Blood Libel Redux

The term “blood libel” was coined to describe a centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in the baking of Passover matzo (unleavened bread). Blood libels were invented and used to inflame hatred of Jews, and often led to mob violence and pogroms, many of which decimated entire Jewish communities.

Blood libels are a tactic beloved by–but not limited to–anti-Semites. If you want to arouse public passions against any group you detest, such libels–updated for use in a (slightly) more  advanced age– remain useful mechanisms. (Think of all those accusations about black men “deflowering” Southern white women.)

It’s just so easy in the age of the Internet. Find an accusation you like, or a “fact” you can use to support the argument you want to make, and just cut, paste and forward.

And as Ed Brayton documents, elected officials aren’t above employing these tactics.

Kris Kobach, a first-class bigot and liar who chairs Trump’s voter fraud commission, also writes a column for Well, he kinda writes it. What he actually does, as Media Matters documents, is cut and paste from chain emails and racists to justify lying about immigrants and crime.
Brayton quotes from Kobach’s recent column, in which he claims that 75 percent of the people on most wanted lists in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens, and that 53 percent of burglaries investigated in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are committed by illegal aliens.
Kobach cites two sources for these claims: one is the INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants.” and the other is from a piece by “Peter B. Gemma” for the The INS ceased to exist in 2003, after the Department of Homeland Security was created, and Gemma is known as a racist who has worked for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and has been a “part of the American Holocaust denial movement.”
Other manifestations of this sort of targeted dishonesty are less blatant, but they still serve bigotries aimed at disfavored groups. The Gainesville Times recently referred to one of them as “zombies that won’t die.”

A staple of horror movies popular around Halloween is the ubiquitous “monster that won’t die.” Be they zombies, Dracula, Freddy Krueger, killers in hockey masks or Godzilla, the demons of our imagination never succumb to mortal fate, as least as long as another sequel is in the offing.

Sometimes, bad ideas by politicians stalk the innocent wearing the same ghoulish pallor of the undead, springing back to life whenever we think the coast is clear. One such Walking Dead issue is a religious liberty proposal that some think we can’t live with and others believe we can’t live without, and waits in the bushes for another victim.

The Georgia legislature passed such a law in 2016, stating no individual or business would be forced to cater to the needs of others if doing so clashed with their religious beliefs. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it, much to the chagrin of social conservatives, over fears it would make the state appear unwelcoming to other views and lifestyles, which could deter companies from locating operations and jobs here.

The editorial went on to point out that–contrary to the “zombie” arguments–Americans remain remarkably free to practice their preferred religions, no matter how incensed some may get over “Happy Holidays” greetings and the existence of laws protecting the rights of other people to their beliefs.

LGBTQ citizens aren’t attacking Christianity. (Actually, as my friends in the clergy have pointed out, pseudo “Christians” are doing a great job of that themselves…) Black men aren’t deflowering white women (okay, so maybe Bill Cosby–but so are Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump.) Jews aren’t using the blood of Christian children to make matzo. (If you’ve ever eaten matzo, you’d know it couldn’t contain  liquid of any kind or it wouldn’t be so constipating…)

A central premise of the American legal system is that we treat citizens as individuals, not as members of a group. People who embrace blood libels aren’t just bigots, and they aren’t just ludicrously wrong. They’re unAmerican.

And that most definitely includes Kris Kobach.


  1. You don’t change the Kris Kobach’s of the world with DEMOCRACY. The Kris Kobach’s are about a zero-sum game. Democracy is about a win-win solution. Albert Einstein understood that.

    You change the Kris Kobach’s with FEAR. That’s the only ANTIDOTE. FEAR OF EXPOSURE. Voting is vitally important but it is only a BAND-AID at this point in time in America.

  2. As Earlham College representative on the ‘National College Conservative Council,’ in 1964 I noticed some weird items. First, my ‘membership costs’ were paid by a banker from Alabama whom I had never heard of. Second, some other person sent me ‘The Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion’ (I took them to the Postal Service and turned them in as obscene materials sent through US mails) I was through with the wackos in the far right. They have only gotten worse.

  3. Yesterday I posted comments regarding a “Morning Joe” interview with the RNC Chair; Joe questioned Trump’s untrue comments and Tweets; specifically his claim he would not “allow” the merger of AT&T with Time/Warner. He has no authority or power to act on that claim; the RNC Chair told Joe “you must translate what he says”; does this ridiculous claim not fall under the “Blood Libel Redux” category? Are the ongoing statements by Trump, Pence, McConnell, Ryan and Bannon not all part of the “Blood Libel” list of false accusations, claims, threats and statements?

    Translating Trump’s statements is an impossible task; his limited vocabulary uses simple, often repeated, words and phrases which can have only one meaning…and most of his meanings are meaningless as well as powerless. As meaningless as the claim of Jews using the blood of Christian children to make matzo balls. An often used sports phrase, “The best defense is a good offense.”…passing the buck to us to translate what Trump says to what Trump means. The Republican Congress, supporting Trump in “walking back” his many foolish statements can at times be viewed as “Monday morning quarterbacking”…which is worthless. Or are they translating what he says to his/their benefit?

    “Can’t unring that bell.” also comes to mind; Congress believes and counts on the belief that most Americans have very short memories and are easily distracted by waking each day to wonder “what the hell will Trump do today?” as well as the mass killings, hurricanes and the White House revolving door. Tuesday’s election results should be a wake up call to Republicans and Democrats alike; a warning to Republicans and a call to action to Democrats.

    “People who embrace blood libels aren’t just bigots, and they aren’t just ludicrously wrong. They’re unAmerican.” We sat in our living rooms and watched the “Blood Libel” believers in action across this country marching, ranting hate slogans and taking American lives, not only with weapons of destruction but with common vehicles by driving into innocent crowds. The chants ranted by neo-Nazis, KKK and White Nationalists were catch phrases used rather than anti-racist, anti-Semitism and anti-LGBTQs. Jim Crow laws and Jew-baiting in the 21st Century not only seen in our living rooms but around the world due to mass media.

    I received my first anti -“Happy Holiday” Facebook post yesterday; an early season greeting which I debunked but will be ignored by the pseudo-christians who refuse to “treat citizens as individuals, not as members of a group”…THEIR group.

  4. I don’t know about the level of hatred in 2017, but I do know that the level of crazy is at an all time high. It is the crazy coming out of the White House, the crazy coming out of every Republican state house, the crazy being bellowed from the Evangelical pulpits. Case in point, 14 year old girls are fair game. What’s next? Public Crucifixions?

  5. The matso story is disgusting but such stories to kindle hatred have lots of company. As a neutral country during the first stages of WW I, for instance, the American people were subjected to stories of how Germans soldiers threw Belgian babies up in the air and caught them on bayonets. Similar stories and German U-Boat warfare ultimately put American “doughboys” in French trenches in a war wrongly described as “A war to end all wars.”

    Note the underlying theme in advertising: You set up the bad guys (colds, poverty etc.) and then have the plan or pill being advertised as the young knight figuratively rides in on his white horse from the west and saves the castle and its damsels (with Alka Seltzer and ABC’s stock plan). So if you don’t like Jews, set up stories that literally demean their right to live. Blacks and atheists? Ditto.
    Don’t worry about truth; don’t worry about democratic values; don’t worry about everybody is somebody and entitled to civility while occupying his or her time and space on the planet. Just hate; and then find rationales to extend it to anything or anybody in your way (see Trump, Bannon, Hitler, the KKK et al.).

    What to do? Call out these merchants of hatred (as Sheila is doing). Expose them for what they are – sick in mind and (perhaps) body as well (e.g., Roy Moore). In short, practice the democratic values of sacrifice for the common good and the naturally flowing consequences that flow from such practice; those of fair play and shared dignity for all irrespective of race, color, gender etc. Politically speaking, I see such a society through the lens of what Lakoff (the cognitive brain scientist) describes as compassionate and naturant, one of the hallmarks of the Democratic Party, as opposed to what he calls the strict father view of the Republican Party. To me, the slogan of “We’re all in this together” is not just a slogan. How to practice such a slogan in these days of manufactured divisiveness is one of today’s leading if undiscussed issues, and is an argument we must win lest we lose our social cohesiveness and see our democracy go down the drain, never to return.

    The celebration of Veterans Day today has made me wax philosophical, as the reader can see, perhaps because I happen to be a veteran, but probably because I am a Democrat who is trying to live in a country and even world where “we are all in this together.” Hatred and bad air do not stop at international boundaries, thus we are truly ALL in this together. So let’s get on with this project.

  6. Kris Kobach has been an integral part of Sam Brownback’s great Kansas experiment. Facts have shown that experiment to be the single biggest failure of the last 8 years, yet neither has admitted that failure. Kobach has just gone on to a higher calling, to spread his voter suppression ideas nationwide, thanks to 45 and his super-Christian VP.

    Meanwhile, speaking of super-Christians, Roy Moore is now accused of child molestation. How will the voters of Alabama react? They’ll send him to the Senate, where he can prey on the pages. Well, at least that gets him out of the state for about half of each year.

  7. Bannon and GROUP PUBLIC CRUCIFIXION during the Christmas Season is a “just in time” move for Trump to regain momentum after his setbacks last week. There will be another attempt to CORNER THE JEWS between “Whites” and Blacks. Christianity and the celebration of Christmas is a common denominator between the two.

    This maneuver has been attempted in the past but has failed. However, these are different times and it could work, especially with the failure of the African-American NFL football players to sustain their protests. There might not be any other political alternative for them. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

    A similar scenario occurred in Germany during the 30’s when the Communists came over to the Nazi side when they saw the “writing on the wall.” The Jewish Community was then sacrificed or better yet “crucified.”

    Unfortunately, history has a tendency to repeat itself.

  8. Gerald,

    “So if you don’t like Jews, set up stories that literally demean their right to live. Blacks and atheists? Ditto”

    According to the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, it’s not DITTO. When it comes to attacks in the name of Christianity, like Chrismas, Jews can easily be isolated. That’s not the case necessarily with the LGBT, Atheist, African-American or Latino communities. Most of them have Christian family backgrounds. They are not subject to being called: CHRIST KILLERS.

    That one can kill you and others, who would like to help the Jews, get the message real quick.

  9. The words crucifixion and crucify have other meanings than nailing to the cross as a form of execution; I found no reference to religion in my dictionaries other than the Biblical story that Jesus was crucified. Other meanings include; extreme and painful punishment, to treat cruelly, to torture or persecute or treat harshly. Are we not seeing these public mass crucifixions daily with the threats of extreme illness and/or death due to lack of control of pollution, psychological torture of not knowing if we will have needed health care, will have income of a survival level at minimum…and the constant threat of nuclear war with Trump’s stubby finger hovering over that button constantly hanging over our heads? We have no safe haven in this country today. Have we not seen mass crucifixions of innocents mowed down by bullets from military level weapons, including parishioners at prayer and private vehicles driven into crowds of shoppers and walkers on public sidewalks? We have been given the death count in these events but no information on the emotional pain and torture the survivors are living with.

    The GOP chose to save their personal Barrabas in the form of Donald Trump? It wasn’t Christians who invented crucifixion as the ultimate punishment nor were they the only victims of that form of execution. Theresa and Marv using the term “public crucifixion” needs no translation; and yes, Theresa, it is craziness as we watch the Republican inmates run this asylum and getting crazier by the day. In that old movie, “Snakepit”, it was explained that years before, people believed that if tossing a sane person into a pit of snakes would drive them crazy, maybe tossing a crazy person into a pit of snakes would drive them sane. An interesting concept in that what we are watching today in our government is craziness which they are trying to convince us is Christian based and perfectly sane rule of this country. “Blood Libel Redux” is a fitting term.

  10. According to a recent public opinion poll, Jews aren’t anywhere near the bottom of the list of trusted groups. That honor belongs to the atheists. Despite the fact that they aren’t an organized group at all. But facts have never stopped religious folk, no sir.

    Surely we can expect some sort of persecution of the non-believers in the near future. After all, Jews may be on the wrong team, but atheists mock the game itself, and we can’t have that.

  11. There are a lot of things I could say right off, being married for 30 years to the most intelligent and wonderful human being on the planet and the daughter of two parents both of Cohenim backgrounds. And having spent many years studying religion and its effects on people along with the movements that were against religions and remembering Norman Cohn’s excellent book “In Pursuit of the Millennium, in which it appears through much of European Early medieval to the present was torn by anti-jewish rhetoric and actions.., the US too has its continuing love hate with near fascist ideologies!… but now that they are out in the open and available to us I want to see every single one of them SHAMED FOR WHAT THEY ARE – NAZI’S and ENEMIES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and our way of direction – Democracy. the sad thing – is that it is being ALLOWED.

  12. Manuel,

    “but now that they are out in the open and available to us”

    You’re seeing straight. If you can fight anti-Semitism at all, it can never be from BEHIND. You have to stay in FRONT of it.

  13. PJ – You (and Sam Clemens) are right. Statistics are pliable. My wife when pursuing her doctorate came home from her first lecture by a Statistics professor which he began as follows: “Statistics prove that one out of 8 billion passengers on airplanes carry a bomb, so I always carry one in order to decrease the odds.” Kinda like the reasoning these days from Republican tax writers to the effect that if we give more money to the rich, the poor will prosper. . . . Huh?

  14. IMO the two things that are private, personal and nobody’s business are sex and religion. I suspect that they are so personal that no two people share exactly the same thoughts on either one so the idea that people can be grouped at all is suspect and requires broad definition to assemble groups and the grouping is almost abstract.

    Yet humanity seems sometimes completely preoccupied with separating into such hard to define groups. Why? What difference can it possibly make? What makes people different in those two ways is insignificant compared to all that we have in common.

    To bigots of all stripe my reaction is just get over yourself, you’re not that special.

  15. “To bigots of all stripe my reaction is just get over yourself, you’re not that special.”

    Pete; I LOVE that line. Reminds me of dealing with my teenagers during the 1970’s; tried to explain to them that following suit in dress and hairstyle and screaming loud “music” to have their own identity does not make them different because they all look and sound the same. I must admit I do love much of the music from the 1970’s; protest songs, sit-ins and marches, no mass shootings.

  16. If you look for scapegoats, it is remarkably easy to find them. It is also easy to find some reason (I use the term “reason” very loosely) to vilify a group of people.

    I can recall back during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when Japanese Auto imports began hitting the streets of America. There were Japanese car bashing events held.

    >> Don’t think Republicans can be punk rock? Well, in 1987, they staged one of the most punk rock protests that Capitol Hill has ever seen. They smashed a boombox to pieces with some sledgehammers. The part that was slightly less punk rock? They smashed it because they were mad at Toshiba for making electronics sold in the Soviet Union. <<> The politicians were joined by a group called the American Conservative Union, which awarded Toshiba a “Golden Rope Award.” The noose was in reference to Lenin’s proclamation that capitalists are so greedy that they’d sell anyone the rope with which to hang themselves. << The noose and rope here in America has a more sinister meaning of vigilante "justice".

    "We have to stop showing that white flag, to start running up the American flag, and to turn around, fight and make American number one again in international commerce so that American jobs are filled in this country. If we don’t get cracking, get serious, and get leadership… our kids will be cheated by us. Their jobs will consist of sweeping up around Japanese computers and spending a lifetime serving McDonald’s hamburgers."

    Sounds like Donald Trump?? It is a quote by Walter Mondale.

    Anger is a useful technique that is used by the 1%, to keep the 99% fighting among themselves.

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