I borrow the famous form of the question to talk a little bit about outing and identity.

So, it turns out that a Confederate apologist’s mother is Jewish.

This is not about overreacting, though in a way he did. This is about gaze, and what is happening here is ironic, but still tragic. Allen is about to suffer from racist ideologies that he has previously benefited from. But avoiding this is not automatically anti-Semitic.

Attention plus power becomes gaze. A person looks at something, and there is no direct result. A person with power examines something, and the correlation is an enforceable judgment is produced about what is seen. Bringing something under gaze is not a neutral action, and “reporting” facts in these conditions can be the substance of oppression.

It was never illegal to be a Communist in America. McCarthy worked with the tool of gaze. Publicly discussing political affiliation in a hostile environment has one central purpose, to inhibit, discourage, and cause fear among the political other.

So, much as I loathe George “Macaca” Allen, what has happened in terms of questioning his ancestry is clearly race baiting to my eyes. To pretend as if there aren’t anti-Semites in Virginia other than him…is disingenuous. Public identification is only a neutral process to the extent that the resulting audience will be neutral.

-sly

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