Twitter Explained | Can You Be Anti-Miller Without Being Anti-Semitic?

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On Tuesday, October 6, senior White House aide Stephen Miller confirmed his positive COVID status. Miller is one of a dozen staffers close to President Trump to have tested positive, but he’s the only one to have generated a lively Twitter conversation on the dos and don’ts of anti-Semitic tropes. 

Considering how divisive Trump’s presidency has been, it’s no shocker this news about Miller, who has orchestrated some of the current administrations most controversial policies, including the 2017 “Muslim ban” and the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration, was met with some glee by hardcore anti-Trumpers on Twitter. 

Aside from the expected moral qualms about exhibiting delight in another person’s illness, a backlash against what some tweeters viewed as underlying anti-Semitism emerged.

Those who took issue with the anti-Miller tweets focused on the repeated comparisons to animals such as bats, lizards and snakes and the oft-expressed notion that Miller is inhuman, or some sort of non-human thing living in a human “host.”

The concern is valid. Depicting Jews as reptilian, non-human or as other sorts of creatures has been an aspect of anti-Semitism for as long as anti-Semitism has existed—that is to say, forever. Nazi propaganda characterized Jews as “vermin” as a method of dehumanizing and justifying Hitler’s plan to “exterminate” the Jewish people. More recently, known anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan has compared Jews to “termites.”

Some followers seemed to take these criticisms to heart, apologizing for their ignorance and deleting tweets or undoing retweets that contain these anti-Semitic tropes. 

But not everyone agreed on the anti-Semitic nature of these comments, saying that they were more anti-Miller than anything else and that other non-Jewish politicians (the only example I know of being Ted Cruz) are also compared to non-humans by those on the other side of the aisle. 

And National Review writer David Harsanyi pointed out the possible hypocrisy from the left in making a joke about Stephen Miller being a different species after harshly criticizing those who denounce George Soros. Though not everyone agreed about his comparison of the two contentious figures.

What seemed to confuse most people about the anti-Semitic nature of the comments was the lack of intentionality. Most (probably not all) of those who used these tropes when joking about Miller and COVID-19 were not doing so to attack him as a Jew or the larger Jewish community.

But does it matter? Is it acceptable to say something anti-Semitic about Stephen Miller if you’re not anti-Jewish but just anti-him? 

The short answer is no. Using anti-Semitic tropes in any context is, for lack of a better term, bad for the Jews. 

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One thought on “Twitter Explained | Can You Be Anti-Miller Without Being Anti-Semitic?

  1. Carol+Robins says:

    In a recent Vanity Fair issue was a very negative article about Miller and his wife. I hope the article does not stoke more antisemitism.

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