Well, this is special

September 16th, 2009

I woke up this morning to a rather long, and surprising, comment in this blog’s comment queue, in response to my post a few weeks ago about Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony tickets being on sale. (And there are still good seats left!)

The theme of this year’s Igs is “Risk,” and the ceremony will kick off with a pre-show “Risk Cabaret” featuring songs by the “Penny-Wise Guys,” who will be “presenting juicy cabaret songs about risk, reward, and Bernie Madoff.”

What’s not to like?

Quite a bit, as far as our commenter is concerned. (He also posted his comment on his blog — which otherwise appears to be entirely dedicated to examining the difference between reading on paper and reading on a computer screen — here, and here, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find his objections popping up elsewhere over the next few days, either.)

Mr. Bloom is concerned that our mockery of Bernie Madoff will add fuel to the fire of anti-Semitism, you see:

Why not pay tribute to Mr Sanford [sic] or Danny Pang of Taiwan, and other world ponzi schemers? Why focus just on the Jewish guy? Of course, there is no antisemitic intention on the part of the Ig Nobel people, they are Jewish people themselves. But by putting on this “SHOW” about Bernie Madoff, who is a known Jewish man among hundreds of antisemitic bloggers around the world — just google “antisemitism + Bernie Madoff” and you will see — the organizers of this show risk– RISK – creating MORE antisemitism online and in newspaper comment sections when the news of this SHOW comes out in the media, worldwide. Oi.

Now, if we were planning to do a cabaret called, say, “Bernie Madoff: 21st Century Shylock” in which a hook-nosed, yarmulke-clad Madoff danced around to a parody of Cyndi Lauper entitled “Jews Just Wanna Have Gelt,” yes, I could see grounds for concern. But we’re not doing that, nor does Mr. Bloom have any reason whatsoever to believe that we are.

When a member of our in-group — our race, our religion, our profession, our political party — does wrong, should we call them out with appropriate mockery or punishment? Or should we sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen because “he’s one of ours”?

Which course of action do you really think will lead to more stereotyping? And leaving that question aside — because there are, in fact, more important questions in the world than “But what will the goyim/whites/Yankees fans/Democrats/customers think of us” — which is the right thing to do?

I know what I think is the right thing, and it’s what my husband is doing. (Of course, if Mr. Bloom is right and Mr. Improbable does get a reputation as a terrible anti-Semite, I’ll at least be spared the awkward annual conversation with my synagogue’s dues committee about why I claim “single” instead of “family” membership.)

Comments open. Repetitive comments will be deleted.


5 Responses to “Well, this is special”

  1. Eeeeka on September 17, 2009 9:00 am

    I can honestly say I didn’t remember that Bernie Madoff *was* Jewish. Not that it would have made any difference. Why pick on him? He’s a household name (and not in a good way). I have heard of Mr. Stanford, but not Danny Peng, so I guess I don’t pay enough attention or something. But no one seems to have outdone Bernie Madoff in sheer chutzpah.

  2. veronica on September 17, 2009 11:15 am

    I always criticize my in group members. Maybe not publicly, but only because I don’t have the proper forum. But there are certain members of my family who feel the need to email things that have been PROVEN false. During the election last year (we are a right of center family) I replied all with the links to factcheck.org. I don’t take “misstatements” by the left, and I won’t tolerate it from the right either.

  3. MelissaJane on September 17, 2009 11:33 am

    It may be that Commenter is correct, that the more Madoff’s story is replayed, the more it fosters anti-Semitism.

    So what?

    We can’t control the reactions of the malicious, the paranoid, or the extreme among us. Those people who have a rigid and extreme worldview can interpret any fact to support that view. Shutting down discourse in an attempt to appease the crazies is futile. In the first place, those who are determined to see Jews as Shylocks (or African-Americans as minstrels or monkeys, women as bitches or whores, etc) are going to persist in their beliefs, regardless of news stories about Madoff, comedy skits about Madoff, balanced reporting about Israel, etc. So, sure, the IgNobel event may somehow increase anti-Semitic feeling *among anti-Semites.* Eh. Hard to get exercised about making the crazies a little crazier.

  4. MelissaJane on September 17, 2009 11:36 am

    Shoulda reread a little more carefully. I appear to be missing a second place. Which was going to be that there’s a value to the rest of us in examining people like Madoff through a multitude of lenses, some factual, some analytical, some satirical. So, go Mr. Improbable; may all your works prosper.

  5. Robin on September 17, 2009 11:43 am

    Veronica, can I say I’m really glad to hear you’re right-of-center? I don’t go political much, but it’s fairly obvious what my politics are, I’d imagine. So I’m really glad to know that my writing appeals to those who aren’t necessarily on my side of the aisle. I always thought it should appeal — that civility, and curiosity, and humor, and a genuine concern for human dignity — ought not be political. But it seems there are many folks today who wouldn’t trust a cookie recipe from someone who didn’t agree with them on politics!

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