Blood Libel Redux: Demonizing Minorities is Easier Than Ever

Kris Kobach

The term “blood libel” was coined to describe a centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in the baking of Passover matzo (unleavened bread). Blood libels were invented and used to inflame hatred of Jews, and often led to mob violence and pogroms, many of which decimated entire Jewish communities.

Blood libels are a tactic beloved by–but not limited to–anti-Semites. If you want to arouse public passions against any group you detest, such libels–updated for use in a (slightly) more  advanced age– remain useful mechanisms. (Think of all those accusations about black men “deflowering” Southern white women.)

It’s just so easy in the age of the Internet. Find an accusation you like, or a “fact” you can use to support the argument you want to make, and just cut, paste and forward.

And as Ed Brayton documents, elected officials aren’t above employing these tactics.

Kris Kobach, a first-class bigot and liar who chairs Trump’s voter fraud commission, also writes a column for Breitbart.com. Well, he kinda writes it. What he actually does, as Media Matters documents, is cut and paste from chain emails and racists to justify lying about immigrants and crime.

Brayton quotes from Kobach’s recent column, in which he claims that 75 percent of the people on most wanted lists in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Albuquerque are illegal aliens, and that 53 percent of burglaries investigated in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are committed by illegal aliens.

Kobach cites two sources for these claims: one is the INS/FBI Statistical Report on Undocumented Immigrants.” and the other is from a piece by “Peter B. Gemma” for the ConstitutionParty.com. The INS ceased to exist in 2003, after the Department of Homeland Security was created, and Gemma is known as a racist who has worked for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and has been a “part of the American Holocaust denial movement.”

Other manifestations of this sort of targeted dishonesty are less blatant, but they still serve bigotries aimed at disfavored groups. The Gainesville Times recently referred to one of them as “zombies that won’t die.”

A staple of horror movies popular around Halloween is the ubiquitous “monster that won’t die.” Be they zombies, Dracula, Freddy Krueger, killers in hockey masks or Godzilla, the demons of our imagination never succumb to mortal fate, as least as long as another sequel is in the offing.

Sometimes, bad ideas by politicians stalk the innocent wearing the same ghoulish pallor of the undead, springing back to life whenever we think the coast is clear. One such Walking Dead issue is a religious liberty proposal that some think we can’t live with and others believe we can’t live without, and waits in the bushes for another victim.

The Georgia legislature passed such a law in 2016, stating no individual or business would be forced to cater to the needs of others if doing so clashed with their religious beliefs. Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it, much to the chagrin of social conservatives, over fears it would make the state appear unwelcoming to other views and lifestyles, which could deter companies from locating operations and jobs here.

The editorial went on to point out that–contrary to the “zombie” arguments–Americans remain remarkably free to practice their preferred religions, no matter how incensed some may get over “Happy Holidays” greetings and the existence of laws protecting the rights of other people to their beliefs.

LGBTQ citizens aren’t attacking Christianity. (Actually, as my friends in the clergy have pointed out, pseudo “Christians” are doing a great job of that themselves…) Black men aren’t deflowering white women (okay, so maybe Bill Cosby–but so are Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump.) Jews aren’t using the blood of Christian children to make matzo. (If you’ve ever eaten matzo, you’d know it couldn’t contain  liquid of any kind or it wouldn’t be so constipating…)

A central premise of the American legal system is that we treat citizens as individuals, not as members of a group. People who embrace blood libels aren’t just bigots, and they aren’t just ludicrously wrong. They’re unAmerican.

And that most definitely includes Kris Kobach.

 

[Originally published at SheilaKennedy.net on November 10, 2017]

Sheila Kennedy is a former high school English teacher, former lawyer, former Republican, former Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU, former columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and former young person. She is currently an (increasingly cranky) old person, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Director of IUPUI’s Center for Civic Literacy. She writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal, PA Times, and the Indiana Word, and blogs at www.sheilakennedy.net. For those who are interested in more detail, links to an abbreviated CV and academic publications can be found on her blog, along with links to her books..

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