This just in: the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of the Trump administration on the Muslim ban. Over at Breitbart, this news was greeted with the headline: “The Supreme Court Reinstates Trump Travel Ban from Muslim-Majority Countries!” Well, not quite. First, calling it a “travel ban” is what got Trump into trouble with the Courts in the first place and the Administration tries hard to reign in The Donald when he foolishly tells the truth about it. Second, the Court did not “reinstate” the entire ban, indeed, they upheld parts the stay.. Finally, by the time this gets sorted out, the ban will have expired, the Administration will have to start all over again with a new order without passing GO and without collecting their 200 refugees at the border. In summation: apart from being wrong in nearly every single particular, Breitbart nailed it.
Let’s think about the line of reasoning the makes the Muslim ban so popular among the Alt-Right. The basic argument looks pretty much like this:
Stop the illegal tide of immigration. Despite the secrecy of our Immigration Service and cooperating agencies on this subject—a secrecy utterly without justification and which could be desired only for concealing enormous irregularities—some of our Congressional spokesmen now claim that hundreds of thousands of immigrants, largely Muslim, are coming across our borders, legally and illegally. From my own studies of immigrants, I know that among them are many pro-Jihad. But all Muslim immigrants, Jihad and anti-Jihad, immediately after arrival are under strong pressure to side with the radical Muslim groups, and most of them will have to yield.
What can the history of the Alt-Right tell us about this line of reasoning?
It might help to rephrase the Alt-Right argument about immigration back to its original wording and put it back in its original context. Here’s the original quotation and the original wording:
Stop the illegal tide of immigration. Despite the secrecy of our Immigration Service and cooperating agencies on this subject—a secrecy utterly without justification and which could be desired only for concealing enormous irregularities—some of our Congressional spokesmen now claim that hundreds of thousands of European immigrants, largely Jewish, are coming across our borders, legally and illegally. From my own studies of immigrants from Eastern Europe during the war, I know that among them are many pro-Communists. (Many of these immigrants,drafted into the Army, were granted citizenship after 90 days’ service, and the War Department encouraged this process by pressuring Commanding officers and Intelligence officers.) But all Jewish immigrants, Communist and anti-Communist, immediately after arrival are under strong pressure to side with the Marxist groups, and most of them will have to yield. (pp. 42-3)
This was written in 1947, and the writer, according to the preface of the work, was “Major Robert H. Williams (Military Intelligence,Reserve), counter-intelligence, as conscientious an officer as our military intelligence ever had.” Impressive? Let’s find out more about him! Unfortunately, Wikipedia is no help here. Hmmm….. Let’s take a step to the right and check Conservapedia for those who find Wikipedia a little too “politically correct.” Nope, nothing. All is not lost, however! For those who find Conservapedia to be wishy-washy in its conservatism, we have a further resource a couple more steps to the right: Metapedia! There, in the Wikipedia of the Alt-Right, we find that Robert H. Williams was the guy who uncovered the fact that Eisenhower was backed by the Jews and that he was also “one of the first to question the alleged Holocaust of Jews during the Second World War” (something he probably shares with Sebastian Gorka). So, his bona fides are all in order.
Or ARE they? Williams was writing in the 1940s in what historian, Leonard Dinnerstein called the “high tide” of antisemtism in the United States. Many Americans thought that the Jews had gotten the United States into World War II and hostility toward Jews did not begin to decline until the late 1940s. At the same time the nation as a whole pivoted from viewing the Soviet Union as an ally to a totalitarian enemy. Those, like Williams, who had opposed the war all along argued that the Jews were in control of the Soviet Union and thus merged their anti-Communism with their antisemitism. As Williams wrote:
It is the Freiheit plan for creating a Yiddish speaking Master Race here and all over the world, following the pattern of the Soviet Union, and joining hands with that blood-drenched government, which comes to mind when we hear a “tailored” radio program or a speaker “educating” our children by attacking patriotism and loyalty to western traditions and culture. (p. 41)
The particular organization that was the target of Williams’s critique was the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith (ADL) an organization dedicated to fighting racial discrimination in all forms, not just against Jews. According to Williams, the ADL operated like a secret police force: defaming good Americans with false charges of racism and employing secretive and subversive tactics to do so. And, we should trust him, because he drew on his own experience as an intelligence officer. Just a few examples:
According…to my own information when on duty as a counter-intelligence officer, the League maintains a large number of investigators who gather information on any individual marked for surveillance or public disgrace” (p.3)
“Too many Jewish periodicals are pouring a stream of Pro-Communist, Marxist, pro-Russian sentiment into the Jewish people. I became aware of this shocking fact while on active duty at a counter intelligence officer in the Army. In that capacity I also was astounded to see that so many of our younger Jews had gone pro-Communist—that so many of our Communists were Jews” (p. 18)
“Among Intelligence officers and CIC investigators, it was a common saying—and I know Communist-fronts will denounce me as anti-Semitic and a Fascist for reporting this—that “seventy-five per cent. of the Jews in the army are pro-Communist” (p. 19).
“In my Intelligence research I had learned from documents and authentic excerpts from documents gathered from numerous sources, that the Russian Communist government was still under powerful Jewish influence” (p. 23)
Williams asked us to trust him when he warned us of the dangers of the Jews because he was privy to facts that we ordinary mortals were not. The only problem was that it was simply not true: Williams was never a “counter-intelligence officer” and was not privy to any secret facts about Jews or anything else. While the ADL was hardly the secret-police force Williams claimed it was, it was capable of basic research. In their annual report on antisemitic activities in the US, they noted that the pamphlet was the “the year’s outstanding anti-Semitic publication.” The publisher, Upton Close was a well-known antisemitic force in the US. The ADL noted:
Alleged author of the pamphlet, as described by Close in a brief editor’s note, was “Major Robert H. Williams (Air Force), Counter Intelligence, as conscientious an officer as our Military Intelligence ever had.” Close’s effort to lend the pamphlet the authority of the U.S. Military Intelligence was thoroughly defeated when it was revealed that Mr. Williams is not, and never was a member of Military Intelligence or Military Intelligence Reserve (p. 59)
Aided by research from the ADL Representative Adolph J. Sabath read a letter into the Congressional Record from former Secretary of War, Robert P. Patterson that declared:
Mr. Williams served as a major in the Army of the United States (Air Corps) during World War II. He was for a time an intelligence officer in an air squadron overseas, but he was not concerned, in that capacity, with the investigation of Communists or any subversives. His work had to do with weather and air intelligence.
Our Army, made up of Catholics, Protestants. and Jews, brought us the greatest victory In our history, and any statement which would reflect unfavorably on the loyalty of any racial or religious group among them Is utterly without foundation. Contrary to the statement in the pamphlet, B’nai B’rith has a record for patriotic service which was recognized by both Army and Navy citations.
Williams sued the ADL and Sabath for these statements. The trial court issued a summary judgment in against his suit, partly because members of Congress enjoy absolute immunity from libel and slander when they are in their official capacity. Sabath could have said that Williams enjoyed amorous relationships with goats and been immune from a suit. Upon appeal, the appeals court dismissed the case simply because all the statements about Williams’s role in intelligence services were true. Williams was no counter-intelligence expert and was not privy to any secret knowledge about the Jewish-Communist conspiracy to take over the United States.
Unfortunately, things have not progressed too far among those experts the right cites. Fox News relied on a fake expert to inform its viewers about Sweden’s problems with immigrants and terrorism. They invited a fake CIA agent to appear on several of their shows. And, of course, there is Sebastian Gorka, Indeed it might be easier to find a fake terrorism expert than a real one.
It is so easy in hindsight to see that Williams was simply a racist who wanted desperately to be taken seriously when he claimed that Jews were bent on destroying the United States. It is much more difficult today, when we are surrounded by seemingly credible people warning us that Muslims are bent on destroying the United States, especially when they deny, just as Williams denied, any racist motivations whatsoever. Yet, their claims are suspect on their face: are we really so weak that we can be destroyed by 1% of our population? I don’t think so. There were certainly those in the 1940s who called out antisemitism and racism when they saw it. It is up to all of us to be like those in the past who rose above common prejudices, not to give in to fear, and to recognize those among us who lie about themselves in order to lie about others.
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