[COLD OPEN] Racism is a justification for treating people of other races as inferior in order to take their lands, take their labor, you know, take advantage of them. Antisemitism is an ancient conspiracy theory, which describes Jews as both subhuman and superhuman at the same time. Because conspiracy theories don't make sense!
Exactly. Right. Yeah, the conspiracy theory aspect of it. There's the blood libel, you know, Jews have been a convenient scapegoat for centuries.
[MUSIC, INTRO] This is The Book of Life, a show about Jewish kidlit, mostly. I'm Heidi Rabinowitz. Sarah Darer Littman has written a new young adult novel called Some Kind of Hate. It's a sort of expose about white supremacy and antisemitism. It's an important book that helps you understand how reasonable people can become radicalized by extremism. Before we get started, I want to make sure you know about the book of life's Justice page, where you'll find lots of resources for fighting antisemitism. Click on the word Justice at the top menu at BookofLifepodcast.com. Now, let's talk to Sarah.
Sarah Darer Littman, welcome back to The Book of Life.
It's such a pleasure to be back here with you.
Thank you! We first met in I believe, 2006, when you won the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Confessions of a Closet Catholic, which was about Jewish identity. And then we did an interview in 2011, about Life, After which was about violence in Argentina, and Asperger's, and feeling othered. And the book we're here to talk about today focuses on antisemitism. So you tend to write about really serious topics. Can you talk about that?
Well, it's funny because I often say that I need to start writing more funny books, because I think I'm actually a funnier person in real life than my body of work would lead you to believe. But I think it's because I have a sort of political background. I, I was told I'd never make a living as an English major. So I majored in political science. And I was brought up to believe that you should be aware of what's going on within the world, and not just in your own country, but in other countries. My editor calls me the Dick Wolf of YA for those of you who are Law and Order fans, because a lot of my topics are sort of ripped from the headlines. And this latest book, particularly, I started thinking about this book in 2019, and started researching it. And unfortunately, it only seems to be becoming more relevant by the day. I wish it weren't. But unfortunately, it is.
First of all, tell us about the title, Some Kind of Hate. It's very in-your-face. And so is the book jacket, which shows a baseball bat embedded with sharp nails. So why introduce the readers to the book in such a harsh way?
Well, part of that I have no say over, it's publishing, but it's a difficult book to read. I think the marketing department and the publisher didn't want anyone to pick it up and be surprised. It's better to kind of lay it out there that this is not going to be an easy book to read.
That makes sense. What inspired you to write this story?
It was a lot of things. For 13 years, I was a regular columnist for the Hearst Newspapers in Connecticut, and then for a online news site called Connecticut News Junkie. And so I had noticed, like many other Jewish journalists, that I was getting a lot more hate stuff online. Like, you know, people sending me pictures of concentration camps and just really horr-- like it was the one year anniversary of my father's yahrzeit. And someone made a Twitter account called Sarah, I can't say the word. Well, I could, I can, but you can edit them out. But Sarah BLEEP and used the picture of myself and my father as their avatar. And it was so personally hurtful, because I miss my father a lot. And all I could think of was my father was always worried about me putting my head above the parapet and writing political stuff. And he saw some of the letters that people wrote so all I could think of was how my father would feel if he knew that it happened to his daughter.
Right. So tell us about the premise of Some Kind of Hate. What is it about?
It's about two teenage boys who are friends on the baseball team. One is Jewish and the other is not Jewish. And one of them has an accident that sort of puts his future in doubt and as a result of that spends a lot of time online and becomes vulnerable to recruitment by white nationalists, antisemites. And unfortunately, this is something that's happening constantly.
Why did you make the main character a person who has Jewish friends? I was wondering, is it realistic that such a person would turn to white nationalism?
What was interesting was I'd already started thinking about this book, and I read an article in the Washingtonian, which I have linked to on my website, and it was written anonymously. And it was "What happened when my 13 year old son joined the alt right." What really fascinated me about that was that they were actually a Jewish family. They were a liberal Jewish family and their son went through something at school that sort of put him in a dark place, started spending a lot of time online, and ended up spouting a lot of this ideology. And that really fascinated me. So I actually wrote to the editor in chief of the Washingtonian, and and said, Look, you know, I'm a young adult author, I'm thinking about writing a book about this, would you be willing to put me in touch with the family, I, of course, would keep everything very anonymous. And they forwarded the email to the mother. And fortunately, she agreed to let me speak with her son. It was fascinating. And so I was like, Look, I have to ask you this. You're Jewish, like, didn't it bother you, when you were hearing all this antisemitic stuff? And what he said, just like every time I talk about it gives me goosebumps. He said, they never used the word Jew. They said globalist. And at the time, Trump was president and was using that word in the Oval Office, talking about his Jewish cabinet minister, you know, saying things like "he's a good guy for a globalist," you know, the fact that this word, which has such a loaded history, was being used in the Oval Office made me even more determined to write this book. I've always been highly influenced by George Orwell, who had his own antisemitic issues at times. But I'm fascinated by how language can be used both for good and for not so good. Part of what we're facing now is that people are speaking in code words that have a very long antisemitic history. But if people aren't educated to that, then it's easier for them to be sucked in. So my fourth book was not Jewish themed, it was called Want To Go Private? And it was about a girl who gets involved with an internet predator. So I did a lot of research on grooming. And I interviewed two former neo-Nazis. And one of the things I said to them was, this sounds a lot like grooming. One of them kind of admitted, yeah, you know that that is a very similar process, because you look for someone who's vulnerable, you reflect back the things that they say, so they feel like you totally understand them, and you're the only person who understands them. And then you move into the more noxious elements of a relationship. So one of the things I hope from this book is that we'll be able to start having conversations about language and give kids the vocabulary so that they can recognize what is going on, and also learn to speak up against it.
So can you go ahead and identify some of that vocabulary and decode the code words for us?
"Globalist" is one of them. And what's really depressing to me is that a lot of these concepts go back to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
And just in case there are listeners who don't know what it is, explaind the Protocols.
So the Protocols are basically these made up minutes that purport to be the minutes of a meeting of this Jewish cabal that controls the world. It was invented in late 19th century Russia, but has been used by antisemites from then until now. You will see, in fact, I think I saw yesterday on social media, there was something about how Jews control the media, and it's another Jewish-owned candidate. But the other thing is this whole "replacement theory" that we are conspiring to eradicate the white race through intermarriage and immigration. If you pay attention to political rhetoric, you will see a lot of that going on. It's coming from Tucker Carlson. Particularly scary is how it's been mainstreamed. It's not on the fringes anymore.
Give us some more vocabulary.
Another one is "rootless cosmopolitans." One of the things that white nationalists like to point out is how many countries Jews have been kicked out of. That's like one of their favorite things to talk about, you know, like, basically everyone hates us, so we don't have our own national identity. We are basically just like leeches sucking off other countries. Another one is "cultural Marxism," that we are trying to bring in all these anathema ideas, like, you know that gays are people, you know...
What a concept!
I know! Like, you know, that we think a woman should have a right to choose, you know, things like that. I mean, part of the the thing with the Tree of Life shooting was that the guy who did it, he had been steeped in this "great replacement theory." So the problem is, words have real life consequences. You can say like, Oh, it's just words. It's my first amendment right, whatever. But there are things that end up having real world deathly consequences. And unfortunately, the internet and the unwillingness of tech companies to confront some of the noxious rhetoric on their platforms, has made it so much easier for people trying to spread this ideology.
I want to bring up the Anti Defamation League's page about antisemitism, because they have a very useful section called Antisemitism Uncovered: A Guide to Old Myths in a New Era. And they really break it down into concrete elements that make it easy to recognize antisemitism. So I just want to sort of state it for the record, so that people are aware of these elements of antisemitism. So first of all, the myth that Jews have too much power, that we're controlling the media, controlling the weather, controlling other ra ces...
...we have space lasers...
Space lasesr, right!
Which I mean, I joke about...
I mean, wouldn't it be cool if we had space lasers? but...
It's so so funny. My husband is a laser enthusiast, like he does like laser shows, you know, like Pink Floyd laser, whatever. And I'm like, should I tell people that he's at a laser convention right now? Like, is that, is that gonna feed into a conspiracy theory? Like "her husband is into lasers"? You know, I mean, it's ridiculous. But like, things are so crazy, you start to think, you know, especially after having been immersed in all this stuff you like, yeah.
Right. Okay, so that's the first one. Next on their list is this idea of disloyalty, that Jews are only loyal to other Jews, that Jews have divided loyalty, that they're more loyal to Israel than to their home country, you know, for diaspora Jews who live in, for instance, the United States. So this, this idea of disloyalty. The idea that Jews are rich and greedy, and miserly, and are just relentlessly in pursuit of wealth, and then once they have wealth that they are stingy with it. The idea that the Jews killed Jesus...
In the afterword, I wrote about the first time that someone told me I killed Jesus, which was when I was in school in the UK, and how shocked I was and also like, as a logical person. I was like, you know, I couldn't have killed Jesus. I wasn't even born then like, what are you talking about? But as you said, like conspiracy theories don't actually
Need to be logical. Yeah.
Okay. So the blood libel, the idea that Jews use Christian blood for religious rituals, particularly matzah, right, so, there's a boogeyman idea for you. The Holocaust denial, the idea that the Holocaust either didn't happen, or it happened, but it was not really such a big deal and the Jews are making a fuss over nothing.
It was like a holiday camp.
Camp! Camp's fun, right? And then the Israel element. Delegitimizing Israel, saying it has no right to exist, saying that Israel is uniquely evil among the nations of the world.
The other thing I want to say is the conflation between Jews and Israel. As you know and I know, there is a wide range of feelings within the Jewish community about Israeli policy. So the idea that if you criticize Israeli policy, you're antisemitic, or the assumption that because you're Jewish, you should be held responsible for everything that is done in Israel. I mean, I've tried to explain it to non Jewish author friends by saying, you know, how would you feel if every time they tried to bring Chinese Americans into a diversity discussion, people said, but what about the Uyghurs? China's doing this to the Uyghurs so you should have to denounce that before you're on any panel.
It's like holding Japanese Americans responsible for Pearl Harbor.
And we all know how badly that went.
So those are the antisemitic myths that the Anti Defamation League lists. And I think it's a pretty good summary of things to recognize as antisemitism, when you see them cropping up wherever.
Yes, yeah, no, I think that's a that's a great list.
Antisemitism is not isolated, it tends to be part of a package deal with racism, and misogyny and homophobia and Islamophobia. So can you talk about how these hatreds are connected?
Yeah, hatred of the Jews is, like you said, a package deal. And if you think that you're safe when they started attacking Jews, you aren't because they're going to come for you too. Actually, when you brought up misogyny, so originally, when I sold this book, the proposal called for it to be written from a male point of view and a female point of view. I got about 20,000 words into it and I realized, no, there have to be two male points of view. The reason for that is, as I kept researching, misogyny played such a huge part in white nationalist ideology, misogyny, patriarchy, the sort of alpha male idea of masculinity, and I realized that there needed to be two young men so that they each could provide a different way of being a man. I mean, I can't tell you how many alpha male videos I sat through, listening to bearded broided up men telling other men what women want, which really bore very little resemblance to what women I know want, you know, that was very disturbing.
What surprised you as you researched white supremacy?
Honestly, it surprised me that I was able to have a relationship of some sort with people who, as I said, to one former neo Nazi, you know, you were my worst nightmare growing up. But that I was able to have a relationship and, and talk to, and learn to sort of understand where it came from, learn to empathize, basically, not with their ideology, but with them as a person, and what they might have been going through and what might have put them in a place that this seemed like a worldview that made sense.
I think I was surprised by how much misogyny had to do with it. Like I'd always focused on the antisemitism. And the fact that misogyny was such a big part of it, it kind of hit me in the face.
One thing that's been really disturbing is how messed up my algorithms have been as a result of the research I did. Now I've learned if I'm ever going to research stuff like this to do it in a private window. But at the time, I was just Googling in Google. I found that my search algorithms got really screwed up to the point where if I was trying to Google just to check like the Jewish meaning of a word, my entire first page and usually somewhere down to the middle of the second page of search results were actually Christian nationalist sites, some of them actually posing as Jewish sites, it would have some Hebrew on it and whatever. But then as you read more closely, they'd start talking about the Rapture. And that's scares me a lot. Because if people actually have a kind of curiosity about Judaism, but they've been looking at extremist content, they're going to be fed more extremist content. And because of the way the algorithms work, they may not actually be able to find their way to a legitimate Jewish source. One of the things my father used to say to me when I was a columnist and just having a tough time, or whatever he'd say, hazak, you know, like, be strong. So I talk about that in the book, and my editor who isn't Jewish, who I love, she was like, oh, you know, I'm not really questioning you, but is it Hazak Hazak Ve-Nit’Hazek, or is it Roz Hasak Emet? And I was like, no, what we say at the end of each book of the Torah is definitely Hazak Hazak Ve-Nit’Hazek. I Googled what she was talking about, which is from Joshua, and the first thing that came up, it's this, like, ultra Christian, like "the ancient cry of the Hebrews!" And it's like this really Christian nationalist, talking about like being a fighter and a warrior. And it was very disturbing to me.
So they've co opted this Hebrew phrase...?
For Christian nationalism. I don't know if you've heard of the guy who's running in Virginia Mastriano, who's running for governor of Virginia against a Jewish candidate Josh Shapiro. So he was on Gab, which is this virulently antisemitic social media platform, whose founder Torba is like a blatant antisemite. And he's defending himself by saying, Well, I had a shofar at my launch of my gubernatorial campaign, and now people are accusing me of being antisemitic. Christian nationalists have co opted that as, you know, Joshua at the battle of Jericho, you know, they're quoting Roz Hazak Emet, which is, you know, from the book of Joshua, and they are basically using the shofar because they're gonna blow down the walls of... our democracy. Or basically anything that isn't Christian nationalist, you know, and that is, you know, when we talk about cultural appropriation, like, can we talk about that, please? It's, it's really disturbing, and then to like use it as Oh, well, I'm not antisemitic because I've co opted your...
I blew a shofar, so I can't be antisemitic!
Exactly, you know. And in the article, I also talked about how sales of shofars in Israel have gone up because of all these Christians visiting Israel. So it's really, really disturbing.
So we've been talking about how white supremacy has been going mainstream in recent years. Do you have any thoughts on how to push back?
I'm hoping that writing a book like Some Kind of Hate... I really feel like literature can be a way to help create empathy and understanding and conversations. There's going to be a really terrific educator guide that will serve as a basis for classroom discussion and different activities that people can do.
So, education is what you're saying.
Yes. And that is, I think, what's so terrifying about the attempts to take over local school boards. One of the best things that people can do is really pay attention to what's happening on the local level. There's so much focus on national politics. But right now, we need to be laser focused on what is going on, on the state and local level.
School boards are a key in every community because there's definitely organized push by extremists to take over the school boards and reform education into a Christian nationalist point of view.
And for years as a columnist I was writing about, when the whole focus in education was "college and career ready." I kept saying they've left something out: "college, career and citizenship ready." When I was in high school, they brought in voting machines, they brought them into the cafeteria, so that we could vote in the mock presidential election because they understood that that was one of the purposes of public school, was to make us not just worker bees, but also to make us knowledgeable citizens and participants in the democratic process. The last election during 2020, I was teaching on election day. And I said to my students, I hope you go out and vote, like exercise your voice in the democratic process, because it's really important. And one of my students said, Yeah, I went to vote this morning, but it was the first time I ever voted and I was really nervous that I was doing it wrong. And my heart broke, because I was like, You should not be scared to vote the first time, you know, that should be part of your education, knowing how to fill out the ballot and knowing how to put it in the machine and whatever method they're using at your voting place. And that is where I feel very strongly, we've been falling down on the job, education wise for a long time.
So to talk about another area of pushing back, in the story, Declan gets radicalized, he doesn't even realize it's happening. You also spoke about this Jewish family where the child was radicalized under the parents' noses without them realizing what was going on. So how do we protect kids from being radicalized?
First of all, giving them the vocabulary that we spoke about, helping them to understand that these are things that are said, that are not true. And that goes for racist theories, it goes for antisemitic theories, Islamophobic theories. Let's say I'm a parent and my kid starts spouting things that seem anathema to me. I think what is more effective than saying, "Oh, my God, you idiot," or "we didn't bring you up to be this way," you know, is responding with curiosity, like "so, what makes you think that? Can you explain a bit more about that?" I really recommend to anyone, documentary filmmaker, Deeya Khan made this fantastic documentary called White Right: Meeting the Enemy. And she actually embedded herself with white supremacists. She's a Muslim woman, grew up in Denmark; to me that is so incredibly brave. And she actually gave a TED Talk where she talked about having radical curiosity. I really took that message on board for when I was interviewing former neo Nazis. Even though I felt sick to my stomach before I made the phone call, I really tried to approach it with radical curiosity so that I could put myself in the head of a teenage boy, and understand what would make him attracted to something like that. So I think helping kids to understand what the code words are that people use. And then if you feel like your kid is going down that route, sort of continually asking questions, and then presenting other ideas. But one of the most important things that I got from the reading and the interviews I did was that most people who get into these ideologies are not doing it, initially, because they hate people. They are looking for community, identity, and purpose. And I mean, it's hard because being a middle school kid is hard. Being a teenager is hard. And it's a time where you're starting to look to your peers for community as opposed to your family. But I think parents sometimes underestimate how much influence they do have. And also how important it is to model the behavior that you want to see. For someone like Declan who he loses his identity, he has this accident that changes his future,.
Just to fill people in a little bit, so he was a baseball star, and then he does something stupid, hurts himself, and now he can't look forward to this baseball career because of the injury.
Yes, basically, he's looking for answers. And you know, he's looking for a new identity. And he's looking for people who understand what he's going through because he feels like everyone else is off living the life that he should be leading. So that makes him vulnerable. And like I said, there's that sort of grooming aspect to it, where the people he meets online are reflecting back things that he talks about, and then pointing him to resources, which are very heavily weighted towards the propaganda that they're trying to spread. And that's another way we can push back is by information literacy. That's something that is so important. You know me, I'm a big fan of librarians and I've been writing for years about why we should have school librarians in every school, you know, because kids can't just Google it. And the fact that my algorithms got so messed up just from doing this research points to that even more, you know, I believed it beforehand, I believe it even more now, we need to be able to distinguish what is a reliable source, what isn't. And we should be doing that in every single class we teach. I did it in business writing, because it has to be done throughout the curriculum.
You've spoken about how emotionally taxing it was to do the research and write this book. What kept you going?
Chocolate? No, I think for me, it was purpose. Feeling like this book was important. The community that we have, you know, the Jewish Midlit Mavens and writer friends who kept encouraging me, and my synagogue community as well, having that faith. I'm not the most religious person, but I do have faith and being able to go to synagogue and sort of escape from it. And also feel that connection to my history. And my faith was really important to me, and sort of gave me the strength to go on.
Speaking of synagogues, within the story, the radicalized character, Declan and his new gang of compatriots, plan an attack on a synagogue. And this is something that's pretty unusual to see in a book for young people. So talk about your decision to include that and how you chose to depict that act of terror.
It was a really hard decision. Earlier in the book, there is an active shooter training at the synagogue. Kids have that all the time in school, but one of the things that the Jewish kids talk about as they're going through it is that it feels different, because at school, it may not be that, you know...
They're not being targeted for who they are specifically.
Yes. Whereas in synagogue, it's like they are particularly targeting us because we're Jewish. But also, they end up having a discussion, which was very much how I felt. I went through an active shooter training at my synagogue before the High Holy Days in 2019. And one of the things they tell you is, just get out, don't stop to help anyone who's in a wheelchair, or with a walker, or anyone who's hurt, just get out and save yourself. And I was so upset afterwards. I was like, you know, isn't this the opposite of everything we learn as Jews? Like I felt like it was antithetical to everything that I was brought up to believe. So that's something I covered in the book, was what these different ideas are. So then writing the planning for the attack, it was really hard, because I was like, I don't want to give anyone ideas. So I had written it, and then I was going through first pass pages when Colleyville happens. And I freaked out. You know, first pass proofs is pretty late in the process, you still can change things, but it's already been typeset. And I freaked out. And I ended up going through the entire book, and taking out a lot of content, because I was so afraid that it might give people ideas. So I made the planning a lot more vague. And that's part of the reason that we ended up having someone from the ADL read the book before it went any further because I freaked out so much about the fact that I might be causing harm, as opposed to preventing it.
Talk about the resources on your website related to Some Kind of Hate.
In addition to the educator guide, I've tried to put links to various resources on learning to recognize antisemitism, on ways to fight antisemitism, also racism, and also some of the particular areas that white nationalists use, like some resources about the Crusades. Because one of the things that you might notice from looking at the January 6 hearing was, there was a lot of Christian nationalists Crusader imagery used. The Crusades have been co opted by Christian nationalists, like people are basically rewriting Crusader history to fit their narrative. So I tried to put in some things about that as well.
Interesting. What would be some good companion books for Some Kind of Hate? What other books can folks read to get a better understanding of antisemitism?
Dear Mr. Dickens by Nancy Churnin, that is about a girl who wrote to Charles Dickens about his antisemitic portrayal. I love this book because it shows that we are never too young to make a difference. Alias Anna by Susan Hood, which is based on a true story of these two Ukrainian girls. That's about the dangers and the lengths people had to go to in order to survive during World War II. Linked by Gordon Korman and The Assignment by Liza Wiemer. Both The Assignment and Linked have similar messages in terms of learning how to be an upstander and to not just speak for your own identity, but to speak up for others as well.
Just to fill in a little bit about that. The Assignment and Linked are both about student activism, and about Holocaust education, and how to do it right and how to do it wrong. So in The Assignment, there's a teacher who gives a very poorly thought out lesson about the Holocaust. And a few students bravely say publicly that this is making it worse rather than educating, this is actually spreading antisemitism and they fight back against that. And then in Linked, a school is vandalized with a swastika. And it's about how the students respond to that and choose to educate themselves about what that really means and how they can push back against that. So I think they're both very good examples of youth empowerment in terms of fighting antisemitism and racism.
One of the things that white nationalists will try and do when people talk about swastikas as a hate symbol is they'll bring in the fact that it was actually I think, a Hindu symbol, you know, and also some of the pagan symbols that have been co opted by white supremacists and white nationalists and neo Nazis. And yes, they may have been Viking runes. But, you know, what are they being used for now? It's kind of a disingenuous argument. Oh, Refugee by Alan Gratz. That speaks to the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric because what he does so well is tie together the past and the present.
Right. He's got depictions of a refugee from the Holocaust, a refugee from Cuba. Right. And then what was the other one?
From Syria? Yeah, Syria? Yes. You know, I lived in England for 15 years, and I saw the rhetoric that was being spread there about the Syrian refugees, and also seen the difference of how they are reacting to Ukrainian refugees, which is disturbing. And then YA novels well, they're not just novels, but there's a thing called We Spoke Out which is comic books in the Holocaust, and that's by Neal Adams, Rafael Medoff and Craig Yoe with an afterword by Stan Lee; Resistance by Carla Jablonski and Leyland Purvis and of course, Maus, the classic graphic novel. And then there's some really good adult books. People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn. Jews Don't Count by David Baddiel.
He refers to Schrodinger's whites.
Yes, Jews are white or not white, depending on who you ask.
Exactly. Yes. So on the far right, they're saying Jews aren't white. Then we have on the other side of the continuum. We have the people who are like Jews do not belong in diversity conversations, because they have white privilege. And that in itself is problematic because there are a lot of Jews who are not white. And then there's three books by former neo Nazis that I recommend. One is The Cure for Hate by Tony McAleer, and he's one of the people I interviewed. He's a Canadian former neo Nazi. Breaking Hate by Christian Picciolini. And The Gift of Our Wounds by Arno Michaelis. I heard Arno Michaelis speak, I think a JCC thing in Greenwich. And one of the things he said really stuck with me, was that his mind started to be changed when he received kindness from someone from whom he least deserved it. So he had like a swastika tattooed on his hand or forearm, and he would go to this, I think it was McDonald's. And he was served by this very nice black woman. And she saw his swastika one day and was like, You're better than that. And it made him go away and think, you know, she could have gone all out on him. But the fact that she was able to sort of see beyond that, and see him as a person, as opposed to the symbol. And really like, I feel like that's so much of what we need to try and do. There's another great book that I just finished reading by Dylan Marron called Conversations With People Who Hate Me. He basically reached out to people who had sent him hate mail and ended up having these sometimes really meaningful and deep conversations with them, where they were able to sort of see each other's humanity. And StoryCorps had started this program called One Small Step where they're trying to bring people from across the political divide to have moderated conversations with each other, again, so that they can see each other as people. And that's where the curiosity comes in. One of the questions I asked both of the neo Nazis, the former neo Nazis I interviewed, both of them had said that their hatred of Jews was the last one to leave, out of racism, Islamophobia, you know, but the the hatred of Jews was very deep. So I said, like, look, I'm Jewish. I'm sorry, I have to ask you this question, but why like, why is it us you hate so much? And it really goes back to that conspiracy theory that we are this cabal of superhumans, but subhumans, who are trying to destroy the white race.
And what helped them to finally get past that?
Again, I think it's getting to know people as people. And in some cases, therapy, because people are looking for reasons to blame people other than themselves for the things that go wrong in their life. And that is very much part of Declan's journey. It's, it's other people's fault. And it's so much easier to blame other people than to take responsibility for how your own actions may have contributed. So, therapy, I think it's integral as part of the deradicalization process, because people have to acknowledge, I can't just blame every problem in my life on this group or that group without starting to look at myself and acknowledge like what part I may have played in this.
It's Tikkun Olam time.
So what action would you like to call listeners to take to help heal the world?
Okay. So I have three. The first one is educate yourself about state and local politics. And if you're old enough, please vote in every election, not just the national elections, the midterm and off cycle elections matter as much as all the other ones and turnout in those elections is pathetically low. And we know that those elections are being targeted by people who want to establish a Christian nationalist worldview. And so I beg everyone, to please educate themselves and get involved.
My second thing is to engage in radical curiosity, and to really try and understand rather than talking at people, which is what social media encourages, because the more conflict, the more time people spend on their sites, which is what they're all about, and the more ads they can sell. They're selling hatred for ad revenues. So rather than talking at people, ask questions, and really be curious, and sometimes just asking that question feels like you're showing them respect, as opposed to just telling them that they're dumb, or that they don't know what they're talking about. And sometimes that can lead to an actual conversation where you see each other's humanity.
And the third thing, which comes from having read Dylan Marron's book, is to remember that empathy isn't endorsement. And I think that's so important because knowing that we can have empathy for someone, while still finding their viewpoints really anathema, that's an important skill, because it's helping us to see them as more than a caricature of their beliefs, but actually, as a flesh and blood human being, I think if we can't do that, I really despair. There are human beings behind every interaction you have online. Well, not every because there are bots. But most interactions that aren't bots. We can keep that in the forefront of our minds. It will definitely help make the world a better place.
Excellent advice. Thank you. Is there anything else you want to talk about that I haven't thought to ask you?
I am both excited and scared for this book to come out. But it will have been worth all the angst if it helps even a few people have a better understanding of how antisemitism is spread, but also how it feels to be the target of antisemitism.
Sarah Darer Littman, thank you so much for speaking with me.
It was my pleasure.
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