Fumbling Anti-Semitism: Understanding the DeSean Jackson Incident

July 17, 2020

By Shellie McCullough

NFL player DeSean Jackson posted a quote he believed to be from Hitler, which was later revealed to be a fabricated quote from a 2018 book titled The Hidden Treasure That Lies In Plain Sight 4: The Day of the Lord and the End of America. Jeremy Shorter, the author, is part of The Black Hebrew Israelites Movement, which is listed by SPLC as a hate group. In the past year, David Anderson and Francine Graham, also Black Hebrew Israelite adherents, left a manifesto alleging Jewish people control the government and marked Jews as enemies carrying out a secret “agenda,” before murdering the owners and several bystanders at the JC Kosher Market in Jersey City, NY in Dec of 2019.

After the Dec 2019 New York Monsey stabbing rampage that left Josef Neumann dead and 4 others wounded, May 2020 saw the Josef Neumann Domestic Terrorism Act issued into effect, so named because the attack on Neumann that took his life was classified an Anti-Semitic hate crime, which targeted Jews merely for existing as Jews. Shorter’s text features a fictionalized Hitler stating that “white Jews” are “blackmailing America” and that their world domination plan requires secrecy from the truth of the “true Black Hebrews identity.“ Not only was this what DeSean Jackson posted online, similarly, Nick Cannon was released from Viacom CBS for recent comments stating the “true” Hebrews are Black and “White Jews” are conspiring for world domination.

Jackson attempted to modify the quote, and reposted it by highlighting the “world domination” part, before finally issuing an apology, “I probably should have never posted anything that Hitler did, because Hitler was a bad person and I know that.” Nick Cannon also issued an apology titled “Truth and Reconciliation” in which he outlined regret for causing “many people” pain, while also stating that Viacom CBS is on “the wrong side of history.” Since the “truth” continually appears as a defense in each instance, let’s examine what that could possibly refer to for a moment. In common usage, the truth of a statement implies correspondence with facts.

DeSean’s apology was to express that he “should have probably” not posted anything “Hitler did,” because he knows Hitler is “bad.” He does not say what he posted is a lie, nor does he apologize for posting something that is not true about the false usurpation of Jewish identity his post specifically singles out, nor does he establish it is factually incorrect. By saying he *knows* Hitler is “bad,” one can surmise he was aware of this information when he posted it, not that he only just now learned after the backlash that Hitler is “bad.” Cannon claimed “White Jews” are hijacking the true Semitic identity, while the Rothchilds and illuminati are pulling the strings behind any and all world domination plans. If you believe a statement of fact that turns out to not be true, then it is a mistake, however, to lie is to present an assertion as true that the person *knows* is false. To say one misspoke is to suggest it was only a matter of the speaking, as if speaking occurred independently from the person. It is a way to deflect and deny responsibility.

Anti-Semitism as defined by IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), includes “… a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of Anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” What DeSean Jackson posted as well as what was shared on Nick Cannon’s show, clearly centers under this definition, as both instances single out Jews in particular, while simultaneously placing Jewishness itself in question, by laying out that “white Jews” are not the “real children of Israel.” This suggests, the “real” Jews identity must be kept from everyone else, because the “elite, illuminati” require secrecy in order to keep the current order in place because, as DeSean’s post ends, when people seek the “truth” they will learn that “Hitler was right.”

Let us not also forget that despite the Hitler quote turning out to be fake, DeSean believed it to be real when he posted it, while also claiming he knows Hitler is “bad.” In addition, DeSean said in his apology “I probably should have never posted anything that Hitler did…” which makes it seem as if there is legitimacy somewhere in his post, as if he actually did post something that “Hitler did.” Chiming in after the backlash started, Stephen Jackson also attempted to pull out the “truth” of DeSean Jackson’s original post as a defense by putting forth, “…he is trying to educate himself, educate people and he’s speaking the truth.” Nick Cannon also issued an apology balanced precariously upon a subordinating conjunction:  “If I have furthered hate speech, I wholeheartedly apologize…” which suggests there might not be anything he said that was offensive or incorrect.

Some claim DeSean Jackson, Stephen Jackson and Nick Cannon were merely looking upwards at something they hoped would uplift, and in being so enamored with the act of uplifting, stumbled onto Anti-Semitism without realizing it.

The question becomes: how is it that one could be so spellbound by the act of uplifting, the act of seeking the truth, that in doing so one claims that singling out Jews is merely part of the natural progression of truth seeking one stumbles onto by accident, while targeting Jews specifically? The idea we must examine is how we find over and over again, excuses for Anti-Semitism emerging as if it is a natural byproduct of asking questions about the world.

Attempting to wield the act of uplifting as a cover that somehow explains being drawn to Hitler and a false, weaponized framing of Jewishness as a lens is a common trope. Marge Schott, infamous Cincinnati Reds owner, also staked a truth claim in Hitler, claiming he was “good” for the Germans, her familial lineage. Voltaire, the oft quoted embodiment of Humanism who speaks of tolerance and rationalism claimed, “Jews are the enemies of the human race.” Martin Luther, trailblazer of the Reformation, claimed in On the Jews and Their Lies (1543) that if Jews refused conversion, “their synagogues should be set fire to … they should be drafted into forced labor or expelled.” I would be remiss if I did not mention Louis Farrakhan who has claimed for over 30 years that “Judaism is a deceptive lie” and a “theological error” promoted by Jews to further their control over the government and economy. One cannot specifically place a target on Jewishness, while also claiming they did not see said Jewishness being singled out in the name of uplifting.

If you try to address fake Hitler quotes or false canards that specifically malign and single out Jewish people, and your response does not even reference Jews or Anti-Semitism, but instead discusses some hidden trap door in truth seeking, or presents as an excuse that singling out Jews is part of the natural progression of formulating ideas about the world which passively causes one to name Jews as the enemy, you’re only causing harm and quite frankly you are not looking at Anti-Semitism for what it is. Systemic and institutional Anti-Semitism has existed for centuries, and is deeply embedded in the way Jews are represented and discussed in all areas, this news cycle being no exception, as we find with ESPN’s Eric Hartline article on this very subject which suspiciously questions, “Did Jackson truly intend to propagate centuries old aspersions against Jews, all while suggesting that Jews are worse than they are?” The important part “Worse than they are” implies, of course, that Jews already embody a measurable level of abhorrent existence (worseness as it were). Anti-Semitism is a weapon aimed at Jews, it is deeply imbedded across languages, cultures, and religions: it crosses borders and spans centuries, even into places where Jews have no physical presence. Anti-Semitism means that Jews have been, for centuries, forced to endure the ramifications of non-Jews defining and imposing restrictions on their very existence, while then having said restrictions purposely refashioned into a false weaponized canard the masses aim back at Jews claiming their own discrimination is somehow an ingrained characteristic representative of all Jews, which even bleeds over into Judaism itself.

To claim one is asking questions, or is attempting to uplift oneself, is not a problem in and of itself, but in the free-for-all of ideas that is the internet, not all ideas are equal, nor are they all true. A deliberate lie about Jewishness is not merely any idea to be considered, it is a weapon used to attack Jewishness. Being enraptured by a deliberate lie about Jews is not asking an innocent philosophical question, it is propagating a dangerous libel against Jewish people. When one insinuates that the process of asking questions about the world requires Jews to be libelously framed as enemies, while also claiming answers about the world can only be found with those who place targets specifically on Jewishness by propagating libelous falsehoods about Jews, stumbling onto Anti-Semitism is no accident.

Shellie McCullough is currently a Lecturer at The University of Texas at Arlington and author of the 2016 book Engaging the Shoah Through the Poetry of Dan Pagis: Memory and Metaphor. Most recently, Shellie’s chapter “Wound Marks in the Air and the Shadows Within: A Poetic Examination of Dan Pagis, Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs” appeared in the March 2020 edition of The Palgrave Handbook of Holocaust Literature and Culture.  Shellie’s work has also appeared in The University of Bucharest Review, World Literature Today as well as Blackwell’s Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, in which she authored the entry for “Zionism.”

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