In March, several staffers at the right-wing website Breitbart resigned over the site’s treatment of reporter Michelle Fields, who had accused Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of assault. The site, they felt, had become Trump’s Pravda. “I believe Breitbart News is becoming less of a news site and more of a propaganda organization dedicated to the Trump campaign,” associate editor Jarrett Stepman said in a statement. Even before the Fields incident, Breitbart was so in the tank for Trump that, according to Buzzfeed, many who worked there believed its leadership had been paid off.
That’s why Sunday night’s Breitbart headline calling Bill Kristol, a leading voice in the #NeverTrump movement, a “Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” feels significant. No other news site has been so closely associated with the Trump campaign. And the Trump campaign has been associated with white nationalism and a resurgence of raw, violently threatening anti-Semitism. Breitbart’s headline suggests that the Jew baiting popular on pro-Trump social media feeds is creeping toward the mainstream.
And yes, I realize that a Jew, David Horowitz, Black Panther groupie turned pro-white race hustler, wrote the piece. In it, the famously conspiracy-minded Horowitz rails against Kristol and “a small but well-heeled group of Washington insiders” who are hoping to arrange a conservative third-party candidacy. A paragraph seemingly tacked on at the end accuses Kristol of putting world Jewry in danger by potentially splitting the Republican vote and empowering Democrats who are soft on radical Islam. It’s enough, perhaps, to give Breitbart plausible deniability; the site can claim it’s calling out Kristol on behalf of Jews, rather than calling him out as a Jew.
Really, though, what Breitbart is doing here is playing a double game, covering anti-Semitism with a tacky sheen of philo-Semitism. To define someone as a “Renegade Jew” in a column about scheming elites written for an audience full of white nationalists is to signal to the sewers. The comments under the piece suggest that Breitbart’s readers got the message. For example:
Trump rose up against the Jewish media and Jewish Hollywood and Jewsih [sic] power. HE is almost defined by his defiance of it. From Bill Kristol to Ben Shapiro to Bill Maher to Murdoch. They all hate and wil [sic] always hate Trump. Most are biding their time but soon very soon the back stabbing begins.
Now, comment threads are always full of trash, but the precise type of trash on display here is telling. A narrative is taking shape, an American Dolchstoßlegende that will blame a potential Trump loss on conniving Semites. Horowitz and Breitbart are contributing to that legend. “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew” is a headline that could appear on the neo-Nazi site Stormfront. (Indeed, Stormfront has picked the piece up.) There used to be a great gap between the sort of everyday reaction on display at Breitbart and the internet’s nakedly white supremacist outposts. Thanks to Trump, that gap is shrinking.