In what might be the most insane article to emanate from any website not named “Gatewaypundit”, Breitbart has run a story denouncing a Washington Post columnist for being, well, a Jew.
The backstory is this. Anne Appelbaum who writes very informed commentary about Eastern Europe used the current Polish government as a model for what could happen if Donald Trump is elected.
The president’s brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, then the unpopular leader of the parliamentary opposition, seems to have initially believed, as all the evidence has always shown, that the crash was an accident. Then he changed his mind. Perhaps he could not accept that his beloved twin had died randomly, in a pointless crash. Perhaps he was maddened by grief. Perhaps he felt guilty: He had helped plan the trip. Or perhaps, like Donald Trump, he saw that a conspiracy theory could help bring him to power.
Much as Trump used birtherism to inspire his core voters, Kaczynski, in the years that followed, used the Smolensk crash to motivate his supporters, that minority of the Polish population that remains convinced that unnamed secret forces control the country, that the “elite” is manipulated by foreigners and that everything that has happened in the country since 1989 is part of a sinister plot. And it worked. Last year, thanks to flukes of the electoral system, less than 40 percent of the vote — reflecting 18 percent of the adult population — proved sufficient for his nationalist-populist party, Law and Justice, to win a slim parliamentary majority.
Readers familiar with my recent op-eds will know that I am not shy about pointing out Russian plots when I see them. But there is just no evidence of one at Smolensk. Within hours of the crash, Polish forensic experts were on the ground. They immediately obtained the black boxes and transcribed them meticulously. The cockpit tape can be heard online, and it makes the circumstances painfully clear. The president was late; he had planned a live broadcast from Katyn. When Russian air traffic controllers wanted to divert the plane because of heavy fog, he did not agree. The chief of the air force sat in the cockpit during the final minutes of the flight and pushed the pilots to land: “Be bold, you’ll make it,” he told them. According to the official report, written by the country’s top aviation experts, the plane hit a tree, then the ground, and then broke up.
Applebaum portrays the story as a lot more cut and dried than it is. Having said that, the essence of the story is true. Both Poland, who has no reason to kowtow to Russia, and Russia agree it was an accident. The Russians blame the Polish crew. The Poles say crappy Russian air traffic control and the terrible conditions surrounding the airport, i.e. trees allowed to grow much higher than safety regulations permitted, were the main factors. They both are probably right.
Applebaum goes on to blast the current Polish government for how it has used the conspiracy theory to solidify it’s political fortunes.
I realize that there is far more detail here about Poland than most non-Polish readers care to know. But I’m offering it for a reason. Trump, like Kaczynski, pushed a patently false conspiracy theory hard for many years, despite the utter lack of evidence. Last week, he found it expedient to discard that theory, but once he is president, he might find it expedient to adopt it again — or perhaps to push one of the many others he has championed. As president, he can then use the state — the Justice Department, the security bureaucracy, the FBI — to pursue them. A Trump administration could make birtherism the excuse for fake investigations, hearings and even trials that would do terrible and irreversible damage to U.S. politics and the rule of law.
It all sounds unthinkable, of course. But if you’d asked me five years ago, or even one year ago, I would have told you that the transformation of the Smolensk conspiracy theory into state ideology was unthinkable, too. And yet it has come to pass.
We have reason to fear a Trump presidency, but this is bullsh** on toast. As we’ve seen with Obama, a president inclined to inflict damage on U.S. politics, on the rule of law, and on the nation itself does not need a conspiracy theory to do it. In fact, there is a much greater chance of this abuse happening under Hillary Clinton, who has a proven track record of trying to use the force of the federal government to settle scores with her enemies, than under Trump. But this is an opinion piece, right? The operative word being “opinion.”
This is how Breitbart interpreted the piece:
If translated this would have fit perfectly into a pre-Kristallnacht issue of Der Stürmer.
It goes on to accuse Applebaum of using her “global media contacts” to help “construct an anti-democratic global news narrative depicting the new democratically elected Law & Justice government as far right fascists and illiberal anti-democrats.”
Actually, she does none of that. She portrays the leader of the party as a demagogue devoid of principle who has used a national tragedy for political advantage and who has appointed exotically credentialed people to high positions. All of that is fact. It is so obvious that even we Roman Catholics can see it.
The writer, a guy named Matthew Tyrmand who claims to be Jewish, responded
To call this nonsense is to give mere nonsense a bad name. Applebaum’s religion, which according to her is a most secular form of Judaism, has nothing to do with her opinions. On the other hand, her Ivy League background and employment history, not mentioned by the writer, explains a lot. Plus referring to someone as a Jew and mentioning their “global media contacts” doesn’t even qualify as a “dog whistle.” It is more on the order of a foghorn.
If anything good has come out of this election season it is the exposure of the nasty undercurrent of racism and anti-Semitism that has been slithering around the political landscape. Cultivated and inspired by Trump, they are using the cover of fighting political correctness in order to mainstream racism and anti-Semitism into politics. This presents a singular challenge to conservatives. How do we prevent this from happening while, at the same time, confronting the very real threat of political correctness to American political and cultural life?