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The whitewashing of anti-semitism needs to be addressed

September 14, 2022

Recently, President Joe Biden delivered a fiery speech that shocked Americans nationwide. In this Philadelphia address, Biden seemed to embrace that, to some, he was the villain; the antichrist America needed saving from.

In the speech, Biden denounced the divisive words and actions of the “radical” and “MAGA” Republicans, while restating that a unified America was the only way to tackle the issues our country faces head-on.

Unsurprisingly, the “radical” and “MAGA” conservatives that heard this were not pleased. One of these conservatives was Georgia’s 14th district representative, Marjorie Taylor Greene. She has a long history of spouting conspiratory right-wing theories, often leaning into anti-black, anti-trans, and especially anti-semitic dogwhistles.

But her recent statement about Biden’s speech wasn’t a dogwhistle. It was a bullhorn.

At 9:17 p.m. on September 1, Greene published the following tweet. The attached clip is an edited piece of Biden’s speech with Nazi imagery pasted in the background, manipulation of Biden’s face to resemble Hitler’s, and overlaying audio of Hitler speaking. 

When I opened the tweet on September 4, I was shocked. Not just at the video, but shocked that it took me so long to see this. That nobody was talking about it or felt the need to report it. Shocked that a sitting member of the House of Representatives published this knowing she would receive minimal backlash for something so egregious.

But what shocked me the most was the sharpness of it. How easily Greene put out a tweet comparing our President to a genocidal ethno-fascist who murdered over a third of all living Jewish people (6 million) and fueled a war that killed tens of millions more. 

My shock spoke to a larger issue that plagues society today, which is the casualness anti-semitism is approached with. In other words, anti-semitism and the oppression of Jewish people, similar to much of non-European history, have been whitewashed; made digestible for the masses. 

Such prevalent whitewashing started, initially, with the Trump presidency. One of the first and most prevalent examples I saw was the “Sein Kampf” cover, depicting Donald Trump as an Americanized-Hitler. At the time, statements such as these weren’t nearly as common, and, in turn, the magazine and its cover caused widespread outrage amongst conservatives (especially those who supported Trump).

But after the shock wore off, the comparisons between Trump and Hitler only grew – especially as Trump ramped up his semi-fascist rhetoric in his 2020 reelection campaign. And over time, people on the left started calling Trump Hitler-like with increasingly less hesitation. In doing so, they softened such a comparison, almost making it the natural rather than the intense statement it was. The comparisons only continued through the Biden presidency as well, with many on the right (such as Greene) comparing him to Hitler as well. 

Yet, through those many years, nobody took time to realize that, by calling Trump or Biden alike to Hitler (outside of some rhetoric), they were being anti-semitic themselves. By taking such a significant portion of Jewish history and only using it as leverage to defame the other party, they themselves were mollifying the true horror of the Hitler regime and Jewish life in it.

But given how deep-rooted anti-semitism has been throughout modern history, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s getting whitewashed. For the same reason some people don’t want slavery or the civil war being taught in school, non-white peoples’ history is only increasingly becoming nothing more than a political utility for most. Instead of instilling the true horror of systems like Nazi oppression and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in the Western world, many would rather only see these issues from the perspective of how they will politically affect society rather than viewing them as essential to a more complete education of our world today.

As such, Representative Greene’s depiction of Biden as Hitler directly represents this catastrophe. Not just because of how inappropriate such a comparison is, but because of how desensitized we have become to such bigotry to begin with.

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