Friday, March 09, 2007

McClelland, Anti-Semitism, and the Usual Blogosphere Crap

This is beyond absurd. Warren Kinsella is a child. Jason Cherniak is a child. Robert McClelland may, on occasion, be an idiot, but he's not an anti-semite.

There's been a little dust-up in ye olde Canadian blogosphere because, in a reply to a comment (in a thread containing some genuinely anti-semitic commentators), McClelland said, approximately: "if they [some nameless government group, I surmise] came for the Jews, I wouldn't care". This has been read as "anti-semitic" by the afore-mentioned children, as well as many others.

This is why we need more philosophers in public discourse: not caring is not equivalent to judging right. At the very most, not caring is equivalent to judging neutral (i.e., neither right nor wrong). More appropriately, though, not caring is usually symptomatic of a motivational gap between judgement and action. That is, McClelland says he "doesn't care" meaning that, even if he agrees that "coming for the Jews" would be wrong, he isn't sufficiently motiviated to do anything about it. In the very same thread, McClelland commented that he is tired of Jewish groups failing to defend leftists against being accused of anti-semitism -- so, in other words, the motivation that would accompany a judgement of wrong is being overridden by dissatisfaction and cynicism. Which is completely understandable (and, for what it's worth, happens to me all the time).

Kinsella et al. have piled on to try to accuse McClelland of anti-semitism, however, despite the total lack of evidence. Kinsella's piece in the National Disgrace (I won't link to it; I don't link to the paper; find it yourselves) brings up the tired old canard that criticizing actions of the Israeli government is instantly "anti-semitic". By that logic, criticizing the US government is anti-Christian and criticizing the government of Zimbabwe is racist. It's absurd on its very face: criticizing a government, even in very harsh terms, does not make one anti-semitic.

Kinsella also tries to draw the anti-semitic conclusion from comments McClelland has made accusing Jews of being murderers. That is also not anti-semitism. If the connection is "he's a Jew, therefore he's a murderer", then that would be anti-semitism; but what evidence is there that McClelland thinks like this? The answer, once again, is none. The more plausible, and charitable, way of reading McClelland's point is that he is noting the support of many Jews for Israel, despite (e.g.) Israel's vicious retaliation against Lebanon over this past summer (which I also criticized; check the archives), and drawing the not unreasonable conclusion that those Jews are also responsible for the Lebanese deaths. (I'm not endorsing the conclusion, because I don't buy the principle it turns on. However, it's not unreasonable. Noam Chomsky tends to reason like this, as does Peter Singer.)

What else have we got? The tired old "Fuck the Jews" post that McClelland posted some years back, which was clearly -- clearly to non-children and non-idiots, that is -- intended as a provocative thought-experiment? (I'm not saying it was successful, but it was clearly a thought-experiment.)

The very most that McClelland can be accused of is insufficient strength of character to overcome his cynicism and accept the motivation that follows from a judgement of wrong. (And, really, most people can be accused of that. Be honest.) He may also be accused of somewhat tactless phrasing (but, hey, it's a blog: you want cautious reasoning, go find a book). But anti-semitism is a serious charge, and should only be levelled in serious circumstances on the basis of genuine evidence. Terribly unserious people hysterically denouncing a few sentences, and doing it on the basis of blatant misreading, should not be throwing the word "anti-semitism" around. Indeed, they should probably not be allowed near sharp objects without adult supervision.

As an aside, I wonder to what extent this teapot-centred tempest is actually based on the genuine problems facing the federal Liberal party, which both Kinsella and Cherniak foolishly support. It's understandable, if not justifiable, to lash out at other people when something near and dear to one's own heart is failing so badly.

Now, has anyone got anything serious with which to support the charge? Or is this just a pathetic blogswarm against, in this instance, an innocent man?

To forestall any obvious questions, to support an accusation of anti-semitism, you need at least one of the following:
  1. Evidence of direct harm against Jews or believed Jews
  2. As (1), but against those who associate with or are believed to associate with Jews
  3. As (1), but against those who are sympathetic towards or are believed to be sympathetic towards Jews
  4. Etc.
The pattern should be obvious. Unless Jews (or believed Jews, or associates of Jews, or believed associates, etc.) are actually harmed, then there is no evidence of anti-semitism. None. Zip. The empty sausage. This applies to any "ism" equally well: you're not a racist unless you harm, say, blacks.

Furthermore, you also need to be doing it for the following reason:
  • Because they're Jews (or believed Jews, or associates of Jews, etc.)
Suppose the following: suppose all Jews are also actually murderers. Each and every Jew has killed someone in cold blood. Let us also suppose that something in the nature of being a Jew entails being a murderer: that is, it is impossible to be a Jew and not be a murderer. Then we could justify harming Jews, at least in the sense of depriving them of their liberty by throwing them in jail. However, we would not be doing it because they are Jews but because they are murderers. At the very most, "Jew" would be a convenient way to track the morally objectionable quality "murderer".

This is, of course, a toy example. The real world doesn't work like this. Belonging to any minority (or majority, for that matter) group doesn't track any one morally objectionable quality, nor a fortiori any set of qualities. This, then, is the error made by racists, anti-semites, sexists, et al: they use a morally irrelevant quality as a proxy for a morally objectionable quality, when there is in fact no such connection between the qualities. This is why when anti-semites try to defend themselves, they'll often point to things like "Jews can't be trusted", "Jews are all thieves", and various other offensive and inaccurate stereotypes. The anti-semite knows that everyone would agree that people who can't be trusted or thieves should be despised, to some extent, so they try to argue that every Jew fits those categories. The problem, of course, is that the vast majority of Jews do not; and those that do do so not because they are Jewish.

Since there is no such evidence in the case of McClelland, it is grossly irresponsible and, in its own right, immoral to accuse him of anti-semitism. I note, with a touch of irony, that this is exactly the sort of accusation made against the left that he claims Jewish groups do not respond to, which he then uses to explain the lack of motivation discussed above. In other words, by accusing Robert McClelland of being an anti-semite, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever (let alone sufficient evidence), Kinsella et al are supporting his claim that he has reason to not care when "they come for the Jews".

The less said about the NDP's "condemnation" of McClelland, the better. I have read the letter. (I believe it was Cherniak who posted a copy of it to his blog.) It was anemic at best. At worst, it was the kind of political ass-covering that I find disgusting. If the NDP are going to be in any way different from the other parties in the federal Parliament, they need to grow a set: when some random idiot with a blog tells them there's an "anti-semite" running the Blogging Dippers, the correct response is "Oh, yeah? Prove it.", not "Well, we find that offensive too; please visit our new official blogroll... vote NDP!" Pathetic. (Is it too late to found a real Socialist party in Canada?)

(I don't have any particular love for McClelland nor the NDP, obviously. I belong to no parties. My association with McClelland is limited to reading his blog and being on the OntarioBlogs blogroll, which he administers. My only point in writing this is to expose how utterly stupid the accusations against him are. Honestly, in a week where Ann Coulter, US right-wing media darling, exposes how viciously prejudiced she is -- yet again -- we have twits like Kinsella running around and talking about Robert McClelland? In a national newspaper, no less?)

UPDATE (about 6pm EST): In discussion in the comments, with Lord Kitchener's Own, I've realized that this may leave readers with the impression that I think there is no ground to blame or censure McClelland for his comments. That is not my point at all; my point is only to focus on the "anti-semitic" label and how it is not at all appropriate. There may be other labels that will stick -- my personal favourites are "excessively cynical" (a character flaw) plus "egregiously offensive" (in the sense of vulgar) -- and thus other reasons to condemn McClelland's conduct.

However, that said, I have also learned, again from comments (this time, from Erik Abbink) that McClelland has been drummed out of the Progressive Bloggers. This strikes me as excessive, particularly given that the PB mods claim his comments were not anti-semitic. If McClelland is guilty of being offensive or too cynical, then, perhaps, the mods could justify some kind of punishment. (Although, really, are character tests now necessary in order to be part of a policy- or principle-based community?) If McClelland were an anti-semite, then that could justify throwing him out of PB. But, if he's not an anti-semite -- as the PB mods admit, and as I have argued -- then this is clearly an excessive, and thus unjustified, response.

So, to summarize. He has not done what some think he has done, but that does not mean he has done nothing. He may have deserved some punishment for what he has done, but he did not deserve this.

Those are my views on the subject. Shift them if you can.

26 comments:

Erik Abbink said...

Excellent post!

I'm glad to see more progressive bloggers think the latest purge is absurd.

Feel free to read my version of things happened so far: abbink.blogspot.com

ADHR said...

I rarely go to the PB page, so I didn't know they'd gone so far as to purge him. As far as I recall, McClelland has had his run-ins with the PB admins in the past. This is probably as much sour grapes as any genuine outrage on their part. (Not to mention, of course, that any outrage is groundless.)

It's really quite sad (but hardly surprising) to see that adults aren't morally sophisticated enough to see the difference between anti-semitism and McClelland's comments.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I just don't buy this argument. Whether or not it can be labelled as "anti-semitic", or "racist" or "bigotry" per se, indiference to the rounding up of a people by the State on religious grounds is WRONG.

This claim that "it's not that I approve of the Jews being rounded up, I'm just indiferrent to them being rounded up, and there's no moral wrong in that" is specious. Neutrality in the face of evil is, in and of itself, wrong.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

It's a truism because it's true.

I can be persuaded that Robert isn't an anti-semite. I can perhaps be persudaded (on semantic grounds) that indifference to the renewed rounding up of the Jews isn't, technically, anti-semitism. However, you'll never convince me that indifference to the renewed rounding up of Jews is morally neutral. It's repugnant. And, arguments about what is, and is not anti-semitism aside, it's Robert's statement, and subsequent defence of this repugnant stance that has led to this latest curfuffle.

I can be persuaded to tolerate someone's indifference to actively participating in the fight against anti-semitism. I can be persuaded (maybe) to tolerate someone's indifference to anti-semitism itself. I can't be persuaded to tolerate someone's indifference to the rounding up of an entirre people based on their religion.

Never. (Or perhaps I should say, never again).

ADHR said...

LKO: You didn't read what I wrote; or, more likely, you read what you wanted me to write. So, I'll draw your attention to the pertinent ideas.

I began by trying to interpret McClelland's comment: he clearly isn't saying that rounding up Jews would be right. At best, as I said, he is judging that action morally neutral. I never said I agreed with the judgement -- I defy you to prove otherwise.

(For what it's worth, though, you have to carefully phrase your definition of "evil" in order to avoid your principle about neutrality in the face of evil becoming ridiculous. If Hitler is your paradigm, fine; but then we need a distinction between evil and merely bad. Neutrality in the face of badness is not nearly as obviously wrong as neutrality in the face of something worse -- namely, evil.)

However, the judgement that the act is morally neutral is not enough to make him an anti-semite. At worst, all he said was that the act is neutral. Hence, we as yet have insufficient evidence to call him an anti-semite. We could certainly say his judgement was incorrect, though, and condemn him for that. But, then again, we have no real evidence about what his judgement is. Perhaps he thinks that the action is wrong, but doesn't care; that would be a defect in his motivations, and thus a defect in his character, but would push him even further away from anti-semitism.

I never told you, or anyone, what should or should not be tolerated. Indeed -- again, read what I wrote, not what you want me to have written -- I said: "The very most that McClelland can be accused of is insufficient strength of character to overcome his cynicism and accept the motivation that follows from a judgement of wrong." and "He may also be accused of somewhat tactless phrasing". In other words, I gave you more than enough ammunition to back up judging his words as wrong.

What you can't do, though, with any justification is call him an anti-semite.

(Also, see my reply to Erik above: seriously, is the Canadian blogosphere rampant with moral children? I thought this kind of distinction was obvious; maybe I need to explain it in more depth.)

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Well, if I (supposedly) never read your post, you also never read my comment.

My whole comment was about how it DOESN'T MATTER whether we believe Robert's indifference to the renewed rounding up of the Jews makes him an anti-semite (I even state explicitly that I could be convinced that Robert is not, in fact, an anti-semite). I further state that an argument can be made that indifference to the rounding up of Jews is not in and of itself anti-semitic (I'm less convinced here, but it's not a point upon which an honest debate couldn't take place). What you can't convince me of is that indifference to the rounding up of the Jews is morally neutral, any more than you can convince me that indifference to the rounding up of black people would be morally neutral, or indifference to the rounding up of Muslims would be morally neutral. CLEARLY indifference to either of these two scenarios could not be labelled "anti-semitic". In both cases though, said indifference would still be morally repugnant. You're quite right that being unable to even bring yourself to say "what a shame" as your Jewish neighbours are led away does not, in and of itself, necessarily mean you APPROVE of your Jewish neighbours being led away. It's still a repugnant position. Robert didn't just say he doubts he'd try to stop the Jews from being rounded up again. He said he doubts he'd even be able to muster up a "what a shame" as he watched it happen. Anti-semitic or not, that's a repugnant stance.

You say to me that "What you can't do, though, with any justification is call him an anti-semite". Well, I'm not sure I agree that there is no justification to call Robert an anti-semite. However, I am sure of one thing. I never called Robert an anti-semite. So whether or not one could do so, with any justification, I didn't. I fail to see why you would tell me I can't do something I never did. It's completely irrelevant.

I don't care whether or not Robert is an anti-semite. For the sake of argument, I'll concede that he isn't. For the sake of argument, I'll concede that an indifference to the renewed rounding up of the Jews isn't anti-semitic. Nevertheless, Robert's stated (and defended) indifference to the renewed rounding up of the Jews is repugnant. You'll never convince me otherwise.

Anti-semitic or not, if you're indifferent to the rounding up of a group of your fellow human beings based upon their religion that is a repugnant and indefensible stance.

Period.

ADHR said...

LKO: Your misreadings are practically art at this point.

First, the point to my original post was to defend McClelland against the charge of anti-semitism. If you don't want to talk about that, then you're commmenting in the wrong place. Furthermore, until proven otherwise, I stand by the "no justification" claim. The evidence cited is far too ambiguous (and that's being generous) to support as serious a charge as anti-semitism.

Second, I never said that being indifferent to the rounding up of Jews was actually neutral. I said that indifference could follow from a judgement of neutrality. For you to infer, as you are, from my claim that McClelland might be judging the act as neutral to the claim that it is in fact neutral is absurd. Moral judgements can easily be wrong. Strictly speaking, I didn't say anything about whether that judgement would be correct or not. If it would make you feel better, then, yes, ceteris paribus, the judgement is wrong. The correct judgement is that this hypothetical action is morally wrong. It's not relevant to what I was actually talking about, though.

FWIW, the attitude of indifference could also follow from a judgement of wrong, given the presence of motivational defeaters (e.g., cynicism). It doesn't follow, crucially, from a judgement of right. A judgement of right would be accompanied by an expression of approval, not an expression of indifference. But, this gets back to things that you don't want to talk about, but I am talking about.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

My point is simply that Robert not being an anti-semite, and/or the statement not being "anti-semitic" does not equate to Robert not being deserving of condemnation for the statement.

I realize that you're main argument is centered on the definition of anti-semitism, and the abuse of the term "anti-semite", and is more an academic argument about what does, and does not constitute anti-semitism. However, clearly the thrust of your argument is also that Robert is being unjustly attacked for what he wrote. To the extent that charges of "anti-semitism" may be unjust, I can concede that point (I'm still not totally convinced, but let's just leave that aside). However, my point is that given this presupposition, it can simply be argued that Robert is being attacked for the wrong thing. That he is being labelled guilty of something he is not guilty of. I agree that there is an argument in favour of that position.

However, many have then come to a separate conclusion that this equates to Robert not being guilty of any transgression, and while this may not be the point you're making here, I'm quite certian it is the impression many will take away from this post. The statements "Robert is not an anti-semite", and "Robert's statement was not anti-semitic" are being paired everywhere this week with "Robert is being unjustly attacked", and "Robert's comment is not worthy of condemnation". Well, that it may be unjust to attack Robert for anti-semitism is not the same as it being unjust to attack Robert for what he said. (Which leads the masses to cry "If you admit that Robert isn't an anti-semite, why are you attacking him?!?! You're hypocrits!" Well, no. Many are attacking Robert because his statement of indifference to the rounding up of Jews is morally repugnant. All questions of "anti-semitism" aside).

You may have a logical argument that Robert can, simultaneously, believe that the renewed rounding up of Jews is wrong (or at least morally neutral), and simultaneously be indifferent to the renewed rounding up of Jews. That does nothing to assuage my belief that Robert's indifference to the renewed rounding up of Jews is morally repugnant, and worthy of censure (please note, NOT censor).

To the extent that you are making a more sophisticated argument, I aqologize for my ranting. But too many people, imho, are coming to the conclusion that Robert has done nothing wrong, or very little wrong, and that there is no reason to attack what Robert wrote. And many of these people are using, as reasoning, the fact that "Robert is not an anti-semite" or "Robert's statement is not anti-semitic". And I think it's important to point out that, even if both of those statements are true, that does not make Robert's statement any less morally reprehensible, or make Robert any less worthy of censure. And no one will ever convince me otherwise.

ADHR said...

LKO: I think we're in agreement, then. McClelland's comment does deserve some condemnation, for some reason (we could argue about what the reason is). It's not for the reason of anti-semitism, though, because it is, at the very best, not clear that he has done anything deserving to be called "anti-semitic".

FWIW, the argument that "it's not anti-semitic, thus he's guiltless" turns on the same (unstated) principle that the argument I'm objecting to, namely that "he's said something horrible, therefore he's an anti-semite", does. The principle is that there's only one way to judge his comment: on the basis of whether or not it is anti-semitic. As anyone with any sense knows, though, there's lots of ways a comment can be judged. For example, it can exemplify a character flaw (e.g., excess cynicism); it can be offensive (in the sense of insulting or in the sense of vulgar); and it can be inaccurate.

My central complaint, as I think you now see, was that McClelland was being (metaphorically, of course) hanged for the wrong crime. Whether or not what he did was a crime, whether or not it deserves hanging, certainly we have to first get the crime right. And anti-semitism just ain't it. It's a serious charge, and one that should only be levelled in serious circumstances. Ernst Zundel is an anti-semite; Robert McClelland is not.

Incidentally, I'll put an update at the bottom of the post just to clarify, and ensure no one else infers that I'm calling McClelland blameless on any ground.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I'm glad that I too (now) think we're largely in agreement (always were perhaps, except that I think that my opinion of Robert's transgression is that it is more serious than you think it is).

I think I still have some issues with your argument regarding whether or not the STATEMENT is anti-semitic (not with your argument that ROBERT isn't anti-semitic... I don't know Robert, so I can't say he ISN'T, but I do agree that it goes too far to say that he is, even if one were convinced that the STATEMENT was). I am however also so very tired of talking about this (sorry, but it's true!) and I'm not sure I'm in a position at the moment to properly articulate an argument that perhaps Robert's STATEMENT is anti-semitic. So, I won't bother you with a half-assed, end of the day on Friday, too tired to see straight attempt. Perhaps I'll return when I've had more time to mull.

Have a nice weekend.

arthurdecco said...

Adam Rawlings said: “There's been a little dust-up in ye olde Canadian blogosphere because, in a reply to a comment (in a thread containing some genuinely anti-semitic commentators)…”

I presume that you were referring to my posts when you said, “containing some genuinely anti-semitic commentators”, Adam.

If you’re going to accuse someone of "genuine" anti-Semitism, shouldn’t you be prepared to prove your accusation? Afterall, leveling a charge as serious as this shouldn’t be undertaken as lightly as you appear to have done, should it?

Please point out to me precisely what was ant-Semitic about what I wrote. Ignore the outrageous accusations leveled against me by the wounded and defensive paranoids who took exception to what I typed and explain what was anti-Semitic about it.

In the same thread you wrote: “…anti-semitism is a serious charge, and should only be leveled in serious circumstances on the basis of genuine evidence. Terribly unserious people hysterically denouncing a few sentences, and doing it on the basis of blatant misreading, should not be throwing the word "anti-semitism" around. Indeed, they should probably not be allowed near sharp objects without adult supervision.”

I have to say I agree completely with this second quotation of yours that I’ve chosen to highlight here.

It’s too bad you didn’t seem to take your own advice before hurling such an irresponsible and baseless accusation at me, even if you hid it behind a wall of anonymity.

You might want to carefully re-read what I posted on Robert’s blog. This time shut out the noise machine’s squawking and pay attention to what it is I said and the information from others that I chose to present to bolster my arguments.

I firmly believe you owe me an apology. If you still think not, explain to me the reasoning behind what I consider your off-handed smear. I always listen to intelligent rebuttals. (I sometimes even change my opinions based on them.)

But don’t fall into the trap of unthinkingly or reflexively denouncing what you obviously haven’t taken the time to digest or understand. Such casual irresponsibility is unforgivable, isn’t it? (I'm paraphrasing you here.)

I await your rationale.

Psychols said...

Excellent post and a great read.

My favorite line:

This is why we need more philosophers in public discourse:

The NDP reaction was to be expected. The Progressive Blogger Moderator reaction surprised me. I would have expected a more thoughtful response.

ADHR said...

LKO: If you can think of an argument, let me know. I'd be interested to hear it. I'm not sure how a comment can be anti-semitic. I can see sense in a speech act being anti-semitic, but not an assemblage of words. I could, of course, be wrong.

Psychols: Thanks! I'm still mulling over the PB reaction. I think I may have been on to something above, when I speculated that this may have been the final result of some personal dust-up between Scott Tribe (and the other mods) and McClelland. It doesn't make sense otherwise.

arthurdecco: ...I don't know quite where to start with your nonsense, but here goes. First, you identified yourself as an "anti-semitic commentator", not me. Thus, I didn't accuse you, even obliquely, of anything. If you want to infer that I am, that's your problem.

Second, it takes a lot of gall to hide behind an obvious pseudonym and complain that someone else is "hiding behind anonymity".

Third, I pointed out that charging someone with anti-semitism was serious and should be done seriously. I fail to see how I have, assuming I have accused you, made an unserious accusation. I also pointed out that the accusation should not be made on the basis of misreading. I fail to see how I have misread you. (Really, your entire comment is short on detail and long on faux wounded pride.)

Fourth, you say it is "obvious" I haven't read or thought about what you wrote, yet you provide no examples to support your contention. This is a laughable inversion of the burden of proof. If you think you have been unfairly accused of something -- even though, as said, I really accused you of nothing -- then it's up to you to prove your innocence. (And please spare me some tired recitation of "innocent until proven guilty" or equivalent legalisms. This isn't a court; burden of proof functions differently outside of legal argumentation.)

Fifth, if you want me to justify a conclusion that you are anti-semitic, then let me point to just this: "the near-total levels of Jewish influence and control over our way of life here in the west ... In the 19th century, these issues were being raised all over Europe as Jews consolidated their stranglehold on the levers of power, culture and finance." The conclusion of anti-semitism is pretty obvious, but to spell it out....

One, you don't support these claims with any evidence whatsoever. You throw in a couple of quotes that state similar ideas, but that hardly rises to the level of evidence. You are making an empirical claim. Where, then, is the evidence? We are supposed to take it as an obvious truth that Jews control so much of our society. It is far from obvious, though, when you consider the number of non-Jews in positions of power. How many MPs are Jews? How many Supreme Court Justices? How many CEOs of major Canadian corporations? Unless your answer is "all of them", your claim is empirically false, which is apparent to everyone. You could, I suppose, argue that these are not genuinely positions of power; but then you would be implying the existence of some shadowy cabal, secretly ruling the west, and that kind of paranoia is borderline delusional.

Two, given the obvious falsity of your claim, why do you say it? It could be that you're simply stupid -- that is, you don't know any better. I grant that's possible. It could also be that you're believing something which it suits you to believe. This is more sinister, but seems to fit better with your manner of expression. You don't state things like a stupid person.

Three, given that you are not stupid and you are making evidently false claims, it follows that your reasons for doing so must be malicious. Since your claims are, implicitly, negatively inclined towards Jews, it's a hop and a skip to judge that you are basing these claims in an inveterate dislike (at minimum) of Jews.

Four, we are, of course, not yet at anti-semitism. Anti-semitism, as I have noted, requires actually harming Jews. But what is the explanation for not liking Jews? Jews come in all races, all cultural backgrounds, speaking different languages, with different sexual preferences -- in short, all the obvious observable features that one could simply and reflexively dislike are not held in common by all Jews. (Unlike, say, not liking redheads. If you don't like redheaded people, it's pretty easy to pick them out from the crowd and avoid them. The dislike could just be reflexive. People are psychologically funny; sometimes, they just don't like others for no good reason.)

Five, this leaves the only feature that unites Jews: their Jewishness. It is because of their Jewishness that you dislike them. It is because of their Jewishness that you post on multiple blogs unsupported and clearly false defamatory claims about Jews. Your motivations must be grounded in something -- either features of your psychological makeup (or something equally out of your control), or genuine judgements.

Six, if they are based in genuine judgements, then you are an anti-semite. There is no difference between the intentions to harm Jews and the reasons grounding those judgements. Since there is no difference between the intentions (practical reasons) and the (theoretical) reasons underpinning these foundational judgements, the moral judgement must be the same. Since the practical reasons would be such as to justify calling you an anti-semite, the theoretical reasons also justify the charge.

So, to summarize, either: you're stupid; you're in the grip of a dislike entirely beyond your control; or you're an anti-semite. Have I reasoned badly? Have I made a mistake?

If you do respond, be sure to respond to the argument given with an actual argument of your own. Else I will not bother to approve another comment from you. This is my blog; go make your own if you don't like my rules.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

ADHR,

First, I'd just like to point out, just for the record, that I'm NOT one of those people who's ever called Robert an "anti-semite", I don't particularly think he is, though I DO think an argument can be made that his comment was anti-semitic (which is not to necessarily say I think the comment IS anti-semitic, but I'm not yet convinced that the point is inarguable, or that a comment CAN'T be anti-semitic, or that Robert's comment definitely WASN'T). All of which I add just for context.

Regarding whether a written comment can be "anti-semitic" (and TOTALLY separate from whether or not Robert's comment was anti-semitic, I'm not arguing either side of that here, and am simply discussing whether the written word can be anti-semitic... this example is TOTALLY separate from Robert's case... ENTIRELY) I think a comment (or more accurately an "assemblage of words" as you put it) can be anti-semitic. I don't have an "argument" to make in that regard, so much as an example.

Mein Kampf.

Surely THAT assemblage of words (or, at least, parts thereof) is anti-semitic.

No?

(Perhaps an argument can be made that in some sense it is not "anti-semitic", and I promise not to freak out if someone dives in to that semantic argument. In this context, I think it's very clear we're having a linguistic discussion of the definition of "anti-semtitic", not in any way a discussion of the validity of the ideas in any particular "assemblaghe of words", and if it wasn't clear before, surely it is now that I've said that. So if I'm wrong, have at it).

undergroundman said...

What if I were to say that "I wouldn't care if the South enslaved the blacks again." That is not a racist belief? There is no racism underlying that statement If I'm not morally outraged by something, doesn't that mean that I consider it OK, i.e., right. Is it possible to be morally ambivalent about "rights and wrongs" -- is there really a grey area for people to stand?

I don't think so. Actions are right or wrong (dependent upon the individual). A wrong that is "not worth caring about" might as well be considered right.

I must be missing something incredible. Or maybe this post is a joke. Anyway, hope you can clear this up for me.

ADHR said...

UGM: You're operating from a false premise. Actions are either right, wrong, or neither. This corresponds to the distinction between obligation, prohibition, and permission. Permitted actions aren't right or wrong -- they're things you're allowed to do, but you aren't better or worse for doing them.

Furthermore, lack of outrage doesn't really commit one to any particular judgement. Lack of outrage can be a motivational failure, rather than a moral one. That is, I can judge that something is wrong, and yet, because of some psychological issue (maybe depression, or just weakness of the will), not have any of the appropriate attitudes nor engage in any appropriate actions. If that's the case, I'm blameworthy for that failure, insofar as it is in my control, but I'm not blameworthy for the judgement. Ex hypothesi, there's nothing wrong with my judgement at all.

You may want to keep reading, to see what I reply to LKO about. A belief can be racist, because the content of the belief, if a sentence, implies committment to the sentence.

LKO: Let's start with some distinctions here. First between constitutive and verdictive norms.

Constitutive norms are those which certify something as being part of a particular category. To be a chair, for example, an object has to, at minimum, be such that one can sit on it -- else it isn't a chair. So, this is at least one constitutive norm of being a chair.

Verdictive norms, by contrast, are those which certify something as being a good or bad member of a category. Continuing the example, a chair doesn't have to be comfortable to be a chair; but if it is comfortable, it's a good chair. So, comfort is a verdictive norm of being a chair.

These apply to language, too. To count as a sentence (or a word, but let's deal with sentences) at all, a collection of sounds or marks on a page must pass certain constitutive norms: basically, norms of semantics and grammar (syntax). These norms, technically, have a bit of give to them, but that's not relevant for this discussion. To count as an informative, rational, moral, anti-semitic, what have you kind of sentence -- we have to invoke some set of verdictive norms.

That's the first distinction I want to bring into play. The second is this: use and mention. A sentence is "mentioned" when it is talked about; that is, when it is the object of another sentence. E.g.: Stephen Harper said "I hate Canada". The sentence "I hate Canada" there (and, for that matter, right here, too) is being mentioned, but not used. A sentence is "used", then, when it is actually being deployed in speech or writing: when the person using it is claiming, or appearing to claim, that the sentence is true.

Now, if you're still with me, here's how the distinctions play together. Constitutive norms apply to sentences whether they are used or mentioned. Verdictive norms only apply to sentences when they are used. This is because mentioning a sentence doesn't commit the person mentioning it to the truth of the sentence. If one isn't committed to the truth of the sentence, though, then it's hard to see how one can possibly apply any verdictive norm. I could quote a sentence from Mein Kampf, one as vile (if used) as you like, but would still be free from verdictive norms, because I'm not committed to the sentence. (Of course, my act of quoting could be subject to verdictive norms.) Indeed, if this weren't the case, then it would be impossible for me to ever accurately report on the views of people I disagree with, even mildly; every time I mentioned their claims, I would be committed to them, and hence subject to the very same (critical) judgements that I would want to make against their claims.

The application to this case is like this: McClelland made a comment. That comment, in itself, is not anti-semitic, nor non-anti-semitic, because the norms governing judgements of anti-semitism are verdictive. The act of writing that comment may have been anti-semitic (it's the right sort of thing to be anti-semitic), but it actually wasn't anti-semitic.

So, to make a long story finally end, the reason the comment isn't anti-semitic is twofold. First, a comment can't be anti-semitic -- although writing one can. Second, the one that was actually written could be evidence of motivational failure rather than any particular judgement. (Indeed, given what has written about this, in various places, I think that motivational failure is probably the best explanation. It seems McClelland had been involved in a dust-up on another blog, and he was probably quite angry when he wrote the original comment. Anger is a great motivational distorter.)

As far as the Mein Kampf example, as just a bunch of words, it's not anti-semitic. (Consider: if a million monkeys on a million typewriters, typing forever, eventually produce Mein Kampf, are the monkeys anti-semites? They are, if the collection of words is, in itself, anti-semitic.) Wrong kind of norm. As an act of writing, it's anti-semitic -- because Hitler, the guy who wrote it, wrote it intending to harm Jews. If someone -- say, Ernst Zundel -- were to read aloud from Mein Kampf in some public area, he could be anti-semitic as well -- insofar as he is committing himself to the sentences he says, and not just mentioning them. (As noted above, even mentioning them, because it is also a speech act, can be caught by a verdictive norm; but, the target of the norm is not the mentioned sentence, but the speech act which includes the mentioning!)

Whew!

ADHR said...

Sorry, I'm an idiot. Second last paragraph (not counting "Whew!" as a paragraph) should be:

So, to make a long story finally end: first, a comment can't be anti-semitic -- although writing one can; second, the one that was actually written (keeping in mind that a written comment falls within the scope of the relevant verdictive norm) could be evidence of motivational failure rather than any particular judgement. (Indeed, given what has written about this, in various places, I think that motivational failure is probably the best explanation. It seems McClelland had been involved in a dust-up on another blog, and he was probably quite angry when he wrote the original comment. Anger is a great motivational distorter.)

undergroundman said...

It comes down to the word care, I think. Is it truly possible to be completely neutral towards something like this? To really not care? Not in my experience with this jumbled mess of thoughts and emotions. You will always have a feeling, perhaps just a smidge, of approval or disapproval, whether you care to act on it or not.

If this guy said he doesn't care, it's essentially a euphemism for saying that he approves. One can easily see why he would phrase it as he did, to avoid charges of anti-semitism and yet still take a jab at the Jews. Why else would he say something like that?

The whole argument that a sentence is not in itself anti-semitic went over my head. Yes, it is just words, but it still expresses anti-semitism, and it has an author.

It's a serious charge, and one that should only be levelled in serious circumstances.

Hmm. Insofar as he voiced that comment because he wanted to see the Jews stopped out of some concern for others, perhaps he's not anti-semitic, since anti-semitism is based in racism. But clearly, if you read his words plainly, he "wouldn't mind" seeing the Jews persecuted, put in concentration camps, ect.

PS: Yes, I'm saying that your assumption of morally neutral beliefs is false. Practically speaking, at least, I don't think humans can be morally neutral. They can be relatively apathetic, but they would have to be comatose to really be neutral.

Honestly, in a week where Ann Coulter, US right-wing media darling, exposes how viciously prejudiced she is -- yet again

And there I disagree with you - Coulter did not express prejudice in that statement. I think her argument that it was a joke ("a schoolyard taunt") works. Homosexuals may have taken it as a prejudiced statement but it wasn't meant to attack homosexuals -- intention is quite relevant in this case.

McLelland's comment is quite a bit more serious. Seriously.

undergroundman said...

Oh, and by the way -- anger has an interesting way of bringing out people's true feelings. I once mentioned that I think white people are genetically smarter than African-Americans while angrily debating in front of a large crowd. True story.

I also frequently relieve pent-up passive-aggressive anger in outbursts. If anything, his anger is more incriminating.

undergroundman said...

Oh, and the bar you set for antisemitism is far above what it should be. Antisemitism doesn't require actual harm to be done. It simply requires a set of beliefs in a person. It's very similar to racism. Antisemitism is prejudice directed at the Jews - that's it. Expressing antisemitism requires action.

Now we can quibble over whether McLelland's views on the Jews are preconceived notions based on race or frustration with their intelligence, international power, and how they use that power. But then McLelland doesn't target his comments toward guilty Jews; he thinks it's OK if they all get thrown in concentration camps. That points to prejudice---> antisemitism.

ADHR said...

UGM: I don't see why it's not possible to be completely neutral -- to literally not care. I don't care, one way or the other, what is happening to some guy (let's call him "Pete" for the sake of having a name) in Taiwan, right now. Some particular guy -- not a guy, any guy, but a particular guy. Part of the reason I literally don't care is that I don't know anything about him. I don't even know what his name actually is. So, I don't care.

Now, of course, it's easy to genuinely not care about something that you're ignorant about, but your point was put strongly enough that you would have to rule out all cases of genuinely not caring. But, suppose you were to modify your claim and allow that you can't genuinely not care about things you do know about. That's a possible claim, to be sure, but the fact that genuinely not caring is possible in some cases suggests it is possible in other cases. Examples of psychological dysfunction are key here: if I'm really very depressed, and given that one symptom of severe depression is lack of motivation, it follows that the motivational lack I feel about things I know nothing about can (pathologically) be extended to things I do know something about. And if it works in the case of systemic psychological dysfunction, why not in cases of particular psychological dysfunction?

The point about the sentence itself being anti-semitic was intended to distinguish, ultimately, between the speech act and the words spoken. Words can't be anti-semitic or non-anti-semitic -- that's the wrong kind of evaluation. Speaking or writing words can be, which is where the possibility of a motivational break comes in.

Basically, this turns on the debate between internalists and externalists in theory of motivation. I'm strictly neither, but, in this case, I'm arguing an externalist line: the judgement can come apart from the motivation.

My suggestion is he said it because he was angry, and he was angry because he was tired of being accused of anti-semitism. (I wish I still had the link to the other thread he was involved in; it got fairly vicious, as I recall.)

I understand that anger can sometimes reveal what you really think. However, it can also sometimes conceal what you really think. We've all said or done things out of anger that later we regretted because we didn't mean them.

As for Coulter: if you think "f*g" is a "schoolyard taunt", then you really share her prejudice. It's as vicious a word as "n***er" or "k**e" or any other epithet you can name. When those sorts of words are used, it's up to the person who used them to defend their use. If "f*g" is being used as equivalent to, say, "asshole", then the person using it either (a) doesn't understand the very word they're using or (b) thinks that trying to insult someone by calling them (a derogatory term for) homosexual is okay (while insulting someone by calling them a similar term for black or Jew is not).

That she didn't mean to attack homosexuals (and let us suppose she did not) is really neither here nor there. Her choice of words did attack homosexuals, just as she would've attacked blacks if she used "n***er". At issue is whether what she was accomplishing by using the term somehow overrides the claim of offense. Since that's a pretty high bar to clear, I think it's obvious she failed to clear it.

Besides which, children on schoolyards frequently use language that adults are supposed to know is extremely offensive and derogatory. If that's her best defense, then she doesn't really have a defense.

(Incidentally, the asterisks are not my choice. I'm not sure about Blogger's policy on mentioning racial epithets, so I want to be sure I'm in the clear in that regard.)

ADHR said...

Sorry, I don't buy that bar. That lumps anti-semitism together with not liking redheads. Seriously -- same rationale. Being a redhead is a morally irrelevant quality; perhaps I just don't care for people with red hair, and so I don't associate with them. But, by your criterion, that means I have a prejudice that is, morally, equivalent to anti-semitism. That's an insane result, so clearly the criterion has gone wrong. Anti-semitism has to mean something more than just prejudice, else it runs the serious risk of either (a) becoming a trivial charge (like not liking redheads) or (b) making too many things serious charges (like not liking redheads).

Look, if someone just doesn't like Jews or blacks or Christians or whatever, that makes them shallow, but I don't see how it makes them bad. It's bad to harm people; that I can see. It's worse to harm them because of a completely irrelevant quality (like being Jewish). In that sense, I can get clear why anti-semitism is such a bad thing. If it's just because it's prejudice, then I lose any understanding of why it's so wrong. Why couldn't I just not care for Jews? Or Americans? Or people who drive badly? Or redheads? These are all prejudices; what makes the anti-semitic one so much worse?

And, again, you're presuming that a gap between motivation and judgement is impossible. I don't see why you think that. It seems pretty obvious to me that the judgement, in at least some cases, is one thing and the motivation to do what it requires is another.

Example: I judge that I should go and work on my dissertation proposal rather than replying to comments on my blog. I am not motivated to go and work on my proposal. So, I'm not, even though I judge that I should. Does this mean I don't really know what my judgement is? Does this mean I really judge that replying to comments is better or more worth doing that working on my proposal? Either solution seems to give me a "thought too many", in Bernard Williams' excellent phrase. The simplest way to capture what's going on is: I judge working on the proposal more valuable, but I am motivated to reply to comments. That is, motivation has come apart from judgement.

If it works in one case, it should work in all cases, unless you have a reason as to why this particular case is special.

undergroundman said...

I don't care, one way or the other, what is happening to some guy (let's call him "Pete" for the sake of having a name) in Taiwan, right now. Some particular guy -- not a guy, any guy, but a particular guy. Part of the reason I literally don't care is that I don't know anything about him. I don't even know what his name actually is. So, I don't care.

I believe you will not have an emotional response of caring, but intellectually, really, you don't care if Pete is beaten and tortured? You don't feel that such as act is wrong? My point is that that is a form of caring. It seems inconsistent of you not to care (to feel neither approval nor dissaproval) in that particular case, but to care abstractly. Torture is immoral in general, but not when applied to Pete, because he's a particular person. "I don't care if he's tortured." The point is that if you know an action, you can always abstract it and study it morally, and you will tend to do that instinctively.

Regardless, yes, there may be situations where this doesn't apply because of information gaps. If you don't know what an action is, of course you can't judge it. I'm assuming understanding.

Examples of psychological dysfunction are key here: if I'm really very depressed, and given that one symptom of severe depression is lack of motivation, it follows that the motivational lack I feel about things I know nothing about can (pathologically) be extended to things I do know something about. And if it works in the case of systemic psychological dysfunction, why not in cases of particular psychological dysfunction?

There may be cases where people are near-comatose, yeah. There might be exceptions. I'm trying to talk about normal human beings. People who are mentally functioning will tend to judge actions in the abstract.


Look, if someone just doesn't like Jews or blacks or Christians or whatever, that makes them shallow, but I don't see how it makes them bad. It's bad to harm people; that I can see. It's worse to harm them because of a completely irrelevant quality (like being Jewish). In that sense, I can get clear why anti-semitism is such a bad thing. If it's just because it's prejudice, then I lose any understanding of why it's so wrong. Why couldn't I just not care for Jews? Or Americans? Or people who drive badly? Or redheads? These are all prejudices; what makes the anti-semitic one so much worse?


All of those are similar but one? Guess what it is: the one about people driving badly. That's not a strictly pre-judice belief. It's an inductive conclusion. In fact, much of the conclusions we operate on throughout are life are like this. We judge people based on their past actions, and generalize some rules. You can call these inductive conclusions or prejudices, but they're not "bad" unless: 1) they make us want to kill these people "unjustly", 2) motivated by greed, 3) mishonest, ect. I don't know why things are bad. I just have some intuitions about what is bad and what isn't. (I may be conflating "badness" and "wrongness", but the two concepts seem so tightly linked to me. Right/wrong/neither is trichotomous whereas good/bad is continous, perhaps.)

Regardless, they are all equally bad, which may or may not be bad depending upon your perspective. You seem to think it's not bad to want to kill someone if you don't act on it. All these people who wish they were murderers or pedophiles are not "bad people." To me that sounds strange. Not to mention the semantic issues surrounding "bad."

But, by your criterion, that means I have a prejudice that is, morally, equivalent to anti-semitism. That's an insane result, so clearly the criterion has gone wrong.

That's not insane at all. Antisemitism comes in a variety of degrees. Perhaps I am antisemitic to a degree - does that automatically make me a horrible person? Perhaps I even base my antisemitism on historical facts? You have to connect the two more closely: if you have a prejudice against redheads that makes you want to put them away in concentration camps, as typical antisemitism does, then they're both as morally "bad." On the other hand, if you just think redheads and Jews are stupid in a playful, harmless sort of way, then it doesn't seem like such a bad thing.

Antisemitism does not need to be anything more than it is. There's no point in changing words in order to amplify charges against a group of people (antisemites). Let the words be decided by users of them -- I think they favor my definition, which is racism (of, perhaps, a genocidal attitude) towards Jews. This particular racist remark was particularly anti-semite, talking about rounding up the Jews.

Let me know if I missed something major. We'll likely end up talking past each other again.

I understand that anger can sometimes reveal what you really think. However, it can also sometimes conceal what you really think. We've all said or done things out of anger that later we regretted because we didn't mean them.

Or because we really did mean them and we didn't want people to know. Maybe that's only the case for me. :p

Psychols said...

Erik, I have quoted from this blog post and linked to it. I trust that is alright with you.

ADHR said...

@Psychols: You realize this isn't Erik's blog, right?

@UGM:

I believe you will not have an emotional response of caring, but intellectually, really, you don't care if Pete is beaten and tortured? You don't feel that such as act is wrong? My point is that that is a form of caring. It seems inconsistent of you not to care (to feel neither approval nor dissaproval) in that particular case, but to care abstractly. Torture is immoral in general, but not when applied to Pete, because he's a particular person. "I don't care if he's tortured." The point is that if you know an action, you can always abstract it and study it morally, and you will tend to do that instinctively.

My instinct, really, is to block that abstracting move on the grounds that things are only wrong in particular contexts. Once you abstract, you lose the context and thus lose the claim that it is in fact wrong. Of course, this does depend on how far you abstract: if you only abstract a little -- say, from Pete to a guy like Pete -- then, presumably, the moral valence shouldn't change. (My concern is that abstracting from particulars to generals can lead us into saying silly things like "stealing is always wrong, whenever it happens", even though it's a child's game to figure out cases where it's permissible or even obligatory.)

If that's the kind of abstraction at stake, though, there's still room to say I really don't care -- either in the sense of being motivated to do anything, or in the sense of forming a judgement. One can say that nothing -- not torture, nothing -- is "just wrong". (Same applies for "just right".) Hence, unless I know more about Pete, such as by actually knowing him and his situation, I really don't care.

There may be cases where people are near-comatose, yeah. There might be exceptions. I'm trying to talk about normal human beings. People who are mentally functioning will tend to judge actions in the abstract.

I don't think you're quite taking the point. The existence of exceptions, as you call them, implies the phenomenon exists. So, why can't it exist in just one individual case? Say you're right that normal people tend to abstract and judge all actions. That doesn't imply that it always happens; and, given that this can go systemically wrong, it's at least possible that it can go particularly wrong.

All of those are similar but one? Guess what it is: the one about people driving badly. That's not a strictly pre-judice belief. It's an inductive conclusion. In fact, much of the conclusions we operate on throughout are life are like this. We judge people based on their past actions, and generalize some rules. You can call these inductive conclusions or prejudices, but they're not "bad" unless: 1) they make us want to kill these people "unjustly", 2) motivated by greed, 3) mishonest, ect. I don't know why things are bad. I just have some intuitions about what is bad and what isn't. (I may be conflating "badness" and "wrongness", but the two concepts seem so tightly linked to me. Right/wrong/neither is trichotomous whereas good/bad is continous, perhaps.)

Actually, I think a case can be made that right/wrong are also on a continuum, but anyway....

Even if the driving badly judgement is often an enumerative induction, it doesn't have to be. Nor do any of the others I outlined. And the reasons you give for thinking the judgements might be wrong sound a lot like my harm criterion (although I'm not sure why dishonest is there -- if a judgement is dishonest, then that implies there's another, real, judgement working behind the scenes, and that is the one worthy of moral attention).

Regardless, they are all equally bad, which may or may not be bad depending upon your perspective. You seem to think it's not bad to want to kill someone if you don't act on it. All these people who wish they were murderers or pedophiles are not "bad people." To me that sounds strange. Not to mention the semantic issues surrounding "bad."

Why does that sound strange? If someone wants to kill someone else, but manages to restrain themselves, I think that's actually somewhat admirable. They realized their impulse was wrong and overcame it. That takes a certain strength of character.

That's not insane at all. Antisemitism comes in a variety of degrees. Perhaps I am antisemitic to a degree - does that automatically make me a horrible person? Perhaps I even base my antisemitism on historical facts? You have to connect the two more closely: if you have a prejudice against redheads that makes you want to put them away in concentration camps, as typical antisemitism does, then they're both as morally "bad." On the other hand, if you just think redheads and Jews are stupid in a playful, harmless sort of way, then it doesn't seem like such a bad thing.

Which is exactly the point of the harm criterion: if you are actively out trying to harm Jews (or redheads or blacks or whatever), then there's sense in saying antisemitism is a very bad thing. If, on the other hand, you just don't like Jews (or whatever), then you have a mere prejudice; you could be called shallow, as I said, but you couldn't really be called wrong or bad.

Antisemitism does not need to be anything more than it is. There's no point in changing words in order to amplify charges against a group of people (antisemites). Let the words be decided by users of them -- I think they favor my definition, which is racism (of, perhaps, a genocidal attitude) towards Jews. This particular racist remark was particularly anti-semite, talking about rounding up the Jews.

You've flipped definitions again. There was no intent to actively harm Jews in the remark.

Or because we really did mean them and we didn't want people to know. Maybe that's only the case for me. :p

Both could happen, but that's the point: both could happen. What's said out of anger could either be sincere but previously buried, or said only out of anger.

undergroundman said...

Goddamnit. I loaded up another comment page on your blog after writing up a long argument. Blogger is fucking bugged like that.

Sorry, I'm drunk and I just lost all motivation. :(

Basically, I admit that people can "not care" if there is information lacking, but the threshold at which they do care means necessarily that they think there is enough information. In this case the guy obviously has enough information on the action (Jews being gassed) to make a judgment - he decides that he doesn't care. I think he's implying that it is permissible. You're only argument is that he said something stupid in anger, and I don't think that holds up. I think he's an anti-Semite who revealed himself. Anti-Semites only wish harm on Jews - they don't necessarily need to inflict it.

Once you abstract, you lose the context and thus lose the claim that it is in fact wrong. Of course, this does depend on how far you abstract: if you only abstract a little -- say, from Pete to a guy like Pete -- then, presumably, the moral valence shouldn't change. (My concern is that abstracting from particulars to generals can lead us into saying silly things like "stealing is always wrong, whenever it happens", even though it's a child's game to figure out cases where it's permissible or even obligatory.)

One can abstract the context, and one should. Abstract everything, including the nature of the people involved. That's the way such an abstraction should work. The only detail that is left undefined is the particular people and place. Obviously there are epistemological problems with this (how do we abstract the nature of people when we do not know them personally?), but these are irrelevant in the case we are discussing.

ADHR said...

Basically, I admit that people can "not care" if there is information lacking, but the threshold at which they do care means necessarily that they think there is enough information. In this case the guy obviously has enough information on the action (Jews being gassed) to make a judgment - he decides that he doesn't care. I think he's implying that it is permissible. You're only argument is that he said something stupid in anger, and I don't think that holds up. I think he's an anti-Semite who revealed himself. Anti-Semites only wish harm on Jews - they don't necessarily need to inflict it.

I disagree. I think an admission of not caring is an admission of a motivational lack, not any kind of averral to a judgement. Judgement and motivation are seperable, in my view.

I would also take exception to that definition of anti-semitism, but on a technical point: you need to wish harm on them because they are Jews. Otherwise it's garden-variety malice.

One can abstract the context, and one should. Abstract everything, including the nature of the people involved. That's the way such an abstraction should work. The only detail that is left undefined is the particular people and place. Obviously there are epistemological problems with this (how do we abstract the nature of people when we do not know them personally?), but these are irrelevant in the case we are discussing.

See, now, I don't think reasons exist when we abstract too far. Or, more precisely, I think the reasons that exist at a certain level of abstraction vanish when we try to go back to the concrete. Which is an odd way of saying that context affects whether and how something counts as a reason.