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Klein Drowns in the Ethical Shallows

On Friday, Post blogger Ezra Klein took a short break from Barack Obama’s unpaid policy staff to respond to my last column and dismiss the importance of bigotry and hatred on the Internet. “That doesn’t describe the Internet I know,” he claims, “but the Internet is big, and Gerson might visit parts I miss.”

Sometimes innocence, however, is merely ignorance. You don’t need to trawl the seedier portions of the Internet to be familiar with a growing literature on Internet hate. An education on this topic might include the Simon Wiesenthal Center report, “Facebook, YouTube +: How Social Media Outlets Impact Digital Terrorism and Hate.” Or the Anti-Defamation League’s recent conference, “The Internet Is Making Anti-Semitism Socially Acceptable.” Or the ADL’s report on how mainstream Web sites were flooded with anti-Semitism in the wake of the Madoff scandal. Or a variety of resources on the role of the Internet in promoting Middle Eastern anti-Semitism and the revival of racist ideology in Germany.

In preparing my Friday column, I found an interview with David Goldman by the Southern Poverty Law Center particularly interesting. After monitoring Internet hate sites for many years, Goldman has concluded that the main dangers are now found in chat rooms, comment boxes and email. “In chat rooms,” he says, “which are populated mainly by young people, you can swear and use racial epithets with a certain amount of ease, and that helps to support your own stereotypes and racial bigotry. Unlike hate sites, these chat rooms create a sense of immediacy and community.”

These are the type of sources one encounters while doing extensive research for a column. A blogged response to a column, of course, is free from such archaic, old-media constraints.

One part of Klein’s post is particularly illuminating. He finds it amusing to belittle the threat of a hypothetical someone he calls “jewhater429, the 97th entrant in a comment thread” -- just a few months after an Internet-based Jew hater entered the Holocaust Museum with a gun and killed an African-American guard. Some people have the oddest sense of humor.

The real threat, according to Klein, is not from Jew haters, Holocaust deniers or white supremacists. It is from conservatives who listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. And why? Because Limbaugh interferes more directly with Klein's political agenda. The seriousness of this moral argument is…undetectable. It is a case study in how an excess of ideology can affect the optic nerve -- leading to complete moral blindness.

I have little patience for the hyper-partisan rants of Glenn Beck or Arianna Huffington. But they are not Nazis because I disagree with them. Interestingly, Beck, Huffington and Klein seem comfortable with this same, lazy tactic -- the reductio ad Hitlerum. They are full partners in the same calumny.

This approach is both uncivil and dangerous. We do not avoid comparing our opponents to Nazis merely out of politeness. We reserve this charge for actual racists, for actual incitement to violence, for actual evil, so that the accusation is not diluted and powerless when it is most needed. Those, like Klein, who trivialize evil are actually making its advance more likely. Their cynicism and ideological manias are the allies of genuine bigotry, because they blur its distinctive shape and cover its distinctive smell.

On this topic, Klein wades into the ethical shallows and manages to drown. In the future, it might be less embarrassing to avoid the water entirely.

By Michael Gerson  | September 26, 2009; 4:31 PM ET
Categories:  Gerson  | Tags:  Michael Gerson  
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Comments

Mr. Gerson is just trying to paint his own GOP Ku-Klux clan anti Semites as being liberals in the hope he can fool Jewish support for the GOP enough to halt the exodus to the Democratic party.

It is the old NeoConMan ploy of, you can fool some of the people all the time.

His problem is that American Jews remember this poem; attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Mr. Michael Gerson was so busy supporting the Cyber-Bigots of the NeoConMen under the Cheney Bush administration; that he forgot that poem.

After all:

When they bullied the socialists, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the liberals, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied those who questioned spying on US citizens, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied those who questioned the repeal of habeas corpus, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the peace lovers, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the French, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the UN, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the media, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the democrats, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the Katrina Refugees, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied Valerie Plame, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the migants, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the hispanics, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the blacks, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the homeless and foreclosed, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the poor, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the sick, where were you Mr. Gerson?
When they bullied the census workers, where were you Mr. Gerson?

Posted by: walker1 | September 26, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Gerson conveniently ignores the real and proven impact of 'call to arms' statements by inspirational figures.

There's a reason Bin Laden and other groups use micro communication streams, like internet sites, to spread their message of grievance. Because people reading it feel aggrieved and are inspired to take action. Small groups form independent of organisations to take action, such as domestic terror campaigns.

Now, imagine that concept given a mass communication ability. For example the call to massacre during the Rwandan killings of the mid 90s by radio presenters as an extreme end of this.

But it need not be extreme. All you need is key, respected figures in mass communication peddling falsehood and howling outrage against unfairness to encourage people to take justice into their own hands.

And that's why Limbaugh et al are a far greater danger to America than the occasional nazi sympathizer in a chat room. Because they have a greater reach, and a greater impact in their ability to present a distorted world view that encourages others to "sort it out".

American culture is steeped in the myth of the individual Vs the state, or the rebels against empire. You have an entire media company presenting that message and you can see its impact already in the bizarre distorted response to attempting to provide basic health care to all.

And Gerson, you're one of these people that presents a distorted world view. You may not be a chatroom racist, but you're role is far more poisonous to America as a whole.

Posted by: Mikey6 | September 26, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Gerson makes serveral moral/rhetorical equivalencies the are without basis. Glen Beck said that health care reform (pushed by all modern democrats since FDR) is about "reparations". Anyone who defends that statement as being anything other that pure racial incitement is delusional or intellectually dishonest. When has Huffington matched that. Although he mentions it Gerson still does not dive to the meat of how internet hate combines with talk radio hate to create a culture of a acceptability. Anti-Black hate speech has gone mainstream in some circles with almost zero push back from mainstream GOP figures.

Posted by: case3 | September 26, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Very well said. It cannot be denied that the rabid anti-Semitism of the moonbat left is absolutely terrifying, particularly among the so-called "anti-war" kooks who were the first to go gaga for Oboobma.

Posted by: thebump | September 26, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I just read Klein's post and he is just saying that talk radio provides more of opportunity to spread hate than the internet.

He belittles the possibility of the internet becoming a better vehicle but it seems to me that Mr. Gerson is quick to jump on internet now but has not said much in his time as a columnist on hate being spread on radio.

Posted by: Pensfans | September 26, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Gerson need only use the two holes on the sides of his head, the ones he uses to ignore the crazy rants of his like minded talk radio ditto cons. Fear and hate are tools used by Gerson and his lil Bush for political gain. A bit late now cry foul when others use your tools. Demagogues have used fear, hate and misinformation for years Jews or not, Nazi or not. Jews can be Nazi as well as anybody. Inflamitory rhetoric was his stock and trade fanning the flames of fear and it's by product hate. Oh course he only wanted war....not something as dangerious as being critical of Israel.

Posted by: jpenergy | September 26, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Name dropping again Gerson?

The only reason Klein responded to your pathetic lily-white column was to counter your dis-informative diatribe.

And, again and again, because people disagree with, and feel alarmed and offended by, the obvious sway AIPAC has over our government, they are all anti-Semitic Jew-haters?

Has Gerson been in a closet surrounded by cretins for the last 30 years?

A large segment of what the goobers call the so-called "radical left" is Jewish, and as Americans first, are just as opposed to illicit Israeli influence-pedaling and hegemonic behavior as anyone else.

There will always be a portion of our culture that is anti-Semitic, and it is that part of our population that is under-educated and thus illiterate, fear-filled and cowardly -- the 'Goobers' -- who will march behind any dimwit who tosses out the most emotive, inciting buzz-words. These doltish, hateful, half-wit mongrels will always be around. So what's new? We ignore these cretins as usual -- as anyone who actually thinks with a more than a simple reactive brain-stem does.

Klein is absolutely right -- the goobers will always be there in any society -- let them rave and cuddle together in their little chat rooms where they can vent their repugnant rants with typical emotive drivel.

The advent of 'Bigot Radio' and Rupert Murdoch Inc. is the real danger, because it is an incessant, flashy, well-financed one-way broadcast perceived to be authoritative -- and is as racist, as anti-Semitic, and as homo/xenophobic as it gets.

Get a clue Gerson.

.

Posted by: Frank57 | September 26, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Gerson is trying to revise history. It began with Limbaugh who called bigotry entertainment and hate fun. Karl Rove made division by bigotry and hate profitable politics. They both established it as an OK part of debate and public discourse. Gerson was in the middle of it and now he doesn't remember.

Most of the guilty don't remember.

Posted by: MTgrassland | September 26, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I just can't believe the Post pays you to write this dribble. You have yet to write anything worth reading. How do you find a job that pays you for bein wrong 100% of the time? I just keep reading to see if you'll ever write something worth reading, but alas I doubt it.

You can't do a thing about the 1% of the world's haters. They are going to continue to exist. They are going to continue to write. They are whacked. You, of all people, should be able to relate. You spend most of your space on the Post stoking the fires of hatred and the rest just lying. How are you any different then those you berate? You aren't.

Posted by: boblund1 | September 26, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree that much on the internet is malicious hate filled tripe. It comes from both sides though. Much of the anti-Semitisim is bigotry but much of what you and many others automatically call anti-Semitisim is anti-Israel and has been developed in response to the inhuman policies of the Israeli government towards the Palestinians. It is not prejudice but a reasoned response.

Also just as a reminder to the careful use of English; note your sentence "But they are not Nazis because I disagree with them". Does that mean that if you did agree with them they would be Nazis? English is a subtle language subject to many interpretations. BE CAREFUL!

Posted by: wickiser | September 26, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks there is any comparison at all between the mildly liberal Huffington and the instigators of racial violence like the mentally imbalanced Beck or the drug addled Limbaugh is a dishonest hack.
Let the RNC pay this joker's bills, and spend WaPo's money on someone with integrity who goes after both sides like Froomkin.

Posted by: crestthree | September 26, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Next will be cell phone bullying. LOL Take the mouse and click EXIT ret@rds. LOL

Posted by: askgees | September 26, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Please drop the Nazi thing, all right? It just seems that whenever they run out of idea and when the facts go against them, they bring out the Nazi thing. Give me a break, would you, Gerson.
That red faced, out of control Netanyahu at UN was the closest Nazi one can ever be, literally and figuratively.

Posted by: lhao333 | September 26, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Heaven help anyone who disagrees with a holier than thou Michael Gearson Op-Ed Column.

By the way, Mr Gearson, in your column on bigotry and racism on the internet, you forgot to mention the other crazy uncle in the closet - ignorant, hateful ideology that demonizes the other end of the political spectrum. Why did you chose to ignore that unsavory aspect of internet commentary?

Posted by: MillPond2 | September 26, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

What a disgusting and lazy piece.

Please cite with link ANY posting by Huffington referencing Hitler.

Posted by: bushbudy | September 26, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I'm not ashamed of having hated Adolph Hitler, the Aryan Nation, the KKK, and amoral idiots like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove.

I'm also not ashamed of hating Israel's theft of Arab's lands and of their stealthy, sleazy genocidal efforts in the Near Esat.

When they drag us into a War with Iran, I'll hate them even more.

Sometimes it's RIGHT to hate.

Posted by: lufrank1 | September 26, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

This is an article about hate-filled bullying on the internet. Most of the comments on this article are hate-filled and attack Gerson for making a very good point.

The irony here is so thick, I could eat it with a spoon.

Posted by: the_feev | September 26, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson makes a point, but the point is so narrowly focussed and incomplete that one has to wonder about his thought processes. This is not a man with a neutral bias.

Posted by: MillPond2 | September 26, 2009 8:49 PM | Report abuse

Jeez....did filthy low life Bush sppech writer Mike Gerson run crying to his mommy again because those mean commentators hurt his feelings? Hey, here's an idea. Stop writing columns. Can't stand the heat, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN.

Posted by: playa_brotha | September 26, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Gerson Wrote:
"On Friday, Post blogger Ezra Klein took a short break from Barack Obama’s unpaid policy staff to respond to my last column and dismiss the importance of bigotry and hatred on the Internet."

1. When it comes to hate in general you, Mr. Gerson, are a great representative on the Internet through your columns.

2. Accusing Klein of being an Obama-paid blogger while neglecting that you are a GOP shill is the hypocrisy

3. Klein is right to some extent and you are wrong. Hate is cultivated by right wing talking heads. Extremes of all sorts are attracted to hate talk, whether they follow the same political philosophy of the right wing or not. They see an opportunity to vent.

Tell me, Mr. Gerson, since when are census workers hanged on trees? Who incited that? Was it not Michelle Bachman?

Posted by: Single_Payer | September 26, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting that this post is being written by a member of a party whose reason for existence is hate and fear mongering. Mr. Gerson is either totally ignorant or hypocritical beyond imagination. It should also be noted somethings should be hated even more it is now...and that is the composition of the GOP, comprising in increasing number of mentally insane, thugs, criminals who deliberately engage in constant lies and distortions to deceive the public. I would suggested that GOP is not hated sufficiently. Perhaps Mr. Gerson should personally apologize for the recent death of a census worker, thanks to the hateful rhetoric of his party members who seem to relish in inciting violence. On the contrary Mr. Gerson, there should be more hate for your party and what is doing and not doing, not less.

Posted by: kevin1231 | September 26, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson - you have conveniently left out a major target of hate in this country and the last acceptable minority - gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender persons. Shame on you! The Southern Poverty Law Center in collaboration with CISCO Systems has utilized sophisticated internet technology to profile hate groups. They report that the most commonly targets by hate groups are immigrants and gays. Guess that escaped your "research." I am duly unimpressed.

Posted by: wjfreeman1 | September 26, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

It is despicably of Mr. Gerson to lump together likes Blen Beck and Ezra Klien with right wing loons like Glen Beck. Mr. Gerson, you are utterly shameless. To describe rants of people like Glen Beck as mere ultra-partisan rather than deranged and crazy is to absolve the ugliness of his party. You should be drowning in shame Mr. Gerson.

Posted by: kevin1231 | September 26, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

When Gerson denounces the hatred and manipulation by his mentor Karl Rove through Nixon's "Southern Policy" of demonizing gays, Muslims, Mexican, blacks, liberals ad nauseam, then will he have some credibility of lecturing the rest of us about hate speech. Until then, he will always remain George The Dumber's neocon Huckabee speech writer and Republican and AIPAC shill for Fred Hiatt.

He's like the Muslims who refuse to denounce their murderous terrorists or Catholics who moralize to the rest of us while hiding, aiding and abetting pedophile priests.

Posted by: coloradodog | September 26, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

While I must agree that Gerson has a bit of a point here insofar as the need to remain vigilant in recognition of truly dangerous anti-semitic, racist, and potentially violent extremists, I think it is incorrect to suggest that folks like Beck and Limbaugh are mere buffoons and not actually dangerous.

I think Gerson glosses over the possibility that people like Beck and Limbaugh, with their bombastic, often outrageous, rhetoric and occasionally their actions, actually encourage the more dangerous types of folks.

They also distort and coarsen the public discourse through their efforts to confuse relatively dull-witted viewers/listeners with attacks like referring to President Obama as a "Nazi" or a "racist." Both Beck and Limbaugh have referred to Obama as a racist at different times, and Limbaugh has suggested a connection to Nazism. Nazism is a particularly hate-based virulent form of Fascism, which is a right-wing authoritarian/totalitarian ideology. Nazism explicitly attributes society's ills to the Jewish population, while Fascism more broadly is a reactionary ideology rooted in sentimentality for extreme social control, order, and repression, willing to use violence to enact a police state if necessary. Obama is clearly neither racist nor Nazi.

While he is not a socialist either I sort of expect the far-right to throw allegations of socialism at any liberal Democrat who attempts to broaden opportunity for ordinary citizens, or who attempts to reverse society's increasing trend toward income inequality, but for right-wing fools to accuse Obama or almost any Democrat in the current era, of being a Nazi, which is by definition an extreme far-right ideology, is truly nonsensical and worthy of condemnation.

I think the real question is why have Conservative and right-wing politicians generally refused to denounce and separate themselves from those like Beck and Limbaugh who attempt to perpetuate such blatant falsehoods?

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | September 26, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

There are a number of points at issue. One is the question of whether the volume of low content belligerent posts drowns out rational discourse. A second is whether the internet amplifies expressions of hate. The third is the question of whether the Post should police its forums.
To me the primary point is my sense that people in the media and political opinion makers do get value from scanning the forums. I have no idea if anybody reads my posts. But part of the reason that I make the effort to write them is because I often see or hear discussion of the points that I am trying to make. So I think the Post's forums make a valueable contribution and I think they work much better than the NY Times.
I do have some sympathy with Michael Gerson's concerns about hate speech. But, the reality is that unless it is against the law, it will be posted somewhere. As a practial matter, I doubt there is much likelihood of the Washington Post growing into a social networking site for hate groups. On the other hand, the Washington Post is free to adopt its own standards. A large amount of hate posts do detract from the Post's image. More active poicing by having at least one person responsible for monitoring the forums and using some set of filters to identify posts in need of inspection might be appropriate.
Promotion of hate is a serious concern. We know the damage hate can cause and hate filled posts are painful to read. But I continue to be more concerned about the opinions that are actually contributed to the newspaper. The level of hate may not be as extreme in those who want to go to war with Russia, China, or Iran if they refuse to march to our drum beat. But the chances that those opions might actually lead to large scale violence is much greater. Vietnam is the obvious example.

Posted by: dnjake | September 26, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Public option over my dead body.

I don't own a gun, I will buy one if this goes into affect.

I never have understood milita's. I definatly will embrace them if this goes into affect.

public option equals civil war. I will be the first to arm myself to be a part of that war.

go for it, bring it on. Be warned, you will not need death panels if you put in a public option.

liberalbasher.

posted on meyerson's column today..yeah it's out there and it's outta control

Posted by: dem4evr | September 26, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting the Mr. Gerson is concerned about the internet hate but hatred and fear mongering withing his own party. In every one of Mr. Gerson's columns, facts are skewed or simply made up to fit his right wing rant.

Posted by: kevin1231 | September 26, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Gerson seems to suggest that the open forum style of the Post and other internet outlets is increasing the overall level of racism in the US and elsewhere. But he cites no systematic evidence for this and neither do the sources he identifies. There certainly is still racism in the world, and racist comments do appear on internet postings. But it is a basic fallacy to simply conclude from this that the racism is caused by these postings. Instead, I would offer the hypothesis that most everyone reacts to the racist postings like I do: it makes me ever more anti-racist than I was before. But most important, Gerson fails to deal with the central issue of censorship based on content (whether done by government or newspapers or internet sites or whatever). I will quote Thomas Jefferson on this. "[A censor] will will make make his own opinion the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own..." And finally, "truth is great and will prevail if left to herself..." (1777). Jefferson's point, I believe, is that all censorship based on content is corrosive to democracy. I wish Gerson would give us valid reasons why he thinks Jefferson was wrong.

Posted by: twm1 | September 26, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

I think Ezra nails this one. Sure, there is some wackiness and even outright lunacy on the internet. But the amount of substantive discussion is amazing and wonderful. Gerson, in my view, is overreacting to the latest manifestations of what historian Richard Hofstadter called "the paranoid style" in American politics.

Posted by: junomoneta88 | September 26, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Gerson's articles just seem to create more opportunities for the sort of thing he is decrying. The fact is that the Post could simply remove overtly racist posts, hate-mongering posts, and posts that threaten or attempt to incite violence. Lots of internet forums do it. In cynical moments, one remembers that someone said something about a lady protesting too much.

Posted by: MProust | September 27, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

User reviews and comments that that include... personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site.

The above is the WP's rule for removing comments (see below). I would think that Gerson's silly ad hominem remarks about Klein (e.g., "short break from Obama's unpaid policy staff") might qualify. I don't see those kinds of remarks in Klein's post. I don't think Gerson's statement should be removed, but I do think that he seriously undermines his own credibility with this sort of thing.

Posted by: twm1 | September 27, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

It is the right wing that is advocating violence - and your putting Arianna Huffington and Glenn Beck in the same category is the height of disingenuousness.

There is no comparison between hate radio and the internet. The internet is made up of uncountable voices. Hate radio - and TV - is made up of a few, whipping their hate-filled, racist, listeners into a frenzy and exhorting them to violence against the president and the government - because the president is black.

You are nothing but an extremely irresponsible apologist for racist violence.

Posted by: solsticebelle | September 27, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I manage the worldwide Tahoo! group Remember_The-Holocaust whichjpromotes tolerance education and human rights in memory of the Holocaust victims. I do not engage in polemics and the like as is the column by Mr. Gerson , I may agree ot fidagree with what he writes butI object when he actually denigrates others while attempting to give the appearance of being tolerant of other views. Mr. gerson was a chief speech writer for a number of years for the previous President, is conservative and ideologicalwhich taints his otherwise well intentioned column.Sadly , a number of e-mail Isent to him sharing my experience as a Holocaust survivor as a teenager were unanswered by him. O laid the roots, among other accomplihments, for the debate between senator John F. Kennedy and Vice Vice President when i was a college student (See the recent article by Kate Kelly , "The American Spirit Personified,in Huffington Post, August 25, 2009. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-kelly/the-american-spirit-perso_b_268138.html )

Posted by: Lejeune42 | September 27, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Errrata, the Yahoo! group I manage is Remember_The_Holocaust.

Posted by: Lejeune42 | September 27, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

WHO IS EZRA KLEIN?


A Howard Dean wanna-be -- without the experience of running an organization. Makes MESSIAH look experienced.

Mr. Gerson got it right.

Posted by: russpoter | September 27, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

The most hateful comments here come from those accusing others of...hate. The vein-bulging types don't recognize themselves as caricatures of what they profess to...hate. Such a grotesque House of Mirrors!

Posted by: elgropo1 | September 27, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

With this adolescent, name-calling rant Gerson makes a complete fool of himself. I thought Ezra Klein's piece was reasoned and intelligent, not to mention respectful, and this response by Gerson is the embarrassment.

Not only does Michael Gerson not seem to have a clue about the subject he's taken on here, he then actually uses juvenile invective to try to dismiss someone who actually does.

I already thought Michael Gerson was an extreme right wing ideologue, now I realize he's also basically a child.

Shame on you, Washington Post, for this embarassment.

Posted by: BillEPilgrim | September 27, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Paid-up Bushista Michael Gerson trades in middle-school barbs against Ezra Klein?

Seriously, have you no shame?

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 28, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

Have a third party give you and Ezra Klein a detailed quiz on current events involving any topic and see who comes out on top and then ask Ezra where he learned all the facts he knew to show you for a fool. Klein uses the internet as a tool to educate himself and to communicate with others. And to goof around a bit. That's how a huge majority of internet users use the medium.

You use the internet as a whipping boy to put down so that your own insider ignorance can continue to masquerade as wisdom.

Posted by: jamusco | September 28, 2009 1:13 AM | Report abuse

Gerson, after starting out with a baseless and vile slander of his colleague Ezra Klein (yeah, Klein digs into the detail of health care policy, albeit mostly in Congress rather than in the Executive, and he does it for his own education and to pass on what he learns to his readers - and for this Gerson, who in so far as I can tell doesn't actually know any subject well but has as his single professional qualification his ability to serve as an amanuensis to a President who didn't even HAVE a policy staff, chooses to accuse Klein of crafting policy for Obama?), chooses to completely miss Klein's entire point.

Yeah, Klein knows there are vile people out there posting comments to newspaper websites. But his whole post was about the greater danger posed by the people, perhaps not individually as vile but possessing massively greater influence and audience, who spew hate, fear, paranoia, and lies every day on talk radio, on Fox News, and even on the Op-Ed pages of this once-fine newspaper.

Gerson can read, of course, so he knows what Klein wrote. Instead, he chooses to act as if Klein, who is himself Jewish, wished to minimize the risks posed by hateful antisemites posting their lonely screeds to audiences of literally tens, maybe reaching audiences of hundreds on their good days.

Look, there are absolutely freaks on the internet, and some of them will go on to commit atrocities. But - as in the recent horrors in Topeka and at the Holocaust museum - the record shows that they seek a like-minded community of hateful people in some dark corner of the internet (the murderer of George Tiller at extremist anti-abortion sites, the murderer of Stephen Johns at white-supremacist sites). Any propagandizing they may attempt in the more brightly lit zones, such as newspaper websites, is incidental and far less frightening - and far less frightening, because less influential, than the fantasies of Glenn Beck or the rantings of Michael Savage.

Posted by: WarrenTerra | September 28, 2009 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Looking at the tone of most of the comments, I can't help but think that Mr. Gerson is casting his pearls before swine.

The Washington Post is a hostile environment for anyone other than diehard leftwing fanatics - who wear their hatred on their sleeves.

Posted by: dana6 | September 28, 2009 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Bravo, Mr. Gerson!

WaPo desperately needs your voice of sanity and moderation.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | September 28, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

The word "hate" has become a convenient club to bash anyone who might criticize or reject policies and actions of some political or religious entity. Gearson wields that club today.

I first remember Newt Gingrich using the term in politics and word spinmeisters from all factions now include it in talking points, speeches, and on occasions such as this, newspaper columns.

Supporters of Israel have an Israeli government sponsored program, in addition to the work of pro-Israel agencies in the U.S., to label all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic hate and are demanding that major media websites monitor readers' comments and delete such "hate." Many think there is no reason to worry about such censorship in America with its First Amendment protections but they shouldn't be so sanguine. Our Canadian democracy to the north has made it a hate crime to say or write about 95% of the comments about Israel's actions that are posted on the WaPo and other major media forums. Europeans are subject to imprisonment for the same.

Beware.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | September 28, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Thing one: As Gerson is devoid of any principle but self-aggrandizement, his comments on anything are to be read with skepticism. Gerson commenting on ethics? I'd sooner query the congenitally deaf about music
Thing two: His deficits in critical thinking are revealed when he equates Glen Beck with Arianna Huffington, under the umbrella of "hyperpartisan rants" Please... Huffington may be "hyperpartisan", Beck, however, has clearly either lost touch with reality, or sacrificed principle and credibility for notoriety.
Thing three: Most importantly, as Klein made clear, the internet hate squads are "preaching to the choir", reaching only those that seek them out. Beck, Limbaugh, et al, are using their hugely accessible platforms to recruit, to foment violence, and to disinform. Gerson is beyond the pale.

Posted by: critical44 | September 28, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse


Part of the problem is that any criticism of Israel or zionism til very recently was almost prohibited or screamingly reviled.

It was almost the equivalent of censorship..given the ownership of the media.
PC REIGNED!

That stopped, dramatically, with Bernie Madoff,
zoomed in intensity with the
'Wall Street' break down. The neocon wars had
set the stage.

Public opinion Gerson doesn't like is called hate speech. That much of it is obnoxioius is a factor of having been squelched for decades.

That Israel or it's zionist keepers in the US are above criticism shrieks in the face of
what such has wrought.

Posted by: whistling | September 28, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Come on Michael! We are onto you. You are trying to refocus the current spate of racism and bigotry on the Internet--which has been directed almost exclusively at Barack Obama--andredirect it to the sort of bigotry you would rather the nation focus on--antisemitism.

I am certain that antisemitism still exists but at the moment that does not seem to be what is flooding our blogs in tsunami fashion. Your attempt to distract from that is indicative of a sort of desperation that this focus might detract from any hpoe of a conservative comeback in 2010 and 2012.

I certainly have not been seeing any anti-Semitic hate signs at those recent Tea Bag or town hall gatherings but I have seen a great many signs hinting that much of the problem the right has with Obama has to do with the color of his skin. And one cannot escape the notion that much of this was energized by what these right wing relics from America's most vile past were picking up on the blogs.

Posted by: jaxas | September 28, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"I have little patience for the hyper-partisan rants of Glenn Beck or Arianna Huffington" -- you also have very little patience for accuracy. To equalize the partisan Huffington with the hate-monger Beck is indicative of a) deep, deep ignorance and/or b) a profound lack of ethics.

And you accuse Mr. Klein of "drowning in the ethical shallows"? Puh-leeze. The man who helped lie America into a war that led to the deaths of probably several hundred thousand Iraqis, and a couple of million of them becoming refugees, trying to ride his high horse on _ethics_? That's not just pathetic and shamless, it is indicative of having lost touch with reality.

Posted by: sembtex | September 28, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The only interesting thing about this article is that in fact propaganda on both right and left tends to congeal into typical patterns--antisemitism is hardly unknown on either side. Face it, there are people on both fringes who rail against, say, "the trilateral commission," meaning, as usual, big-city jews.

However, the Nazi stain is far more prevalent on the right. Just look at the actual political content of the discourse. We have the Limbaughs rabble-rousing by promoting militarism, executive power, the interests of the oligarchy, nativism, and thinly veiled racism.

Indeed, it is a historical fact that the Bush dynasty is rooted in a checkered past of assisting Nazi war criminals.

Basically, Gerson has a lot of damn gall--he and most WaPo writers are defending the indefensible.

Posted by: scientist1 | September 28, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Michael, can you not understand that this is precisely why we despise you conservative intellectuals. You are trying to make some ridiculous moral equivalency between what someone like Arianna Huffington does on her blog with the vile, race-baiting, ad-hominem attacks that are routinely engaged in by Limbaugh and Beck every single day. Ariann's arguments are always focused on policy and ideological argument. Rarely do yo ever hear policy or ideological argument on Limbaugh and Beck except in trms so general and oversimplified that they are virtually incomprehensible!

Exra Klein is right to take on Beck and Limbaugh and it is high time that intellectuals like you wake up to the fact that these are not the sort of people you should want associated with conservatism. You make Limbaugh sound like he is some true repesentative of the conservative movement. He isn't! He isn't and has never been elected to any office. Has never written any meaningful tyrerstise on the meaning ov conservatism. Has no intellectual credentials no education or background experience that would qualify him in the least way to discuss serious conservative principles.

The truth is that jerks like Limbaugh and Becks have done great damage to conservatism. And until you on the right get up enough spine to take thise blustery idiots on and tell them to get the hell out the movement, you will never be able to hold the reins of government again.

Posted by: jaxas | September 28, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Comparing Arianna Huffington and Glenn Beck as equal offenders is simply Republican partisanship, Mr. Gerson. Beck engages in absolutely unAmerican, mean-spirited, hateful, and often false and amoral rants. Huffington is very progressive, but she is not offensive or amoral in her messages.

Posted by: BooJa | September 28, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Comment on the postpartisan post from Meyerson on health care:

"Truthfully, I hope its you that dies at the hand of the cheapo. But, who cares.
As long as its a liberal first.
Hope you die slowly like Ted Kennedy.
Whats it matter. You will get your death pannels, staffed by underpaid people who are not qualified. Every death will be your fault and nobody else's.
Again, hope its you and all of your loved ones.
Die liberal. Or better yet.
Want my address? I live in ohio.
Want me to help you die?
Not a threat, just a fact. I don't want an underpaid doctor. I want one that knows he is worth every penny he charges.
fkn liberals. I hate your guts.
I am not racist. I am prejudice. I hate ALL liberals. Black, white, asian, ... what ever. men, women, young, old. doesn't matter. Your liberals. I hate your guts and everything you stand for.
The only good liberal is a fkn dead one and I will glady help do that when you take my life into your hands with your goverment run health care.
Again die liberal
every one of you
die

Posted by: LiberalBasher | September 25, 2009 4:46 PM"

I have not seen anything like this attacking conservatives. Comments like these seem to emanate mainly from the right.

Posted by: Gaithersburg1 | September 28, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Sembtex,

You nailed it - it is all about Gerson's shameless, deeply dishonest, integrity-free hypocrisy. Your money quote:

"And you accuse Mr. Klein of "drowning in the ethical shallows"? Puh-leeze. The man who helped lie America into a war that led to the deaths of probably several hundred thousand Iraqis, and a couple of million of them becoming refugees, trying to ride his high horse on _ethics_? "

And this latest, deliberately dishonest attempt at distraction from Gerson: ignoring Rush Limbaugh's and Glenn Beck's broadcasting lies, racism and hatred to millions of Americans while lamenting what: is it impolite commenters on news sites or anti-semitic hate sites? Notice how it has shifted...but still the racist bile from the right is directly equated to principled liberalism from the left, and then called anti-semitic.

I grew up in a small, religious city in America's heartland. Just the kind of place that these Republican know-nothings try to claim as their own. But the truth is that nobody like David Brooks or Michael Gerson could ever show their face in our town after a display like this one. Liars. Liars. Liars.

Posted by: Dollared | September 28, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

This column reinforces my decision to cancel my Post subscription yesterday. The Post now publishes on a regular basis:

Gerson Shill for the GOP, always looking to protect Bush legacy
George Will Senile?, can't stop lying about climate change.

Krauthammer Would the Post have ever published somebody who hate Bush as much as Krauthammer hates Obama?

Throw in no apology for knowingly publishing a false ad (the Teabagger protests that other networks supposedly didn't cover), and the Post has really stepped up to the plate.

What next, Glenn Beck columns or some thoughts by Malkin?

Posted by: stone11777 | September 28, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

As for Gerson, a nonJew, alleging that Klein is (to paraphrase) [objectively anti-semitic for disagreeing with Gerson], I cannot say it as well as Spencer Ackerman:

" We Tribesmen do not need some wire-rimmed enabler of one of the most destructive and inept presidents in American history to protect us from the perfidies of the world. It's us and not him who will pay the price for antisemitism, so if Gerson wants to actually act like a righteous gentile, he can start by not accusing Jews of apathy to their own people's wellbeing for the sin of not sharing his politics."

Go read it - this is exactly what Gerson deserves, and what Marcus Brauchli would be publishing if he had a single shred of integrity.

http://attackerman.firedoglake.com/2009/09/27/michael-gerson-your-shtetl-pass-is-revoked/

Posted by: Dollared | September 28, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Great response to Gerson at FDL here:

http://tinyurl.com/y8zblar

"[I]t's almost Yom Kippur, so I can always atone for my tone. But seriously: Michael Gerson needs to [stf-u] before he ever even thinks accusing a Jew of insufficient vigilance against antisemitism. I don't know what lack of self-awareness convinces right-wing evangelicals that they're the true guardians of the Jews, but that condescending and parochial nonsense is its own form of antisemitism. We Tribesmen do not need some wire-rimmed enabler of one of the most destructive and inept presidents in American history to protect us from the perfidies of the world. It's us and not him who will pay the price for antisemitism, so if Gerson wants to actually act like a righteous gentile, he can start by not accusing Jews of apathy to their own people's wellbeing for the sin of not sharing his politics."

Posted by: ilarynx | September 28, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Why does this sick right wing idiot have a constant forum to illustrate his vitriol?
Fred Hiatt is why, the real jackass at WAPO!

Posted by: rosenfan1 | September 28, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Klein actually addressed the substance of your piece - the dangers of anonymous voices - but your response completely ignores the point of his.

Even more comically, you criticize others for incivility after being overtly hostile to Klein.

And reducto ad hitlerum? You're the one who keeps invoking Hitler and the holocaust; Klein never uses the name Hitler. He makes his points and provides some backing examples.

You, on the other hand, made the connection between people behaving badly online and the Nazis drumming up support for their hate. An assertion that even your own supposed research doesn't support: Goldman's discussion of internet chat rooms describes them as places that like-minded persons share their repugnant thoughts, but he states that recruitment happens in person in his one example.

Between your smears of your own colleague and Applebaum's defense of a man who raped a child this is an embarassing day for Post Partisan.

Posted by: DonWhiteside | September 28, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Too true, Mr. Gerson. Mr. Klein proves again the futility of conducting a logical argument with a liberal :)

And since he thinks cable news and talk radio is the equivalent of the hate rhetoric on the internet, perhaps he can get guest spot on TV or the radio and read a sampling from around the web and see how long he stays on the airwaves.

Oh, wait, I took the bait. You cannot use logic in arguing with a liberal.

Posted by: jcp370 | September 28, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Rush Limbaugh is openly racist. It's part of his "bad boy" charm to people who don't mind racism.

"Call me back when you get that bone out of your nose."

Pretending to confuse Barack Obama's name with Robert Mugabe.

Promoting the song Barack the Magic Negro (yes, I know the singer lifted the phrase out of context from a newspaper op-ed; that tortured academic explanation is an obvious fig leaf).

Calling Obama over and over "half black half white" within contexts that to most people are nonracial and would not call for comment on someone's race.

Calling Obama a racist, just as Limbaugh calls almost all prominent people of color racists, unless they agree with him.

Doing exaggerated "black voice" impersonations, barely short of a minstrel show, of public figures like Al Sharpton.

And that's just a list of examples off the top of my head.

It is truly scary that someone so successful in the radio business, with such superb personal charm, is mainstreaming racism in the minds of tens of millions of listeners. It's worse that radio station owners are knowingly using these attitudes to fill their pockets.

For Gerson to brush this off, as he does here, is absurd and shameful. All that tyranny requires is for good men to do nothing.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | September 28, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The Post should be ashamed for giving a platform for this disingenuous claptrap.

Attention Washington Post: honest conservative thinkers and columnists exist. Why do you chose to publish such intellectually dishonest ones as Gerson, Ponnoru and Kristol?

Posted by: pdxer | September 28, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

The only reason Klein mentioned Nazis was because *you* brought it up, Mr. Gerson. He didn't make any Hitler comparisons like you claim, he simply noted that your own Nazi comparison didn't really work. Is there a term for a false invocation of Godwin's Law? The boy who cried "Adolf"?

Posted by: HowardsJohnson | September 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

And I wouldn't suppose that a few of the cabinet meetings inside the White House weren't at times filled with swearing or using racial epithets with a certain amount of ease during the Bush Administration.

"Onward Christian Soldiers," right Gerson?


Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | September 28, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

After reading Gerson's original post:

"Some online institutions, such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, screen user comments before posting them. Others, such as The Post and The Wall Street Journal, rely on readers to identify objectionable content -- a questionable strategy because numbness to abusiveness and hatred on the Internet is part of the challenge.

Whatever the method, no reputable institution should allow its publishing capacity, in print or online, to be used as the equivalent of the wall of a public bathroom stall."

Several thought come to mind:

Where in his original post does Gerson say anything about chat room banter, or "seedier portions of the internet?"

But specifically mentions the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Interesting how Mr. Gerson so efficiently backpedals from his own words.

But that's Gerson's style!

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | September 28, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

It brings to mind the movie "Minority Report," with Tom Cruise where people are convicted of crimes they haven't committed, but simply thought about.

But I'm sure there are many thoughts in the inner recesses of Michael Gerson's mind that he could be charged with.

Talk about a horror movie!


Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | September 28, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

How civil of you, Mr Gerson!

Posted by: TeddySanFran | September 28, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

When Gerson says, "a questionable strategy because numbness to abusiveness and hatred on the Internet is part of the challenge.", he undercuts his own argument that internet hate and rage are dangerous. What he says in the quote is that no one pays any attention to the creeps.

You can't have it both ways, Michael. Either internet hate and rage calls attention which means that other people on the message board can get offenders banished, or it doesn't matter because no one pays attention enough to get the offenders banished.

Posted by: dkmjr | September 28, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm not informed about Michael Gerson's background prior to his speechwriting stint with GW Bush, but I'm well acquainted with the fear mongering, veiled appeals to race hate, religious bigotry and immigrant bashing that came from the mouth of GW Bush via Mr. Gerson.

You have attacked Ezra Klein in a very cowardly way in this column, distorting as you go - the standard for Republican public discourse in recent decades.

Ezra Klein has more integrity in his fingernail clippings than you have ever displayed. You are a disgrace as a public figure, and your employment by WaPo is one more reason for believing that WaPo, The National Review, Fox News and the WSJ's editorial staff are hyperpartisan shills for war, totalitarian rule by division of the people, and anything goes politics.

Have You No Shame?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | September 29, 2009 1:57 AM | Report abuse

If you want to find a technology to blame, start with the TV.

Posted by: chase-truth | September 29, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

There are only Ten Commandments. That doesn’t seem like too many to keep track of.

So, Mr. Gerson, I have been baffled as to how you always manage to forget the one that says:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”; whenever discussing the current (non-torture addicted) administration.

Until now.

“It is a case study in how an excess of ideology can affect the optic nerve -- leading to complete moral blindness.”

I mean talk about a mote.

Posted by: Cognomen08 | September 29, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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