British Anti-semitism is transference of fear

Roger L. Simon is linking to an important and bloodchilling piece by Carol Gould which chronicles her recent experiences of rather over-the-top expressions of anti-semitism (although not all are recent, one dates back to the era of the Clinton Administration).

Reading her horrifying descriptions of shrill and menacing encounters by Brits toward Americans and Jews, I can only think that the British are suffering from the sort of transference we learn about in Psych 101. They’re terrified. They’re subconsciously hyperventilating from fear, because they know the world is dangerous, and they know what the danger is. They know they have Muslim clerics standing outside of mosques advising jihad. They hate knowing it. They would rather not have jihad preached in their country – it makes them very unsettled. And so they must lash out, in fear.

But they can’t lash out at the Muslims, not at the ranting Islamofascists, nor at the more moderate types. To do so risks being called “racist” or “bigoted” in a society that severely punishes anyone who dares not preserve all manner of polite fictions, who becomes labeled with those anathemic labels. Or worse, it risks being exposed to a violence that will force them to shake off the complacency that has enveloped Europe over the last 50 years – a complacency that says, “if we are just tolerant and reasonable and sweet to everyone, and if we give everyone access to government programs…why we’ll be fine, just fine.” England knows there is a potential and deadly enemy growing in her back garden, and she really, really doesn’t want to deal with it.

She also knows that Israel and America will never attack her, never punish her, never call her to task for her bad manners…whereas, the Islamofacists might respond to their tirades with a bomb under Big Ben, or a machete to their five-year old’s solar plexus. And so they transfer the fear, transfer the hate, to safer parties.

It’s safe to hate Jews, it’s safe to spout off to the Americans, because Jews and Americans are notoriously forgiving.

I almost hope Carol Gould’s story is false, that it’s wildly exaggerated or proved to be a terrible misrepresentation of the climate in England, because I’ve always loved England, and because it would be so much easier to sleep knowing it was all a distortion or a lie.

Barring distortions or outright lies…I will content myself to believe that this is simply misplaced anger born out of a transference of fear. These people sound terrified, I think. And they haven’t even been attacked, yet.

UPDATE: A reader with a PhD in Psychology has kindly corrected me. While she generously notes that my conclusion is credible, she informs me that what I am calling Transference is actually Displacement. As she writes:

Transference is reacting to a person in the present as though he or she is a person in ones past.
Displacement is the psychological process by which feelings are transferred from an unacceptable target to one that is more acceptable…Who would you prefer to be afraid of: The killers sawing off heads on Al-Jazeera TV or the Republicans next door?


To the extent that people still believe that they can, in fact, control what happens to them, politics then becomes a natural focus. Thus, by electing “anybody else” the (displaced) enemy is vanquished.


Excellent. I am grateful for the lesson.

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  • MainlineP

    Note to those unfamiliar with Great Britain. Guardian readers, professors, and the whole artistic/chattering class do not a nation make. Ms.Gould who is a playwright, author and member of the salon set simply meets the very kind of people who have a visceral dislike for Bush, neo-cons, and fundamentalist Christians (in their world any practicing Christian). They do have an anti-Israel bias but not classic anti-Jewish of the blood libel type. The real Britain outside the salon set, found in the High Streets, soccer matches, and pubs, is often friendly and even pro-American in my experience.
    The alleged incidents involving the woman on the bus or the cab driver have a Jayson Blair quality to them and I’m not buying they actually took place.


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