Jews Fear what Follows after Republicans Applauded Marjorie Taylor GreeneRoundup
tags: Republican Party, antisemitism, Marjorie Taylor Greene
Deborah Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, Atlanta.
For a few days last month, in a little corner of the internet where topics of Jewish interest are discussed, Jewish space lasers were trending.
The discussion was prompted by speculation from the newly elected Georgia Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene based on “research” she had conducted, that wildfires in California had been caused by a project to explore “solar generators” tenuously associated with Rothschild, “an international banking firm”. Once that assertion became public, the floodgates opened and cynics, humorists and pundits – the Jewish community is blessed with an abundance of them – took ownership of this meme and began to explore every aspect of the lasers. Were they an appropriate batmitzvah gift? Did people who observe kashrut need separate lasers for dairy and for meat? Was a special one necessary for Passover? If buying in bulk, could they be obtained wholesale?
Of course, the Jewish community is a place where there is always a surfeit of opinions. Not surprisingly, some observers doubted whether this was a matter for humour, arguing that it was not acceptable to laugh at such a dangerous – albeit absurd – claim. They argued that however far-fetched – a word that some pundits claim must have a Yiddish origin – Greene’s assertions might be, they were not a laughing matter.
The doubters were quickly reminded that Jews have developed a fine art of laughing at their sorrows, even while trembling with fear. Surprising though it may be, in Nazi Germany Jews crafted jokes about the horrendous circumstances in which they lived. Consider this classic. Berlin 1938: two Jews were sitting on a park bench reading newspapers. One was engrossed in the Jewish communal paper, while the other occupied himself with the Nazi party’s official paper. The first, seeing his companion’s choice of reading material, expressed amazement that he would read a paper rife with antisemitic propaganda. The second explained that if he read the Jewish newspaper all he would find was news of Jews’ trials and tribulations. But if he read the Nazi paper, he learned that Jews controlled the banks, the media, foreign governments and every other important global institution. One depressed him, while the other made him feel powerful.
But then, just as suddenly as it had gained a foothold on social media, the humour stopped. The abrupt halt to some very clever exchanges came when the Republican caucus refused to punish, criticise or condemn Greene in any fashion. Instead, they gave her a standing ovation. They did so after she told them that she had only been “curious” about some of the ideas she had posted and didn’t really know what space lasers were. Though her explanations beggared the imagination – her space laser post was long and detailed – it was enough for her colleagues.
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