For weeks now I have attempted to understand why decent, intelligent, typically goodhearted people would openly support barbarism and bigotry. For a while I convinced myself they were unaware of the barbarism. Maybe somehow in a sea of slanted media, they didn’t see what really happened on October 7th… maybe they didn’t know of the murders and mutilations; maybe they somehow didn’t hear that Hamas tortured families and killed innocent children.
Maybe, too, they didn’t know it was bigotry. I mean, maybe they attempted to warp history into some sort of both-sides-ism… maybe they didn’t hear the call of the Hamas member, calling his parents to say, “Look how many I killed with my own hands! Your son killed Jews!… I killed 10 with my own hands! Dad, 10 with my own hands!” Maybe they don’t know that anti-Semitism has long been a thing.
I think that’s one of the more confusing aspects of this conflict. So many who claim to be woke to injustice rationalize brutal cruelty of the Jewish race. It doesn’t make sense to me. Again, I so wanted to believe they didn’t know. Why would people support such terrible things?
Here at the Intramuralist, one of the writers we frequently read and quote is Bari Weiss, a Jewish, moderately pro-choice, lesbian journalist. She previously worked for both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, most recently leaving the latter for not defending her against alleged bullying by her colleagues, accusing The Times of unlawful discrimination and a hostile work environment. You see, Weiss doesn’t fit in a stereotypical liberal or conservative box. She’s a smart, gifted writer. She’s respectful and fair and refuses to fuel that media slant.
She, too, noticed that frightening phenomena, comparing what’s the same and what’s different with the attack on the Twin Towers twenty-some years ago…
“As with 9/11, the spectacle and the savagery were the point. As with 9/11, the terrorists notched points on their sadistic scoreboard, taking from us not just precious lives, but our sense of our safety and security. They changed something within us. The difference between 9/11 and 10/7—two massacres of innocent people, symbols to their killers of Western civilization—was the reaction to the horror. The difference between 9/11 and 10/7 was that the catastrophe of 10/7 was followed, on October 8, by a different kind of catastrophe. A moral and spiritual catastrophe that was on full display throughout the West before the bodies of those men and women and children had even been identified. People poured into the streets of our capital cities to celebrate the slaughter.”
Hear that: people celebrated the slaughter. People celebrated the barbarism and bigotry. Much of that, sadly, has been previously shared here. But why? Why would people be so blind to such obvious hatred? Or as Weiss asks, “What could possibly explain this?”
“The easy answer is that the human beings who were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews. And that antisemitism is the world’s oldest hatred. And that in every generation someone rises up to kill us. ‘They tried to wipe us out, they failed, let’s eat’ as the old Jewish joke goes. But that is not the whole answer. Because the proliferation of antisemitism, as always, is a symptom.
When antisemitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system—a sign that the society itself is breaking down. That it is dying.
It is a symptom of a much deeper crisis—one that explains how, in the span of a little over 20 years since Sept 11, educated people now respond to an act of savagery not with a defense of civilization, but with a defense of barbarism.
It was twenty years ago when I began to encounter the ideology that drives the people who tear down the posters. It was twenty years ago, when I was a college student, that I started writing about a nameless, then-niche worldview that seemed to contradict everything I had been taught since I was a child.
At first, things like postmodernism and postcolonialism and postnationalism seemed like wordplay and intellectual games—little puzzles to see how you could ‘deconstruct’ just about anything. What I came to see over time was that it wasn’t going to remain an academic sideshow. And that it sought nothing less than the deconstruction of our civilization from within. It seeks to upend the very ideas of right and wrong.
It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad). It replaced lots of things. Color blindness with race obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob.
People were to be given authority in this new order not in recognition of their gifts, hard work, accomplishments, or contributions to society, but in inverse proportion to the disadvantages their group had suffered, as defined by radical ideologues.
And so, as an undergraduate, I watched in horror, sounding alarms as loudly as I could. I was told by most adults I knew that yes, it wasn’t great, but not to be so hysterical. Campuses were always hotbeds of radicalism, they said. This ideology, they promised, would surely dissipate as young people made their way in the world. They were wrong. It did not.”
Weiss has more to say (it can be read HERE). She even presents prudent ways the rest of us can respond. She encourages us to defend our values — “the values that have made this country the freest, most tolerant society in the history of the world.”
We are a tolerant society. Weiss is a wise woman. But to be clear; wisdom dictates that our society never justifies barbarism and bigotry. No matter how blind.