You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.
by Nicholas Jahr
Over in the right sidebar is our tag cloud, and “anti-Semitism” looms large. Sometimes I find this frustrating; I’d like what we’re for to be at least as prominent as what we’re against. And then something like this comes along and I just can’t resist:
I knew what was coming when I watched that clip, and I still almost missed it. Johnson tosses the phrase off unthinkingly, like he’s having a cigar break in the backroom with his buddies. This is still the language of power.
The people grinning in the rows behind him, the note -- what I wouldn’t give to read that note. What did it say? “Jew me down?!?!” “Dennis -- Don’t talk smack about the Jews.” That shit-eating grin, that ‘whaddaya gonna do’ nod of his head. “Alright folks, let’s get back to this.” Indeed.
Just in case anyone is confused, Johnson’s defense of “niche marketing” -- that customers could try to ‘Jew him down,’ see, that’s really an economic advantage -- came in the midst of an argument for repealing a state ban on “loss leaders,” a practice which allows behemoths like Wal-Mart to pulverize small businesses, for which they were sued in Oklahoma back in 2000.
For his part, Johnson isn’t just some backbencher; he’s the co-majority leader of the Oklahoma state legislature, the kind of pol who might be expected to run for Congress if a seat opened up. And hey, right there in the number three spot on a list of Johnson’s donors is that familiar bunch of frackers Chesapeake Energy, which until about a month ago was run by Swift Boater Aubrey McClendon. You can’t make this stuff up. Or you could, but people would tell you it was unbelievable and laugh you out of the room.
He has now apologized; the phrase “just came out of one of the wrinkles of my brain.” Thankfully, a spokesman for the Republican Speaker of the House told The Oklahoman that “The House has accepted his apology and has moved on.” Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.
Nicholas Jahr is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn and a member of Jewish Currents’ editorial board. In the past he has written for the magazine about comics, film, the diaspora, Israeli elections, and Palestinian nonviolence. His work has appeared in the International New York Times, The Nation, City & State, and the Village Voice (RIP).