Monday, May 10, 2021

Conservatives Condemn Facebook’s Indefinite Suspension of Trump: ‘Un-American,’ ‘Dangerous,’ 'Obscene'

Conservative groups condemned Facebook Oversight Board’s decision Wednesday to continue to block former President Donald Trump’s Facebook page and Instagram account as “un-American” and an “obscene” abuse of power, pointing out that if it treated liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) the same way, people would be outraged.

As reported, the Oversight Board said “it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension" of the former president’s account.

The board called on Facebook to review its decision “to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform.” The review must take place “within six months of the date of this decision.”

The decision was panned by conservative groups:

This is censorship, plain and simple. Facebook executives are simply attacking President Trump for political reasons as they work to prevent him from communicating with his supporters. Their claim that President Trump’s rhetoric contains ‘a serious risk of violence’ is laughable. If Facebook were really concerned about that, they would have taken down Maxine Waters’ page – not to mention the Facebook pages of all the other Democrats who cheered on the violent riots of 2020. Facebook is silencing our 45th President for purely political reasons. Every American should be appalled by this ongoing attack on free speech.


Cancelling 'anti-Semitism'

by Jeff Jacoby

IT ISN'T OFTEN that a hyphen, or the absence of one, draws attention. But when the Associated Press announced recently that it was changing the spelling of "anti-Semite" and "anti-Semitism" in its highly influential style guide to "antisemite" and "antisemitism," it made news — and drew cheers from historians and civil rights activists.
There is a good deal of history behind that detail of punctuation, and it begins with the fact that the father of "anti-Semitism" was an antisemite.

In 1879, a German nationalist and political agitator named Wilhelm Marr published a pamphlet in which he claimed that Jews were the mortal enemy of the German people and called for their forcible removal from German soil. His document, Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum ("The Road to Victory for Germanness over Jewishness"), argued that Jews posed a particularly dangerous threat not simply because of their religion or behavior, but because they belonged to an alien racial group — the "Semites." Marr wanted a word that would imbue his loathing of Jews with the ring of sophistication, so rather than speak of primitive Jew-hatred (judenhass), he promoted the pseudoscientific term antisemitismus — enmity toward the Semitic race. But there was never any doubt about the meaning of his neologism. Antisemitismus — which became antisémitisme in French and antisemitismo in Spanish — meant only one thing: hatred of Jews. And when Marr founded a new political organization, the League of Antisemites (Antisemiten-Liga), it had only one purpose: to ignite anti-Jewish bigotry into a political movement.

When the term entered the English language in 1893, however, it became "anti-Semitism." That is how it has typically been spelled ever since.

But as scholars have long pointed out with consternation, that hyphen and upper-case "S" were a mistake. There is no such thing as Semitism or a Semitic race. "Semitic" is a term in linguistics; it denotes a family of North African and Middle Eastern languages, including Akkadian, Amharic, Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and Ugaritic. But people who speak those languages are not "Semites" anymore than people who speak one of the Romance languages — Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan — are "Romantics."

German agitator Wilhelm Marr launched a political movement founded on anti-Jewish bigotry — and popularized the term "antisemitism" as a synonym for Jew-hatred.

Like countless Jew-haters through the ages, Marr made no secret of his animosity, but wanted to cloak it in respectability. So he gave it a name, "antisemitism," that didn't actually mention Jews — not unlike the way racists and nativists a century ago sanitized their bigotry by calling it "eugenics." It was unfortunate that Marr's euphemism came into common usage at all, but the orthography it acquired in English made matters worse. The hyphen, by explicitly turning "anti" into a prefix, encouraged the falsehood that the word adopted by Marr and his followers referred to hostility toward "Semitism" and "Semites."

That is why scholars and Jewish institutions have argued for decades that the word should be "antisemitism" — with no hyphen or upper-case "S," as in every other language. "Why do I spell antisemitism without a hyphen?" asked Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt, whose highly regarded book Antisemitism Here and Now was published in 2019. "Because antisemitism is not hatred of Semitism or Semites — people who speak Semitic languages. Antisemitism is Jew hatred."

Without the hyphen, it becomes easier to recognize "antisemitism" for what it has always been: a generic, undivided word for the hatred of Jews. Obviously it doesn't change the etymology of the word or eliminate Marr's racist motive in using it, but it no longer legitimizes it, either.

A change in punctuation will not undo what has often been called the oldest hatred, or even slow its alarming global rise. But it will at least help to clarify, as the Anti-Defamation League observes, that "hatred toward Jews, both today and in the past, goes beyond any false perception of a Jewish race." Jews can be found across the racial spectrum, even as they can be found in every economic stratum and in every political party. Jews are not united by a single religious identity, a single national affiliation, a single DNA sequence, or even a single definition of what it means to be a Jew.

The only thing all Jews can be said to have in common is that they belong to a minuscule people with an ancient history, and that there have always been those prepared to revile them, for reasons as inconsistent as they are irrational. The AP Stylebook change is admittedly a tiny thing. But it will weaken, at the margins, the racial pretext that has animated far too many Jew-haters, both in Marr's era and in ours. There will always be antisemitism, alas. But "anti-Semitism" has at long last been cancelled, and that is a change to be welcomed.


What’s Behind Masks in Cars and Other COVID-19 Insanity

If you wanted to teach a class on how to cause confusion and distrust, you would follow the U.S. government’s coronavirus playbook.

A lot has been written about the historically low levels of trust Americans have in their leaders and institutions. There’s been less analysis on what happens when a government has no faith in its own citizens.

We are seeing the results today. From the start of the pandemic, health authorities have chosen gamesmanship over honesty.

That has resulted in muddled and inconsistent messaging from national leaders. The end result is a broken country of citizens at one another’s throats.

Mask fights, deboarding flights, and, of course, the crazy people driving around alone in their cars with masks on all stem, at least in part, from a government that has refused to treat Americans like adults who could handle the truth.

It’s important to note that the government has done a lot of good things in response to COVID-19. In the area of vaccine development, we have done more, faster than any other large country.

The combination of heavy government subsidies and an innovative free market system produced strong, reliable vaccines at a record pace. We crushed efforts by China, Russia, and others to fight COVID-19 with medical innovations.

That is why America is ahead of Europe and most of the world. We should celebrate the much-maligned pharmaceutical industry and the administrations of both President Donald Trump, whose Operation Warp Speed was a historic achievement, and President Joe Biden, who helped quicken the vaccine distribution.

Outside of medical innovation, however, the government’s response has been marked by a failed communications plan that shows extreme distrust of the American people.

The government famously began its COVID-19 communications with a lie about masks. Despite what some of the fever swampers may tell you, masks work. That’s why doctors wear them around sick people. They aren’t perfect, of course, but they do help.

Numerous high-ranking officials took part in the lie that masks aren’t effective, including Dr. Anthony Fauci. They defend the lie now by noting, correctly, that we needed to conserve as many masks as we could for health care workers who truly needed them.

Fair enough, but there was another option that our leaders didn’t seem to consider; namely, tell the truth.

They could have told the American people that it’s going to require some sacrifice and that we need to come together as a society to fight this contagious disease.

They could have told everyone that the first step of the fight is saving the professionally made masks and other protective equipment for the first responders.

As part of that message, they could have reminded people that the young and healthy probably weren’t in extreme danger—something we already knew, even then. There will always be people on the margins who won’t cooperate, but I would bet most Americans would have rallied around such an honest message.

After lying about the masks, the government lied about lockdowns. Remember when this all started and we were told to lock down briefly in order to “flatten the curve”?

In many states, that turned into extended lockdowns that destroyed American businesses and families. Why? Couldn’t people have managed to safely go about some semblance of life while taking some prudent precautions? Our government never gave them the chance.

We have known for months that wearing masks outside when walking or running is just silly. The air dissipates quickly, and the research shows these fleeting encounters with others aren’t responsible for much disease transmission.

The risk is tiny, yet in many places, outdoor mask mandates were the norm. Now, for those who have been vaccinated, the risk is negligible.

Yet it took awhile after vaccinations were available for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its outdoor mask guidance, and leaders are still not able to send a consistent message.

Did you see the picture of Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband kissing each other outdoors with their masks on? What message are they trying to send with that insanity?

Intentions aside, people are getting two messages.

The first is that the truly responsible people are still wearing their masks, so we all should. That has likely caused more conflict on America’s streets than any other government communications foible.

The second message is the vaccine doesn’t seem to help much. If the vaccines work as well as our officials claim, why are they all still running around outside with their masks on? It’s a reasonable question, yet it’s one that all these smart people don’t seem to have considered.

The biggest and most destructive part of the government’s dishonesty is school closures. The kids should be back in school.

The scientists have agreed for a long time now that the risks to in-class learning are manageable. On this one, the dishonesty is of a slightly more sinister variety. Just look at which politicians are making excuses for the school closures and where all the teachers unions’ political donations go.

All the dishonesty and gamesmanship from top national leaders comes with huge downsides. The next time the government has something important to say—about vaccines, for instance—people will be less likely to believe it.




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