That dog whistles are now a hot topic of discussion is easily the dumbest thing about 2018.

When CNN fired Marc Lamont Hill over his speech at the UN where he talked of freeing Palestine from river to the sea, it was said that the expression in question was a dog whistle.

Hill used that language in his apology a few days later:

Rather than hearing a political solution, many heard a dog-whistle that conjured a long and deep history of violence against Jewish people.

This take put the onus on us Jews for being too touchy, it’s also completely and totally wrong.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free is a slogan adopted by the Arab terrorist groups starting with Yasser Arafat’s PLO.  Since the 1960’s that slogan has been heard at pro-terrorist rallies and the assemblies of international organizations worldwide.  It refers to the territories from river Jordan to the Mediterranean, the land encompassing the state of Israel in its entirety, which said groups claim for themselves.

I’ve consulted Urban Dictionary for the definition of dog whistle, and came up with this:

Dog whistle is a type of strategy of communication that sends a message that the general population will take a certain meaning from, but a certain group that is “in the know” will take away the secret, intended message. Often involves code words.

A dog whistle is a communication that normal people would gloss over, believing it’s an ordinary expression, but the in-group members immediately recognize as something of their own.  For instance, the OK sign is just an OK sign to ordinary Americans, but to some neoNazis it’s coded gesture that signals group membership.  To them, it has double meaning.  To be sure, some paranoid-minded Social Justice Worriers hear dog whistles everywhere, too.  Notoriously, they’ve accused Zina Bash, the stuff member with Mexican and Jewish roots who assisted then SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh during Congressional hearings, of flashing the dreaded OK sign in front of the cameras as a mean of communicating with the neoNazis on C-SPAN.  She did not, but for a small minority the ordinary OK sign has a double meaning.

There is no such double meaning in the expression from river to the sea, Palestine will be free. It conjures up absolutely nothing about “a long and deep history of violence against Jewish people”.  Being 100% irrelevant to the Babylonian exile, pogroms, the Holocaust, or the Jewish Nakba, it reefers to one thing, and one thing only: The destruction of the Jewish state by Palestinian terrorists.

And yet, that language obviously refers to something; there has to be some sort of landmass between the two bodies of water it has to be applied to.  It’s possible that Hill used the expression even though he didn’t understand its meaning.  The esteemed academic comes across as just that kind of shallow attention whore who uses words he doesn’t quite comprehend because the words make him and his audience feel a certain way and give him the veneer of intellectualism.  I remember him bloviating on Fox, where over the years he’d provided other contributors with multiple opportunities to react to his statements. But on CNN Hill was not a Farrakhanesque demagogue, but an actual opinion maker.

Yet even if the pundit wasn’t familiar with the meaning of the slogan, he fully supports the goal for which it calls.  Again, from Hill’s “apology”:

For many, justice will come from a two-state solution. For some, like me, justice will come through a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. I strongly believe that this is the best method to achieve peace, safety, security, and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. Justice requires that everyone, not just a single side, is free and equal.

In other words, he understands that “many” have, oh, a different idea of justice, but elimination of the Jewish state is how he himself sees it.  And if one is inclined to further grant Hill the benefit of the doubt, to believe that maybe he’s talking about some kind of harmonious coexistence between the terrorist-led Palestinian state and the Jews, a coexistence that would magically materialize if only the Jewish state is abolished, rest assured he does not.  Here is a video, via @SJP_Leaks, of Marc Lamont Hill endorsing violence against Israel:

Hill apparently believes he’s a smooth talker — otherwise, why write an apology?  The fact that he’s writing that apology ads an insult to injury:

As a communicator, I must take responsibility for the reception of my message. In this case, the final words of my speech became a dangerous and harmful distraction from my political analysis. Rather than talking about the plight of Palestinians, or engaging in tough but necessary conversations about a positive and successful way forward for both parties, the bulk of the conversation has been about my choice of words. To this extent, I did no favors to Israelis or Palestinians. For this too, I am deeply sorry.

If only our communicator could find a better way to sugarcoat genocide!  Hill is the type to think that the speaker has the responsibility for not expressing his ideas in the most inoffensive manner.  Cooke noted that Hill’s job is to explain why people get offended and to demand repentance.

Except that of course if people oppose what he says, it’s not really his fault because we, Jews, heard a dog whistle “[r]ather than hearing a political solution”.  It is we who are too sensitive on the issue of eliminationist rhetoric, he himself merely misspoke in this prepared speech.  Don’t get so offended, Jews.

What is so strange about our political moment, is that we often ban speech because some in the audience may consider it offensive, and hurt feelings are perceived as violence, and yet the actual content of speech is glossed over.  It’s all words, and words about words, and the feeling they perhaps produce in some sensitive individuals.

One hundred years ago we’ve elevated offensive speech to the status of an art form when Marcel Duchamp installed urinals in an art gallery to offend.  Working in the same vein, 1970’s London Punks wore swastikas with the explicit intention to offend, especially to offend the World War Two veterans.  Arguably, some of the Wisconsin high school students who gave Nazi salute in a prom picture probably wanted to offend (I’m sure it’s a deeper problem for at least some of them, and don’t blame the hicks in the Midwest, we have the same problem in San Francisco Bay Area).

So, we’ve been hang up on the idea of offensive speech for a while.  Yet to say that Hill’s words were merely offensive is to minimize their significance.  And in fact, whatever I feel when I hear them, I don’t feel offended.  The real problem with calling for elimination of the world’s only Jewish state is ethnic cleansing.

It’s not that I need to trim my ego, nurse my wounded pride, and make space for Duchamps of the 21st century, it’s that Hills words call for very concrete actions, and I will work very hard to make sure that everyone understands what Hill proposes, and that it never happens.

Hill’s apology was offensive because it merely insulted my intelligence.  Hill’s original from river to the sea opus was pure evil.  It was evil because it’s tied to objective reality which is evil.  Hill’s domain is that of words, words about words, and feelings they might produce.  He is a demagogue.


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