Anti-Semitism examined as a social virus in new PBS documentary

Tina and I watched this documentary earlier this week.  The following day I got into an argument with one of the “Anti-Zionist not antisemitic” tools.  Guess what he is petty much down with wiping out Israel and absolutely denies that Jews have any right to live there.  His labeling them as settler-colonialist only make sense if one ignores Jewish ancestral claims to Israel, which requires ignoring some 3500 years of history.  But listen to an “anti-Zionist no antisemite” for five minutes and you start seeing how much they have in common with the folks who say “I am not a racist, but…”

The film is available for streaming.

From The Times of Israel:

‘Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations’ looks at how hatred of Jews is treated, and spreads, like a virulent disease, and at how humanity can hope to combat it

27 May 2020

J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA — Any person who follows the news knows that anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world. As it has spread, so has our insight that this is a hatred with many faces, a many-headed monster fed by myths about Jews that will not die.

Its more violent manifestations — defacements of Jewish cemeteries, street attacks, armed assaults on Jewish institutions — are often referred to as “outbreaks,” as if anti-Semitism were a disease. Indeed, the phrase “virulent anti-Semitism” is often used to describe the manifold expressions of that ideology. And as with a contagious disease, humanity must marshal all its informational resources to have any hope of defeating it.

That is the concept of “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations,” a probing new documentary making its television premiere May 26 on PBS.

“Our thought was that much of anti-Semitism spreads on the internet — it goes viral, in that sense,” director-producer Andrew Goldberg told J. recently. “But illness as a metaphor for anti-Semitism has been used for a long time.”

The film, which was in theaters briefly in February, opens with a black-and-white animation of what looks to be virus cell activity under a microscope.

“It started long ago … with a lie about the Jew,” the voiceover by actress Julianna Margulies explains. “The lie said the Jew was evil … conspiring … the enemy of God. The lie evolved and spread like a virus … and still does. Many don’t know they’re infected. Others don’t care. Some define themselves by it. The virus has endured for so long and spread so far because of its power to adapt and deceive. Of its thousands of mutations, this is the story of four.”

The film then launches into the first of four segments, looking at the American strain. In Pittsburgh, Goldberg examines the significance of the assault on the Tree of Life synagogue, then heads to North Carolina, where he engages with Russell Walker, an open racist and anti-Semite who got 37% of his district’s vote when he ran for the state House of Representatives in 2018.

Other segments examine state-sponsored anti-Semitism in Hungary under the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban; the rise of anti-Semitism in England within the leftist Labour Party under past leader Jeremy Corbyn; and beliefs about Jews among some North African immigrants in France. In the latter case, those beliefs have conjoined with growing disaffection with global capitalism among the French Left, resulting in an atmosphere harshly inhospitable to French Jews.

Goldberg travels to each of these locales to interview victims, witnesses, anti-Semites and experts — with his low-key, seemingly neutral style eliciting inside knowledge, alarm and, sometimes, acute pain.

A number of commentators are called upon to add information and perspective. This list includes former President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, and journalists Fareed Zakaria, George Will and Yair Rosenberg of Tablet.

“Anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory,” Lipstadt says of the penchant for anti-Semites to blame Jews for just about everything based on “the notion that there are forces more powerful than you.”

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One Response to “Anti-Semitism examined as a social virus in new PBS documentary”

  1. Charlie Says:

    I remember some sociology professor years ago coming out and saying that bigotry should be classified as mental illness, because people are so engulfed in these ideas that distorts their views on reality and thus are unable to function properly in society.
    I remember a line from «A time to kill», in the movie, that always stuck with me and remains in the back of mind, especially since Trump became president. “What, people think that just because the Klan hasn’t met for a few years, they think we’re dead?” People today so shocked that so many have these bigotries. Someone I know explained it to me this way, “We’ve just learned to keep our opinions to ourselves in mixed company.” If these bigotries are viruses, they’ve laid dormant for years, and now conditions are just right for them to revive.

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