Speaking Of Conspiracy Theories…And Space Lasers….

Two recent reports about the hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue gave me one of those “ah ha” moments, a genuine epiphany.

I thought I understood anti-Semitism. After all, I’m Jewish–and what’s more, I grew up in a small town in Indiana where I routinely encountered classmates with negative feelings–and sometimes bizarre beliefs– about Jews. (Yes, we live in houses like “real people” and no, we don’t have tails. I am not making those questions up!)

Clearly, however, I still have much to learn about the deep-seated assumptions in which anti-Semitism is grounded.

The column from MSNBC was straightforward. The opinion piece took aim at the FBI assertion that the choice of hostages wasn’t “related to the Jewish Community.” While it is true that the perpetrator’s goal was not to harm Jews, but to obtain the release from prison of an unconnected person, the hostage-taker himself explained that he targeted a synagogue because he believes the U.S. “only cares about Jewish lives.”

The  article argued that the FBI statement

failed to capture the very nature of antisemitism and how it’s embedded in a wide range of age-old and contemporary conspiracy theories about power, elites, U.S. governance and global cooperation. As Yair Rosenberg explained in The Atlantic this week, antisemitism is not only a discriminatory prejudice, but also “a conspiracy theory about how the world operates.”

The second “aha” article  I read was the one from The Atlantic referenced in the foregoing quote.That article explained something I’d never previously understood: anti-Semitism isn’t simply one more manifestation of human tribalism– another “us versus them” hatred–it’s a conspiracy theory.

Most people do not realize that Jews make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population and 0.2 percent of the world’s population. This means simply finding them takes a lot of effort. But every year in Western countries, including America, Jews are the No. 1 target of anti-religious hate crimes. Anti-Semites are many things, but they aren’t lazy. They’re animated by one of the most durable and deadly conspiracy theories in human history.

I’m pretty sure I am not the only person–Jewish or not–who had never previously recognized what the article persuasively described–the weird way in which Jews “play a sinister symbolic role in the imagination of so many that bears no resemblance to their lived existence.”

Evidently, once he had taken the rabbi and congregants hostage, Akrim (the hostage-taker) demanded to speak to the rabbi of New York’s Central Synagogue. Why? He was convinced that the rabbi had the power to authorize the release of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani woman he was trying to free.

Obviously, this is not how the prison system works. “This was somebody who literally thought that Jews control the world,” Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told The Forward. “He thought he could come into a synagogue, and we could get on the phone with the ‘Chief Rabbi of America’ and he would get what he needed.”

The author noted the irrationality of that belief.

The notion that such a minuscule and unmanageable minority secretly controls the world is comical, which may be why so many responsible people still do not take the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory seriously, or even understand how it works. In the moments after the Texas crisis, the FBI made an official statement declaring that the assailant was “particularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.” Of course, the gunman did not travel thousands of miles to terrorize some Mormons. He sought out a synagogue and took it hostage over his grievances, believing that Jews alone could resolve them. That’s targeting Jews, and there’s a word for that.

it is really hard to take this lunacy seriously–although the consequences are very serious indeed.

It is patently ridiculous to think that a Jewish “minuscule and unmanageable” minority secretly exercises immense super-powers, that–as wacko Marjorie Taylor Green insists–we can deploy “space lasers” to set fires in California. (Why would we do that, even if we could?) It is particularly ludicrous to those of us who grew up in the “unmanageable” Jewish community to suggest that we are even capable of agreeing to conspire; as my mother used to say, the only thing two Jews can agree about is how much money a third Jew should be contributing to charity.

And as far as the “minuscule” descriptor goes, with inter-marriage rates hitting new highs  (Pew Research has found the current intermarriage rate to be 58% among all Jews and 71% among non-Orthodox Jews) we’re heading from minuscule to undetectable.

Pretty soon, the nut cases might have to find a different group guilty of running the world….


  1. My father was one of those who thought the Jews ran everything-banks, in particular, businesses in general- and as I got older, I realized it all related to things he didn’t have and couldn’t control, plus “the other”…he knew no Jews (he worked around most minorities, and even had a Black doctor because “they had to go to medical school longer than real doctors”). Even late in life when he went from heathen to “good christian “, he just hated Jews for being Christ-killers. There is just no reasoning someone out of an unreasonable fear.
    Then I learned that the Holocaust-denying booklets I found one day when I was a young teen has come from his “good buddy 10-4”, who was trying to join him up in the KKK. I wondered for years how different life would have been had he said yes. Could I have been brainwashed into one of those people? I’m frequently astounded that I survived living in north central Indiana. I can’t even imagine what it was like growing up as one of the maligned “others”.

  2. I grew up in a racist, bigoted, antisemitic, Republican family and neighborhood; somehow I came through it all with my own soul intact. It has been many years since I have heard the question/argument of Jews as religion or Jews as race. It took Whoopie’s comment to make it headline news and a political issue in this already insane world we are trying to understand as we also try to stay alive during the Covid-19 Pandemic as a political issue. Whoopie is off of “The View” at this time; temporary or permanent is as yet undecided. The example she gave makes complete sense regarding her statement that Jews are not a race; an issue I have never understood once I learned Jews, like Catholics and Jehovah Witnesses are members of a religion. Speaking of Jehovah Witnesses; last week I received a letter addressed to me personally from nearby members of Jehovah Witness religion, including their names, address and E-mail address. And of course a pamphlet. They are still making their rounds; using ultimate social distancing, must have gone to the Township Assessor’s office for names to address their letters to.

    “Pretty soon, the nut cases might have to find a different group guilty of running the world….”

    We must first know and understand who and what a group IS to be for or against them; currently the nut cases are running this country. We know what they are but are constantly being surprised by who they are; no idea why has yet been found.

  3. In one of my brother’s drunkenness moments, he said Jews ran the world and I actually laughed at him. That’s absurd! But I’ve always wondered what online black hole he fell into to think that and repeat it out loud.

    When I read up on the Whoopie moment from Monday and replayed her words, I understood how she thought it wasn’t about race because most Jews are white. Then I watched her apology on Stephen Corbert and realized how differently her words could have been misunderstood. I was satisfied that she was ignorant about how Hilter defined Jews as a race. Seeing this as a black woman, I see her definition of racism even though she was wrong. I think it’s fair that they gave her a 2 week suspension. She’s being made to show how ignorance isn’t a reason for disgusting words anymore.

    I just wish we could hold 45 to the same standard. My hubby continues to ask me “Has trump been arrested yet?”

    Yet, today, there are hate crimes being committed everyday. The police getting ambushed, the bomb threats at HBCUs, multiple mass shootings every day and I continue to wonder if it will ever be safe to return “home.” Sigh

  4. Most of those who believe the Jews run the world don’t need to have actual Jews to target. As long as they have a name for their target, they’ll be fine. Race is an artificial construct that really has no value and no real meaning. It is just another way to divide people and make it easier to use fear to send civilization over the edge.

  5. OMG; AgingLGirl, are we to align ourselves with Hitler by accepting his assessment that Jews are a race? He blamed all of Germany’s problems on them and added blacks, homosexuals, Gypsies, the mentally ill and other groups to deserve his “final solution” to their problems. Were they also considered separate “races” by Hitler? Whoopie is an intelligent woman; I doubt she was “ignorant” of Hitler’s assessment of Jews or any of his targets for extermination.

  6. It seems the shortest post ever in a millennium by Smekens in Sheila’s blog has earned him a Whoopi moment.

  7. All of this stuff – except Todd’s obvious tongue-in-cheek comment (It was tongue-in-sheek, wasn’t it?) – is merely underscoring what’s been discussed on this blog for a long time. The way I see it is that even if there were no religious or skin color excuses for bigotry, our tribalism instincts would find something else to identify the “enemy” of their particular tribe.

    BUT it takes an intellectual leap to overcome that 200,000 year-old instinct. Those who choose not to or are too lazy to make that leap are the ones ranting about this or that group being the enemy. What a waste.

  8. There are issues in our discussion today that include chronic flashpoints that evoke complex emotional responses that subordinate more mindful reflection. When flashpoints collide in political debate (i.e. critical race theory vs. the Holocaust), manifold accusations that cross boundaries engaging vicarious projections (prejudice) of the other, … dismantle hope for a more civil informed discussion.

  9. Sarcasm does not come across well in email, Facebook, or blog posts, especially when there are people that would agree to the statement you might make. For clarity, if there might be any doubt, I would bracket a statement like Todd’s with (sarcasm) … (end sarcasm).

  10. I once again shared this blog with my grandson–and read it to my husband. Can we laugh and cry at the same time?

  11. AgingLGirl; if I misunderstood you (probable) I deeply apologize.

    Norris; Kudos on your comment…lol

    Vernon; if Todd E Smekens’ comment was tongue-in-cheek, he dug himself in deeper with his comment following yours.

    Did Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ivanka Trump change their race when they converted to the Jewish religion? People in countries around the world follow the Jewish religion; are they one race? If the Jewish religion is a race of people; we must consider Catholics and Protestants to be of separate races, even within families when members switch religions…and we are seeing that among Catholic families in this country with religion a political issue. Should we consider political parties to be separate races?

    By the way; Whoopie will be back on The View in 2 weeks. I wonder if she will decide to return? Would she have been removed if she were white? That question had to be asked, and probably has been, in this escalating racist country.

  12. Since scientifically there is only one race, the Human Race, all other constructs of “race” are of societal construct, and usually constructed by one group looking for another group to hate, blame, or subjugate.

  13. Pat,

    Yes. Biologically, any paired organisms that can reproduce viable offspring are defined as the same species. You are correct in defining “race” as a societal construct when it is applied to humans. In biology, the sub-species is what is used to try to describe inherited traits that are unique to a group, but do not prevent them from producing those offspring with other sub-species. Dogs are the best example in our immediate view.

    Finally, all of us are some sort of hybrid human when one considers that the first humans known appeared in Africa and spread throughout the world changing their physical characteristics along the way to today. Populations often crossed paths and reproduced, thus creating a species where hybridization is NORMAL.

  14. If one would want to get into the nuance, Jesus Christ spoke Aramaic, he also knew how to speak fluent Hebrew because he was a student of the Mosaic Law. Semitic languages were spoken throughout the Levant and the Mesopotamian area. Canaanites, Aramaics and Hebrews were part of the Semitic language group along with Ethiopians and others.

    Jews or the Hebrew speaking semitics were worshipers of Yahweh or Jehovah. That’s what separated them from many of the other Semitic groups. Although and those other groups that were Proselytes that practiced the Jewish religion and worshiped the Jewish god.

    So when you talk about a race of people, the Jews were only a small portion of the Semitic ethnicity, and many were also Aramaic. Of course not every single Hebrew speaking Jew was a worshiper of the Jewish god, but, there were a number of them and it was fairly significant. You could read about that in the book of Judges.

  15. @ John Sorg … did we just move from baby eaters to Jesus and the Canaanites in the same discussion? I am working to check my vicarious projections at the door!

  16. As a white, male, Christian, Protestant of European descent (in fact an ex Puritan), heterosexual, small town, person I pretty much don’t qualify for any of the usual discrimination. I’m pretty much mainstream in all ways.

    Oh, not quite. I was discriminated against once as a child when Catholic friends found out that my father was a Mason. Then there was when I went to school in Virginia as a Yankee through and through and was discriminated against because I didn’t hate enough. Pretty minor stuff.

    Oh, and now, and this is the worst. What I get called mostly on Facebook for being Liberal. In addition I just was released from Facebook jail for writing about “pigheaded Europeans” of which I am one. No question that Facebook is right on top of the hate messages that are so profitable for them.

    Apparently we love to hate and hate to think.

  17. (sarcasm) All of these comment are making me feel really bad. I say we ban this blog!!! … (end sarcasm)
    /s. Sarcasm. /s.

  18. I know for a fact that Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein were Jews who served Satan. Didn’t God send Satan to run the place?

    So, using logic…

  19. (sarcasm) All of these comments are making me really feel bad. I say we ban this blog!… (end sarcasm).
    /s. Sarcasm. /s.

  20. Nope,the world is ruled by low-income Bubba’s residing across the midwestern United States.

  21. JoAnn and AgingLGirl, I’m just hearing about Whoopie from you two. I have generally made the same “mistake” as she. I’ve never considered Jews to be a race (which, as you say, is a social construct anyway), but as a religious group, as they did not need to be all of one skin colour or appearance. I’ve always thought of racism as applying to groups associated by a common physical appearance, not a common religion. In other words, it was racism when the bigotry applied to the social construct, race. Thus, bigotry based on sexual orientation, gender, age, or religious affiliation, etc., were never “racism” to me. That never meant that I didn’t think Jews suffered from incredible (and utterly insane) bigotry; I just never thought of it as “racism”, as such. JoAnn, I’m decently educated but I didn’t know Hitler had defined the Jews as a race, so it seems entirely reasonable to me that Whoopie didn’t either, but that doesn’t mean I’m unaware of the horrors of the Holocaust. Anyway, I’m not clear on why Whoopie should be suspended from the show. It seems like a rather minor error of ignorance to me, and possibly a big overreaction by the network.

    Maybe I’d understand it better if I asked the Jewish people among this blog’s readership if they were offended by Whoopie’s comments. What did it mean to you?

  22. I say Southern Baptists are a race.

    Primarily because I don’t want to believe that I share DNA with them.

  23. In all seriousness, we have a serious “group” problem. If you are a member of a group, you are proud of your group and its heritage. If you are not a member, you suspect the group members of being up to no good. If you say anything about that, you are a [group]ist for noticing a difference. If you don’t respect the group, you are a [group]ist for not respecting their differences. If you don’t trust a group and they let you join, then they are the best group, but if they don’t they are up to some sort of evil.

    I could go on, but you get the point. People are stupid. Unless you are in my group.

  24. Per many of today’s comments, it is interesting to note that such programs as “Finding Your Roots” cite DNA findings that identify Ashkenazim as a separate DNA grouping.

  25. Norris,

    I know right?

    Really though, I think the nut jobs try to apply history to the baby eating thing, but , they really don’t know Anything about it.

    I know you probably are already aware, but around 70 CE, during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, Things were so bad, folks were trading their children with their neighbors so they could eat them. And I don’t mean eating their neighbors to feed the kids, I mean eating the children. Folks Were boiling their sandals to eat the leather also. They’re ended up to be So much factional infighting inside of the city, that the Romans basically just climbed in over the walls and through the gate , over the bodies, and finished off the survivors. The temple was destroyed and burned out. and from that date forward, there was no unified worship concerning animal sacrifice. Not only was the temple completely destroyed, but also the altar within its courtyard.

    In the first chapter of Ezekiel, It talks about those who would pass their children through the fire. This was done as a ritual towards the God “Molech” Who was definitely not the god of Israel.

  26. OK – to begin with, race IS a social construct.

    As for genetics – Jews are highly inbred, due to pressures from within and pressures from without. Oddly, the closest genetic relatives — “Palestinians”–not really odd if you think about it

    JoAnn – a point to illustrate – two of my best friends in graduate school got married. She is Catholic; he is Jewish. She is Italian-American; he is —- Jewish-American.

    Since leaving the ghetto, Jews have wanted to “not be seen as different”. The general attitude towards the Jews from others fell into two camps – they were just another religion and they were evil.

    Einstein summed it up nicely.

    “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

    Interpretation – either just a human, nothing special OR dirty, evil Jew

    Jews defy classification, make of that what you will. For me, I think it is a quirk of history, but just because I can “pass” for “white” has never made me feel that way. I have led a fairly shielded life, in terms of personal antisemitic experiences, but I have always been aware that there might be Tree of Life Synagogue events in my future.

    As for Whoopi – Yes, her statement offended me, but it meant that she needed to learn, not to be banished. I believe that the first part has happened from news reports. I can only hope that ABC comes to its senses.
    Do I think it was “racism” that got her banished? No, it was “liberal” hypersensitivity, which is also why we have “former Senator Franken”

  27. Aberger, it’s a good point. More and more, I find I really dislike the use of “race” at all. It’s such an artificial idea, and one clearly created–and still used–to divide us. You’d think the fact that we all live together on a fragile beautiful little world would help unite us, but it doesn’t, sadly. Even more, if you go back enough generations, we ALL have ancestors in common at some point. (And, I like to point out under certain circumstances, that if you go back enough generations, all our ancestors were dark-skinned Africans.)

    Regarding Whoopie, I think her heart is in the right place. I suspect she also has trouble with the “race” concept, and may have looked at the definition of racism as I did. As such, I can forgive her (and myself) for not knowing a little more about how the race concept was used by the Nazis in the perpetration of their horrors. Really, the only “error” she made is that she considered Jews to be white racially, which is common now, but which the Nazis didn’t during WWII. Is it any different than how the Irish and Italians weren’t considered white a hundred or so years ago, but are now? Note how this shows just how dumb the concept is, as the definition of the various groups has been so malleable over time, as the winds of racism have shifted. In any case, Whoopie’s error still seems a pretty minor one to me. It is just an error of ignorance after all, not an exhibition of bigotry or prejudice, and that’s what should matter.

  28. Len; as an Irish-British-German-French-Scandinavian-Protestant- American, I can only say I hope your intermarried friends are happy in their marriage.

  29. Apology to Sheila for chucking throughout the commentary. When asked as an older teen/young adult “what religion are you?” answering “Greek Orthodox” which frequently brought the question “is that Christian?”. Answering , “what was the original language of the New Testament?” Many were perplexed while many more would volunteer,”the King James version”. Smiling I exited. This was not exclusive to rural Hoosiers.

    The problems faced with a small minority-in our case, owning a family grocery or restaurant(we didn’t). Would have been far more important to be a banker.

    On a serious note, anti-semitism, racism, religion, nationality or any other grouping different than the majority begins with IGNORANCE and develops into ignorant hatred. If mankind would make the effort to talk with one’s neighbors, we would find that we have a lot more in common than those symbols that provide our differences.

  30. @John Sorg, please do not promote anti-Semitic stereotypes, especially not ones reminiscent of the classic blood libel, which are being used at this time by QAnon etc for their usual evil purposes.

    And, if you’re going to insist upon slandering Jews (violation of the 9th commandment, but I don’t know how Christians understand these things — Judaism is quite strict about the topic), at least get your sources correct and use appropriate logical reasoning.

    Human beings who are dying of starvation will do more or less anything to stay alive — ask the Donner party about that one. No need to single out Jews (are we somehow not human?). But whenever the topic of “parents will literally eat their children because they are starving,” is mentioned in Scripture, it is as a *threat* from God — “If you don’t do what I say, things are going to get so bad that parents eat their children,” which is then balanced with a promise, “If you change your ways, things will be great!”

    I went through the entire book of Ezekiel, to see if maybe you were correct. You are not. There is no mention of the Canaanite practice of passing children through fire to worship Molech anywhere in it. Whenever the topic *is* mentioned in scripture, it is always as a *forbidden* practice. Because of the vagaries of Hebrew grammar, it’s not easy for me to do a search through all of scripture for the topic, but here’s a nice brief explanation for you: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Moloch-ancient-god

    By Hanlon’s Razor, I’m going to presume that you are ill-informed rather than malicious. But if you are ill-informed, then I would presume you would appreciate being corrected and being given an opportunity to take back the slander you are throwing around.

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