(UPDATE: Since this column was first published, Vice.com released a trove of clips from Tucker Carlson’s interview which never made it to air, and it’s added a significant wrinkle to developments. For more on that, read the subsequent column to this one, The Shomer: Kanye’s Antisemitic Rants Are Unhinged, But Tucker Carlson’s Editing is Unconscionable)
Yesterday, Oct. 10, would have been Daniel Pearl’s 59th birthday.
Daniel was the Chief of the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia Bureau. In January of 2002, en route to an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani in downtown Karachi, Pakistan, he was abducted by several Jihadist groups working in concert. Daniel was working on a story about the infamous “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, and his connection to Ali Gilani’s training camps.
His captors sent demands to the United States, including the release of Pakistani terrorists and the shimpent of F-16s to the Pakistani government. While the U.S. intelligence community attempted to track down Daniel’s location, time ran out. Daniel was murdered horrifically, in a brutal, slow beheading that was video taped and later released on Feb. 21, 2002, titled The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl. I saw that video, and it has been forever burned into my memory. In it, Daniel was forced to first identify himself and his family as Zionists, and then, under clear duress, castigate American policies for the record.
Daniel Pearl was a Jew.
Also yesterday, in yet another bizarre display of unhinged lunacy, Kanye West — a.k.a. “Ye” — capped a week-long campaign of disturbing, public antisemitism and white supremacy, starting with his appearance at Paris Fashion Week sporting a “White Lives Matter” shirt, hip-to-hip with Candace Owens in the same garb.
Rapper/Producer Sean “P. Diddy” Combs reportedly texted Ye, taking him to task for the garish display, designed purely to “troll” the Black Lives Matter movement – started in 2013, but really taking hold of public consciousness in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
Later that evening, Ye appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to defend his clothing line, attack Lizzo and his ex-wife, and then claim that P. Diddy was under the “influence” of Jewish people. He later shared an Instagram post of the alleged text thread between him and P. Diddy, saying, “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me. I told you this was war.”
Instagram deleted the post for violation of its community guidelines, and then restricted Ye’s IG account. And then, late that night Ye took to twitter to really dial it up, saying, “…when I wake up, I’m going death con 3 (sic) on JEWISH PEOPLE…”
The morning of what would have been Daniel Pearl’s 59th birthday, I woke up to see the conflagration raging across Twitter in response to Ye’s rant. The timing of these two events — as disparate as they were in terms of time, place, and historical relevance — is not just coincidental. What they do represent is a far greater and more insidious pattern of activity that has only increased in frequency, velocity and tenor over the last 20 years.
Antisemitism has been referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” by many historians and political scientists over the years. As public attitude towards Jews goes, they say, so to does the march into Fascism. The shocking, horrific murder of Daniel Pearl was an isolated event in its time. Though violence against Jews in the Middle East was nothing new, the fact that this was an American journalist just doing his job was a unique wrinkle. The monstrous manner in which it took place and the widespread shockwave it ignited was met with appropriate horror by the general public.
But that was then. Today, the Overton Window as it applies to antisemitism has been dragged ever further away from anything approaching middle-ground. The ubiquity of antisemitic rhetoric infests all corners of the political spectrum and has become omnipresent in the so-called “marketplace of ideas” social media is supposed to represent. It’s literally everywhere, and it’s inescapable.
It’s hard to say exactly what Ye meant with his antisemitic tweet. Did Ye, as an artist whose career has been built on his specific choice of language in music, intend it to be a play on words —morphing the U.S. defense taxonomy for defensive readiness known as “Defcon” — into an implied death threat? Then again, the nuance arguably doesn’t matter, because the intent was clear that he holds the worldwide community of Jews responsible for perceived slights against him, regardless.
There are fewer than 15 million Jews on this planet. Ye alone has more than 30 million followers of his social media accounts. Many seem apt to simply shrug it off, “oh Ye’s just looking for relevance, he’s drumming up business for his clothing line with controversy, he’s mentally ill, no one should pay any attention, etc.”
And while those things may all be true, that doesn’t change the very real impact of his very public, Jew-hating statements. That impact is far-reaching and it is very dangerous to Jews across the country and the world. Because it’s one more step towards normalizing this behavior. It’s one more notch of the Overton Window pushed to a place where Jew-hatred is again met with shrugs and nonchalance as more people feel emboldened to embrace the age-old conspiracies and tropes that have made antisemitism the oldest “hate” on Earth.
Antisemitism is alive and thriving in this world in a way it hasn’t been since 6 million of us were systematically murdered in the Holocaust.
And the only way we stop it is with your help.