There's no doubt in mind that the term neocon is very often used as a dog-whistle by people who are signalling their distaste for Jews, or at least their distaste for Jews with political power. And there's no doubt in my mind that accusing Jews of puppet-mastering goyim is an ancient anti-Semitic trope. Combine them, and you're entering into nasty territory (which doesn't mean, of course, I think Maureen did it advertently).
Why do I say that "neocon" is often used as an anti-Semitic dog-whistle? Because anti-Semites of the hard left and the extreme right have long made the connection between Jews and neoconservatism hyper-explicit. In non-polite company, "neoconservatism" is openly synonymous with "traitorous Jew." In semi-polite company, where it is preferable to speak in deniable code, the connection between Jews and neoconservatism is signaled through dog whistles.
The left-wing activist Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters magazine, and the Occupy movement, made the connection clear in an infamous 2004 article entitled, "Why Won't Anyone Say They Are Jewish?" Lasn, in the style of John Mearsheimer and Fred Malek, who are famous for cataloguing Jews, made a list of people he identified as Jewish neoconservatives for his readers. This is how he introduced the subject:
Drawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game. Anyone who does so can count on automatically being smeared as an anti-Semite....Here at Adbusters, we decided to tackle the issue head on and came up with a carefully researched list of who appear to be the 50 most influential neocons in the U.S. (see above). Deciding exactly who is a neocon is difficult since some neocons reject the term while others embrace it. Some shape policy from within the White House, while others are more peripheral, exacting influence indirectly as journalists, academics and think tank policy wonks. What they all share is the view that the U.S. is a benevolent hyper power that must protect itself by reshaping the rest of the world into its morally superior image. And half of them are Jewish.
(My favorite part of this was Lasn's use of the word "smear" to describe what happens to people who make public lists of Jews they despise.)
This article heavily influenced
the discourse about neoconservatives on the far-left and far-right (which tend
to agree on subjects including "Jewish power," the "Jewish lobby," Israel and Zionism.) Please see here and here, here, here, and here, for other extremist articles on the tight connection between Jews and neoconservatism. (I have links to a lot more, which I can post if there is sufficient demand, though I don't like linking to hate sites.) Michael Lind, in an influential article in 2003, established the link between Jews and the hated ideology of neoconservatism with a bit more politesse:
Most neoconservative defense intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right. They are products of the influential Jewish-American sector of the Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history. Their admiration for the Israeli Likud party's tactics, including preventive warfare such as Israel's 1981 raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, is mixed with odd bursts of ideological enthusiasm for "democracy." They call their revolutionary ideology "Wilsonianism" (after President Woodrow Wilson), but it is really Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism. Genuine American Wilsonians believe in self-determination for people such as the Palestinians."
Now combine "neocon" with "puppet master," and you get a euphemism for malevolent Jewish power that approaches "international banker" and "rootless cosmopolitan" in potency. Jim is right, of course, to say that "puppet master" is a popular term in the wider culture. But it is true that anti-Semites and their fellow travelers -- Glenn Beck comes to mind -- often use puppet masters to describe powerful Jews (Beck, apropos Jon Chait's point, was roundly condemned for anti-Semitism for using the term, including by yours truly.)
The Jew-as-puppet-master meme has been given a strong lift in recent years by commentators in the Muslim world, who see malignant Jewish influence everywhere. In 2003, the then-prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, made a now-famous speech to the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference that laid out a vision of international Jewish puppet-mastery with concision: The Jews "survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking," he said. "They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power."
In the context of Maureen's column, the word "neocon," when attached to the concept of "puppet mastering," is obviously going to be interpreted a certain way by people looking to have their prejudices confirmed. (In another post, I'll publish, if I can stand to wade through the muck, some of the e-mail I received praising Maureen for "bravery" and "guts" for condemning Jewish influence on the democratic process. And again, I don't think this is what Maureen was trying to do.)
One final, amusing note: The far-right polemicist Steve Sailer, who spends most of his days arguing that black people are mentally inferior to white people, this week addressed the question of whether Maureen actually knew the meaning of the language she deployed (a question I raised in my first post), and in so doing, paid me a compliment I don't think I deserve:
Right, Jeffrey, Maureen Dowd is obviously a naive young girl who hasn't been around the block a few times, so she doesn't understand the meaning of what she writes.
Goldberg, as usual, is way exaggerating, but, still, there's a more here than when, say, Goldberg started the smear campaign that got Glenn Beck thrown out of the MSM.
I had no idea I got Glenn Beck thrown out of the mainstream media. I thought he managed to do that to himself. But maybe I'm just an unknowing puppet master.