I like to think I can take a joke and find no pleasure in spoiling a good one. That said, I feel strongly (I surprised myself at quite how strongly) that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s “Jewish space laser” conspiracy is about as funny as a blood libel.
Further still, that given its toxic timing and potential for contagion across social media, it is conceivably at least as dangerous. All this being the case, it certainly needs no help from those it targets.
This awful person’s conspiracy-theory is of course driven by evil, while amused Jewish meme-makers and sharers are certainly not. But nevertheless, I find myself almost as disturbed by the impulse to find amusement in and share these memes, as I am disgusted by the grotesque motive that spawned them. From Marjorie Taylor Greene and her likes, I expect nothing but vile hatred, however demented and twisted. But from the sharers on my FB feed — all of whom certainly despise her and her kind as much as I do — I have found the attempts at humour — and apparently even expressions of genuine amusement — accumulatively unnerving.
I haven’t really worked out exactly why these responses have thrown me so off-balance. I generally enjoy satire and gallows humor. I have laughed at certain jokes about some of the darkest chapters in Jewish — and hence human — history. But these “laser-Jew” jokes — or more precisely a Jewish inclination to turn this anti-Semitic poison into a joke — have unsettled me.
Maybe this is because it raises or even dismisses my primal Jewish fear of a future catastrophe rather than mocking the ultimately vanquished perpetrators of those gone by? Or perhaps it is because I worry that too many Jews don’t share my primal fear of how bad things can ever become?
Clearly, many of these responses are attempts at satire; to disarm through ridicule. But in this case — for me at least — even the reliably brilliant Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker gets it wrong. “QAnon fears that Greene’s obsession with Jewish space lasers is distracting her from battling baby-eating cannibals”. Or maybe, on re-reading, he gets it absolutely right, and is directly referencing the accusation of “blood libel”?
Whether this display of humour is driven by denial, fear, underestimation, or some combination of the same; I don’t know. But I think — and viscerally feel — that it is at the very least unhelpful and potentially dangerous, as much for what it reveals as for what it does.
I suppose the bottom line is my belief that history has clearly shown the dangers of dismissing, mocking, and underestimating despicable anti-Semites, assorted racists, populists and fascists, many of whom are truly clownish figures and fun to ridicule — until they’re not.