Today, I received an ugly chain letter, a bit of which I’d like to share with you if you have a moment.
You have seen this sort before, I’m sure: A bold font rant, breathlessly passing along some heretofore unknown conspiracy, a call to action against the pawns of Satan, or whatever. You are instructed to forward it to everyone you know. Naturally.
This particular chain letter wasn’t much different from every other I’ve ever seen, having a sentimental story, lots of spelling errors, wistfulness about the “good ol’ days”, containing sentiments suggesting that, while it isn’t nice to single people out, one must be determined to get to the bottom of some terrible problem once and for all even if it means taking extreme measures for God himself is on our side… and so on and so forth. It did not, to my recollection, include a picture of puppies or animated flowers, the standard flourish.
Whom Should We Hate Now
I have the impression that people in the West think they have thoroughly beaten anti-Semitism. True, it isn’t considered acceptable behavior to anyone I know to make conspiratorial claims about how Jews eat children or use Christian blood for matzo bread. But anti-Semitism does seem to have again become earnestly fashionable among patriots and good Christians everywhere. The new fashion, however, is not to accuse the Semites of the Bible, but another Semitic group:
I walked down the street in Barcelona , and suddenly discovered a terrible truth – Europe died in Auschwitz . We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world…
I don’t want to quote the lengthy and hysterical rant. If you wait long enough, you’ll get to read it yourself. One of your dear friends or relatives is bound to send it to you. Look for a subject line like, “you must read this!” The author of the chain letter rambles about European tolerance and Muslim stupidity, beautiful Spanish cities “full of filth and crime”, he says , and the Islamic religious extremism set to destroy those cities. Quite graphic.
It didn’t take a lot of effort to find what is likely the original, unabridged template. A bland, right-wing periodical called “Gentiuno” published a short editorial 1 in 2004 written by a fellow named Sebastián Vivar Rodríguez 2, entitled Europa murió en Auschwitz. I say “editorial”, though frankly, it reads like it was scribbled by a child. This considerably shorter original begins with no less hyperbole than the abridged chain letter, like a confession made on behalf of someone else:
Caminaba por la Rambla del Raval (Barcelona) y lo vi claro: “La verdad no se casa con nadie” (refrán español) Nosotros asesinamos a 6 millones de judíos, para acabar importando 20 millones de musulmanes por lo común integristas. ¿Qué no es posible generalizar? Bien, en vista de como nos han ido las cosas yo creo que sí se puede generalizar. ¿Qué si hay excepciones? De acuerdo… pero son excepciones.
Walking along the Rambla del Raval (Barcelona) and I saw it clearly: “The truth is not married to anyone” (Spanish proverb) we killed 6 million Jews, only to import 20 million Muslims usually fundamentalists. What is not possible to generalize? Well, as we view things as they’ve have gone, I think it could be generalized. What if there exceptions? Okay…but they are exceptions.
The naive-sounding earnestness of the opening is not a new twist. While this is the rhetorical opposite of The Shoe Thrower’s Index 3 which I criticized in Predicting Revolution, After the Fact 4, it is nevertheless just as factually incoherent. He admits, maybe on behalf of someone else’s bad conscience (or his own?), the disgust he nevertheless barely hides while wishing he could substitute the death of “20 million Muslims” for the return of “6 million Jews”. In the original editorial, Rodríguez concludes without a hint of irony:
Hemos cambiado a la cultura, por el fanatismo la capacidad de crear riqueza, por la voluntad de destruirla . A la inteligencia, por la superstición.
We changed the culture with its fanaticism, the ability to create wealth by the will to destroy. The intelligence, superstition.
That old pretext once used by fanatical, superstitious Christians and fascistic regimes for destruction — I am talking about the pretext of “Jewish usury” — becomes in the Rodríguez’s world a great Western virtue called “Commercial Credit”, the very basis of Capitalism and something for which he affects sentiment. You can practically hear him wishing aloud that he could go back on behalf of all Europeans to do it all over again. Also in the original editorial, Rodríguez attempts to point out the lack of rationale behind Islam, but fails to see the similar lack of rationale or the cost of Christian fanaticism or see the centuries of death and destruction which preceded his own generation. He can justify his own irrationality with enough assurance and forgetfulness to allow him to sleep, I suppose.
Who is not doing their fair share?
Rumors are characterized by lurid and speculative elaboration unbothered by reflection or analysis. It isn’t enough, it seems, to copy and paste badly translated and paraphrased editorial written by half-wits. You might understand why it would become so popular. A good rumor and obsessive bigotry requires ready and encyclopedic propaganda with lists and argument and glib comparison and, most importantly, easy justification.
With little thought to how few Spaniards 5 have received a Nobel prize or, for that matter, Lutherans or Catholics, its lists are proffered in an attempt to demonstrate how wonderful by simple-minded Nobel metric the Jews are in comparison to Muslims. The letter practically bludgeons you with “look how many Jews have gotten a Nobel prize and how few, the Muslims”. Several long, rambling explanatory paragraphs are devoted to this. Exhausted, I relent. Fine, I get the point: A lot of people with Jewish names received Nobel prizes.
I noted though that the propagandist chose to compare Jews with Muslims, not Arabs, as though the two were the same and as though only religious affiliations were paramount. I noted also that the letter’s author didn’t seem so interested in comparing Jews and Spaniards or Jews from Yemen with Jews from the old Soviet Union and so on.
As a point of interest, would you like to know that I could find no more than twenty five Spanish Nobel prize winners? Please tell me if there are more; I strive for accuracy. Also, I found only about sixteen Nobel winners specifically identified as “Catholic”; only four “Lutherans”! There may be many more Lutheran Nobel prize winners, but perhaps we should consider castigating, not just Muslims, but the millions of Lutherans for not proportionately pulling their intellectual Nobel prize weight!
Dirty implications and repackaged hypocrisy
This chain letter was forwarded to a group of people whom the sender thought were sympathetic to a certain set of American “values”. That being the case, the denouement, as the letter writer winds up to his big point, was a slap in the face, not just to people of a particular religious persuasion, but to every person who has worked and hoped for better public education, public welfare, and affordable medical systems.
You see, the email author suggests that perhaps Muslims should “consider investing more in standard education” and “less in blaming the Jews for all their problems”. This, hypocritically, even as the American Republican Party – blaming Muslims this time around, not the Jews – works harder than ever to dismantle the public education which would provide that standard education; destroys with physical force, collective bargaining, the very antidote to slave trafficking; actively tries to divert public money toward religious institutions without the wisdom of history that shows us that powerful churches have always sought to destroy and dominate competing churches, not cooperate.
Particularly irritating to me are the ghoulish and barely veiled comparisons made between the supposed thoughts of Jews and what the propagandist imagines are the waking obsession of every Muslim on Earth. He makes a point of saying that Jews don’t brain-wash children in military training camps, don’t teach children to blow themselves up, don’t hijack planes, destroy churches, traffic slaves or call for Jihad and death to infidels.
Indeed, are not all of these historically attributed to various Christian sects through the centuries? Or, can we think of no specifically Jewish rivalries which ended in blood? Most of these are practically recommended in the Bible at least as much as in the Qur’an and Hadiths! Haven’t Christians destroyed churches — who burned Black churches in the American South, if not (fellow) Christians, motivated and energized by Christian doctrine? Who trafficked millions of slaves? Who brain-washes children in quasi-military training camps singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers, fighting as to war!” in order that good Christian children grow up to become good Christian soldiers sent to die for their country, maybe in Muslim lands? The letter writer complains about Jihad, conveniently forgetting (or ignoring) acts of terrorism and random violence motivated or condoned or simply ignored by members of his blessed Church.
Desperately, the letter trotted out the now tired and old, well-known myth:
“…the UK debated…[whether] to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offends’ the Muslim population.”
No, that never happened, of course.
But the author intones stupidly that this is a “frightening portent…[of] the fear that is gripping the world” and “giving in to it.” The fear really is gripping the world, though it does so one brainless chain letter at a time.
- Now only available on archive.org. http://web.archive.org/web/20100908155753/http://www.gentiuno.com/articulo.asp?articulo=1865 ↩
- Also attributed, incorrectly, to Sebastian Villar Rodríguez ↩
- http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/02/daily_chart_arab_unrest_index ↩
- Not really my best piece, but I’d encourage you to read this if for no other reason that you may reassess those lofty opinions of writers on privileged platforms. See Predicting Revolution After the Fact ↩
- The letter states in bold letters at the beginning: “REMEMBER AS YOU READ — IT WAS IN A SPANISH PAPER” ↩