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Adbusters, Max Cleland, and more.

From the March 8, 2004 issue: The liberal journal Adbusters makes a list of Jews.

Mar 8, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 25
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The Anti-Semitism of the Intellectuals

"It used to be said that anti-Catholicism was the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals," columnist George Will observes. "Today, anti-Semitism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals."

Exhibit A this week is the editorial in the latest issue of the Vancouver-based corporate-bashing lefty journal Adbusters, which asks plaintively, "Why won't anyone say they are Jewish?" They are the "neocons." The editor of the journal, Kalle Lasn, has helpfully compiled a list of 50 "influential neocons," and he's annotated the list by scribbling little black dots in the margin next to the names of the 25 he thinks are Jews. Charming.

He thereby inadvertently confirms the perspicacious joke definition of our former colleague David Brooks, who recently explained that "con is short for 'conservative' and neo is short for 'Jewish.'" Lasn, alas, does not have a sense of humor. He seems to think he is being brave.

"Drawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game. Anyone who does so can count on automatically being smeared as an anti-Semite. But . . . here at Adbusters, we decided to tackle the issue head on."

This is vile, yes; it's also preposterous. It's the political equivalent of those numbskulls who think Americans are prudish and uptight about sex, when the truth is we can't shut up about it.

What, in fact, has anyone had to say about the neocons for the last two years except to obsess about their Jewishness? The standard left-wing critique of American foreign policy for the past two years runs as follows: "Likudnik, Likudnik, Likudnik; Sharon, Sharon, Sharon; Volfovitz, neocon, PNAC, PNAC; neocon, Likudnik, neocon." And that's the sophisticated, BBC-World-Service version.

Adbusters is indeed engaged in a tricky game, and it's no smear to call it by its proper name. Of the making of lists of Jews, alas, there is no end.

The Not-So-Magical Kingdom

Saudi Arabia wants "visitors to tour the country in order to better understand the kingdom's society and culture"--so read the kingdom's press release last Friday. The release was issued to clear up a misunderstanding about visas "posted on the website of the Saudi Tourism Board" earlier in the week. That business about how "Visas will not be issued for . . . an Israeli passport holder," or for those whose "passport has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp," or for "Jewish People." That information was "erroneous" and "was removed from the website." What's more, Rep. Anthony Weiner, who first called attention to the erroneous material on the website, should not have issued such a statement, because despite that silly web page, "the concerns he raised were not the kingdom's policy. . . . Rep. Weiner and his actions only serve to spread doubt and mistrust." We're glad they cleared that up. And we think we do now "better understand the kingdom's society."

Holy Mackerel

There he goes again. Former Georgia senator Max Cleland is enamored of a choice specimen of American political rhetoric. But he never quite does it justice, and a bit of rhetorical preservation is called for. So let's go to the videotape:

"Cleland . . . reissued his call for a special session of Congress on campaign finance reform, calling the current costly system 'a mackerel in the moonlight; it both shines and stinks.'"

(Florida Times-Union, Nov. 4, 1996)

"Mr. Secretary, your decision to change this policy seems to me much like a mackerel in the moonlight," Cleland said. "It both shines and stinks at the same time."

(Decrying a decision by Donald Rumsfeld to remove B-1 bombers from a Georgia base, June 28, 2001)

"Mr. Cleland repeatedly chided Mr. Chambliss [who was about to unseat him in the Senate], accusing him of character assassination and saying once that Mr. Chambliss's commercial was 'like a mackerel in the moonlight--it both shines and stinks at the same time.'"

(New York Times, Oct. 28, 2002)

And then last week: "An irate Max Cleland, a Vietnam veteran and the incumbent Chambliss defeated in 2002, responded while campaigning in Georgia for Kerry. 'For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks.'"

(Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2004)

Cleland must think this is merely a colorful way to say something or someone "stinks." He misses that the fish stinks because it is dead, and he doesn't grasp the paradox at the heart of the saying.

That's the genius of the original, uttered in the early 19th century by Virginia senator John Randolph of Roanoke about Edward Livingstone, a Louisiana congressman: "He was a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt," Randolph said. "Like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks."