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Friday, July 30, 2010

Why anti-Israel blogging is so popular

Last week, Lee Smith took us on a tour of the anti-Israel hate bloggers around the internet. This week, he looks at why anti-Israel blogging is so popular, and why major commercial sites are willing to carry the likes of Stephen Walt, Andrew Sullivan, Phillip Weiss and Glenn Greenwald, and the lowlifes who tag along behind them.
Everyone knows that the media is reeling. For instance, New York Times staffers recently took a 5 percent pay cut after a hundred of their colleagues were laid off. And yet, compared to their colleagues at the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, both of which have been gutted after sliding into bankruptcy, journalists at the Times are clearly the lucky ones. None of the big media companies has figured out how to make their Internet presence into a profit center that can sustain operations, even as they turn their hallowed brand-names over to opinion bloggers who can generate copy at a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional reporting. The Israel, or rather anti-Israel, market is one of the most attractive niche markets in this trade because it taps into a passionate audience that is interested in news and can generate immediate and measurable results—page views, hits, and comments. Even on his best days, Stephen Walt can’t hold a candle to premier sports, shopping, or pornography websites traffic-wise. But he can tap into the prurient passions of a niche market.

If Walt and the others may be acquitted of responsibility for their cesspools, what blame lies with their employers? It is hard to believe that if an author had a written a book, like Walt’s, that had been similarly branded as “nasty,” “paranoid,” and “riddled with errors of fact,” and the book was about, say, African-Americans, or Latinos, or gays—and endorsed by David Duke—that the author would be embraced by the U.S. intelligentsia in the name of open debate. Only their employers know why Walt and the others were hired or remain on staff—the editor of The Atlantic, James Bennet, declined comment through the magazine’s spokesman, while Salon editor Joan Walsh and The Nation Institute’s Taya Kitman did not respond to requests for comment—but it’s not outlandish to imagine that the number of commenters and pageviews these writers’ polemics draw would be a factor. Whether Foreign Policy knew they were getting the public sewer Walt elicits, or just a public intellectual, is unclear. (Foreign Policy’s Susan Glasser did not respond to a request for comment.) What is clear is that they decided to host Walt’s blog, give it prominent billing, and tolerate its commenters.

As was the case with Walt’s blog, Weiss’ sponsor must have brought him aboard fully aware of his anti-Israel sentiments (Mondoweiss was hosted by the New York Observer before the Nation Institute), but Greenwald was already on the Salon site before he turned his baleful attention to anti-Zionist polemics, and The Atlantic bought The Daily Dish before Sullivan started ranting about circumcision and the Jews. Unlike the rest, Sullivan doesn’t allow comments, but we still know what his readers think, because he publishes examples of their work. These published emails are scarcely different from the comments published under the posts of Walt, Greenwald, and Weiss, whose arguments serve as a dog-whistle, calling out the pack of haters whose remarks make explicit what was merely hinted at in the original, (usually) more respectable post. The commenters, many of them known to each other from like-minded Internet sites, feed off of each other’s semi-literate rage, elaborating upon their colleagues’ lies, myths, and slanders and serving up anti-Semitic invective. As the Jews, and sometimes non-Jews, arrive on the site to dispute the calumnies, the cyber-sport of Jew-baiting begins, driving up comments and traffic to heretofore-unreachable heights. Even as Sullivan’s technique to summon the mob seems slightly more sophisticated, it still uses a strategy that allows him to walk away with more traffic—he is currently ranked 15th in “standing & influence” in the entire blogosphere—but a little less of the stench.

In his review of The Israel Lobby, Walter Russell Mead explained how Jew-baiting has historically functioned: “Jews are in a double bind: refrain from responding with outrage and the charge becomes accepted as a fact, express utter loathing at the charge and give anti-Semites the opportunity to pose as the victims of a slander campaign by venomous Jews.” For the purposes of driving Internet traffic, it is helpful if Jews respond, but not necessary, as anyone who has waded through the cesspool knows. In this column last week the subject alone, without the rhetorical energies of Walt and company, also brought a record number of comments for this site, thanks to the efforts of commenters migrating from their own safe havens of invective in order to shout down reasoned debate.

To advertising salesmen and advertisers, of course, the subject of any given blog post is presumably immaterial: What matters are the numbers. But is targeting Jews that much more profitable than going after African-Americans or gays and lesbians or women? The answer is simple. People know they can get away with Jew-baiting because history shows that it has been done before and no one did anything to stop it.
I'm sure you're all shocked. Read the whole thing.


At 4:45 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

You are right; it is a niche porno market, in the same category as snuff movies. They are all Israel-hating, Jew-hating perverts!

At 5:37 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I'm not shocked. I would expect Jews to be fair game after the Holocaust. After all, while all other forms of bigotry have only a fringe market these days, because of the Jewish State's prominence, anti-Semitism, the last respectable form of hatred on earth, has a mainstream presence. And its not going to disappear in our lifetime.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

Obama and Soros are behind this


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