Paul Berman has been one of the most able chroniclers of the excesses of the regressive left, especially with regard to the movement’s ingrained Judeomisia. His 2010 “The Flight of the Intellectuals” in particular should be considered a classic of the genre, alongside other examinations of ostensibly well-meaning backstabbing among professed do-gooders such as Ruth Wisse’s incomparable “The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews”.
Alas, Berman has more recently turned his sights on what he sees as the unvarnished “hatred” engendered by the Age of Trump, and Trump himself. It may have started on Dec. 7, 2015, with “Trump and the Joys of Hatred”; pace the editors: “Paul Berman first published this piece in Tablet on December 7, 2015, two months before a single vote was cast in the Iowa Caucus or the New Hampshire primary. We think you should re-read it.”
Sunday [Jan. 27] Tablet published Berman’s “Two Kinds of Hatred in the Age of Trump”. The “hatred” has come full circle: Berman seems to have adopted several of the modus operandi of the regressive left that he has heretofore so deftly examined and found wanting.
Berman asserts that “the wall will, in fact … be a giant new Confederate statue”. It is a shame that a pundit with Berman’s CV would stoop to the level of a semiliterate starlet [MAGA Red Hats = KKK White Hoods!] to force an analog that Berman himself likely knows fails on several historical and logical levels; then again, eminences such as Niall Ferguson and others have forced a similar flawed analog between Israel’s security barrier and the Berlin wall, proving that an ostensibly high IQ is no barrier to self-inflicted political stupidity. What is a further shame is that Berman gives succor to those who he decries—“people [who] enjoy the Confederate statues”—by adopting their penchant for historical revisionism. (Maybe Berman is more bipartisan than he realizes.)
Berman attempts to make several distinctions between “hatred that rests on the desire for pleasure, and a hatred that does not.” No one would attempt to whitewash [sic?] or otherwise qualify far-right hatred as anything but a “hatred that rests on the desire for pleasure”; even those haters themselves generally don’t attempt to be disingenuous about it. However, when Berman insists that “individual presentations do not add up to a collective expression[;] they do not speak on the public’s behalf…The anti-Trump public speaks scarcely at all, and it takes no pleasure in its own sentiments…they are not enjoying themselves when they mutter those words”—one has to wonder who he’s reading and following. Certainly the new Congresswomen deemed harbingers of a new feminist age who repeatedly issue Judeomisic Tweets; or the persistence of a certain class of pundit to cling to false accusations surrounding the Covington students even after the complete video revealed a different narrative—even just those should be enough to make the assumption that regressive take pleasure in their hatred at least as plausible as Berman’s axiomatic proclamation that “they [don’t] enjoy themselves”. The rampant “psychological ugliness” and “hatred” has been as much a primary feature of regressive #resistance even prior to Trump, and their persistence can truly only indicate that they must love what they do.
Berman’s Sartrean impetus is also telling: Sartre was not quite the paradigmatic anti-anti-Semite. Sartre’s ideological children—starting with, but not limited to, Jean Genet—were implacable enemies of Jews and the forerunner of the most trenchant Judeomisia on the left. Sartre himself disavowed his support for Israel during the 1967 war: “They weren’t supposed to win!!” In fact, by reducing anti Semitism to a pleasurable pathology endemic to haters, Sartre all but hinted that a disappearance of the Jew would solve the problem, that the Jew’s existence was immaterial to the hatred other than as its stimulus. (Then again, John Adams once hoped that all Jews would eventually convert to Unitarianism; but his ideological children have certainly proved to be significantly more Judeophilic.) In reaching for an existentialist angle, Berman instead embraces regressive axioms and tautologies: “the spider, being loathsome, is entirely to blame for the hatred…aroused by something hateful.”
Furthermore, Berman employs a very “psychological[ly] ugl[y]“ and “hat[eful]” tactic endemic to anti-Semites of all stripes—but which has now become as much a regressive leftist trope as much as reactionary right one—when he subtly sneaks in the aforementioned “loathsome spider” in manner reminiscent of tropes employed by eminent progressives, from Ana Navarro’s Twitter to Hank Johnson and Louis Farrakhan‘s entomology lectures.
Berman himself asked recently: “[D]oes the sorry fate of DSA augur…for the Democratic Party? Will the Democrats…get taken over by ideological flash mobs?…The whole spirit of the age favors the Yellow Vests.” Berman should be careful lest he reveal not only having been swept away by the flash mobs, but also sounding like one who is almost at their forefront. Although–as he likely already knows–they will eventually seek his self-erasure as the price of membership; as one committed leftist who might yet realize that “her own side” is worse than “Trump-types” recently lamented: “…when these people see me, Israel, Jews (except their approved Jews, maybe, relishing this potential division from each other?) as uniquely evil and worthy of being pointed out as so, Haman-style—whether we are relevant or not to the issue at hand—I fear that I have no home in the world at large…I fear they don’t want flawed but trying hard me, us—and in fact see us as worthy of more hatred, less deserving of existence, as anyone else in this world.”
*with apologies to Bob Dylan