August 4, 2005
My Work Is Not to Blame for Jew-Haters
Usually I only respond to fair and thoughtful criticism, but I'll make an exception in this case, because people I respect tell me that Rob Eshman, the editor-in-chief of this publication, is both a smart and decent guy.
Recently, he wrote a column on July 29 about my new book -- "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is '37)," and this is how the column began: "Jewish Americans are only 2 percent of the nation's population, but they are 25 percent of its problem."
Of course, he doesn't believe that. The point was that I supposedly believe that. Why? It seems that Eshman actually counted up all the Jewish people on the list, came up with 25, and, well, you do the math.
Good thing my name is Goldberg and not something WASPy or the column might have begun, "This is a book written by a Jew-hating bigot."
The truth is, I don't have a clue as to how many Jews are mentioned in my book. I never thought about who was Jewish (or any other religion). It never occurred to me to count people by their religion. It's my friends on the left who love to put people in groups and count them up like so many beans. Liberals love diversity -- just not the intellectual kind.
Let's acknowledge that Eshman was trying to make a serious point: That I'm giving ammunition to lunatics who hate Jews. If my book contributes to their dark fantasies about Jewish control of America and the world, I'm sorry. But what should I do? Stop commenting on successful, prominent people in our culture -- who happen to be Jewish?
That's a very illiberal road to travel. Are liberals who protested the war in Vietnam responsible for Pol Pot's killing fields, which happened only after American troops pulled out of Southeast Asia -- thanks in large part to the anti-war protesters? Are liberals who supported civil rights in the 1960s responsible for anti-Semitism among some blacks today?
Of course not. To even suggest as much is obscene. Yet, Eshman tells us about Web sites that preach anti-Jewish hate and says that one of them, "either rips Goldberg off or just happened to arrive at a similar revelation: It lists the same Jewish media execs he does...."
Get it? I mention some prominent Jewish media executives in my book; the lunatics do the same. And what? I'm egging them on?
Well, not exactly. Even Eshman says I'm not "responsible for the delusion of others." (Thanks.) But then he goes on to say, "But [Goldberg's] list ... is not without risks." Meaning? In times of social upheaval, he writes, people look for scapegoats and lists "especially ones weighted so heavily to one minority group -- are ready-made red flags."
Sorry. People who hate Jews are responsible for hating Jews. Not people who write books about the culture that happen to include Jewish people in it.
And let's face it: The Jew-hating nuts on the fringe right in this country are just -- nuts! They have no standing in the culture. The nuts on the left are another story altogether.
Remember the joke that was going around Hollywood right after George Bush won election in 2000?: "What's the difference between George Bush and Hitler?"
Hitler was elected.
Unlike the right-wing screwballs, liberals were telling the Bush/Hitler joke in polite company in places like Beverly Hills. Did that offend Eshman's sensibilities, as a Jew or as a liberal?
How about the Hollywood actor who told a national radio audience, "I'm not comparing Bush to Adolf Hitler -- because George Bush, for one thing, is not as smart as Adolf Hitler."
Did that one trouble Mr. Eshman, just a little?
John Leo, the columnist, Googled, "Bush is a Nazi" and came up with more than 400,000 hits. I'm guessing it wasn't conservatives comparing Bush to Hitler.
Jewish people have done very well in our culture -- disproportionately well. There are more prominent Jewish people in the arts, at universities, in law and in the media than a mere 2 percent of the population would suggest. That's why certain people are on the list. Because -- no matter what their religion, race, or anything else -- they matter! And, in my humble view, they are doing things that are coarsening the culture.
Reasonable people, as they say, may disagree. But to suggest that I'm putting Jews in danger because my book may inflame some crackpot is a nasty stretch. Crackpots don't need excuses, or books, to hate Jews -- or blacks or Hispanics or gays or anybody else. To put that on me -- indirectly or otherwise -- is indecent.
For more responses to Rob Eshman's editorial, see letters
Bernard Goldberg is the author of "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is '37)" (HarperCollins, 2005)