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Today, Jews celebrate the holiday of Purim, a festival of revelry that commemorates their deliverance from an ancient genocidal plot. The story behind this day is recounted in the biblical Book of Esther. Traditionally, a scroll containing that book is read twice over the holiday, with listeners making noise to drown out the name of the story’s villain, Haman, a vizier who manipulated the Persian king into nearly eradicating the Jews.
Scholars date the Book of Esther back over 2,000 years, but in some ways, it could have been written yesterday. Listen to Haman’s justification for persecuting the Jews in Esther 3:8:
Then Haman said to [King] Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.”
The Jews were sort of unleashed on American society and European society … They accepted citizenship, but they weren’t thoroughly assimilated in the sense that they didn’t think of themselves having the same interests as their fellow citizens, necessarily.
But you don’t need to go back thousands of years or to the fringes of American society to find people who espouse these sentiments today. You just have to turn on Fox News.
Douglas Macgregor is a retired U.S. Army colonel who has become Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s go-to foreign policy expert. In recent appearances on the channel, he has argued that the U.S. should not sanction Russia and that Vladimir Putin should be allowed to annex as much of Ukraine as he wants, which is why many today consider Macgregor to be less a neutral observer than a Russia apologist. What they may not know is that he’s also a longtime purveyor of anti-Semitic ideas.
“We have a huge problem with a class of so-called elites, the people who are wealthy, very wealthy in many cases and they are, as the Russians used to call certain individuals many, many years ago, rootless cosmopolitans,” he told the Serbian American Voters Alliance in an October 2021 speech uncovered by Matt Gertz at MediaMatters.
For those understandably unfamiliar with this terminology, “rootless cosmopolitans” is an anti-Semitic euphemism for Jews that was popularized under Stalin in the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler also repeatedly referred to Jews as disloyal cosmopolitans, lamenting in his manifesto Mein Kampf that “it is no longer princes or their courtesans who contend and bargain about state frontiers, but the inexorable cosmopolitan Jew who is fighting for his own dominion over the nations.” In other words, there is exactly one type of person who uses this sort of language in everyday conversation.
In case his audience missed the point, though, Macgregor added: “They live above all of this, they have no connection to the country. There is nothing there that holds them in place, and they are largely responsible, in my judgment, for the condition that we are in today.”
All of this prompts the question: Who said it better, Macgregor or Haman?
Macgregor isn’t just some talking head, and this rhetoric isn’t some sort of aberration. In 2020, he was nominated by President Trump to be the American ambassador to—and I am not making this up—Germany. The Republican-controlled Senate blocked his appointment after reporters surfaced many of his past remarks. Among an array of conspiratorial claims, including some about Jewish financier George Soros, Macgregor alleged that American support for Israel stemmed from “Israeli lobby” money and that U.S. officials had gotten “very, very rich” from their support for the Jewish state. (In reality, most American politicians support Israel because most American voters support Israel.) These claims were strikingly similar to anti-Semitic tweets made by Representative Ilhan Omar, who later apologized for them. Macgregor did not apologize, and was subsequently appointed by Trump as a senior adviser to the Pentagon, and later to the board of West Point, from which he was removed by President Biden.
One thing you discover when you study anti-Semitism is that anti-Semites are not very original thinkers. They constantly rehash the same stale accusations and conspiracies, believing they’ve uncovered something revelatory and new, rather than something nonsensical and decrepit. In this way, Douglas Macgregor is not an interesting person. But he is emblematic of the slow creep of ugly ideas into the center of our national discourse.
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