July 31, 2023

Baddiel, an ignorant, arrogant charlatan

 If Twitter obsessed David Baddiel's book, Jews Don't Count was a Wikipedia entry it would be flagged as having "multiple issues".

The first problem I see is that David Baddiel is a so-called Centrist and Centrism could even be defined as a Rightism that thinks it's a Leftism. It becomes a major problem when it so thinks it is a Leftism it gets worse and thinks it is the only Leftism that the legitimate political spectrum has room for. Leftism has enemies to its right who it must defend against or attack but Centrism doesn't have enemies to its right, only to its left. 

The book is published by the Times Literary Supplement which is supposed to be intellectually highbrow. Well bang goes that reputation.  For a wit, indeed for a Yiddisher wit, Baddiel isn't very smart at all. He could be lamenting or simply asking where all our good Jewish intellectuals went but since the answer is probably that they got crowded out by a bunch of redbaiting self-appointees he won't be asking that. 

Uh-oh, I've just seen David Baddiel in conversation with one of the nastiest pieces of work in the Zionist movement, Ruth Smeeth, and he's describing his book as nuanced. Wow.

Baddiel in conversation with Ruth Smeeth

I guess Mr Nuance isn't going to be asking about any tntellectuals then

So what is he saying? According to Hugo Rifkind, "Calmly, relentlessly, wittily, Baddiel makes the case that anti-Semitism is a racism like any other".  While for Howard Jacobson, "This is a bare-knuckle fist-fight of a book". Clearly, they didn't read the same book. And for Hadley Freeman, Jews Don't Count is, "Just so brilliantly argued and written, I was completely swept along". I reckon she wrote that before she read it and then switched on a page turning auto-pilot. The book isn't argued at all. I'll show you what I mean by that.

Here's a whole passage from page 10 to 12:

The major BBC current affairs show, the one that sets the news agenda every morning, is the Today programme on Radio 4. It's a must-listen for those interested in politics. And a must-react to: if something controversial is said on Today, Twitter is set alight, and the conversation explodes. 
On 13 March 2019, the American pollster John Zogby was on. At one point, he began talking about fissures in the Democratic Party, specifically around the then new Congreswoman Ilhan Omar's views about Israel and its supporters in the US. The interviewer, Justin Webb, who is a regular on Today, said in response:
If the party decided to say to its supporters , "Look we think that anti-Semitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism, that it's a different order of racism. It's not as important - it's still bad - but it's not as important as some other forms of racism", what impact do you think that might have?
It was a strange moment. It felt less like a question and more like a helpful suggestion. Maybe this would be a way forward for the Democrats? was the tone. Webb did not qualify or contextualise it. He did not preface or add "Obviously this is offensive to say, but perhaps it's what some people in the party actually think". His tone was neutral. 
Zogby moved on without really answering. But even if he had, it was the question itself I was struck by. I remember listening and thinking, Blimey, it's rare that someone just comes out with it: Anti-Semitism is a second class racism. I thought there would be an intense reaction.

Well it turned out there wasn't much reaction but Baddiel recorded the section he had heard and eventually got some reaction but only from Jews and from Justin Webb himself who got in touch to say that he only wondered if that was what some Democrats were thinking. A similar thing happened when Baddiel disagreed with Anthony Julius introducing the recital of TS Eliot's specifically antisemitic poems. He contacted Julius and spent 3 hours at lunch with him.

But where's the argument? It's all assertion. Where did Webb get the question about antisemitism from? Ilhan Omar has been falsely accused of antisemitism but from what we see that wasn't mentioned until Webb said it. Maybe there's as insight into Baddiel himself here. Look what he's done. Like Webb he has decided that the stuff about Omar and Israel is about antisemitism, not just a left/right thing or a foreign policy or a lobby group thing. Then he suspects Webb of saying that a) antisemitism is a bit like anti-whitism, ie, not really racist or not so racist, then b) that Webb would even suggest that the Democrats ought to play to that antisemitic prejudice that only Webb and Baddiel have inferred. And even when Justin Webb seeks Baddiel out to disabuse him, Baddiel still puts the thing in his book as if his own understanding of what Webb said trumps Webb's own explanation of what he meant.

And check out the very start of the session where the news agenda for the day starts with a BBC Radio 4 programme and continues through Twitter. I looked at Baddiel's own account for that day and it appears that Justin Webb's incitement to the hatred, well actually his helpful suggestion of incitement to the hatred of Jews in America didn't put Baddiel off his lunch.

And apart from the next day, he didn't tweet again until some time in May 2019 so I don't know when he posted his recording. 

A few times Baddiel makes clear that his book "is for progressives" but it is embarrassing that he thinks of himself as one. He does combine laddish lad, even at 50 something, with Jew. Laddish lads are not progressive and his entire framework is a conservative one. I have read the book to the end but all of its general faults appear in the first few pages. And his Jewish identity is based on his oft stated belief that Hitler, the Gestapo, the SS or the Nazis would kill him tomorrow. In fact he rejects almost everything about Jews. He's not religious, he's not a Zionist. I'm very confused about his take on his own Jewish identity which only exists through his bloodline.

Baddiel swallows whole many a falsehood throughout the book, including the Nazis pseudo science of race, the good faith and even the meaning of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism without setting it out or relating any of the arguments against it, the sincerity of the EHRC without getting into any detail, etc, etc. He even accepts that Ken Loach supported at least the right to deny the Holocaust on the strength of a tweet by CST's Dave Rich where you can see, since Baddiel replicates it in the book, that Rich tampered with a quote from Ken Loach to make his point.

On page 40 you get a full blast of Baddiel's sheer ignorance of race, racism and history itself. He challenges the idea that there can't be racism against Jews because Jews aren't a race, only a religion and "religious intolerance is not as bad as racism". Of course, not being a race doesn't insulate people from racism and doesn't absolve racists, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-Catholic, etc, of racism. We'll leave aside that religious intolerance has taken millions of lives throughout history and is still taking lives and causing exclusions. But this is where in a footnote Baddiel "explains" why he believes Jews to be a race.

"I'm an atheist and yet the Gestapo would shoot me tomorrow". I have heard Baddiel say it many times. Here he is on Twitter

I couldn't resist a quick QRT when I found that by googling baddiel "gestapo would shoot me tomorrow" when I read his footnote (p41) where he wonders why he always says tomorrow "as they would no doubt shoot me today". They won't shoot him today and of course, tomorrow never comes.

But it is strange that Baddiel offers nothing really as a positive thing about being Jewish. For all he calls anti-Zionist Jews "self-haters" when I am with my own anti-Zionist Jewish friends, we are very conscious of our cultural identity, you might even say we take pride in it at the same time as acknowledging there is something jarring about taking pride in what is partly (Baddiel says entirely) an accident of birth.

And this brings us neatly to Baddiel's professed non-Zionism. If Baddiel is truly a non-Zionist, he certainly helps them out when they're busy. He has participated enthusiastically in the smear campaign against Corbyn and the left and more recently he joined the campaign against Bristol University's Professor David Miller. The campaign against the left was not entirely about Israel but you can't run a smear campaign alleging antisemitism without a significant number of Jews on board.  By no means all Jews or even all Zionists supported the campaign but Baddiel definitely did even minting at least one lie of his own. 

Click this link to Baddiel on Frankie Boyle's programme in 2018. Baddiel says "29% of people who voted for Corbyn in the Labour Party think the world is controlled by a secret global elite and that global elite are Jews". Here is the YouGov poll that is closest to what Baddiel said

28% agree with the statement, "The world is controlled by a secretive elite". Actually some might believe that the elite are Jews but it doesn't say so in the poll. It doesn't even say that the agreers agree that the elite is unified. They might just take the view that the aggregate of all of the world's ruling classes could be fairly described as a secretive elite. It wouldn't be a good way to describe it but of itself it is certainly not antisemitic and not even necessarily conspiracistic. Put simply, Baddiel lied. Ok, maybe he didn't lie. Maybe he is so paranoid he thought he heard what he falsely claimed to  hear. He actually feathers that nest of perception being more important than actuality on page 39:
We live in a culture now where impact is more important than intent; where how things are taken is more significant than how they are meant.

See him complaining about a culture he takes full advantage of to put the worst possible spin on what other people say or do. He's the same with the notorious mural by Mear One where he uses the artist's antisemitic reaction to criticism of his not unambiguously antisemitic mural.

Just a note here. This is the dreaded mural, a depiction of six founding fathers of the modern banking system, two of whom were Jewish and four of whom were not. Apparently two of them are Alister Crowley and JP Morgan but I can't be bothered to find which two. So, which two of the six men are supposed to be the Jews? By the way, Corbyn didn't even say he liked the painting.

Actually, Baddiel does do a lot of what he sets out to do with the whole book with the Mear One guy. He pretty much nails him as antisemitic. He might even be Jewish or maybe ex-Jewish. If so, he had a few full-on Atzmon moments even hashtagging #Rothschild and #Warburg to denounce the affiliation of complainants to them, ie, Jews.  The hashtag confirms Baddiel's belief, as expressed earlier about the Today programme that something hasn't really happened until it has been tweeted and #hashtagged.

Baddiel's stupid book

The book is ridiculous from its ludicrous title thru its methodology of preferring inference over research, description over definition and assertion over evidence, to its inconclusive conclusion. It's hard to see why this book has been written except maybe for Baddiel to settle some scores with people who, unlike on Twitter, can't have a right of reply or maybe it's just to make money. It is not to fight antisemitism and in some cases it's to invent it. It provides no insights and there is nothing new in any of Baddiel's suggestions/demands.

In fact come to think of it, it's hard to see who he's addressing. He claims he's talking about progressives and the left and sometimes the progressive left. But his own worldview like his framing is profoundly conservative

Something he is saying, you might say, clearly, is that Jews are a race/ethnicity (these are not interchangeable terms except in BaddielWorld). But anyway he claims Jews are a race and therefore that Jews are susceptible to racism like any other race of people. Actually he seems to think antisemitism, which he renders anti-Semitism. There's much literature on why you shouldn't do that but Baddiel hasn't read it.

So hard up is Baddiel for genuine antisemitism, he goes on extended whinges about when non-Jews have played Jews in movies and plays. He might not have noticed this if it wasn't for certain other communities protesting when one of their members is portrayed by a non-member like hetros playing gays or the fact that trans roles can only be played by trans actors. This is a logic fail and a lack of understanding. Trans and gays are still very much in struggle for emancipation. In both cases legal equality has only just been achieved and we are still in a culture around acceptance of the ever lengthening LGBTQ. Jews are not struggling for emancipation and there's no issue around the proportional representation of Jews in show business. 

Baddiel calls non-Jews playing Jews #Jewface though he's never seen it "trend on Twitter". (p60). Honestly, what is a Jewface? Of course, there's an element of self-justification there. Baddiel famously blacked up and used a pineapple to represent a still current hairstyle among Blacks. (pp 69-72)

His mea culpa re Black footballer Jason Lee was all culpa and no mea that I could see. In fact there's not a whole lot of culpa especially since he somehow thinks it's equivalent to an Italian-American playing the role of a Jew in a film or play. Really, he goes off on an extended one about how white non-Jews playing Jewish roles somehow equates with the mockery of our (yes our, whites including white Jews) ownership of and trading in Blacks people. That's where blacking up comes from. Oh and I checked #Jewface and it appears on Twitter often enough going back to 2012 (maybe earlier) usually from supporters of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians including a rabbi in 2019 to slag Corbyn probably over his attending a Seder night. But to equate serious non-Jewish actors playing Jews with whites (Jewish or not) blacking up calls into question Baddiel's understanding of antisemitism and racism more generally.

So quite early in the book, Baddiel has equated Jews to a gender type and a sexual orientation neither of which are races. They are however disadvantaged and the disadvantage of Jews is one of the things he wants to establish even though it's mostly absurd. But where does he get the Jews are a race idea from? Well, he is Jewish mostly because the Nazis say he is. He also likes Jewish food and a couple of Jewish authors. He doesn't like the religion. He so doesn't like the religion he manages to place the Talmud in the wrong millennium (p7) before saying that antisemites invent quotes from it to disparage Jews. Now given that he doesn't know the Talmud, how would he know if quotes are misquotes? Every so often an Israeli chief rabbi will make some statement about G-d's plan to make gentiles subservient to Jews according to the Talmud. Baddiel really should have done some research.

In spite of antisemitism allegations having been used every day for 6 years now to destroy the prospect of the Labour Party ever being a party of conscience and reform, Baddiel claims that racism against Jews is being given a free pass by the "progressive left". Ah, now here's where we rely on Baddiel's descriptions to know or guess what or who he means when he says progressive and left. At one point he even seems to include David Cameron. (pp 24/5) who Baddiel actually had access to.

Which brings us to the Y-word, ie, the word "Yid" versus the N-word which is, by progressives and leftists considered so taboo it can never be said in its proper form except by Black people themselves. Baddiel says the Y-word should be similarly taboo. What surprises me, I don't know if it's his laddish persona that prevents him from drawing on anything he learned from his double first in English at Oxbridge but he does nothing to analyse these words to establish their etymology and history. N-words were owned and traded by Whites including white Jews. The word Yid is actually Yiddish for Jew. Yes it's offensive but it doesn't denote ownership. Offence does happen in degrees. Not all slurs have equal weight. Having said that, Baddiel would be enormously hard pressed to find examples of leftists using Yid as terminology in any circumstances except in discussing his stupid book and the only people he quotes are David Cameron and notoriously racist football fans.

Baddiel's equating of N-words and Y-words is because he thinks racism against Jews is treated as not being as serious as racism against say, blacks. So often his examples tell us more about Baddiel than about what he claims to be writing about though sometimes he stumbles on something he has to shy away from. For example, BBC Radio 4 had a reading of TS Eliot's poetry including his antisemitic poems. Those latter were introduced by the famous Jewish lawyer, Anthony Julius. Baddiel said that the Beeb would never dream of reciting Agatha Christie's Ten Little N*****s. That may or may not be true (remember I said inference) but what is definitely true is that the Beeb would have had enormous difficulty finding a Black Anthony Julius to introduce the recital. That, of course, doesn't occur to Baddiel. By the way, Baddiel met up with Anthony Julius for 3 hours to discuss the Eliot recital.

Baddiel has been quite a key player in the smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and of course Corbyn isn't spared in this stupid book except Baddiel at one point comes across as almost charitable when discussing Corbyn's take on the not necessarily antisemitic mural. Remember MuralGate? Well for Baddiel it is unambiguously antisemitic in spite of him knowing that the portrayal is of six founding fathers of the modern banking system only two of whom were Jews,. Now where he gets that from is that he accurately describes the artist's response to the complaints about the mural as being wildly antisemitic even hashtagging #Warburg and #Rothschild. What he doesn't describe accurately is the mural itself. It does not depict "hook-nosed bankers". They are literally stoney faced and fairly representational except they are monochromatic. Suspiciously, in spite of pictures of some of the tweets he mentions he doesn't include a picture of the mural either freestanding or with a tweet. He claims "Jews seemed to think" the mural was antisemitic but David Toube of the rabidly pro-Israel hate-site Harry's Place didn't think so. He's Jewish. So am I and whilst I hate the stupid mural for its conspiracism and garishness there is nothing essentially Jewish in the symbols or the faces. 

But anyway, on Corbyn, Baddiel charitably though patronisingly, says that he might not have known about the depictions of Rothschild and Warburg. Actually if Baddiel was completely honest he would say what is the case and that is, no-one knows if Corbyn even saw the mural. He simply asked why it was being taken down. But Baddiel plows on and how. Corbyn would have seen the anti-capitalism but not the antisemitism. Well if he saw the mural at all he might have seen just what David Toube and I saw.  But the idea that Corbyn would place his anti-capitalism above his anti-racism across the board is just plain wrong. 

Corbyn has condemned antisemitism specifically many times. An aside here. When Baddiel was on Frankie Boyle's programme in 2018 he complained that Corbyn always says he is against all forms of racism including antisemitism but that Baddiel wanted him to commit to fighting antisemitism as a stand alone thing. That is just a little bit of a contradiction of his position in this book that Jews are an ethnic minority or a race just like Blacks are a race. Anyway, I remember Corbyn condemning Tam Dalyell for accusing a "cabal of Jews" of unduly influencing Tony Blair over Iraq. So his opposition to antisemitism was not obscured by his opposition to the war. He condemned Paul Flynn for saying that Matthew Gould shouldn't be ambassador to Israel because he is Jewish. That was in spite of Gould self-describing as a "proud Zionist". So again Corbyn's opposition to antisemitism was placed before his anti-Zionism. Baddiel's inference was plain wrong and unfair.  There is no reason to assume that Corbyn would allow his anti-capitalism to allow antisemitism to fly below his radar.

But what right has Baddiel to infer rather than research or simply ask people stuff anyway. With Julius he met him for lunch. He met Cameron too. Why doesn't he connect with the more ordinary people so he won't have to infer?

A similar thing happens when Baddiel manages an inference about someone else's inference. See this on page 10:


"At one point, he [John Zogby] began talking about fissures in the Democratic Party specifically around the new Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's views about Israel and its supporters in the US. The interviewer Justin Webb, who is a regular on Today, said, in response:

If the party decided to say to its supporters, 'Look, we think that anti-Semitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism, that it's actually a different order of racism. It's not as important - it's still bad -...." 


From that Baddiel leaps to this:


"It felt less like a question, more like a helpful suggestion. *Maybe this would be a way forward for the Democrats*? was the tone." 


So, as far as Baddiel's readers can see, the idea of antisemitism wasn't mentioned by Zogby. Nothing antisemitic was quoted from Omar. The very notion was introduced by Webb and inferred beyond recognition by Baddiel. What tosh, honestly.

Yet another over-inference is in the case of Ash Sarkar. He even quotes her accurately and still manages to misrepresent the words he quotes. "Antisemitism...is primarily experienced as prejudice and hostility towards Jews as Jews largely without aspects of material dispossession (such as structural unemployment) that manifest in other forms of racism".  And here's Baddiel to infer, "The suggestion here is that, because Jews are better off....than other ethnic minorities, it is a lesser form of racism". Pay attention, she didn't say either of those things. She merely said that racism against Jews does not have a socio-economic impact. So wherever Jews are on the socioeconomic scales, high or low, is not down to their being Jews. Idiot!

Sorry about the disjointedness but it is such a silly book. Let's take a look at Baddiel's claim of being non-Zionist. It is true that most false allegations of antisemitism are made by Zionists to cover up their own racism and Baddiel being Jewish and happily repeating many false claims of antisemitism on Twitter and even inventing one of his own on telly make people suspect he's a Zionist. I remember in the 1990s Baddiel saying that leftists who criticise Ariel Sharon were antisemitic at the same time as saying he's not actually an Israel supporter. I think Zionism, like racism more generally and even antisemitism, is something he just doesn't get. 

For example he correctly calls Jenny Tonge antisemitic whilst cheekily linking her to Corbyn. She's actually almost literally a centrist having been a LibDem. But one of the examples he gives of her "antisemitism" is that she reports that she is sickened by the entitled attitude of a New Zealand woman presenting a YouTube vid titled Why I'm a Zionist". Baddiel watched it. He wasn't sickened by it. Actually I was as sickened by the racist video which accuses the Palestinians of colonialism and Israel as their victim, as I was by Jenny Tonge trying to explain away the killing of 8 worshippers in a Pittsburgh shul by reference to Israel's atrocities. Baddiel watched the vid and wasn't sickened by it. But then he's not sickened by racism.

So one accurate example of antisemitism on the left and it turns out to be closer to his own professed position of centrism.

Anymore naming and shaming? The stuff about (pp67-69) Ken Loach is bizarre because Baddiel shows that allegations that he supports Holocaust denial are lies. The thing takes a bit of unpacking but Baddiel can even see that the Zionist he quotes was lying about what Loach actually said. And this is where I think Baddiel uses the book to settle scores. He posts a tweet from Ken Loach's son protesting the defaming of his father and linking the most famous but not the only example of Baddiel's racism, the Blackface Jason Lee thing.

This gives Baddiel an opportunity to show he doesn't understand whataboutery. Whataboutery is when you justify wrongdoing on your own side by reference to similar wrongdoing by your enemy or opponent. Jim Loach wasn't doing that. He was saying that his dad is being smeared (defamed) and so Baddiel is a liar and he finished by pointing to one example of Baddiel's own racism.

Failing to mention the smear campaign against the left is a serious omission. At one point he has Dawn Butler rattling off a list of identity groups she said Labour was pitching to. He laments, you can guess, she didn't mention Jews. OMG, what if she had? Is not just faintly possible that she was terrified to mention Jews. It appalled me at the same conference that Corbyn didn't mention the Palestinians in his last speech ever to Labour.

A couple of times Baddiel's mask slips and it's clear he believes that Jews are more important than everyone else eg Jews are "one of the most persecuted minorities in history" (p3) and for all his claim of non-Zionism, he describes orthodox Jewish anti-Zionists as "stupid f*cking frummers" and secular ones like me as "ashamed Jews" which is downright silly given how we self-identify and actually how we live. 

Given his book revolves mostly round Twitter you don't need to read it. It is just a bunch of tweets or tweetable nonsenses.  His right to infer is there to see.

Away from the book there are several instances of Baddiel's racism available to see on line. In one interview he describes himself as looking "like a pikey". I remember him on a panel programme once being asked why a certain view of Jesus's mum was pulled from the schedules and whilst other panellists tried to point to the offensive nature of the portrayal, Baddiel simply said "the BBC heard the words "Muslim" and "offended" and crapped themselves". 

This is a putdown for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. The Jason Lee thing is legendary. Back in the nineties he penned for the Guardian "Black men can jump" where he pigeonholed the various ethnicities of the UK by occupation, Blacks jump, Asians shopkeep and of course Jews don't lay bricks, they do accountancy. Oh! See that? Jews do count after all.