One of the themes of my essays and blog posting focuses on language, particularly the pernicious effects of unconscious language. I wrote about “the Angel/Retard Dialectic” last November, for example, but both the NYC new wheelchair symbol and yesterday’s piece about gender norming in pre-school focus on unconscious use of language and symbols and the consequences therein.
This morning Jon Heyman, a sports reporter I follow on Twitter, retweeted the following:
Let’s unpack. The language says that if the San Francisco Giants were not so utterly greedy, so greedy that the only way to describe their greed is to call them Jews, the Oakland A’s could have a nice stadium.
This is the old calumny, the calumny still used today in much of America, as a casual way of talking about people too obsessed with money. Last April, a GOP House Majority leader in Oklahoma talked about being ‘Jewed down.’ He did apologize when called on it, saying hey be didn’t mean anything by it, but guesses some people can find these things offensive now, and anyway, some of his best friends are Jewish (warning – Johnson didn’t actually say that last thing).
Heyman is Jewish. Did he read the tweet? Did he think no one would care?
I re-tweeted to both “Ernie” and Heyman. Neither has responded. Ernie, who had a following of a few hundred and a long history of tweeting, has deleted his account (in a panic, I expect). And life goes on.
But as an historian, let me be clear: This language associating Jews with greed is very old, has survived across the centuries, and is NOT harmless.