July’s headlines have been grim.
The eruption of conflict this month between Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip has brought the worst out of some Europeans (and a few Americans, too).
Thousands of Germans took to the streets of Berlin where they apparently sought out a fight with the city’s Jews and Israeli sympathizers: “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight on your own,” they reportedly chanted.
In Italy, the resurgence of anti-Semitism is not even thinly veiled as protesters vandalized Jewish-owned businesses and synagogues. “ Phrases like ‘Anne Frank Was a Liar,’ ‘Dirty Jews,’ ‘Jews your end is near,’ and ‘Israel executioner’ were written in spray paint alongside Celtic crosses and rows and rows of swastikas,” the Daily Beast reported.
“Thousands had gathered to demonstrate against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. But the protest soon turned violent – and against Jews in general,” read a Newsweek cover story datelined France. “Two weeks later, 400 protesters attacked a synagogue and Jewish-owned businesses in Sarcelles, in the north of Paris, shouting “Death to the Jews”. Posters had even advertised the raid in advance, like the pogroms of Tsarist Russia.”
The headlines from the Old World leads one to wonder just how committed the West is to ensuring that the human experience of the mid-20th Century is “never again” permitted to occur. At least, that is what the unsophisticated rabble would think. Fortunately, our erudite superiors in the press corps know better – or, at least, they knew better just a few weeks ago when the consensus opinion was to mock and deride those who are conscious of the tides of history.
Take, for example, Virginia economics professor Dave Brat who had the temerity to campaign vigorously for Congress and unseat former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in a primary. The tea party candidate’s victory immediately consecrated Cantor to the pantheon of reasonable and rational Republicans. As Jack Shafer observed, this is an honor the media more often bestows posthumously. The second immediate effect of Cantor’s loss was the familiar effort to impugn the motives, character, and intellectual capacity of his successor.
This instinct was demonstrated by former Politico reporter and current Wall Street Journal scribe Reid Epstein whose filed a report on Brat the day after his victory centering on what was framed as his bizarre conviction that the rise of a fascist strongman in Europe “could all happen again.”
David Brat, the Virginia Republican who shocked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor(R., Va.) Tuesday, wrote in 2011 that Hitler’s rise “could all happen again, quite easily.”
Mr. Brat’s remarks, in a 2011 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, came three years before he defeated the only Jewish Republican in Congress.
“They’re suggesting Brat is pro-Hitler?” an incredulous Ace of Ace of Spades asked. “How else can one read their noting that Brat said that Hitler could rise again, and then mention that in reference to the defeat of the GOP’s only Jewish Congressmen as if they’re linked?”
Possibly. More likely the entire report was designed to serve as an unspoken shibboleth, a secret handshake, signifying that Brat was different. Provincial, paranoid, traditional – this report was meant to convey the impression that Brat is the kind of person who watches History Channel for the scant remaining programming devoted to abridged and simplistic history.
Brat’s “reference to Hitler’s Germany that is likely to turn heads during Mr. Brat’s first full day as a tea party star,” Epstein assured his readers. It did not, save for a few swivel-mounted crania in effete circles on the coasts. In fact, it was implied sneering at the academic assertion that a Hitlerian figure could again emerge, a claim vindicated by so many recent events, which irked Epstein’s readers more.
Another of Brat’s sins revealed in that report was his claim that private charity, capitalism, and Western religious culture can and should augment many of the current services provided by taxpayer-funded safety net programs. Brat added that Western Christian and capitalist traditions can buttress society so that government need not “backstop every action we take.” This led the philosophers at Think Progress to dub Brat a “radically pro-capitalist Christian theologian.”
Maybe those intellectually superior members of the journalistic class should take a lesson from alleged theocrats like Brat. He seems to have a better grasp on history than do his detractors.