Op-ed: Why we are losing the battle against Antisemitism
Last year, recorded antisemitic incidents were at a record high. We can’t deny that we are losing a battle against Antisemitism in the UK; and some would say globally.
Antisemitism is now so mainstream that famous artists can openly brag of their ability to be antisemitic without fear of financial loss. This then begs the question, why are we losing? Every year, our community pools our time, energy, and resources in attempts to counter it. We pressure social media platforms to update their community service agreements, we press police forces to do their jobs in protecting our community and we write to the BBC begging they deal with their bias. It isn’t working.
We are countering Antisemitism and that is where the problem lies. Countering is reactive not proactive. We act once an incident occurs but what do we do to prevent the ideologies that motivate said actions? Of course, it is easy to say that everybody is entitled to their own views, nobody has to like us, they just need to not harm us. However, that is assuming that people come to feel negatively towards Jews all on their lonesome, which isn’t the case. Antisemitism is spoon-fed to the masses from their youth in such small quantities that making a fuss about any individual supplement is considered making a fuss about nothing. We would become the whingy Jew if we were to comment; this is the objective of the microaggression. I am referring to the Media, more specifically, to pop culture fiction.
Hypodermic syringe theory may have become a less popular model in recent years, for the fact it relies on the less-than-complimentary idea that the masses are passive sponges, but it seems to be uniquely useful for explaining the transmission of antisemitism. However, unlike in Goebbels’s era, the Antisemitism has become a subplot in a bigger story. A more swallowable tablet.
Netflix’s top ten show ‘Never have I ever’, a teenage romantic comedy which features an Ashkenazi Jewish side character, reached 55 million hours of viewership after just two days of the release of season two. The show features a diverse range of actors and seems to be progressive in that it shares a Hindu girl’s romantic struggles; refreshing. The show’s only Jewish character just happens to be a spoilt rich kid subjected to holocaust insults. His standout characteristic is his wealth. Similarly, the DC comics company, responsible for some of our favourite heroes, produced the television show ‘Harley Quinn’ the animated series. The popular show is estimated to have 21.3 times the average demand of TV series in America. Undoubtably popular, and undoubtably problematic. The show features a wide range of Jewish character such as the penguin (an Evil Jewish banker, featured prominently in a scene at a Bar Mitzvah), Cy Borgman (A morally questionable Jewish Landlord who is implied to have committed war crimes) and Harley Quinn’s parents (who sell her out for money.) If that wasn’t enough, the creators of the series described Cy Borgman as “half-man half-Jew.”
The list could go on, almost endlessly. These shows are very different from satirical programmes, like South Park, in the way that they do not make fun of every group; Jews are given special treatment. The shows are often seen as progressive and so the viewer’s guard is down. The viewership of these shows is also key, many shows are intended for teenagers and young adults, the perfect age groups for brainwashing. Unlike social media, television can only be consumed. There is no in-built room for discourse where people can respond in the moment. There is no room for some enlightened person to make a tweet thread explaining why something is antisemitic.
So, we have established that countering Antisemitism isn’t enough and that ideology is, for the most part, ignored until it turns to action. What is left but production. Producing pop culture that offers an alternative, and truer, narrative about the Jewish people could potentially do more to decrease antisemitism. Look at The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, as an example, with an audience demand of 10.2 times the American average TV series in America. Mrs Maisel, other than being a delightfully funny and empowered fictional Jewess, features historical Jewish comedian and activist Lenny Bruce. By producing more shows which tell our stories and contributions to the world, we can make the masses less accepting of antisemitism. We also enable ourselves to have a strong Jewish identity that isn’t all encompassed by victimhood. Jewish people have contributed so much to society and being remembered only as victims is disempowering historical erasure. Many terrible things have happened, but we are more than all of that.