“Why Everyone Hates the Jews” Transcript

Guests: Drs. Susan Fiske & Peter Glick

(Listen to the audio on the episode page.)

Peter Glick: Here’s the way I put it. Who thinks the Jews are especially clever? There’s two groups, Jews and anti-Semites.

Betty Teng: Welcome to another episode of Mind of State. I’m Betty Teng.

Michael Epstein: And I’m Michael Epstein. And together, we are your hosts. Here at Mind of State, we don’t so much discuss the news as psychoanalyze it by talking to some of the smartest, most interesting minds in mental health and the social sciences. Hi, Betty.

Betty: Hi, Michael. Today, we are joined on Mind of State by Susan Fiske and Peter Glick. Susan is a Eugene Higgins, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, where she investigates stereotypes and emotional prejudices. Susan is author of over 350 publications and winner of numerous scientific awards and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. And Peter is the Henry Merritt Wriston, professor at Lawrence University and a senior scientist with the Neuroleadership Institute. Peter has coauthored or coedited three books, including The Sage Handbook of Prejudice and The Social Psychology of Gender.

Michael: And Susan and Peter, along with their colleague Amy Cuddy, have developed something they call the stereotype content model. And it really is Susan and Peter’s stereotype content model that we want to discuss today on Mind of State. So, Susan, Peter, welcome to Mind of State.

Betty: Welcome.

Susan Fiske: Thank you. Our pleasure.

Peter: Yes, ditto.

Michael: So today we’re going to talk about prejudice and what drives our prejudice from a psychological point of view and especially what drives anti-Semitism, because I think all of us have sensed a shift in tone, whether that’s when we talk about immigration or words that are starting to be used, which I think are kind of dog whistle words like globalist or when you see how George Soros is used by certain people, both online and in the media, and then, of course, Charlottesville, with the neo-Nazi marching, and most horrifically late last year, the attack at Squirrel Hill with the Tree of Life synagogue where Shabbat worshipers were murdered by a neo-Nazi. And I think it horrified all of us because it felt well, it honestly, it felt something more akin to Nazi Germany than the United States of America. And a lot of people were talking about it as a kind of culmination of Donald Trump’s nativist rhetoric and his unwillingness or his inability to not only distance himself from the protesters or the neo-Nazis, rather, in Charlotte, but, you know, sort of the good people on both sides kind of thing. And Betty and I invited Susan and Peter here, they had a more nuanced and more interesting and I think better explanation for some of what’s going on. Useful. Yeah, exactly. Useful. What’s going on. But before we start, I thought maybe one thing we should do is first understand the problem and quantify it, especially in terms of anti-Semitism in America.

So hate crime instances targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, and this is from the FBI between 2016 and 2017, spiked about 37 percent. But some of that may, in fact, be because of an increased number of law enforcement agencies reporting. But nevertheless, it’s not quite but close to a 40 percent spike in 2016 to 2017. And there were about 7000 hate crimes reported in the United States in 2017, which was around a 17 percent increase year to year. And religious based hate crimes, the kinds we’re talking about, constitute about 20 percent of the total number of hate crimes. And Jews and Jewish institutions were the ones that were most frequently targeted. They accounted for about 58 percent of all religious based hate crimes. Muslims were the second most frequent and they were at about 18, 19 percent. So what’s the fuel of this rise, in this uptick? Because, you know, the economic crisis of 2007, 2008 is a decade old, maybe a little bit more even. We’re certainly not in the midst of a depression in any stretch of the imagination like we were, you know, the economy is reasonably well, stock markets doing well. People certainly are being displaced, but, you know, this is not the Weimar Republic or this is not Germany in the thirties or Rwanda in the 90s. What’s going on?

Peter: Sure. Yeah. So I think, you know, Trump is an amplifier or permitter in many ways of this, but it has roots that are deeper than Trump and precede him. And so I think that you’re right. It’s not Weimar Germany in the 30s, 20s or 30s, where it’s like runaway inflation and people were burning money for fuel because it was worthless. But there is this sense of a changing culture and a fear that whites are going to be in the minority and that this is a fundamental shift in political power and this perception, that perception was related to support for Trump. People who perceive that they were reminded. Brenda Major has a great study where she showed that if people are reminded that whites are going to be in the minority in so many years, they were more sympathetic toward Trump. So there’s sort of an underlying fear of that change in the culture and power in the culture. And then also this perception that minorities are doing better than middle class whites and that they’re getting special breaks and, kind of, the belief in that, that there’s kind of, as Arlie Hochschild said, you know, they’re perceived as line jumpers, that they’ve illegitimately moved ahead.

And then all of this on the very far right, in the white nationalist world, led to this 90s ideology of white genocide, which connects the whole anti-immigrant impulse with this conspiracy theory about Jews. You mentioned George Soros. And I didn’t realize, you know, when in Charlottesville they were chanting, Jews will not replace us, the idea is not that Jews are replacing whites, the idea is that Jews are behind this conspiracy to bring brown and black immigrants into the U.S. to make whites the minority and to, you know, sort of manipulate so that now Democrats will be in charge and they’re bringing in basically stooges, right. You know, under this ideology, the black and brown people themselves are not competent enough to carry this out. They are the sort of pawns in a conspiracy run by George Soros or other Jews. And so, you know, it goes right back to that who’s perceived to have this competence and influence to be able to do this.

Michael: I think it’s interesting that you’re mentioning Charlottesville, they were actually chanting two things. One was you will not replace us, and Jews will not replace this, which is to say both of what you’re talking about, Peter, is that right?

Peter: Yeah. Yeah, it’s absolutely all interconnected in this grand conspiracy theory. In a lot of cases where there were genocides, there were a lot of things happening in the society where, like you said, economic disaster as well as cultural change. But as social psychologists, I think symbolic beliefs and culture change and those kinds of fears can be extremely powerful, even in circumstances where we’ve gotten over this recession and it wasn’t by any means quite as bad as the depression that preceded, for instance, the rise of the Nazis. That can be just very powerful psychologically. And the other thing I want to say about this is that it’s not just this lashing out randomly toward any vulnerable group. I mean, that’s the kind of Freudian scapegoating idea, is that when you’re worried about things, you just sort of lash out against any group.

Michael: You project.

Peter: Right, you project and you’re projecting your id, your impulses on some outgroup because it’s not acceptable in yourself. My interpretation of this, based on our model, is more that when you fear what’s going on or you worry about what’s going on and it’s the kind of group based level, right. It’s that we are no longer going to be the dominant and privileged group in society, that you then try to understand why it’s happening because if it’s a threat to you, it’s adaptive to try to understand what’s the source of this. But thinking about technological, social changes, impersonal historical forces, that doesn’t really allow you to control this. But if there’s this one uncanny enemy behind this, this conspiracy of this enemy who’s alien and untrustworthy, then it gives you something to focus on and blame this whole thing on. And it also gives you a sense of control. There’s a plan of action. Yes, they’re clever, but now we have unmasked them.

Michael: So it’s not projection, which is the sort of classic Freudian way of understanding hate or prejudice.

Betty: Yeah. It’s an analytic concept, psychoanalytic concept, where we take what’s in us that we can’t meet and put it off on somebody else. But I don’t think that’s what Peter’s talking about.

Michael: Right. So I think this is actually a good opportunity for us then to shift gears and to turn our focus to the stereotype content model that Susan and Peter have created, brought up. And it looks at this problem as a function of two different factors, unlike this classic thing that you’re talking about, Betty, the projection.

Betty: Yeah, this is intrapsychic, what we’re talking about. You have something in you and you put it off on something else. But what Peter and Susan, it seems, are doing, and Susan can clarify, is do research around how people look at friend or foe, others.

Michael: Right. There’s two factors here that, and then we’ll stop talking so they can, you know, whether a group is seen as warm or cold and whether they’re seen as competent or incompetent. Susan, is that a fair way to start?

Susan: Yeah, I think the easiest way to think about it is what do you need to know about a new group moving to your neighborhood? And what people overwhelmingly tell us is that they want to know, can they be trusted? And so basically, you want to know what their intentions are. And it’s kind of a miracle. I’m impressed by how much energy people put into trying to figure out other people’s intentions. And the way we talk about it is if their intentions are benign toward you and your group, then you think of them as being warm and trustworthy and friendly. And if they’re not, if they’re competitive or exploitative or hostile, then they’re cold. So once you figure out what their intentions are, the other thing you need to know is can they act on those intentions? Can they implement them? And so the second thing you need to know is whether they’re competent or not. And it’s really very simple and we’re talking about group perception here. So in the U.S., middle class people, citizens, Christians, both men and women, to varying degrees, are seen as warm and competent at the opposite extreme are groups that are seen as having no redeeming qualities, so as being untrustworthy and incompetent. So all over the world, homeless people and refugees and undocumented migrants, people without an address, basically. And people react to them with contempt and disgust. And they’re basically kind of dehumanized.

Betty: So this illuminates another way of looking at global attitude towards immigrants, which is very useful. Why they are the ostracized and unwanted.

Susan: Yes.

Michael: And why we don’t have sympathy for the refugee, because there’s no warmth. They may not be, in your model, competent, but they’re also not warm.

Susan: Yeah. And I think part of it is that people don’t trust people who don’t have an address, that is, who aren’t part of the community and aren’t accountable because they could move on. So Bedouins and Roma, also known as gypsies, are likewise viewed with contempt and disgust. But there are different kinds of immigrants and over time, they take different stereotypes on. So what’s interesting in our model is not the, sort of, we’re all good they’re all bad part of it that I’ve just described, but the mixed combinations. So, for example, older people and people with disabilities are seen as wellintentioned but incompetent. And people express pity toward them.

Betty: So they would be warm but incompetent. Low on the competence, but high on the warmth.

Susan: Yeah. So, you know, pity says, I feel sorry for you, but only as long as you’re sort of below me. And if you become an activist, for example, then you become obnoxious and no longer pitiful.

Betty: So there’s a power dynamic.

Susan: There’s definitely a power dynamic. And traditionally, ethnic groups that are the butt of ethnic jokes, so depending on the era, you know, it might have been Polish people or Irish people or Italians are seen as, you know, buffoons. And people make jokes about them and don’t understand why that’s harmful. The other–

Michael: High warmth, low competence.

Susan: Yes.

Michael: For those, right. But they’re not a threat and I think that’s the–

Susan: No. Exactly. Exactly. So the other combination brings us to the main topic for today, which is groups that are seen as competent but untrustworthy, and they are the biggest threat to people who subscribe to the stereotypes. So they’re seen as having resources, having the ability to act on their intentions, but not being one of us and not sharing our values or sharing our goals. So all over the world, rich people are seen that way and outsider entrepreneurs who move somewhere and become successful locally. So Jewish people have been seen this way all over the world. And also Chinese people in their own diaspora are also seen this way.

Betty: Michael and I are bonding right now.

Susan: So this is a particularly volatile emotional reaction that people have to these groups. It’s envy. And so envy says I admire you and you have something I would like. And in fact, I will take it away from you if I can, because you’re not one of us. People go–

Betty: This opens up a distinction between envy and jealousy, because I think envy has an annihilating concept to it, whereas jealousy is simply I covet what you have, but Envy says, I won’t want to destroy you. I want to make it not possible for you to have what you have.

Susan: Well, on that distinction, I think the, sort of, resting state, the default state, is probably going along to get along because these entrepreneurs have resources. You shop at their stores, you do business with them. But if there’s social breakdown or a demagog who exploits the sort of latent resentment, then these are the first people to be harmed actively. And so a lot of genocide is directed toward people in this combination, in this quadrant.

Michael: You know, one of the things, Susan, that you had in one of your papers in this quadrant was a way to look at the Rwandan genocide. In that exact way, the Tutsi population of Rwanda was high status minority group, and they were blamed for the country’s severe economic problems. Is that what you’re talking about? Is that one way to look at Rwanda?

Susan: Exactly. And there are other cases of this. But tragically, the most common case of it really has been Jewish people.

Peter: Yeah. So I teach a course on the Holocaust and one of the things I’ve looked at is, you know, historically various kinds of genocidal attacks. And it’s often against these more privileged minority groups or minority groups or these middleman minorities, these successful entrepreneurial minorities. So one of the interesting things about Rwanda is, although it was a low tech genocide, like other genocides, it was top down and organized. And it also, the propaganda is something you can look at. And the propaganda is amazingly similar to Nazi propaganda about Jews. So the Tutsi were, kind of, preferred by Belgian colonizers. They’re more educated on average, they had higher power and successful positions. And so there was a tremendous resentment. And it was when you had crashing coffee prices in Rwanda that ruined the economy, you had this kind of crisis, and it’s this kind of minority group that potentially gets blamed because they’re seen as having the ability to influence these events. So it’s very dangerous to be labeled with this kind of competence, success, but also you’re not trusted, so–

Michael: Right, you don’t want to be seen as incompetent, just as a personal level. But there is a danger in it.

Peter: Absolutely there’s a danger in it. I mean, here’s the way I put it. Who thinks the Jews are especially clever? There’s two groups, Jews and anti-Semites. This is one thing they agree on, right. It’s ingroup pride for the Jews, but for anti-Semites, this idea that they are so clever and conspiratorial and they can control world events, your allergic reaction to that globalist kind of talk, that’s the Jews as controlling the world. You gotta be extremely clever and competent and powerful to be able to do that. It’s the kind of enemy that you can’t control. That’s the kind of enemy you need to destroy, so this genocidal kind of violence is, you know, legitimated by that view. So it’s not that other groups don’t get attacked, but groups that are seen as heading this conspiracy are especially dangerous. You can’t enslave them. You have to destroy them.

Betty: So what you’re saying is that the keyword of clever, which is a stand in for competence, is a double edged sword. And it’s extremely potent because it holds power, as Susan said before, and then it gets cast into this conspiracy theory or narrative. And this narrative becomes extremely powerful in terms of what people do with it in times of strife or scarcity, it sounds like. When the economy crashes or some kind of deleterious thing happens in the economy or–

Michael: Or you just have a demagog who’s going to start stoking these kinds of flames for the sake of power.

Susan: And I want to go back to, Peter mentioned Arlie Hochschild’s book. And there are several ethnographies that have come out in the last few years. People who take seriously the blue collar rural people in the United States and the books are all over the country. I mean, the investigations are all over the country. And what they have in common is this idea, and this is not from the extreme parts, but from the, sort of, more moderate Trump supporters, that they’ve been patient, hardworking, they value hard work. There’s a moral respect for people who work hard, even if they’re not making much money. Many of them have had jobs where they get injured and they’re on disability for the rest of their lives. But they want dignity and respect for their values and for their hard work. And the story that Hochschild tells is waiting in line for the American dream. And it’s just over the hill. And you’ve been working hard. And you’ve been patient. And you’ve been playing by the rules and standing in line. And then all of a sudden, these elites, people like us or maybe many Jewish people or maybe Obama are ushering in front of you, the immigrants and women and minorities in general. And so–

Michael: Who in that narrative, are not earning it.

Betty: And not wait in line.

Michael: Well, and, in effect, negating the hard work that I have done.

Susan; Well, and I would really pay attention to the disrespect that’s implied because being disrespected makes people enraged. And so–

Betty: Shamed. They feel shamed.

Susan: You feel shame, but also pointing it outward, enraged. And so especially when the change is rapid and there isn’t time to get used to the idea of being a majority minority population. When you have rapid change like this, people get anxious and angry and they want to break stuff.

Michael: So can I ask, does this then, Susan, for you explain someone like Dylann Roof who walked into the Emanuel AME Church and killed nine African-American parishioners? I mean, does this explain racism in America for you as well? Or is that a different dynamic?

Susan: Well, it depends on the social class of the African-Americans. So black professionals are resented the way rich people and successful minorities of any kind are resented.

Michael: Jews.

Susan: And Jews.

Betty: So they have high competence.

Michael: So Obama is a Jew, basically.

Susan: Yes.

Michael: Right. I’ve always suspected this. Can I say?

Susan: Yes, yes. African-Americans who are low income are in the same spot as poor white people. So, you know, I haven’t done an analysis of what he was thinking or what he, you know, said before the incident, but–

Michael: Well, pretty much that they were going to take away, right, white identity. I mean, that this was an annihilation dynamic.

Susan: So it’s a power struggle.

Michael: Correct.

Susan: And, you know, interestingly, the fascists in Italy in the 30s had the same mental space. They put Jews and British people in the same quadrant as threats. And the imagery, the cartoons that they drew were identical to the ones that are being drawn today.

Michael: Fascinating. Actually it was one of the things that, I read your model, and I saw British people and Jews and Germans in the same quadrant. And I was saying, well how did that work? Because, you know, if I call somebody a wanker or a kruat, it’s not considered racist or maybe it is, I don’t know.

Peter: I mean, one thing I want to say about about the Jews, I mean, it’s kind of with anti-Semitism, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And I, you have to be a certain age to remember these Tom Lehrer songs. You know, he was a math professor and wrote satirical songs that were very popular in the 60s. And one of his songs, I think it was National Brotherhood Week, kind of, a litany of all of these groups who dislike each other. You know, the Hindus hate the Muslims and vice versa. Protestants hate the Catholics.

Michael: And everybody.

Peter: And then the punchline is and everybody hates the Jews. And so, you know, one of the things I think about anti-Semitism that’s really difficult for Jewish people is like, why? Why does everyone hate us, right? We see ourselves as warm and competent, but it’s really been Jews’ historically envied position for two thousand years for various different reasons. So circumstances have changed, but in ways that have always put them into this category, you know, and now we have the anti-Semitism of the left.

Michael: Right. I was just going to ask that.

Peter: Rooted in, you know, rooted in a realistic conflict with Israel and Palestine and, of course, you know, you can criticize Israeli policy and Israel has a very right wing government that I’m not happy about, but this now kind of creates, you know, we saw this in the leaders, some of the leaders, of the Women’s March that there was this anti-Semitic ideology, you know, with Jews as the oppressor, right. So, again, it’s putting them in that envied space or that elite space. And it’s–

Michael: As you say, envious, envious prejudice.

Peter: Right. And so you get this really weird combination of you get it from the left and the right. Okay, you know, it’s making strange bedfellows. You get it from Christian extremists and Islamic extremists. And in the West and and even in the East, where there pretty much are no Jews, you can find some of these conspiracy theories because they’re about world finance. And I grew up in Squirrel Hill and it was great, but the thing about anti-Semitism, that worries me about this, especially interaction with where we’re at culturally and technologically, is that, you know, we have all these different social realities, via the internet and this fragmentation of news sources and these bubbles that we live in that make them echo chambers, which makes it really hard to convince people of a different narrative. And when you combine that with the, sort of, historical stereotypes being, kind of, baked into the culture and the background that can be reactivated when there are these fears and worries that are being stoked. And I think one of the things that is stoking is the fear of immigration, right. That’s partly–

Michael: What Trump is doing.

Peter: Right. That’s partly made the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories go from this very small dark corner of the U.S. to giving them some more growth and attention and more traction. And the other thing that’s kind of part of our theoretical perspective is that there is this asymmetry between competence and warmth perceptions in the sense of what does it take to prove that you’re competent versus what does it take to prove that you’re warm. So the example that Susan gave, okay when they’re railroad laborers, you know, right, the Chinese are going to be perceived as not competent. When they come in and they’re entrepreneurs and they’re child prodigies, you know, stereotypically, you know, they’re 30 percent of the people getting college degrees in California’s system, then all of a sudden, they’re competent. You know, the switch is very easy to make. The warmth perceptions, that’s a bit more difficult. How do you prove, if people mistrust you, how do you prove that you’re trustworthy and warm? Because you might have all sorts of nefarious reasons for acting trustworthy and warm. I mean, the whole conspiracy theory about Jews is kind of the stab in the back theory, right? It’s the Judas kiss.

Michael: You’re always in the out group. You’re always in the outgroup.

Betty: You’re always suspect. There’s a–

Peter: I mean, even if we think about this in terms of like a marriage gone bad, right. Once these two people loved each other and trusted each other. And now you can see that sometimes relationships go bad and that trust can’t be restored. And no matter what this one person does who has lost the trust of the other, it always can be seen as ulterior motives. You can’t disprove a conspiracy. It’s a notoriously hard thing to disprove. By its very nature, a conspiracy is the secret thing that’s been hidden.

Michael: Right. Jonathan Swift, I think, said a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes. And I think that’s what you’re talking about.

Peter: Yeah, and that’s actually been empirically studied, right. That stuff on like Facebook or on the internet that are lies actually do travel faster than the truth.

Betty: What Susan, and you, Peter, speak to in naming the internet as an amplifier of prejudice and taking anti-Semitism out of the dark corner and yet exacerbating silos of bubbles of people who think the same thing and just kind of feed off of each other speaks to the influence of this technological information revolution that we’re in right now. That we are online and in contact with each other in ways that we never have been before in previous generations. And this is a part of the perfect storm of amplifying, along with Trump, who uses the social media to great, great influence. And so is there, I mean, and what you’re talking about, Peter, and growing up with a very inclusive atmosphere and having contact with people, and Susan talking about having contact with people of different ethnicities and meeting with people so that you shift these attitudes in spite of their competence or in spite of maybe initially not thinking that they’re warm. You know, we’re in a winter, a very specific place in our historical moment. How can we use your model or thinking about prejudice, as, you know, competent elites or as people who can think about these things more?

Susan: I would say that interdependence is the key. So the kind of contact that Peter and I both experienced growing up. I grew up in Obama’s neighborhood in Hyde Park in Chicago. Even as an adult, if your boss says the two of you are on a team together and your bonus depends on your performance, people get over it. They get over their ingroup outgroup perceptions quite reliably when they need to. So there’s, you know, about 50 years worth of research on the contact hypothesis, which is not about food festivals and flags. It’s about being on the same team with somebody and having shared goals that are serious and that matter to you. And then people get to know each other better and they get over their biases. A lot of the people who are the most biased against Jewish people don’t know anybody who’s Jewish. And the same with Latin immigrants. So the further people are from the border, the more prejudiced they are against Mexicans.

Betty: And so as we start up with the presidential election cycle, then what you would say from the contact hypothesis is for politicians, campaign managers, political leaders to recruit language that say that we’re on the same team rather than this polarized environment of right versus left.

Susan: Yes.

Peter: Absolutely.

Betty: That this would help.

Susan: And we’re a nation of immigrants.

Peter: And I think building on what Susan had talked about earlier about the, I think you in a very sympathetic way captured that feeling among many white middle class or, you know, the the eroding middle class, blue collar kind of heartland people. You know, I live in that heartland now and the hard working and feeling that we have not been listened to and in fact, are the subject of derision from elites. That’s, you said, what can the people who have some sort of education, power, influence, politicians, what can they do authentically understanding that and sympathizing with some of those underlying concerns, not with, sort of, the bigotry that some express, but that some of these underlying concerns and fears come from, you know, having been dismissed, having been ignored–

Michael: Condescended to.

Susan: Yes.

Peter: Condescended to. Absolutely. And so breaking through that, I think that is, the crucial task.

Michael: You know, as you’re talking, I’m thinking about people I know on the left who speak of people in Wisconsin and in Ohio, where, you know, where you are, in the condescending tone that I think the right often talks about recent immigrants, right. And it’s–

Susan: So we actually have data on this. If you watch high powered, high status people talking down to people with less power and less status, if they want to get along, they talk down. They patronize them. So they use a dumber vocabulary, they don’t talk about competence and achievement themes. They literally talk down.

Michael: As if they’re dumb.

Susan: As if they’re dumb. So the stereotype is that the high status person is smart and the low status person is less smart–

Michael: Incompetent in your model.

Susan: Exactly. And people are no idiots. They realize they’re being patronized.

Betty: So there’s not a meeting people on the level. It’s comes in with your power already pre-established in the way of treating people.

Michael: Is this how people perceived Hillary Clinton?

Susan: Yes.

Peter: I think so. Absolutely.

Susan: So Hillary–

Peter: Yeah and, you know, either you’re patronizing or you’re ridiculing, right. You’re having contempt for us. So, you know, that basket of deplorables or, you know, that deplorables comment was really damaging.

Michael: Confirmation. It was absolute confirmation that, yes, look, they think I’m incompetent. I’m an idiot. I’m unworthy. I mean, or Obama previously with the comment about those–

Peter: Guns and religion

Michael: Guns and religion.

Susan: So it’s never wrong to respect somebody else. That’s my take away from this.

Michael: Especially if you’re running for president.

Susan: Well, we just want to be a decent human being.

Peter: We have to bring people in.

Susan: Talking to somebody else. So everybody wants to be respected.

Peter: It’s particularly tough because one comment like that looms really large because that reveals, you know, people see it as revealing what you truly think. So all the nicey nice stuff is not, it’s going to take a lot to make up for one negative comment.

Michael: That’s the authentic moment.

Peter: Right. I mean, for Jewish people, like when I see, like when Bernie Madoff happened I’m like oh my God, a bad Jew, like, you know, I mean, 99.9 percent can be great. And then you have that one scandal or now the Sackler family. I mean–

Michael: And the Sackler family is exactly the confirmation of what you’re talking about.

Peter: That’s exactly right. Yeah, and if it was a non-Jewish family, nobody notices that status, if it’s a minority or Jewish or something that marks them as different, it’s going to be picked up, at least on the right wing extremist white nationalist, kind of–

Michael: One of the things I want to say, and then we’re gonna sort of run out of time, but you were talking about Facebook and social media, Twitter in particular, or the dark edges of the web, being a vehicle or populating a lot of these conspiracies. But, you know, recently The New York Times had a big scandal with Alice Walker in the book or the magazine section, or maybe it was the book review. It was the book review and, you know, the left, I think we were mistaken if we talk about this only in the context of the political right, because the left is also susceptible to this. She endorsed a book by a man named David Icke, who posits that the world is run by a secret cabal, literally of lizard people. But among the things, not just Holocaust denial, but that the Jews funded the Holocaust and that this went, and much of the controversy it wasn’t just that she endorsed this very ugly anti-Semitic book, but that The New York Times put it out there without any context, any challenge, any note that this is ugly, anti-Semitic stuff and people were mad, I think, mostly at The New York Times, more even so than Alice Walker at this point for effectively being fertile ground for conspiracy theory. I mean, so it’s not just some right wing nutcase on gap.

Betty: On the fringes. This is happening in the mainstream media.

Michael: I don’t know how you took that.

Peter: That’s all scary.

Michael: It’s all scary.

Betty: Indeed.

Peter: I think there is maybe neglect on the part of the New York Times rather than an active sort of thing. And hopefully we still have kind of, you know, that this stuff is still more on the fringes. The problem is that it’s gaining some traction. And the more that fear is stoked, the more that we have these fragmented sources of news and social bubbles, the more that this might persist. And again, you can’t disprove a conspiracy theory. It’s really hard for somebody who believes it. Oh, well the Holocaust didn’t happen. Well, what about Auschwitz? What about all this? Well, they constructed that stuff. They made it look that way. Of course, their conspiracy that, they have a conspiracy and they have influence and money and so they’re using this to political advantage. So it’s all got this internal logic that is really hard to stamp out. Hopefully, though, there is this counterreaction from the majority that once this stuff exposes itself, that they’re not buying into it and in fact, maybe reacting against it.

Susan: I would say a take away message is that people can be allies of groups that they don’t belong to.

Michael: And we need to be vigilant about ways in which these conspiracies can, sort of, seep in without us being aware of them. But yes.

Betty: And vigilant about what you said, Susan, about being human, that it’s not just a default mode to be decent to each other, which sounds sort of simplistic, but is actually quite difficult.

Michael: Well, I think it gets back, you know, we’ve had common themes in our guests. And I think one of the things that we are coming back to is, is that we are very much the story that we tell and that right now, we as a society, as a country, are unsure of our story. There isn’t a unifying story out there that, in fact, sounds to me like there’s a lot of different competing stories about who we are and then that conflict is inevitable.

Susan: Yes.

Peter: I think that’s really well put.

Michael: All right. Well, on that smart note, the only smart thing I’ve said all day. Well, we’ve reached the end of yet another session and as my analyst likes to say to me, take your problems home with you. Mind of State is a production of Mind of State Media LLC and Hangar Studios NYC. Our crackerjack producer is Caroline Kwash. Our engineer is Jack Dixon. Mind of State’s original music is composed by Joel Goodman, courtesy of Oovra Music. I’m Michael Epstein.

Betty: And I’m Betty Teng. You can connect with us on Twitter at Mind of State Pod, on our Facebook page, and at our website, MindofState.com. You can also subscribe to our show at Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. And we’ll see you next week.

(Listen to the audio on the episode page.)