An early version of the type of humour now found on Saturday Night Live.
It’s as predictable as mushrooms spouting up after rain: all you need is a global financial crisis and, presto, anti-Semitic tropes and ideas start springing up all over the place. The New Zealand blogger Maps pointed out one example of this phenomenon. On a local Kiwi radio show a caller named Dean “argued that the ‘greed’ of a group of ‘Jewish bankers’ had caused the insolvency of American banks and the collapse of Wall St Shares. Dean claimed that Jewish bankers had also caused the Great Depression and World War Two, and that the Holocaust had been a ‘backlash’ against them.” Apparently other callers to the same show echoed Dean’s idea.
A much more significant example of this percolating anti-Semitism occurred on the most recent episode Saturday Night Live. A skit dealing with the Wall Street bailout ended with a revelation as to the true villains who masterminded the crisis and benefited from it are all wealthy real-world Jews, specifically Herb and Marion Sandler (identified by a caption as “people who should be shot”) and George Soros, portrayed as a cold, arrogant manipulator. Described in the skit as “owner” of the Democratic Party Soros chortles over the fact that all the $700 billion of the bailout will end up in his pocket. He also plans to profit from the coming devaluation of the US dollar. As a parting shot, he uses his money to get a pretty young gentile woman to leave her husband and come to the aging financier. In sum, every stereotype of the evil Jewish banker is used in this skit. (The skit can be seen here.)
Of course, anti-Semitic attacks on Soros are familiar enough in the rightwing media. In 2004 radio show host Michael Savage referring to Soros said: “Not only are you a money changer in the temple of truth, but you are a deceitful, backstabbing, unpatriotic traitorous bastard in my opinion.” On Fox News Tony Blankley described Soros as “a self-admitted atheist … a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust. …He’s buying influence all over the world. He’s a robber baron, he’s a pirate capitalist and he’s a reckless man.”
What is surprising is this anti-Semitic narrative of a traitorous, amoral Jew who profits from destroying America found its way onto Saturday Night Live, a fixture of mainstream television for more than three decades. But a point is worth making on that front: the fact is Lorne Michaels, the producer of Saturday Night Live, has become increasingly right-wing over the years. In the current American presidential campaign, Michaels has given money to John McCain. Aside from the occasional sketch by Tina Fey (i.e. her excellent parodies of Sarah Palin) a lot of Saturday Night Live humour has a decidedly conservative slant. The entire thrust of the Soros skit is to blame the financial crisis on the allegedly hidden and Jewish controllers of the Democratic Party. (That Michaels himself is Jewish makes his use of this anti-Semitic canard all the more odious).
A final factual point is worth addressing. Those who think Soros might be behind the financial crisis might want to consider the fact that he’s actually been warning for years, with great prescience, about the dangers a credit crisis. Far from causing the current calamity, Soros was one of those who tried to avert it. This sharp New York Review of Books essay addresses this issue.
(Thanks to Paul Starr for calling attention to the Saturday Night Live skit).