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October 29, 2017 9:37 am

New York Times Displays Double Standards on Gay, Jewish Identities

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Photo: Wikipedia.

A recent New York Times article was headlined “Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll and Its Gay Architects.”

It extensively discusses Brian Epstein, who was the manager of the Beatles. It also mentions “Larry Parnes (who molded pre-Beatles British rockers including Tommy Steele and Billy Fury).” And “Americans including Nat Weiss (who oversaw the Beatles business interests and later managed James Taylor)…as well as music moguls including David Geffen and Clive Davis (who identifies as bisexual).”

The Times article also discusses “Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone,” who is the subject of a new biography.

The story dwells on the gay identity of these individuals, but it totally ignores their Jewish identity or backgrounds. It’s almost as if the Times can only see one dimension — as if the newspaper hasn’t been brought up to speed about intersectionality.

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It’s not the first time in recent weeks that the newspaper has applied a double standard, treating gay identity one way and Jewish identity a different way. A September 28, 2017, Times art review by Holland Cotter wrote of an exhibit’s goal being “to inject the disruptive power of not-normal back into the discussion of difference at a time when the edge of mainstream gayness has been dulled by the quest for assimilation.”

The Times loves gay particularity. But it loathes Jewish particularity. A passage from a recent Times op-ed underscores that point. It was by Devorah Baum, a Britain-based academic who signed a petition of an organization that backs “targeted boycott, divestment and sanctions initiatives against Israeli and foreign organisations which maintain, promote or profit from the illegal occupation.” (Who else would the Times ask for an op-ed on a Jewish topic?)

Baum wrote, under the headline “We Are All Jew-Ish Now”:

Not unlike Jews themselves, Bruce’s definition of “Jewish” seems to have uprooted, wandered and dispersed. It no longer corresponds to anything fixed. It’s not necessarily an identity. Better to call it a sensibility: the sensibility of whoever feels a bit unsure of who they are — a bit peculiar or out of place, a bit funny.

But isn’t that now everyone’s modern condition? While modernity promised Jews and other minorities that they could move from the margins to the center, it’s the reverse that may have actually occurred. In the era of radical globalization and the internet, it doesn’t matter who you are — even if you’re male, white, straight, middle-class — you’re probably feeling that your group or identity has been, if not existentially threatened, then at the very least marginalized. These days we’re all mobile and unsettled, even if we stay put. We’re all hyper-connected but insecure. So you’re liable now to be somewhat Jewish even if you do live in Butte, Mont.

If everyone is “Jew-Ish,” than who needs actual Jews, or Judaism, or a Jewish state? If the Times ran an op-ed claiming that everyone “marginalized” or “a bit unsure of who they are” is gay, and therefore “we are all gay now,” it would doubtless trigger a backlash fretting about cultural appropriation and edge-dulling. But when it comes to the Jews, alas, it’s open season.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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