Double Steal

Batya Ungar-Sargon has begun the process of teshuva.

Eric Levitz pretends to, and he does it badly.

Following the series of electoral spankings administered to the Democrats last week, there was a lot of handwringing alternating with head-in-the-sand defiance from liberals and progressives across the board.  Ungar-Sargon and Levitz ostensibly exemplified two approaches from those who believed the liberal program was/is in need of a serious correction; but while Sargon was honest and straightforward in her criticism, Levitz has managed to be simultaneously mealy-mouthed and duplicitous.

Ungar-Sargon—former editor at the Forward, now editor at Newsweek, who personally experienced the antisemitism of her erstwhile progressive allies—has just published “Bad News”, a well-deserved excoriation of her erstwhile colleagues in the news business and their tendency to reflexively parrot and promulgate tenets of hard progressivism without care for real world consequences.   She also pulled no punches in her recent appearance on CNN: when Brian Stelter suggested that “younger, liberal employees” were just trying to create “be a more perfect newsroom, a more perfect union”, Ungar-Sargon pointed out that there is no debate, but rather a “silencing of debate.”

Levitz is a rabid “erase ethnicities!” progressive who proudly touts his “own cliche journey from a paranoid Zionism to support for Palestinian liberation” while providing cover for his antisemite allies. (It’s no accident that Levitz’ BA is in creative writing and his MA is in fiction.)  This week Levitz wrote an ostensible call-out of his side: “When Keeping It ‘Woke’ Gets Racist, Liberals Should Say So”; only he all but excused the movement in general, and even the few miscreants he identified by name he could only label as “accidental racists”.

Beyond that dodge, however, is Levitz’ insistence that:

“…the right used “CRT” to collapse the distinctions between three very different propositions: (1) that public-school curricula shouldn’t elide the centrality of white supremacy to U.S. history, (2) that public policy should proactively redress harms wrought by centuries of racial injustice, and (3) that public-school districts should spend tens of thousands of dollars on equity coaches who promote weird racial stereotypes.

Only it’s not the Right that has done that.  The entire progressive educational program developed by “accidentally racist [] equity coaches who promote weird racial stereotypes” goes back a half-century in mainstream settings: the NEA’s 1973 classroom manual declares “all white individuals are racists. Even if whites are totally free from all conscious racial prejudices, they remain racists, for they receive benefits distributed by a white racist society through its institutions.”

And now?  “The NEA will work to publicize an already-created, in-depth study that critiques white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy … capitalism … and other forms of power and oppression.  We oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.”

The AFT 2021 Conference keynote speaker?

Ibram X Kendi.

Further, Levitz’ sleight-of-hand is actually more worthy of opprobrium than the incessant mewlings from haMaSNBC et al about the Virginia elections that raised an African American woman to the state’s lieutenant governorship for the first time as a sign that “Whiteness remains undefeated”.  At least those progressives are consistent (as consistent as progressive who deem logic “racist” can possibly be).  By pretending that a) there is a difference between the third part of his progressive three point program and the first two; b) that he’s called out the “accidental racists” in the progressive movement; and c) the rest of the movement is kosher, Levitz blurs the line between micturition and precipitation.  Contra Levitz, “Keeping It ‘Woke’” didn’t “get” racist.  It was and is racist—and not “accidentally” so.  Or—at the very least, to paraphrase John McWhorter—“racist lite”.

A few Judaic analogs come to mind here.

One is the midrash about the pig, synonymous with hypocrisy (hyprogrisy?): “the swine, when reclining, puts forth its hooves as if to say, ‘See that I am clean’”.

Another is the distinction Jewish law makes between a robber and a thief, or a  gazlan and a ganav.  The gazlan—or robber—usually comes face-to-face with his victim; the ganav—or thief—operates more clandestinely.

As Rabbi Nachum Rabinovich explains:

“…the main difference between the Ganav and the Gazlan is that the Gazlan uses force, and as a result of this he does not mind doing it openly because he does not need to hide. However, the Ganav, since he does not use force, has to do his deed without being seen – so that he will not be stopped.”

Or, Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald:

As objectionable as the behavior of the gazlan–the mugger—is, at least he is consistent, whereas the ganav is not only a thief, he is a hypocrite, as well.

To a point, the reverse racists of haMaSNBC and the “weird equity coaches” Levitz pretends to call out are gazlanim (who certainly are making out with the riches; maybe Levitz is ultimately just jealous).  Levitz’ cries of “Accidental Racist” just make him the ganav to haMaSNBC’s gazlan.

A final irony might be that Critical Race Theory and its Intersectional cousin are both derived—if not outright stolen—from the theories of the Jewish Marxist Frankfurt School.  At some point one might ask if Levitz and his ilk aren’t so much trying to cover for their progressive fellow travellers as they are trying to steal critical theory back.

Stealing from a thief still makes you a thief.

About the Author
Jon Taub is an ex-Upper West Sider, now-married Riverdalean who has two MA's, plays three instruments, and consults for biostartups.
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