I got quite a bit of flak in comments last week for using the word “pogrom” to allude to the parallels between the rumour-driven riots in Birmingham and the persecution of Jews in 19th-century eastern Europe. Insofar as “pogrom” suggests some kind of official sanction, the word probably had slightly misleading connotations. But I see that both the conservative columnist Theodore Dalrymple and the Observer’s Nick Cohen have also noticed the echoes. Dalrymple wrote:
The rumour that a 14-year-old black girl had been caught shoplifting by a Pakistani shopkeeper in the Lozells area of Birmingham, and subsequently raped in revenge by a score of his compatriots, is highly reminiscent of the blood libels that used to sweep through Tsarist Russia at the end of the 19th century and led to vicious pogroms.
Of all the paradoxes of the situation, none is greater than that the Muslim traders of Lozells, among whom an unthinking anti-Semitism is probably widespread, should now find themselves in the position of the petty-trading Jews of Tsarist Russia, Moldavia and Romania.
And Cohen refers to Dalrymple and then generalizes the the work of Amy Chua:
In World on Fire, published two years ago and which deserved far more attention than it received, Amy Chua showed how globalisation had created an explosion of racism in the anti-semitic tradition. The new wave of capitalism had raised the living standards of ordinary people by a little and the rich by a lot, her argument ran. The supporters of free markets and democracy thought everyone was benefiting and hadn’t noticed that their ideas helped fuel resentments in those countries where ethnic minorities dominated business.
Thoughts that are outrageous on Crooked Timber on Monday, are conservative talking-points by Wednesday and the conventional wisdom of the “decent” left by the following Sunday. Maybe I should be worried about that!