“Somebody Must Be Blamed”: Antisemitism, the Equal Opportunity Ideology

Western States Center
8 min readJul 15, 2020

By Eric K. Ward

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Fox News host Tucker Carlson

Normally I might have whiplash. One day I’m being asked for comment by national media outlets about a Black NFL player and the next, about FOX News celebrity Tucker Carlson. On the surface Tucker Carlson and DeSean Jackson would appear to have very little in common. But together they illustrate a growing danger in this moment of populist fervor: antisemitism.

Antisemitism is emerging as an equal opportunity ideology. Antisemitism crosses every line of race, political party, and primary stances on a wide range of issues. Like the novel coronavirus, this virulent ideology disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable — the Jewish population — but in fact imperils us all.

The Jewish community is right to be concerned in this moment of populist impulses across the ideological spectrum: from the grievances that propelled a B-list reality TV star into the presidency to the cry for justice that brings throngs of people into the streets in defense of Black lives. Historically, populist moments have always fed on and in turn fueled attacks on Jewish people. This is just such a moment.

Even before the surge in antisemitism that has accompanied the global pandemic, documented incidents in the United States had reached a new high: over 2,000 in 2019, a 12 per cent increase over the prior year, according to ADL’s Center on Extremism’s annual tabulation. The last few months have created a perfect storm — a life-threatening disease resulting in social isolation and economic collapse — activating the age-old call that “Somebody must be blamed.” From anti-Semitic tropes like depicting Jewish people as disease-carrier rats, to using the word “heil” with a swastika or other Holocaust imagery to critique common-sense public health measures, to deadly attacks — antisemitism is, alarmingly, becoming normalized. In mid-March I asked the staff at Western States Center to start sending me a daily log of key incidents of antisemitism. In only 12 weeks, the tally stands at 198 entries.

I repeat, the Jewish community is right to be concerned. Here is why we should all share their concern: antisemitism is the paper upon which racial nationalism is written; it is also the template for poisoning populist moments…

Western States Center

Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy.