Jewish anti-Semitism goes back a long way. In the 12th century Benjamin of Tuleda records in his "Travels of Benjamin" animosity towards Jews from the Greeks of Constantinople. Wealthy Jewish merchants explained this to Benjamin by blaming poor, "filthy" Jewish tanners for the problem. It's a classic example of victims ignoring the actual roots of hatred directed at them, and instead focusing their dislike and anger on poorer elements of their own community. Rather than challenge the endemic Christian anti-Semitism, the merchants accept the prejudices, differentiate between themselves and other Jews, and indulge in their own Jewish anti-Semitism.
This can neatly be summarised some 700 years later by the Austrian Jewish writer Max Nordau. He wrote in 1896 "It is the greatest triumph of anti-Semitism that is has brought the Jews to view themselves with anti-Semitic eyes."
The concept gained widespread modern recognition after the publication in 1930 of the book Der Jüdische Selbsthass ("Jewish Self-hatred") by German Jew Theodor Lessing. He explained in his book the phenomenon of intellectual Jews who regarded Judaism as a source of evil in the world, and who incited physical anti-Semitism against other Jews.
Another example of the phenomenon struck me reading the diaries of Professor Victor Klemperer. Klemperer, from Dresden, wrote the only complete set of diaries of a German Jew during the Third Reich. In an entry of 10 January 1939, Klemperer brings up and actually implicity accepts the Nazi concept of the "Jewish Question". He rejects it explicitly with reference to atheist, assimilated Jews such as himself, but acknowledges there is an issue with the Yiddish speaking "Ostjuden" or Jews who have immigrated from Eastern Europe. That he should accept this anti-Semitic Nazi concept on any level, having suffered at their hands, just months before the beginning of WW2, is extraordinary.
One of the leading experts on this phenomenon is Kenneth Levin, clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. I understand the basic idea is that the victimised accept on some level the attacks of, and develop empathy with, their abusers. This may be a manifestation of chronic low self-esteem: you are in effect accepting that you deserve to be attacked.
"Bigotry and Big Noses"
To me, there is absolutely no question that Jews can mock, dislike, or even actively hate and wish harm on other Jews as a category. Taking a step back, this is no more exceptional than suggesting human beings can hate other human beings. Just because you belong to any group does not mean you like, defend or feel empathy towards the other members of it.
Some would disagree and get really quite agitated about this logic. Look at these recent outbursts from Milo Yiannopoulos (aka @Nero, the founder of the troubled technology/gossip magazine The Kernel):
It's a bit "loopy" to suggest a Jew can be anti-Semitic
Again the excuse "I'm Jewish" so can't be anti-Semitic
It's "mental" to say a Jew can be anti-Semitic
Also, in his favour, it should be explained that Milo isn't the happiest little soul at the moment. The background to these tweets is that he is reacting very aggressively to a piece written about him and posted by Max Dunbar which Milo claims is libelous. The post sets out offensive, threatening emails allegedly sent by Milo to a writer at the Kernel who wasn't paid. It mentions his non-payment of bills to other writers at the magazine, which is a recurring theme the Guardian has picked up on. A lot of journalists and photographers are extremely unhappy about the Kernel's apparent repeated refusal to pay its contributors. An award of over £16,000 was made just yesterday by a tribunal, for example, to the journalist Jason Hesse against Sentinel Media Limited t/a Kernel Magazine. If unpaid, enforcement action could include a winding up petition against Sentinel and depending on his actions, personal liability on behalf of its sole director, Milo.
Despite all this, what seems to have upset Milo the most in the post is the comment "He doesn’t like lesbians, very much it seems. Then we might take his view on Jews." There follows a link to this thread of tweets:
Jews' characteristics include "bigotry and big noses". Is this an offensive, stereotypical and (extremely unoriginal) anti-Semitic comment? In my opinion it is. Milo states his faith as Roman Catholic elsewhere, but during this exchange he has repeatedly said that he is a Jew. This is presumably by virtue of birth. As we have seen, he claims this prima facie entirely anti-Semitic tweet cannot be so, simply because the author is Jewish. Plenty would disagree.
Like any other form of prejudice, Jewish anti-Semitism can be subtle and one-off (I'm sure Professor Klemperer would not have categorised himself as anti-Semitic), or it can be overt and repeated. One anti-Semitic comment obviously does not however make someone an anti-Semite. Despite Milo's repeat attempts to characterise it as otherwise, the post on Max Dunbar's did not actually say that, and simply pulled him up on this one mocking anti-Jewish comment.
Iron Crosses and Hitler Biographies
The Iron Cross dates back to 1813. It is a Prussian medal first awarded by King Frederick William III during the Napoleonic Wars. It was reintroduced during three wars of German aggression: the Franco-Prussian war, the First World War and finally by a Reich decree on 1 September 1939. This was the very day that Nazi forces invaded Poland, that the subjugation of the people of Eastern Europe began, and the foundation stones for the genocide of the Jewish people were laid.
|Iron Cross Decree: 1 September 1939|
The Iron Cross is the very embodiment of German militarism, and for many people they think of it as one of the core symbols of the Nazi period. Hitler himself was awarded the Iron Cross, Classes 1 and 2.
Therefore the Iron Cross is perhaps not the type of thing you'd expect to see most young Jews embracing and wearing. Nonetheless, above is an interesting shot of 22 year old Milo Wagner (as Yiannopoulos was then calling himself) wearing one during the summer of 2006. It's from a publicly available Flickr account (see postscript) in a set called "Me". Is it actually Milo? Well yes of course it is. Here's a head shot this time, with the same shirt and the earphones.
Anyone would think he'd be ashamed to be identified with this symbol of German and Nazi Third Reich militarism and that's why he cropped his head from the photo. Now, if we scroll back past four pictures of Milo posing in some public toilets (entitled "Railway Toilets I, II, III, IV") on the same photo stream, we come to this picture of some Hitler biographies:
The Kershaw biographies are standard reads for students of the Third Reich. I'm glad Milo is looking through them: they are an excellent study into what an evil philosophy Nazism was. He may even have educated himself on the Reich decree of 1 September 1939 and what the Iron Cross represents.
Given there are just 30 pictures in this photo stream, mainly of Milo's face, I'm genuinely not sure what exactly he is trying to say by assembling the images of the Iron Cross and the Hitler biographies together. Oh, and are those actually Milo's hands? Well judging by the ring it certainly looks like a match. The photo below is taken from the same photo stream by Milo Wagner entitled "Me":
|Same type of ring, same finger, similar hands.|
UPDATE: This image has just come to light that was reposted by Milo (top left) in 2009.
If this were Twitter, one could defensively claim that "RTs aren't endorsements". Whether one's employers, for example, would see it like that is a different matter of course.
If you'd like an explanation of Popjam ("Ever get bored of endlessly surfing around the net, looking for LOLs") just click here. The short little piece is by none other than Milo Yiannopoulos. It was written before the Telegraph parted company with him, following the posting of the image.
If you look at the bottom of the image there is a LOL button. At the top you can see it was reposted by Milo. Milo claims that he flagged it as inappropriate. He says that it is "misrepresenting" he actions to suggest otherwise.
How odd, then, that this search (scroll down to "In yo' face!" which is the name of the post) shows that he in fact did no such thing. It was in fact LOLd by him (twice). Perhaps his memory doesn't serve him well. That would be strange, given that the image caused such difficulties for him and his journalistic career.
Homosexuality is Wrong
I've known plenty of gays who suffer from low self-esteem. It can manifest itself in destructive behaviour, addiction and sometimes an active dislike of other gay men. You hear jokes where gay men call each other "poofs", "queers" and use the third person feminine to mock someone ("What's she up to tonight?" when referring to another gay man etc).
Another group of gays belong to the "straight acting" category, who dislike anyone who acts "camply" and is too effeminate for the way they think people should behave. Their homophobia towards such people is as strong and vicious as anything I have ever heard from a straight person.
The reason I set out the material on anti-Semitic Jews at the beginning of this post is two-fold. It counters the argument that a Jew cannot ever be guilty of making anti-Semitic comments. Of course they can. But it also is interesting to draw parallels with other forms of dislike of a group you belong to, because the psychology is so similar.
Using Levin's analysis, homophobia by gay people must be the very same pattern of acceptance and internalising of prejudice from abusers. The abused then apply this to themselves and to members of their own group. To alter Nordau's quote, is it perhaps the greatest triumph of homophobia that it has brought gays to view themselves with homophobic eyes?
Milo is gay. Let's look at some of his thoughts on the subject taken from his public blog:
"The thought that I might influence my child towards a lifestyle choice guaranteed to bring them pain and unhappiness – however remote that chance may be – is horrifying to me."
"I’d describe myself as 90-95% gay. I would never have chosen to be this way. No one would choose it. You’d have to be mad. "
"No one would choose to have a gay child rather than a straight one. It would be like wishing that they were born disabled – not just because homosexuality is aberrant, but because that child will suffer unnecessarily. Again, you’d have to be mad. Or evil. "
"Is being homosexual “wrong”? Something somewhere inside of me says Yes."
"The feelings of alienation and rejection [growing up gay] engenders are responsible for the sorts of repugnant tribal posturing you see on the streets of Soho on a Friday night, as bitterly unhappy queers engage in degrading and repulsive behaviour, simply because they want to feel a part of something after a lifetime of marginalisation."
"All these preening poofs in public life do is make life more difficult for regular young gay people by reinforcing the stereotypes about gay behaviour: reminding a struggling child’s myopic dad that queers are uppity, in-your-face, camp-as-tits faggots who’ll rape you as soon as look at you."
"I don’t hate myself and I don’t hate my sexuality. (Granted, I have a complicated relationship with the latter.) Nor do I hate other gay men. (Where would fat girls be without them?)"
|Milo posing: "Railway Toilets III"|
Are the above comments homophobic? If a straight person called me a "bitterly unhappy queer", a "preening poof" or "a camp as tits faggot" I'd say this was the very definition of homophobic abuse and hate language. This poisonous bile actually makes me feel a bit sick. Milo's post led me to write my own blog post a while back on why I would actually, genuinely choose to be gay.
Dislike of lesbians is another expression of gay homophobia and prejudice: this might not be strictly speaking because of self-hatred, but it is certainly a noticeable and unpleasant characteristic of more than a few gay men. Here's a selection of tweets that show our friend Milo spewing out repeated homophobia directed at lesbians:
The one that pretty much seems to sum up Milo's views is the typically articulate one below. It is a response to a series of portraits of trans* men. There is actually nothing to suggest they are lesbian, so Milo gets a tick for transphobia too whilst we are at it:
A Media-Hungry Influencer
Does it matter that anyone who is apparently so deeply unhappy with his own life should use their self-proclaimed "semi public position" to put this stuff on homosexuality into the public arena?
I rather think it does. Milo controls an online magazine. He is a angry opponent of marriage equality and is not shy of getting himself quoted to show that some gay people are opposed to the move. In a similar vein, he also somehow managed to convince Channel 4 News that because he was opposed to the LGBT friendly Catholic Soho Masses this represented a split in gay Catholic opinion.
When a prominent evangelical pastor declares his support for same-sex relationships this is inherently more newsworthy and of interest than a gay campaigner saying he supports them. Similarly when a gay man goes out into the media and attacks the attempts of his community to achieve equal treatment, it is seized upon as representing something much more than the self-loathing tendencies of one individual.
Like it or not (I do not), Milo is an influencer and not just on Twitter. For how much longer he remains so is anyone's question, of course, given his publication's financial troubles and his general standing amongst the journalist community. There are times when you can't help but feel a lot of pity for him - and then you read his comments about "fat girls", "preening poofs" or Jews being "bigoted and having big noses" and you change your mind.
Get Out of Jail Card
What is clear is that just because you're a member of any given group or groups, you are not immune from indulging in bigotry towards those groups. However, do you warrant a "Get out of Jail Card" if you choose to express these prejudices?
In my opinion you do not. Anti-semitism, homophobia, sexism and racism are all accepted by most people (and by the law) as being objectionable and wrong. Milo's excuse for his anti-lesbian comments is that he is gay. Does that make them any less nasty or unpleasant for a lesbian reader of the comments? No: in fact you could say that it makes the culpability worse. He apparently has experienced pain and unhappiness as a result of being gay, yet he's happy repeatedly to turn his hatred on other gay people in a public forum.
A Wider Phenomenon
I feel sorry for Milo. It can't be pleasant carrying all this round with you. He is just an easily referenced example for a much wider phenomenon though. It's important to get that there's nothing self-contradictory at all about a Jew mocking other Jews, or for a gay to be deeply homophobic. The question is whether we dismiss it, or reflect on it, and point it out to those engaging in it.
I gave Milo the opportunity of confirming or denying whether the photo stream (including the image of him wearing the Iron Cross and with the Hitler biographies) was his. He neither expressly confirmed nor denied it, but within an hour the Flickr account had been deleted, having been inactive for over six years.
The name Milo Wagner with the word [deleted] behind the account still appears on comments he previously left on Flickr, however. Here's one left on a photo posted by David Haywood Smith. He happens to be Milo's business associate at the Kernel.
|One screenshot of the (now) deleted Milo Wagner account|