Fake News

Jews have been dealing with fake news for a very long time. We are all familiar with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Der Stürmer. But even before the the creation of the printing press all kinds of falsehoods were being spread about us and our holy books. You can still find fake Talmud translations that originate from the Middle Ages on various neo-Nazi and Islamo-fascist websites.

The first recorded rebuttal of fake news took place in the famous “Disputation of Barcelona” in 1263 when our guy Moses Ben Nachman, also known by his pro-wrestling name Nachmanides, took the opportunity given by King James of Aragon to set the record straight: “No according to Jewish scriptures the messiah had not arrived and no according to those same scriptures the messiah was not a divine being. Can you please stop burning us at the stake now? Thanks.”

To be a Jew means to be aware of a different narrative. We live, except in Israel, as minorities among people who draw conclusions based on our holy scriptures which from our point of view don’t make much sense. Even if like me you are not religious, you can understand that it’s absurd to claim that a religion based on the premise that God has no human shape or form would culminate in the appearance of exactly such a God-man.

This effect is amplified when you are a Zionist and or the child of Holocaust survivors. After all, the vast majority of Jews concluded from the Holocaust that we needed our own country. This is diametrically opposed to the view of most non-Jewish Europeans who believe the only proper response to Auschwitz is the abandonment of the nation state. I previously wrote about this in The Zionist Challenge.

With such a background it was no great miracle that I became aware of fake news as early as 1989 when as a 16 year old I started reading Amotz Asa-El’s column “Eye on the Media”. This was in the Jerusalem Post International Edition which I picked up at a special kiosk at the train station. There I learned about anti-Israel media bias and the way the news about Israel was being distorted. Sometimes by outright lies but more often by simply keeping crucial information away from the reader or viewer.

In those pre-Internet days the monopoly of the mainstream media was still absolute and finding a source of alternative news was a real eye opener for me. It taught me that even the most authoritative sources, those that everybody around me believed without question, could not be trusted. It was a liberating experience in that it expanded my worldview and allowed me to question everything. But it was also depressing because I was pretty much the only one. Everybody else, except some other Jews, still believed that the news was THE news.

Being the child of Holocaust survivors it was easy to accept my father’s explanation that these journalists were either antisemitic or just plain ignorant. When they reported about other stuff we still assumed they were truthful and objective. We figured it was all about us and only for Israel they made an exception out of ignorance or malice. It was a situation that still could be fixed.

But as they say, what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews. We saw this with terrorism as well. When the buses exploded in Jerusalem the entire world sat back and muttered something about the occupation. But now the explosions are everywhere and the same is true about fake news.

It started to change, or at least became apparent to me, after 9/11 when I noticed that the United States was getting the same raw deal. In the early days of the Iraq invasion a story appeared in the US media that American soldiers were keeping the skulls of dead Iraqi children as trophies. This turned out to be a complete fabrication by a guy who had never been to Iraq. Why did American journalists so willingly believe these malicious claims about their own soldiers? Why didn’t they run a background check? This wasn’t just antisemitism or mere ignorance. This was something else, something bigger.

It’s hard to put your finger on it without sounding paranoid. I believe less in a grand conspiracy and more in form of a generational hysteria.  A tendency of saying things not because they are but because they should be. As in the two state solution should be the solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Even though it’s not and even though it backfires all the time. In a perfect world it would have been the solution but we don’t live in that world. So we have to find a way that works without blowing everything up. The same is true about the economy and all the other issues. At the core of leftist delusion lies the elevation of humanity -or rather Western humanity- as the prime mover of events.

What makes us different, or conservative, is the realization that some events are beyond our control. That we cannot change the world, the economy, the middle east or the climate etc and that therefore we need to accept and adjust. It’s a form of humility, similar to faith in God, that should not be mistaken for apathy. Because we are not powerless. In order to change things you need to work with what is possible. Want a fair economy? You need capitalism to fund it. You want peace between Palestinians and Israeli’s? Then support the most humane side until it wins. We deal in the realm of the possible rather than the desirable. However when it’s about narrative, the desirable makes for a better story than constant admonitions of what is possible and what is not. Which is why the left dominates the media.

Today all news is fake news. There is always a political agenda, you always need to read between the lines and many people do. People all over the world are piecing information together, looking around, connecting the dots and figuring out that things really aren’t the way that the official talking heads say that they are. The leftist mainstream media can dominate the narrative but they can’t change reality. So people are waking up. 

I think the first place where this happened was Israel. The narrative was that the two state solution would bring peace. The reality was very different which meant the end of the left as a viable political force. In Europe the narrative was that for peace and prosperity countries needed to abandon their sovereignty and demographic unity. In reality this leads to the death of the welfare state and a growing unease about Islamization. The result was Brexit with Marine Le Pen waiting in the wings. 

The recent absurd accusations by the Wall Street Journal that Pewdiepie is an anti-Semite forced hundreds of millions of YouTube users into realizing that the main stream media is deceptive for no good reason other than to be malicious. We could go on and on. Benghazi being about a video, Obama’s brilliant diplomacy ridding Syria of chemical weapons and now of course the Russian election hacking scandal which is quickly turning into the Obama surveillance scandal. The constant lying of the mainstream media is starting to backfire bigly

Where this ends nobody knows. It probably won’t end, though I get the sense things are heading towards a climax. There is a real struggle going on between the mainstream media and the Trump administration and neither side is willing to back down. At least the time of picking on little countries is over and it’s up to the big boys now. Go get ‘m Donald.

About the Author
Born in Switzerland in 1973. Raised in Holland, I lived 10 years in Israel where I experienced the collapse of the peace process. J now reside back in Holland. I've published in Trouw and Volkskrant. My parents were Holocaust survivors. They taught me the ideas on which I base my articles.
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