In a pop culture critique of the popular TV series Breaking Bad, called “Breaking Bad Karma” (with the eyebrow-raising subtitle, “How the cancer victim at the center of the AMC series justifies my skepticism of Holocaust survivors”), first-time Tablet contributor Anna Breslaw began with this distasteful personal confession. That section is worth quoting in its entirety, because every sentence is jaw-droppingly vile:
Since I was 12 I’ve had an unappealing, didactic distrust of people with the extreme will to live. My father’s parents were Holocaust survivors, and in grade school I received the de rigueur exposure to the horror – visiting geriatric men and women with numbers tattooed on their arms, completing assigned reading like The Diary of Anne Frank and Night. But the more information I received, the less sympathy the survivors elicited from me. Each time we clapped for the old Hungarian lady who spoke about Dachau, each time Elie Wiesel threw another anonymous anecdote of betrayal onto a page, I eyed it askance, thinking What did you do that you’re not talking about? I had the gut instinct that these were villains masquerading as victims who, solely by virtue of surviving (very likely by any means necessary), felt that they had earned the right to be heroes, their basic, animal self-interest dressed up with glorified phrases like “triumph of the human spirit.”
I wondered if anyone had alerted Hitler that in the event that the final solution didn’t pan out, only the handful of Jews who actually fulfilled the stereotype of the Judenscheisse (because every group has a few) would remain to carry on the Jewish race – conniving, indestructible, taking and taking.
First, a little background on Breslaw. Her previous writing experience ranged from recapping Real Housewives of New Jersey episodes for New York magazine, to contributing to a vapid sex-and-celebrity-gossip site called Jezebel (named after the Biblical idolater queen), to blogging about sex, love, and life for Glamour magazine online in short pieces with such self-parodic titles as “Is Your Dude More Into Legs, Butts, Or Boobs? Here's What It Might Mean” and “What's the Weirdest Thing You'd Trade for Sex?” So, an attempt at insightful pop culture commentary apparently took her out of her depth – and exposed her Jew-hatred.
Back in 2009 Breslaw thought dressing up as Anne Frank would make a killer Halloween costume. In a piece for a website called Heeb (a variation on an anti-Semitic slur), which describes itself with painfully self-conscious hipness as “a take-no-prisoners zine for the plugged-in and preached-out,” she explains,
I cut a Star of David out of a yellow cereal box, wrote “Juden” on it, taped it to a blazer and carried a Moleskine notebook around even though my mom didn’t want me to.
She notes that she felt an affinity for Anne Frank because, like the 15-year-old Jewish girl famous for the diary recounting her experiences hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Breslaw too is “uncomfortable in small quarters.” Now that’s edgy humor! Anne Frank and her family were betrayed and she was shipped off to Bergen-Belsen where she narrowly escaped the gas chambers, only to die of typhus weeks before the camp’s liberation. So you can see how this would make for an hilarious Halloween gag.
The callousness of this 25-year-old sex-and-celebrity blogger can’t be dismissed as ignorance, since she confesses to enduring the insufferable boredom of a “de rigueur exposure” to the ghastly nightmare of the Holocaust. She simply couldn’t find sympathy for those icky old people with their uncool tattoos, including those in her own family whom she holds in such contempt, anywhere in the blasted landscape of her soul; instead, she views them suspiciously as hypocritical and villainous. How cynical must one be to believe that “triumph of the human spirit” is merely an empty phrase? One has to wonder how representative she is of her generation, many of whom embrace a jaded, emotionally detached, hipster irony and treat just about everything as fodder for ridicule, including Anne Frank.
Breaking Bad is a TV series about a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher named Walter White who turns to crime, making and selling drugs to provide for his family after he’s gone. In Breslaw’s disturbed mind, this somehow links that fictional character to real-life Holocaust survivors:
Walt and Breaking Bad express one of our most inherent psychological fallacies: the ability to do any number of consciously reprehensible things while persisting in considering ourselves the protagonist at all times. From world wars to breaking hearts, we cling to the destruction done to us in the past as a justification for the destruction we will cause in the future.
Besides being a complete misinterpretation of Breaking Bad, this is a substance-less and cynical argument. Her claim is that the Jews who escaped Hitler’s genocidal reach must be guilty of “reprehensible things” and continue to use it to justify their “conniving” selfishness. Breslaw is apparently more repulsed by their “extreme will to live” than by Hitler’s extreme will to murder them.
The greater outrage is not that a pathologically hateful young Jew trashed Holocaust survivors as self-promoting villains, but that a Jewish arts and culture magazine accepted her execrable musings for publication. Let Breslaw retreat into her shallow tabloid milieu and be forgotten; it is Tablet that ultimately must be held responsible for her stunningly offensive piece, chosen no doubt for its shock value. Deluged by hundreds of readers’ comments universally expressing outrage, editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse followed up two days later with a response in which she blathered on about the magazine exploring its responsibility to “Jewish communal discourse.” Her readers were not pacified by this non-apology apology; nor was Commentary, which condemned it as “self-referential, self-aggrandizing, and ultimately self-infatuated.”
In a time in which Jews once again find themselves the target of a genocidal, anti-Semitic ideology – Iran’s bombing of a busload of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria is only the latest example – Jewish liberals such as those at Tablet who entertain such Jew-hating venom as Anna Breslaw’s piece are siding with their own enemy.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 7/25/12)