The politics of fear is written in code words. Break the code, and fear is revealed in all its paranoid splendor.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Judy didn’t bother embroidering his language when speaking before a no-I-594 gathering in Silverdale on July 23. There’s value yakking to true believers: You can ditch the focus-grouped rhetoric and go straight to the madman tropes.
In a recording posted on the website “Horse’s Ass,” Judy — who, along with the NRA, hasn’t disavowed or denied the comments — condescends that “these people” (Jews) such as entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, a key financial backer of I-594, should know better than to support universal background checks for purchasing a firearm.
“That these people, its like any Jewish people I meet who are anti-gun, I think, ‘Are you serious? Do you not remember what happened?’”(read: the Holocaust.) Judy said. “And why did that happen? Because they registered guns and then they took them. And now you’re supporting gun con (sic)– you come to this country and you support gun control? Why did you have to flee to this country in the first place?”
As the website’s founder, David Goldstein writes, “To dismiss Judy’s comments as merely clumsy or insensitive, you’d have to ignore the contortions he went through to weave Hanauer’s Jewishness into the narrative. So who is backing I-594? Wealthy Jews, Judy warns the room!”
Fear, like the misuses of history, works. Paranoid politics feeds the lesser angels. It’s only by throwing light that we understand the nature of the fear.
“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents,” Eric Hoffer wrote in his masterpiece, “The True Believer.” “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”
Historian Richard Hofstadter documented the paranoid style of American politics more than 50 years ago. Just substitute “treason” for an opponent’s behavior and people respond.
On Tuesday morning, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the site of a mass shooting eight years ago, held a press conference demanding that Judy resign. Participants included state Rep. Reuven Carlyle.
“Mr. Judy asks of Jews, ‘Do you not remember what happened?’” Carlyle said earlier. “Judy fails to see that this is the most offensive rhetorical question that can be asked of any Jew worldwide and it transcends politics of time, partisanship and nations.”
And with that, silence.