Dennis Prager is a right-wing bloviator and the founder of Prager “University,” which is about as much of a university as it is a pastrami sandwich. He has many terrible opinions, which he expresses in newspaper columns and brief videos, on such topics as gay marriage (he’s against it), the environment (he’s against it), free school lunches (he’s against them), and the alleged “Islamicization of America” (he’s guess what? against it).
He also has opinions on the burning question of our age: who would be most likely to hide Jews from the authorities “in the event of a Nazi-like outbreak.”
Setting aside the fact that we’re already in the middle of a “Nazi-like outbreak,” let’s consider his, er, argument.
In an exceedingly rambling column, he declares that the clods who get into fights when someone asks them to wear a mask at the Piggly WIggly would be the most likely to hide a Jew or two.
You see, the people who do wear masks are a bunch of dumb conformists.
We have seen herdlike behavior and an unquestioning obedience to authority that few expected to witness in previously free countries such as the English-speaking ones. Worse, we have seen unquestioning obedience to irrational authority.
The hypothetically heroic citizens who would hide Jews? FIrst: Polish priests and nuns, because a couple of sociologists who wrote a book about altruism once told Prager that’s who they would turn to in case of Nazis. (It’s not clear why Prager assumes that Catholic clergy are anti-maskers, because I could swear that I’ve seen pictures of priests in masks).
Second: the “eccentric,” because someone said so in a book Prager read forty years ago. I would provide you a link to the book, but Prager’s citation is a little on the vague side.
Another study of rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust offered four characteristics of rescuers. I read this book about 40 years ago and I do not remember the name of the book or three of the four characteristics.
No, I didn’t make that up. That’s his “citation” for the study. He continues:
According to this study, individuals who were considered “eccentric” prior to the war were disproportionately represented among those who hid Jews.
Now, why would that be? …
The answer is obvious: Eccentrics are, by definition, people who march to the beat of their own drummer, who are nonconformists, and who don’t seek social approval.
That should give us some major insights into who would save Jews — or any other group targeted for death (such as landowners in communist countries) — if our society were taken over by Nazis or communists.
So, QED, ani-maskers would hide Jews because they’e eccentrics who “don’t seek social approval.” At least that’s what he implies without saying outright — perhaps because he has no evidence that anti-maskers are more eccentric than the masked.
But I’ll give him that one: antimaskers do seem to trend eccentric.
Anyhoo, that’s pretty much his argument: Anti-maskers would be more likely to rescue Jews because they’re priests and/or eccentrics.
There are, you may be shocked to discover, some much more plausible reasons why the masked and vaccinated would be more likely to hide Jews than anti-maskers.
One: An actual study that I can link to found that “Americans with authoritarian tendencies are less inclined to wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” as a PsyPost article summarizing the study proclaimed. These were people more likely to answer “yes” to questions like:
Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.
The only way our country can get through the crisis ahead is to get back to our traditional values, put some tough leader in power, and silence the troublemakers spreading bad ideas.
So the people who agree with these sentiments are the free-thinking eccentrics who will save us all from the authoritarian regime they … actually would rather like to have running the country?
Two: The anti-mask/anti-vaxx movement is absolutely riddled with antisemites. It’s not hard to find evidence of this; no mysterious 40-year-old books are involved. On Coda Story, Erica Hellerstein writes about the
growth of antisemitic vaccine conspiracies, which are popping up everywhere from Neo-Nazi websites to Covid-19-skeptic communities. …
The conspiracies now doing the rounds draw on well-worn themes and typically originate in neo-Nazi and far-right circles: A cabal of powerful Jews engineered the vaccine to control the global population; Zionists, the Rothschilds or George Soros masterminded the pandemic in order to establish a New World Order; longtime vaccine advocate Bill Gates is a secret “Jewish aristocrat;” the coronavirus is a Zionist bioweapon; the vaccine is part of a Jewish plot to sterilize the white race.
[H]ate groups appear to be exploiting that common ground to amplify the world’s oldest conspiracy theory — “The Jews are behind it all” — within online communities that may not have previously held ethno-religious prejudice as an organizing principle.
None of this is new. According to historian Mathias Berek, antisemitism has been a central part of anti-vaccine movements since the late nineteenth century. As he recently told an interviewer,
If we look at the anti-vaccination movement in the 19th century and the situation today, we can see that the arguments put forward by vaccine criticism have changed little since 1874 and that antisemitism remains a constant.
But, Berek notes, not all antisemites blame the Jews for the vaccine directly; instead they try to steal the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust as their own.
Some will speak approvingly of the mass murder of Jews in private chats, while others deny the Shoah. Mostly, however, they use the memory of the Shoah for their own purposes. Unlike earlier, they no longer claim that Jews are to blame for vaccine injury. Instead, they say that they are themselves Jews in order to usurp the ultimate victim status. We have seen this at demonstrations: People wearing yellow Stars of David with “ungeimpft” (unvaccinated) written on them or comparing themselves with Anne Frank. This constitutes secondary antisemitism as it represents an obscene trivialization of the suffering of Jewish people. It insinuates that the Nazis only obliged the Jewish population to wear masks and imposed some contact restrictions on them.
And then there are the memes:
Yeah, I don’t think the people who put these memes together — or who spread them around — are going to be doing anything to help the Jews. Sorry, Dennis Prager, you’re living in a fantasyland.
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