That Old Anti-Semitism Smear

Chronicles Associate Editor Pedro Gonzalez was accused of being an anti-Semite by The Spectator Associate Editor Douglas Murray on Wednesday of last week. In an article entitled “When the Right Plays With Jew-Hate” in the Substack newsletter of former New York Times op-ed editor Bari Weiss, Murray wrote that Gonzalez “unmasked himself boringly and yet still wretchedly, as an antisemite.”

Murray then quoted two of Gonzalez’s Twitter threads. In the first, Gonzalez responded to a tweet by the left-wing economist David Rothschild claiming that “Republican intellectuals *despise* the Constitution.” Gonzalez riposted that Rothschild is as “dumb” as he is “repulsive” and that his “physiognomy is pure nightmare fuel.” In the second, responding to a taunt by the lawyer Ari Cohn calling conservatives stupid, Gonzalez said that Cohn possessed a “cursed goblin physiognomy.”

The problem with Murray’s accusation is that anyone who follows Gonzalez on Twitter or searches his timeline for the term “physiognomy” will notice that he frequently lobs such jibes at political opponents of all ethnic backgrounds. One of his favorite targets is David French, a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant neoconservative.

Even if one finds Gonzalez’s remarks about physical appearance to be frivolous or tasteless, there is absolutely nothing he tweeted that would justify Murray’s extravagant, unsubstantiated claim of anti-Semitism, as argued by David Goldman, a conservative Jewish columnist for Asia Times Online. “Pedro L. Gonzalez does NOT use ‘physiognomy’ as a code-word for ‘Jew,’” tweeted Goldman. “Bad taste is not the same thing as anti-Semitism.” David Reaboi, a national security expert who is also Jewish, echoed the sentiment. “Bullshit accusations of antisemitism are so contemptible,” Reaboi wrote. Investigative journalist Matthew Tyrmand was equally unimpressed. “This is beyond spurious and specious and is frankly an embarrassing attempt to smear a rising intellectual star,” he tweeted. Tyrmand’s father, Leopold, was an émigré Polish-Jewish novelist who was Chronicles’ founding editor.

Leopold left Poland largely due to Stalinist censorship. But to his surprise, he observed something akin to Stalinism emerging in the United States, with the media and its mercenaries acting as self-appointed arbiters of acceptable discourse. “Deciding who stays on the stage and who leaves, while they keep the stage forever, gives them an air of invincibility that seems unpardonable to all those to whom democracy is an instinct, intuition, and an elusive promise of something better,” he wrote in his 1976 essay “The Media Shangri-La.” In America, it was not communists, but the emerging faction of neoconservatives, who attempted to be the gatekeepers of discourse on the right.

The pugnacious rhetoric Gonzalez uses has been a feature of the populist right since the original king of the insult tweet, Donald Trump, called Rosie O’Donnell “fat” and “dumb” and Jeb Bush “low energy.” Many found Trump’s penchant for the personal insult boorish and vulgar, but it was an important feature of his political success. By making aggressive, personal attacks on his political enemies, Trump was only doing what the leftist establishment had been doing without consequence to the right for decades: relentlessly mocking the opposition as dumb, ugly, and pathetic.

Amusingly, studies have shown that right-wing people are perceived as being more attractive than left-wingers. Perhaps it’s not surprising that different ideas have consequences for personal appearance, given that right-wing beliefs tend to involve higher levels of personal responsibility and value masculinity and physical fitness, while left-wing beliefs tend toward strange ecological dietary restrictions, and value femininity, oversensitivity, and a masochistic culture of victimhood.

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