State of the Nation Anti-Semitism and the economic crisis - Social Anxiety Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-18-2009, 03:59 PM Thread Starter
 
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State of the Nation Anti-Semitism and the economic crisis


The media coverage of the Bernard Madoff scandal made extensive reference to Madoff’s ethnic and religious background and his prominent role in the Jewish community. Because the scandal broke at a time of great public outcry against financial institutions, some, including Brad Greenberg in The Christian Science Monitor and Mark Seal in Vanity Fair, have reported on its potential to generate a wave of anti-Semitism.

This concern makes good sense. In complex situations such as the current financial crisis, where the vast majority of us lack the relevant expertise and information, biases and prejudices may play a significant role in shaping public attitudes. To evaluate just how large a role, we conducted a study (part of a larger survey of 2,768 American adults) in which we explored people’s responses to the economic collapse and tried to determine how anti-Semitic sentiments might relate to the ongoing financial crisis.

In order to assess explicit prejudice toward Jews, we directly asked respondents “How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all. Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed “the Jews” a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group.

Interestingly, Democrats were especially prone to blaming Jews: while 32 percent of Democrats accorded at least moderate blame, only 18.4 percent of Republicans did so (a statistically significant difference). This difference is somewhat surprising given the presumed higher degree of racial tolerance among liberals and the fact that Jews are a central part of the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition. Are Democrats simply more likely to “blame everything” thus casting doubt on whether the anti-Jewish attitudes are real? Not at all. We also asked how much “individuals who took out loans and mortgages they could not afford” were to blame on the same five-point scale. In this case, Democrats were less likely than Republicans to assign moderate or greater blame.

Educational attainment also correlates with variation in anti-Semitic attitudes. Whereas only 18.3 percent of respondents with at least a bachelor’s degree blamed the Jews a moderate amount or more, 27.3 percent of those lacking a 4-year degree did so. Again, we get a similar reversal when examining the blameworthiness of individuals who took out loans they could not afford.

To assess more deeply whether the tendency among a subset of Americans to blame the Jews is meaningful, we conducted a controlled experiment. The question of interest is whether anti-Semitic sentiments affect people’s thinking about the preferred response to the economic crisis. For example if people associate corruption on Wall Street with Jewish financiers such as Madoff, what is the impact on their views about bailing out big business?

To address this question, we carried out a simple but powerful experiment. Participants in a national survey were randomly assigned to one of three groups. All three groups were prompted with a one-paragraph news report that briefly described the Madoff scandal. The text was the same for all three groups, except for two small differences: the first group was told that Bernard Madoff is an “American investor” who contributed to “educational charities,” the second group was told that Madoff is a “Jewish-American investor” who contributed to “educational charities,” and the third group was told that Madoff is an “American investor” who contributed to “Jewish educational charities.” In other words, group one did not receive any information about Madoff’s Jewish ties; group two was told explicitly that Madoff is Jewish; and group three received implicit information about Madoff’s religious affiliation. In a follow-up question, participants were asked for their views about providing government tax breaks to big business in order to spur job creation.

The responses of the members of the three groups are revealing and disturbing: individuals explicitly told that Madoff is a Jewish-American were almost twice as likely to oppose the tax cuts to big business. Opposition to tax cuts for big business jumped from 10 percent among members of group one to over 17 percent among the members of group two, who were explicitly told about Madoff’s Jewish background. This difference is highly significant in statistical terms. The implicit information contained in Madoff’s charitable history also produced an aversion to big business, but to a lesser degree, with opposition to corporate tax breaks in this case increasing to 14 percent.

This result is most likely not a coincidence. First, when we examine the results of the experiment on Jewish voters, we find that respondents had the exact same policy preferences in all three groups. In other words, the information about Madoff being Jewish only had an effect among non-Jews. Furthermore, we examined how the experimental groups answered questions on a set of other proposals that did not deal with the business sector, but rather with federal support for state governments or with tax breaks for the middle class. On these other issues, no differences were observed in the way members of the different groups responded, suggesting that anti-Semitic sentiments may particularly affect views on wealthy institutions.

Other political research, too, suggests that U.S. public opinion is not immune to anti-Semitic stereotypes. For example, Adam Berinsky and Tali Mendelberg of MIT and Princeton, respectively, have found that exposure to anti-Semitic stereotypes, even stereotypes that people outright reject (e.g., that “Jews are shady”), can have an indirect effect of making other, less patently offensive stereotypes of Jews (e.g., that “Jews are politically liberal”) more salient in people’s minds. Indeed this is consistent with the finding that information about Madoff being Jewish can have an indirect, and perhaps even unconscious, effect on people’s thinking about the response to economic crisis.

The findings presented here are troubling. This is not the first instance of an economic downturn sparking anti-Semitic sentiments. Financial scandals are widely regarded as contributors to the rise of anti-Semitism in European history. Famously, the Panama Scandal—often described as the biggest case of monetary corruption of the nineteenth century—led to the downfall of Clemenceau’s government in France and involved bribes to many cabinet members and hundreds of parliament members. Nonetheless, the public’s fury centered on two Jewish men who were in charge of distributing corporate bribe money to the politicians. In her classic The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt described the Panama Scandal as a key event in the development of French anti-Semitism. The Stavisky Affair, in which the Jewish financier Alexandre Stavisky embezzled millions of francs through fraudulent municipal bonds, broke out 40 years later and had a similar effect of nourishing the accusation that the Jews were behind the corruption in financial dealings.

Crises often have the potential to stoke fears and resentment, and the current economic collapse is likely no exception. Therefore, we must take heed of prejudice and bigotry that have already started to sink roots in the United States. The negative attitudes toward Jews reported here are not only dangerous in and of themselves, but they may also have bearings on national policy matters. The media ought to bear these findings in mind in their coverage of financial scandals such as the Madoff scam. In most cases, religious and ethnic affiliations have nothing to do with the subject at hand, and such references, explicit or implied, ought, then, to be avoided.

http://bostonreview.net/BR34.3/malhotra_margalit.php
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-18-2009, 08:54 PM
 
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I dont think its only the financial crisis that breings up feelings of anti-semitism. There are other factors such as the unfettered support our government has for zionist interests no matter what the cost.

Of course our government also blindly supports Saudia Arabia even though the royalty does horrible things (as well as most of the bandits that caused 9/11), but since the balance of power and wealth is so divided in Saudi Arabia, you cannot simply blame the civilian Arabs.

The same case goes for Jews. Not all Jews are power hungry and rich so there is a great divide in balance of power between the upper class and lower class (but not as much, there is a large middle-upper middle class). The issue gets even more complicated with the civilian support of expanding settlements in the West Bank. The expanding of settlements could possibly be a justified reason for anti-nationalism. Since Zionism is nationalist, people would naturally be anti-zionist, not neccesarily anti-semitic.

The blame cannot be placed on any cultural, religious or racial group. But I think the blame can be placed on socio-economic status.

Any time a person is in a position of power (ie. most upper-class) they become self-serving at the expense of the nation. Especially if they are involved with a government. Frequently they are simply corrupt. I dont think anyone is immune to that.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 02:31 AM
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I would simply dismiss any religious aspect to this. It was a couple months into this $50B ponzi scheme before I ever even knew Madoff and many of the folks he ripped off were Jewish. I only found out because the media felt compelled to tell me about their religious background, an issue I'd never thought about nor cared about.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 02:38 AM
 
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I heard about his Jewish background quite early on, but there's a pretty logical reason why it was brought up - he scammed a LOT of Jewish charities and endowments. An awful lot of Madoff's victims were Jewish (he seemed to focus heavily on the Jewish community due to his obvious ties with the community), and it's easier to illustrate the real world impact of something like this when you can say that Steven Speilberg's charity lost X amount of money rather than just say a charity that few have ever heard of lost X amount.

I'm doubtful that his religious background would have been an issue if he hadn't focused so much of his scam on the Jewish community.

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I would simply dismiss any religious aspect to this. It was a couple months into this $50B ponzi scheme before I ever even knew Madoff and many of the folks he ripped off were Jewish. I only found out because the media felt compelled to tell me about their religious background, an issue I'd never thought about nor cared about.

Last edited by iamthewalrus; 05-19-2009 at 01:10 PM. Reason: yeesh - misspelled Madoff!
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 03:12 AM
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18.3 percent of respondents with at least a bachelor’s degree blamed the Jews a moderate amount or more
Disturbing that so many supposedly "educated" people should think that.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 03:26 AM
 
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It is... though I have to wonder about the statistical relevance of any of this. The cited story just says that this was done on a subset of a ~ 2900 person survey. About 30% of the adult population has a Bachelor's or better in U.S., and given we don't know what the subset size is, the margin of error on the college educated subsample of the subsample could well be pretty high.

But yeah, it's disturbing, but it's also not all that much of a shock that antisemitism still exists given that only ~ 65 years ago a major western world power was able to convince its people that their woes were principally caused by "the Jews".

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Disturbing that so many supposedly "educated" people should think that.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 01:04 PM
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I would simply dismiss any religious aspect to this. It was a couple months into this $50B ponzi scheme before I ever even knew Madoff and many of the folks he ripped off were Jewish. I only found out because the media felt compelled to tell me about their religious background, an issue I'd never thought about nor cared about.
I find this article to be nonsensical, the validity of the 'survey' quoted in the article to be extremely questionable, and the site itself to be so far left that it makes Bill Moyers seem like an objective journalist in comparison.

The fallout from the Walt Street meltdown is that people distrust the Wall Street CEOs, the super rich, the big corporations, especially insurance and financial companies, but there has been absolutely no rise in antisemitism because of said Wall Street meltdown.This article appears to be nothing more than pure fiction, and fabricated out of thin air....

The NRA, being on par with Nazi war criminals, should be executed for crimes against humanity. They are guilty of inflicting mass suffering upon America.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 01:20 PM
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 02:22 PM Thread Starter
 
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I find this article to be nonsensical, the validity of the 'survey' quoted in the article to be extremely questionable, and the site itself to be so far left that it makes Bill Moyers seem like an objective journalist in comparison.

The fallout from the Walt Street meltdown is that people distrust the Wall Street CEOs, the super rich, the big corporations, especially insurance and financial companies, but there has been absolutely no rise in antisemitism because of said Wall Street meltdown.This article appears to be nothing more than pure fiction, and fabricated out of thin air....
While I would take the article and stats with a grain of salt, there are more than phantoms there. Racism, xenophobia and bigotry still exist whether it be against jews, christians, muslims, mexicans etc and the problem exacerbates when we have economic problems as people seek something to blame. We should continue to aim for a more tolerant society no matter what is going on.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-19-2009, 09:09 PM
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Of course antisemitism still exists, but I don't think that the Wall Street meltdown has had ANY influence on it.Israel engaged in new hostilities against Gaza, the West Bank, or others would be a thousand times more conducive to promoting anti-Jewish PR and antisemitism than this supposed connection between the Wall Street meltdown and supporters of Judaism.The idea that Jewish people control the financial sector is SO outdated!

In troubled economic times such as this, the illegal immigration problem probably gets more attention as Americans are increasingly unemployed....

The NRA, being on par with Nazi war criminals, should be executed for crimes against humanity. They are guilty of inflicting mass suffering upon America.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 05-20-2009, 10:25 PM
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Of course antisemitism still exists, but I don't think that the Wall Street meltdown has had ANY influence on it.Israel engaged in new hostilities against Gaza, the West Bank, or others would be a thousand times more conducive to promoting anti-Jewish PR and antisemitism than this supposed connection between the Wall Street meltdown and supporters of Judaism.The idea that Jewish people control the financial sector is SO outdated!
I would like to point out that there is a huge difference between antisemitism and being opposed to some of the actions of Israel and not wishing to provide them with a single cent of aid.

I strongly oppose any US support for Israel, but this has nothing to do with how I feel about Jews. I don't support supplying financial aid to any nation, regardless of religion. I also recognize that the US support of Israel turns America and all its citizens into targets for Muslim extremists. Such terrorists hate Israel with a passion and by extension hate any nation that supports their ultimate enemy. In my view supporting Israel only makes Americans less safe and our nation more prone to terrorist attack.

The US has spent decades trying to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians, but hardliners on both side always refuse to compromise making peace impossible. If they want to keep fighting from here to eternity then I say let them. It's not our problem and we should not endanger America to try to bring peace to a region where RIP is likely the only peace they will ever see.

It annoys me greatly when supporters of aid to Israel automatically call anybody who opposes providing them with aid antisemitic.
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