasn't he? He had the gall to try playing the "humor" card after he was called on that one, too.
12.30.2008 7:41pm
Bleepless:
Wolcott is a one-man Nazi-Soviet Pact. What a shame that he has a lot of company.
12.30.2008 10:11pm
Californio (mail):
Who is this Wolcott fellow? Why would I care what the soon to be demographically extinct in Greenwich, Conn. like, think or do? Egad, they all sound like savages anyway.
12.30.2008 11:48pm
A.F. (mail):
re: Blackfaceisfunny

The Egyptians, as well as the Syrians and Jordanians don't want the Palestinians back because they are led by two competing gangs of homicidal maniacs.

They are also dirt poor and would require expensive/aid from whichever government that took them in, since International Aid would probably die out once the Palestinians were nationalized. Since they are generally quite heavily armed, if they weren't given it or found such aid insufficently generous... They would rapidly be setting up suicide bomber attacks in Cairo, Damascus or Amman
12.31.2008 5:05pm

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