Is the Board of Deputies (BoD) a strong and effective opponent of antisemitism?
Brextremist Suella Braverman, Tory MP for Fareham, used the phrase “cultural Marxism” in a speech at a Bruges Group event in March. “Cultural Marxism” originated as a derogatory description of the politics of Jewish socialists by NAZI party in Germany in the 1930s. It was used in literature by the mass murderers in Utøya, Norway in 2011 and Christchurch, New Zealand this year. The phrase is a popular form of abuse by extreme-right screaming heads.
The key points are 1) the origin of “cultural Marxism” and its use today by extreme-right activists are antisemitic in intent and 2) its use as an antisemitic trope is well-known.
Context of Braverman’s choice of language
The host of the speech given by Braverman was a far-right think-tank – Bruges Group. Its director Roberts Oulds co-authored a paper with Niall McCrae called Moralitis: A Cultural Virus. The second line of the paper’s introduction set its tone: “Like the growth of bacteria in a Petri dish, the subversive tenets of cultural Marxism have spread as a pinking of the public discourse.”
The intent of Oulds and McCrae’s paper was to depict liberal ideas as a virus.
“In this monograph we present our thesis of a cultural virus. This manifests in a morality that subverts conventional social norms and quashes dissent. In this delusional condition, people may seem to be acting with autonomy, but the forces of conformity are such that their freedom is limited, and their utterances merely regurgitate group-think. People do not necessarily feel constrained, because the viral symptoms are an expression of progressive ideals. Whereas symptoms of influenza impair physical fitness, the cultural virus enhances social fitness. It is a pervasive and enduring outbreak of moral hubris.”
“We believe that the prevailing values of society, as conveyed by the political and cultural establishment and by the younger generations, have reached the level of moral hegemony. The process by which this has occurred is analogous to a virus. It is an epidemic disease so powerful that it has a cytopathic effect on society, changing the cognition and behaviour of its hosts. While older people have developed resistance, younger people are more susceptible to the virus due to their lack of immunity. Their idealism arises from a lack of ‘real world’ experience.”
“The infection is concentrated in metropolitan areas of affluence and in towns and cities with high student populations, and throughout our political and cultural institutions. People who contract the virus may be divided into two types. First are the carriers. Not active propagators, they learn what to say and what values to convey. As a large brigade of foot-soldiers, their compliance with moral hegemony is vital for the disease to overcome healthy minds. The second type is the contagious. This is the opinionated minority, enthused by cultural Marxism, who police social discourse and push boundaries to advance their cause. Often it is such people who are promoted to positions of power. The contagious sweep others along in their moral hubris.”
The content, context, language and tone above by Oulds and McCrae inspired Braverman to speak at a Bruges Group event and to use the phrase “cultural Marxism.”
BoD response to blatant antisemitism from a Tory MP
How did the BoD respond to Braverman’s deliberate use of an antisemitic trope at an event hosted by a far-right think-tank that peddles extremist philosophy with offensive language?
Was there a comment on the news section of the BoD website? No.
Was there a comment or a link on the BoD’s twitter account? No.
Was there a press release? Yes.
According to Jewish Chronicle newspaper, a “spokesperson” for the BoD said, prior to the issue of the above press release, “Suella Braverman may not have been aware of it, but the term ‘cultural Marxist’ has a history as an antisemitic trope. We would ask for her to clarify the remarks and undertake not to use the phrase in future.”
To summarise, a Tory MP spoke at an event hosted by a far-right think-tank that propagates extreme politics and she used a well-known antisemitic trope that was used frequently by the think-tank; BoD accepted her lie that she wasn’t aware of the antisemitic meaning of the phrase and completely exonerated her. “We are sorry to see that the whole matter has caused distress.” That was how seriously the BoD took antisemitism when the perpetrator was a Tory MP.
(For Labour MPs, the behaviour of the BoD is different.)