In its efforts to defend–or at least marginally legitimize–Tom Perkins’ claims via a letter to the editor of a direct parallel between “class wafare” against the very rich and eliminationist anti-semitism, the Wall Street Journal has now gone to an expert for a new op-ed on the subject, Harvard professor Ruth Wisse.
I think they should pack it in before they provide an endless parody meme for The Onion.
Wisse (who is, critics will surely note, holder of a chair in Yiddish Literature named for Martin Peretz) substitutes for Perkins’ crude and paranoid allegations of an analogy between Kristallnacht and Occupy a loftier claim that the international Left’s hostility to Israel reflects a broader hostility towards people (and ethnic groups, and nations) that have “succeeded” in the “free competition” fostered by democratic capitalism. And so: hating the rich is sort of the intellectual first cousin of hating the Jews.
Stoking class envy is a step in a familiar, dangerous and highly incendiary process. Any ideology or movement, right or left, that is organized negatively—against rather than for—enjoys an inherent advantage in politics, mobilizing unappeasable energies that never have to default on their announced goal of cleansing the body politic of its alleged poisons.
In this respect, one might think of anti-Semitism as the purest and most murderous example of an enduring political archetype: the negative campaign. That campaign has its international as well as its domestic front. Modern anti-Zionism, itself a patented invention of Soviet Communism and now the lingua franca of the international left, uses Israel just as anti-Semitism uses Jews, directing grievance and blame and eliminationist zeal against an entire collectivity that has flourished on the world scene thanks to the blessings of freedom and opportunity.
This is pretty interesting appearing on the editorial page of a newspaper as deeply invested in “negative campaigning” as the Wall Street Journal. But if you put that aside, Wisse’s argument remains incredibly loaded with planted axioms. The “populist” left in America does not preach “class envy”–it’s conservatives who assert that any criticism of the distributional features of the American economy or the tax or trading or financial system represents “class envy.” Similarly, nobody in conventional “populist” circles is talking about “cleansing” society of “poisons;” they are talking about non-lethal reforms like financial sector regulations or the kind of tax rates that prevailed when Ronald Reagan was president.
Now get this:
On the global front today, the much larger and more obvious beneficiary of those same blessings is the democratic capitalist system of the United States, and the ultimate target of the ultimate negative campaign is the American people. Anyone seeking to understand the inner workings of such a campaign will find much food for thought in Mr. Perkins’s parallel.
So Tom Perkins equals “the American people,” and America equals Israel, so if you don’t love growing income inequality you don’t love Israel, and are therefore part of an anti-semitic cabal.
Professor Wisse clearly likes sweeping analogies. Here’s what she was quoted in the Washington Times as having once written:
Women’s liberation, if not the most extreme then certainly the most influential neo-Marxist movement in America, has done to the American home what communism did to the Russian economy, and most of the ruin is irreversible. By defining relations between men and women in terms of power and competition instead of reciprocity and cooperation, the movement tore apart the most basic and fragile contract in human society, the unit from which all other social institutions draw their strength.
Looks like communism is everywhere.