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Whoopi Goldberg’s Harmful Ignorance

Probably everyone knows the general story. I do not know it firsthand, I have never watched “The View,” except for a few times when Hillary Clinton was on, during her campaign. Panelists come and go from there. I knew that Goldberg (her birth name was Caryn Elaine Johnson) had been on the show for a few years. I know that they discuss various things, some political, some social, or lighthearted, from a female perspective. I know that Sharon Osbourne was fired from the show, though I don’t remember exactly why, but there is that precedent.

Goldberg has been a comedian, and then acted in some movies, and since then has been a public figure who comments on various things. I never disliked her, I did not know much about her, though I assumed she was on the liberal side, though sometimes unconventional, she did defend Bill Cosby to some extent.

So there was a discussion on the show, apparently about racism, and about the attempts in some areas to ban “Maus,” a book about anti-semitism, and Goldberg said that the Holocaust was not about racism, “it was about man’s inhumanity to man.” This was disputed by other people on the show, and has caused a furor. Goldberg apologized in a rather tepid way, and then appeared to repeat the essence of what she said, that since the Nazis and the Jewish people were both White, this hatred and murdering was not racially based.

She got suspended for two weeks. Some said it should have been worse, she should have been fired. Some said that she didn’t say anything wrong.

I can only speak for myself here, but I think she should have been suspended for longer. I read today that she is furious at the suspension, and might leave the show; but one never knows whether to believe the stories one reads about somebody’s state of mind. I do think that if she is indeed angry at being suspended, then she is very ignorant, and unwilling to do what the high management person who suspended her, said that she should do, reflect on all of this.

Now this has led to a discussion on whether being Jewish is a matter of race or religion, or both. I do remember my mother wanting to emphasize to me that it is a religion, there is no Jewish race. Both of my parents lived through the era of Nazism and the Holocaust, and of course they abhorred the contention that Jews were somehow of a different race. And we all know of people who have converted to Judaism, including some famous movie stars; and some people who have converted from Judaism to another religion. Even so, many Jewish people have descended from a few thousand years of ancestors who were Jewish, and lived in a specific part of the world.

But the crucial point is that the Nazis saw the Jews as a race, and the Aryans as the master race. They actually described Jewish people as subhuman, the “judenrats” that they drew horrific cartoon pictures of in newspapers, preparing and brainwashing their followers to view them as undeserving of any human empathy, and to be exterminated. Hitler wrote about his goal to annihilate the Jewish race in his book written in the 1920’s This was a major part of Nazism, by no means just some ancillary part.

And they killed six million Jewish people, in ways and methods that one can barely bear to even contemplate. Torture, experiments; and the pace grew faster; until when they realized they would lose the war, they tried to kill as many as they could each day. We will not revisit that here, it is the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of humanity.

The Nazis also killed millions of Slavs and Gypsies, also for racial reasons. This history, apparently completely unknown to Goldberg, makes her comments more than just stupid, but insulting, hurtful, and even worse, because those who believe her, are essentially denying the Holocaust, and the perverse psychology which imbued Nazism.

Now, I will say something which some might disagree with, but I think is important to consider. I think that Goldberg said this in the first place, because she wanted to emphasize her view that the only group that suffered from racism, is Black people. Why would someone go out of their way to claim that the Nazis killing six million Jewish people was not about racial hatred? The progress of this horror went from forcing them to wear stars identifying them; to isolating them in ghettos; to taking them to concentration camps; to making work slaves of them; to killing them. The Nazis meticulously searched for evidence that someone was Jewish. If it was “just about man’s inhumanity to man,” why were they specifically rounding up Jewish people to be mass murdered?

Goldberg then went on the Stephen Colbert show, and said something about how that if a White person who hated Blacks saw her, she would try to get away from him right away; whereas that if a Nazi were out there, he couldn’t tell if someone was Jewish, so apparently it would be less dangerous for them. She said that the Nazis “had to do the work” to find out who was Jewish. She may not have meant it in that way, but it is an awful turn of phrase, like saying someone “has to put in the work” to be successful as an athlete or student.

Here is the significant problem: anti-semitism did not go away after Germany was defeated in World War II. It never goes away. Anti-semitic hate crimes have risen immensely in the last few years. Mostly because of Trump, virulent and dangerous anti-semites feel that they have been given license to say anything they want about Jewish people, and they do, in all the old ways, and even new ones. Maybe Whoopi Goldberg is unaware of that, but it would be pathetic if she were.

And again, whether she meant it or not, her statements would be an argument for removing anti-semitic attacks from the legal definition of “hate crimes,’ since she thinks they are not directed against Jewish people as a race, just examples of general “inhumanity.” And by extension, she would be saying that anti-semitism is not racism. She thinks is is just religious bias? Did the Nazis tell the Jewish people that if they converted, they would leave them alone? No, the opposite; they did everything to try to discover if someone had Jewish parents, and if so, they would kill them as well as their parents, as their goal was to kill every Jewish person in Europe, and they murdered and tortured and experimented on half of them, killing six million of them.

I think that underlying some of this is, “which group has the greater right to victimhood status?” Of course, this would be a dreadful way to look at things. But was Goldberg, consciously or unconsciously, trying to argue that Black people should be the main focus of looking for and combating racism; and that Jewish people don’t need any help because hatred of them is not about race, it is something else; and besides, they can’t be so easily identified by people who hate them?

Should all of the implications of the comments by a person who seemed like a generally decent person, and for which she has apologized, be ignored, or attributed to ignorance and a propensity to opine about things she knows little about, which does not make her very unusual in this celebrity and social media world? Perhaps. But Jewish people well know that every day there are some rich and powerful and influential people who do everything they can to find reasons to expand the group of anti-semites, with the end being to isolate and kill them.

Bannon hates Jewish people, he said that he didn’t want his daughter going to school with them. Trump said that at least some of the Nazis who marched in Charlottesville were “good people.” DeSantis refuses to condemn Nazi groups. Jewish people never feel completely safe, and are always concerned about another rise of Nazism, even in this country, where Father Coughlin would deliver anti-semitic screeds on the radio in the 1930’s, and even people like Lindbergh and Joseph P. Kennedy seemed to have at least a tolerance for Hitler.

No one says all the right things; and I am sure that I occasionally might say or write something which someone would take offense at, because people are very quick to take offense at all sorts of things. No one wants to be so worried that somebody or other might object to something you say, that you are afraid to say anything but innocuous phrases.

But when you are on a daily television show which millions of people watch, you simply should not talk about cultural or political matters which you know nothing about. It is the height of arrogance and foolishness to do so.

We like to say “do better” as an encouraging term, but it should not be a bland cliche. Individuals with a major media forum, who have the power to influence many people, absolutely have a serious responsibility to read, and learn, and do some research, before tossing off any comment that they feel like making. And one of the worst things about all of this, is that you know that some people will use it to advance their calumnies and libels against Jewish people. There is a price to pay for blathering on about something you obviously know nothing about, even though it didn’t seem to be a matter of importance to you.

24 Responses

  1. Stuck in moderation because I used the “r” word in a response to a post about the “r” word! Let me see if I can fix it enough not to stumble into WordPress’s banned word list:

    I thought she was ignorant and provincial, in that her personal definition of “r-ism” is the r-ism most common in one particular country – namely the US. “R” itself is a social construct with very little basis in biology: human beings are just about the most genetically uniform mammalian species there is. When someone is “r-ist” it’s because they harbor hatred against a group of people they consider to be a specific “r”. “R” is in the eye of the r-ist, as it were. Since at least the 19th Century antis-ism has been explicitly r-ist, since most modern antis-ites hate anyone of Jewish ancestry regardless of the religion they do or don’t practice. This was also true for at least some historical antis-ites, despite claims to the contrary (the Inquisition specifically targeted Jews who had converted to Catholicism, for example).

    Yeah, you can be “born Jewish” but we’ve accepted converts since at least Ruth, and she was Jewish enough to be the great-grandmother of King David. It’s hard to see how that makes us a “r” except in the eyes of antisemites. It’s also hard to see how it’s just a religious distinction, either, since there are so many Jews who aren’t religious at all. No wonder the term “tribe” has become so popular!

    Back to Whoopi: I don’t voluntarily watch The View. Pre-pandemic I traveled a lot and it always seems to be on in the breakfast area of many hotels, so I’ve been exposed. In my limited experience, the women on that show (and Whoopi in particular) have said a remarkable number of pretty stupid things (e.g. that Roman Polanski’s drugging and forceful sodomizing of a young girl wasn’t “rape rape”), so I think this incident is pretty much in character. I think she’s ignorant rather than malicious. I’m not sure suspending her will do much to remedy ignorance (so I’m not sure I favor that), but she really, really needs to read a book or two.

    • I am glad that you could do it again. When I was a child, I remember reading something from one of my parents’ magazines where someone had taken all the “p’s,” or some letter out, maybe because he refused to write that letter; so all the words were spelled strangely. I didn’t know all the words, so it was an interesting effort to figure it out.

    • Try using the “at” symbol for the “a” and/or the exclamation point for the “i” and/or the dollar sign for the “s”.


  2. Propertius, I was able to read your always insightful comment, but apparently it went to moderation because of an “r” or two, which i tried to “Accept,” but I apparently cannot. Perhaps RD can retrieve it?

  3. I GIVE UP… you cant even use the word that you would use to describe the event known as the 100 meter dash, even tried mis spelling but the algorithm must use phonetics.

  4. William, a correction: The Armenian genocide was committed by the Ottoman Turks from 1915-22, not by the Nazis during WWII. Approximately 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Turks during WWI and its aftermath. Perhaps you meant the Nazis killed millions of Slavs, not Armenians, for “r” reasons.

    A classic book recommendation: “R”: Science and Politics by Ruth Benedict. It was published in 1940 to refute Nazi pseudoscience regarding “r” which led to the genocide of millions. Benedict, an American anthropologist, was a student of Franz Boas and a colleague of Margaret Mead. The book is still relevant today.

    • Lethe, of course you are right. Yes, Slavs were another group targeted and murdered by the Nazis. And it was Jewish people whom they hated more than any, and the goal was to kill every single one of them. The unfathomable horror of this was virtually exceeded by the eagerness of the German people, and those of countries like Austria and Poland, to help carry this out. A thousand or more years of anti-semitism in Europe led to this.

  5. Way out of topic.
    Where is Merrick Garland?
    There is plenty of evidence -not only of obstruction of justice, but criminal intent and participation to overturn the election and violent insurrection against our government and democracy.

    • Hi, bellecat, always nice to see you! Yes, there is growing frustration with Garland’s apparent inaction. I don’t know what to make of it. The best guess is that he is very cautious, very deliberate, which may not at all be appropriate at this point.

      i don’t know if he is concerned about not appearing political, but it seems as if he should at least go after Meadows for ignoring the subpoena. That would be a start. At least show that you are taking this very seriously. That is not to say that he is not, but on the other hand, he may not indict anyone. I was not thrilled with his nomination to the Supreme Court, though he undoubtedly is a man of honor and principle. i was not excited about him as Attorney General, i would have preferred Doug Jones. I wonder if he is ideal for this position, but there he is, and democracy is counting on him.

  6. WTF is Spammy upset about NOW?

  7. Jmac and Propertius, I am sorry that for some reason your comments did not go through. I do not know why. I know that is is frustrating, it has happened to me in the past. I know that there is one word that doesn’t get through in comments, but I really have no definite idea why the last comments you made, did not. WordPress sends me a note, sometimes in the middle of the night, asking me to approve, which I always do, but then says that I do not have the authority to do that. Hopefully RD can fix this a bit. If I can, I might copy your latest comments here, even if a bit adumbrated.

    • William, My blog is on WordPress. Only the Administrator of a blog has the authority to approve a post. So even though Riverdaughter has given you access to do front page posts, if she hasn’t made you an Admin (which I’m guessing she hasn’t), you don’t have all the authorities she has which include approving posts by the public.

      Roz in NJ/NYC

      • Thanks, Roz; yes, I assumed that, but I wanted to explain. Almost all of the comments go through, and I don’t want anyone to be discouraged from writing one because very occasionally they do not. I am happy not to have to do all the complex administrative things! :). It reminds me of one of my favorite “Peanuts” cartoons. Snoopy is sitting on top of his doghouse, writing his autobiography. Lucy comes by to look at it. He has typed, “I lived at Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, and then I was adopted by the round-headed kid.” Lucy says, “The round-headed kid? Don’t you even know his name?” Snoopy thinks, “I couldn’t be bothered to do all that research.”

        • You probably already know this but… Once a first time poster’s post is approved, all subsequent posts by that person will post automatically. However, to be honest, I have no idea what if anything an Admin can do when it’s WordPress stepping in and not allowing a post by a previously approved poster since it’s never happened on my blog.

          • I dunno, Roz. I’ve been unable to post a comment on Naked Capitalism since 2018. Lambert and Yves both swear on a stack of Bibles that there’s nothing preventing me from doing so, but everything I post just disappears. They’re on WordPress, too. I really miss the Usenet days sometimes.

    • While I haven’t tried in the past few days, WP will not let me post any images or links in the comment threads for William’s posts, although I can post those things on RD’s threads.

  8. Weird, had another one disappear. I guess my reading topic suggestions for Ms. Goldberg will be lost forever.

    • I always like to see reading suggestions, though I am not always diligent in following up on them, but I will read “A Distant Mirror,” which RD highly recommended, and I started, but I did not stick with, when my parents and I were reading all of Barbara Tuchman’s books But I don’t imagine that Goldberg would follow up with your undoubtedly thoughtful suggestions, she thinks that her off-the-cuff ideas and reactions are perfectly sufficient and even worthwhile. Most people feel the same way about theirs, which is a good part of the reason why we are where we are.

  9. @Propertius, 3:41 pm. That is strange about those two blogs. If that were happening to a regular poster on my blog, I would contact WordPress myself to find out why. When I’ve contacted them in the past related to other issues, they have responded and helped me solve the problem. I know there are those who don’t like WordPress. But I’ve had my blog on it since 2009 and have been quite satisfied.

    Roz in NJ/NYC

  10. Somewhat off topic:

    Some of the “DO SOMETHING!” doomsayers on our side may be Horseshoe Leftists, but I think most of them are simply decent folks who have succumbed to despair, who have just gone Denethor on us.

    Or, for those of you who have read Watership Down, they’ve gone tharn.

    Some of us still have PTSD from the Great Anomaly of 2016, and the resulting worst Administration in our lifetimes. I can see how seeing pigs sprout wings and soar over the frozen plains of Hell could break the minds of many people.

    They are terrified of a second Trump Administration–which is understandable, but they fail to realize what a Perfect Storm of multiple Black Swan Events put Benedict Donald in the White House to begin with–and how improbable a repeat performance is. After all, even Donnie’s master Putin couldn’t make it happen again in 2020.

    All the Democrats needed was a candidate who didn’t inspire rabid, irrational, undeserved hatred by the So-Called Liberal Media, the way that Hillary did–and the way that Gore (and Kerry?) did before her. The last two Republican Presidents never would have lived in the White House if not for the SCLM.

    The SCLM seem to have developed a toxic de facto veto power over the Democratic Party’s choice of Presidential nominees, but not over the Republican Party’s choice.

    Now, what can be done to discredit the SCLM?

    • IBW, I think that this so-called liberal media seems to be getting and worse, with a few exceptions. They decided early that they would criticize Biden for everything. And they can never let Democrats have a positive spin, it is always, “They did something, but it well may not help, and besides their poll numbers are bad.” They are the ones causing the poll numbers; they have many people convinced that the economy is terrible, when it is very much not. But they are going to ride “inflation!” all the way to the midterms.

      What to do about them? It is very hard to know. Ignoring them does not help much. CNN’s ratings are terrible, which is good, but I have read that one of their most recent billionaire backers wants the station to be like FOX. As you say, the billionaires have their own agenda ,and it is not for the good of the non-billionaires. I do think that non-mainstream media can help, and blogs like this, and podcasts.

      For a bit of good news, the Cook Report says that right now, with more decisions pending, Democrats may actually have come out of the redistricting a couple of seats better than last year. But of course it is still going on, and the big worry is the Supreme Court overturning the decisions of state courts which threw out some of he most disgraceful reapportionment efforts. And then, how many people will not be able to vote because of vote suppression bills? Right now, it seems that IF Democrats will and can turn out, they might do all right in midterms. Of course, “all right” is not enough; if Republicans have a two-seat advantage in the House, they will turn it into a relentless phalanx. But the opportunity is at least there to surprise the media. BTW,, I saw a clip of FOX news people anticipating a bad jobs report,and virtually rubbing their hands in glee about it–until it came out.

  11. Oh, and the last Republican Presidential candidate who won a clear, indisputable victory was Bush Senior, in 1988.

    Over 30 years ago, and yet this is supposed to be a “conservative” nation, or at least a “50-50” nation.

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