Politics

Reason Guilty of Anti-ANTI-Semitism: Sub Teacher Fired

|

Patricia McAllister in better days.

Patricia McAllister, the Los Angeles substitute teacher who called for Jews to be "run out of this country" in a Reason TV interview, has been fired by the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

As a parent with two young children under the LAUSD's jurisdiction, I applaud McAllister's firing. I have so far been appalled at the amount of racism that exists in the Los Angeles public schools, and I am happy that the LAUSD at least takes seriously the most overt and undeniable expressions of this ugly tendency. I also note that McAllister's shocking comments do not appear to be a slip of the lip

As the journalist who interviewed McAllister in her career-ending TV appearance, I have more mixed feelings. In my experience there is no political movement that has no anti-Semites within its ranks. Our drawing attention to McAllister's comments (which as I noted, was not the only strange opinion about The Jews we heard in a single day covering Occupy L.A.'s City Hall adventure) was part of our coverage of a broad spectrum of opinion, sane and insane, at Occupy L.A. 

While the history of anti-capitalism is infused root and branch with racism, I do believe that at least a minority of participants in the Occupy movement are not racists or anti-Semites. 

That having been said, this attempt by one MJ Rosenberg in the Jewish Journal to downplay the racism on display at the Occupy events is contemptible. An excerpt, courtesy of LAist

An ugly old tradition is back: exploiting anti-Semitism to break the backs of popular movements that threaten the power of the wealthiest 1 percent of our population. It is being used to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has conservatives in a state of near panic.

[…]

Because utilizing anti-Semitism directly would not succeed in this country today, the reactionary defenders of the economic status quo are using the flip side of the coin: the fear of being labeled anti-Semitic. They are accusing Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism, relying on the old myth that Wall Street is Jewish and hence that opposition to Wall Street's agenda is just opposition to Jews. 

I read and enjoy the Jewish Journal every week, and I appreciate a contrarian argument probably better than most people. But this is really a disgusting display. Either you take anti-Semitism (and the countless illiberal tendencies that are its eternal handmaidens) seriously, or you don't. If I'm guilty of taking it seriously, MJ, it's because I trust my own two eyes before I trust you. 

Update for the L.A. Times copy desk: Commenter Mr. FIFY points to a blog post by Rick Rojas in the Los Angeles Times (a newspaper that has been strangely uninterested in the Occupation occuring a block away from its headquarters), wherein Rojas makes an overly scrupulous hash of the tricky word "allege." The post's title reads "Teacher who allegedly made anti-Semitic remarks fired" and the body refers to "the alleged anti-Semitic remarks by a district employee." 

I don't have the LAT stylebook handy, but Rojas is violating at least two of AP's rules for "allege." First, he fails to specify the source of the allegation, which can include "an arrest record, an indictment or the statement of a public official." He also uses "allege" in adverbial form to modify "made" and as an adjective to modify "remarks." AP clearly states, "Do not say: He attended the alleged meeting when what you mean is He allegedly attended the meeting." If Rojas needs a source for the allegation, I'm happy to be the allegator. But he'd be better off avoiding the word entirely, since the only doubt about the anti-Semitic nature of McAllister's comments is whether only calling for "Zionist Jews" to be run out of the country lets Neturei Karta members off the hook.  

And I know I sound like a broken record, but really: When they were alleging that the Tea Party was a racist movement, I just can't remember the L.A. Times engaging in this kind of double talk. Nor, for that matter, do I remember CNN, The Washington Post, NPR or The New York Times giving Tea Partiers the benefit of any doubt.  

As for the comment discussion of whether Reason is joining or leading a "witch hunt," that seems like a stretch to me. As I said, I applaud McAllister's termination in my capacity as a parent, because I don't want my kids around people who espouse such ideas, especially people who don't have the sense to modulate their delivery when speaking on camera to total strangers. There are many LAUSD teachers I'd like to see shitcanned — starting with a teacher at my kids' school whom I have seen on two occasions in the hallway discussing teachers union business on the phone during class hours. Unfortunately, the only full-time teacher I've actually seen terminated was my oldest kid's dedicated and beloved first grade teacher, who got laid off because she didn't have seniority in the union.  

While I share the reservations about firing teachers for out-of-school comments, my concerns are strictly utilitarian: that limiting your hiring pool to people who never say anything offensive will soon leave the schools without teachers. McAllister has no right to be paid by the taxpayers, and I don't see any free speech principle at stake here.