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Mike Rothschild: Analyzing Anti-Semitic Conspiracies

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Mike Rothschild: Analyzing Anti-Semitic Conspiracies

Mike Rothschild is a journalist and expert on conspiracy theories. His new book, Jewish Space Lasers, details how myths about the Rothschilds, a German-Jewish banking family, have influenced anti-semitic conspiracy theories for 200 years.

In this interview Mike talks about the origins of anti-semitic conspiracies, and how they’ve grown to dominate right-wing American politics.

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Mike Rothschild:

So, the myths about the family in the US were entirely brought over by Jews fleeing Europe in the diaspora, and then taken advantage of by antisemitic politicians.

So, you have a myth that is completely outsized from the reality of the family. The reality of the family is interesting, but it's not quite as interesting as the myth version of what they've done.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

My guest today is Mike Rothschild, a journalist and expert on conspiracy theories. His new book, Jewish Space Lasers deals how myths about the Rothschilds, a German Jewish banking family, have influenced anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for 200 years.

Mike, welcome to Burn the Boats.

Mike Rothschild:

Thank you for having me. I'm excited.

Ken Harbaugh:

The cover, by the way, is hilarious. I have the electronic galley copy, so I can't hold it up, but the menorahs shooting lasers.

Mike Rothschild:


Ken Harbaugh:

Whose idea was that?

Mike Rothschild:

That was the publisher Melville House. They have an in-house designer who is fantastic.

But early on in the process, they asked me sort of what I was looking for as far as a cover, and there have been a lot of biographies of the Rothschild family that are old white barons standing in front of their mansions, their palaces with their horses, cursive fonts and all that.

And I just said, “I don't want any of that. I want this to be very modern, very fresh, something reflective of how weird this journey is.” And they came back with this, and I just said, “It's perfect. 10 out of 10.”

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, it's weird for you personally as well, and you are very explicit in stating that you are not related. I don't want to give too much of a spoiler, but the last chapter was my favorite. And everyone needs to buy the book and get all the way through it.

But you are explicit in stating that you are no relation. And I feel like on the surface, it's tongue in cheek, you're trying to make a joke. It's even in your Twitter handle.

But I'm wondering if beneath that is something more serious, that that association is something that obviously has its advantages, but just from reading your book, has huge liabilities. Why are you so careful in disassociating yourself?

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah, and I am, I don't want people to think that I am trading off some kind of familial relationship, or that I'm pretending to be something I'm not. There are a number of people who've used the Rothschild name for grifting purposes. Most of them have been caught.

I didn't want anybody to think that I was also acting as a spokesperson for the family. That's not my job. My job is to tell this story.

So, I wanted to make it very upfront. I have the same last name as the Rothschilds. I am not related to the Rothschilds. People can have the same last name and not be related to each other. That does happen in the wild.

Ken Harbaugh:

I don't know if you're a football fan, but I'm a Harbaugh living in Ohio.

Mike Rothschild:

Sure, I grew up with Jim Harbaugh, so there you go. There was the pitching coach, Larry Rothschild, and I think my brother actually had a Larry Rothschild jersey. A very particular kind of fan has the jersey of the pitching coach for his team.

But yeah, I wanted to tell this story independently of the Rothschilds, while also not trying to hide the fact that this is my last name. And if you take a pen name, these days, people are going to figure it out. And then it looks like you're trying to hide something. And I'm not trying to hide anything.

If somebody has a problem with me having the last name of this family, that's their problem. It's not my problem.

Ken Harbaugh:

You wrote this early in the book. The name Rothschild indeed carries enormous weight. It could in the past, almost literally move mountains and shift the destinies of nations. Even now, it opens doors for people who only pretend to carry it. It embodies wealth and success.

Yes, it's this part I want to key into though, but also hoaxes and hate conspiracy theories and deranged notions of power and control spawned by two centuries.

That is what the book is about. How this one family name has provoked such weird and dangerous conspiracy theories. No longer, I guess, from the beginning, not in the realm of like entertaining fireside conspiracy theories that we scare our kids with at night, but the kinds of things that have started conflicts, have excused pogroms.

This one family name is wrapped up in all of that, and it's all born out of antisemitism.

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah. And one of the things I wanted to set out to do with the book is find kind of why this name over and over and over. There are other wealthy German Jewish banking families. There's Warburg, there's Guggenheim. You don't get the conspiracy theories about those names the way you do Rothschild.

So, the first thing I wanted to do was really separate sort of what is the myth and what is the reality? And very quickly the myth takes over.

Early on in their careers, especially in the first half of the 1800s, the Rothschilds really were that powerful. They had the money to lend Benjamin Disraeli to buy the Egyptian share of the Suez Canal. They could get involved in a conflict between two Holy Roman Empire states and diffuse that.

That ended though, really in about the middle of the 19th century, as banking changed, as physical gold became less of a commodity, they were completely flummoxed by the laws of the United States.

I was fascinated to learn that the Rothschilds had no branch in the US, no heir came over to the country. They thought it was a backwater. It was too far removed from their palaces and their art collections. But they also just didn't understand the way the United States worked.

So, the myths about the family in the US were entirely brought over by Jews fleeing Europe in the diaspora, and then taken advantage of by antisemitic politicians.

So, you have a myth that is completely outsized from the reality of the family. The reality of the family's interesting, but it's not quite as interesting as the myth version of what they've done.

Ken Harbaugh:

The family and the family name is an avatar for antisemitism writ large. And there's this other observation. I was looking for it and I couldn't find the actual quote, but I think I can paraphrase it pretty well.

And it's that, “At the end of the day, all conspiracy theories are about antisemitism. And all antisemitism devolves into conspiracy theories.”

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah. And the idea of the Jewish community as this group of clannish outsiders who have limited rights in society, but also control society. It's obviously a conspiracy theory, but it's also a paradox. It doesn't actually make any sense.

Particularly Jews in the 17th and 18th centuries were vastly limited in what they could do, what they could own, where they could go. And yet, somehow there's this idea that they all just secretly control things.

And the next couple of centuries of conspiracy theory writing, we would call it content today, is about trying to balance these paradoxes, this idea that Jews in Eastern Europe had nothing. They were impoverished. They literally lived in the shtetl.

At the same time, you have this idea that there's this clan of Jews that control everything, and they all know each other, and they all give each other money.

So, you have this idea that families like the Rothschilds, like the Warburgs, like the Barings, they're not actually Jews.

There's this line in the book None Dare Call it Conspiracy from 1971, this book that was hugely in influential for Alex Jones that talks about Jews who are not Jews, and that even other Jews should hate the Rothschilds because of what they've done to the Jewish people.

So, you constantly are balancing out this vast conspiracy theory that is sort of debunked by its own history. And it's a very, very tricky line to walk when you're reading this stuff.

Ken Harbaugh:

Can you talk about this American drain of antisemitism that has almost a veneer of politeness in the way it talks about those Jews, not all Jews.

And I mean, it's a veneer that hides really deep antisemitism, but folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others always go back to kind of what you described just now. Like all people should hate these Jews, including other Jews.

Mike Rothschild:

Right. There is a sense of politeness in a lot of this material. “Oh, it's not all the Jews. We love the Jews. We love Israel. It's just the wealthy ones. It's just the power brokers in their ivory towers, sitting in their secret rooms controlling the destiny of every nation. Everybody should rise up against these Jews. It's not all of them.”

But you also find that they use sort of coded terms. They use a lot of language that reflects on the Jewish people. They'll talk about things like the synagogue of Satan and the money changers in the temple. These sort of biblical references.

But there is a veneer of we're not antisemitic, we are just anti wealth concentration. Meanwhile, these are the people who are massively concentrating their own wealth.

And many of them are American, where we have this dream of America where you can only be as successful as your dreams limit you. There is no such thing as too wealthy, too powerful. Well, except for these people. These people, we've got to keep them in check.

And these people usually tend to be Jewish or some other out group.

So, again, though, it's walking that paradox of we decide who is too successful, who is too controlling. We're the ones who decide this.

So, you find this veneer of politeness and things like Pat Robertson and things like the conspiracy works of the ‘70s.

Now, what we're finding, of course, is that veneer is starting to go away, where you have online influencers who are just like, “No, it's all Jews. It's everybody. They all have to go.”

So, one of the scary things where we are today, is that veneer is starting to go away.

Ken Harbaugh:

How does Trump get away with it? I'm going to read a quote from the book and then we'll dive in. You wrote, “Again and again, it comes back to Trump, who attracted openly antisemitic influencers, and went off on rants full of well-worn Jewish tropes, while simultaneously claiming he was, quote, the greatest president for Jews in the history of the world. And was, quote, loved like the king of Israel in that country.”

What's his superpower here to trade in such horrific antisemitic tropes to effectively deploy those code words like globalist, and obviously the references to Soros and all the things that jump right out at you and me, but then get a pass when it comes to the strain of antisemitism that runs throughout his vocabulary?

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah, it's a great question. And I think Trump's superpower, as far as antisemitism, is really the same as his superpower in terms of all accountability, which is, he is going to say the thing that the rest of us, the rest of his people are thinking. He is going to do what you can't do.

This idea of Trump as an aspirational figure has been woven into his political rise since the very beginning. “Vote for me and you will become like me. You will be as powerful as me. You will have a big apartment in Manhattan. You'll have a beautiful Eastern European model wife. You'll have a gold toilet just like me.”

I remember there was a rally he gave, I think it was in North Dakota in 2018, where he talked about, “We are the super elite. They hate us because we have the bigger boats. We have the nicer apartments.”

I'm going, “This is a rally in North Dakota. Who in this room has a boat? Who in this room has a central park penthouse?”

But he says this stuff with this veneer of sort of aspirational hokum that makes you think that he and you are the same person.

So, when he starts talking about what they are doing to you, what the globalists, what Soros, it crystallizes this feeling that a lot of these people have had, which is grievance. Which is, I'm being kept down. There is a group of people who are punishing me because I want a piece of what they have.

And that kind of grievance mongering is extremely powerful. It's always been powerful in American politics. And Trump is just really, really good at vocalizing it.

Ken Harbaugh:

Talk about the power of conspiracy theories to harness that grievance, to find outlets for it, targets for it. Jews in particular.

We had Denver Riggleman on recently who just had, I think, the smartest insights into what draws people into conspiracy theories. But your observation that they all wind up in antisemitism, I think I'm going to remember that forever.

Mike Rothschild:

Well, so many conspiracy theories, and especially popular American ones are about what is being done to us. You have a book, here's what the Freemasons are doing to you. Here is what the Catholics are doing to you. Here's what the Jews are doing to you.

And it is so often about my lack of power, my lack of prestige, my lack of wealth. It's not my fault. It's not circumstances. It's not the inequities of the American system. Because if the playing field were level, I'd be famous and rich.

So, someone is doing this to me. Someone is responsible, and that someone is going to be somebody with power, somebody with wealth, and somebody who is visible. And that is so often the Jewish community.

It is the Jewish community who has scapegoated for the failures, for things not going your way, whether it's sort of in a grand scale or it's in your personal life.

We've seen this over and over where someone's business fails and it's the Jews' fault. That's ridiculous. But if you can't take accountability for yourself, you've got to blame somebody else.

We saw this during the pandemic in exponential numbers. People who had nothing else to do, who were suddenly home all day, maybe lost their job, maybe their business failed. They're bored, they're angry. They go looking for someone to blame for this.

They find Fauci, they find Gates, then they find Soros, then they find the Rothschilds, then they find the Jews, they find the Illuminati. All of these things are the real reason why this is going on.

So, conspiracy theories provide reasons why things are happening. And if something is happening, somebody has to be doing it. Somebody has to be funding it. And that person being Jewish is very attractive to a lot of people.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, what I found so depressingly illuminating about our reaction to the COVID 19 pandemic was how we identified groups of people as the villains. I mean, it was a virus. But the reaction just proved that you have to find an enemy you can visualize.

And the Rothschilds and the Jews are that enemy for so many people, that is easy to visualize because we have millennia of practice caricaturing them and villainizing them. And sure enough, Soros rose to the top of the list of the villains in the COVID 19 pandemic, which was a virus.

Mike Rothschild:

Sure. And the idea of blaming Jews for societal problems, for the pollution of our racial wines, for banking failures, it's not new or novel.

The reason why it works over and over again and why it cycles up over and over is because it did before. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can rely on thousands of years of myths and tropes.

So, we do have moments where we collectively attack another group. After 9/11, it's Islamophobia, with the very early days of COVID, it's the Asian community. But it comes back to the Jews eventually, because it's just easier.

The stuff is already there. The books are there, the memes are there. You don't have to reinvent the wheel when you've got all of this stuff there already. So, just bring it back to the Jews, make the Jews the puppet masters, even of the other puppet masters.

Ken Harbaugh:

You alluded to this idea that the politeness that normally characterizes our American strain of antisemitism in which we focus on those Jews, not all Jews, is starting to dissipate and not in a good way.

And that people are coming right out and saying, “No, it's all Jews.” And you have powerful influencers within the Republican party now, doing that.

I mean, Nick Fuentes has invited to dine with the former president. Why do you think that has happened?

Mike Rothschild:

It is a distillation of this vague unease that's been in our society for a long time. And what you've had with this young generation of influencers is they know how to push the buttons. They know what works in terms of trolling.

So, they will say the things that even a previous generation maybe just didn't feel like it was advantageous to say. They know they have to push the envelope to stand out. They know they have to get even grander and more operatic with the conspiracy theories and with the way the conspiracy theories are oppressed.

These people all think they're edgy. They all think that they're inventing this as they go. It's all been there. It's just that the really, really bizarre scabrous stuff was on the fringes even of the fringe.

I mean, it was in the David Icke books. It was in the rants in the sort of fascist pamphlets getting passed around.

Now, to stand out, you have to go bigger because there are so many people in this field. The right wing influencer field is massively overcrowded.

And so, to stand out, you've got to go big. And of course, going big is what gets the website clicks, is what gets the podcast subscriptions, what sells the t-shirts.

And it comes back to monetizing this, which as I write about in the book, is something these people are really good at doing and have been for a long, long time.

Ken Harbaugh:

I think most people hearing that are picturing fringe actors trying to work themselves into the mainstream. No better example than Nick Fuentes an avowed neo-Nazi finding himself at a dinner table with the former president at Mar-a-Lago.

But these aren't just fringe characters outside the mainstream. And let's talk about DeSantis for a second here. You have his spokeswoman, I'm going to read a recent tweet of hers.

“Georgia decided to enact a green pass system slash biomedical security state. And immediately after that, the Rothschilds show up to discuss the attractive investment environment in Georgia. No, weird conspiracies theory stuff here.” Her words. She's the spokeswoman for the DeSantis campaign.

And then you have the son and Ron featured in a campus DeSantis campaign video. I can see you nodding your head. Just bring home this point that these are not all fringe actors. These are not bugs of the Republican system anymore. These are features.

Mike Rothschild:

Right. And the feature is we get attention with conspiracy theories. We get people talking about us by throwing these things out, and then we can always just walk it back.

You can say, “Oh, I didn't really mean the Jews. I'm just talking about the Rothschilds. We should all be concerned about their influence.”

You have something like that tweet. It's not even accurate. The Rothschilds had been discussing investment opportunities in Georgia well before the pandemic started. They had nothing to do with any of this, but it doesn't matter.

And of course, we as journalists, we set to work debunking it. We find out all of the things that really happened with it, but they've moved on by them. And these lies are always going to travel faster and get more attention than the actual truth.

And when you have something like a Nazi black sun symbol dropped into a campaign video for the governor of Florida, which is having a pretty big Nazi problem right now. You look at this and go, “Do they think no one's going to catch it? Do they just not care?”

I don't know that they're all neo-Nazis, but they don't care enough to vet anything that goes out. They don't care enough to look at what their campaign is producing. They think, “Eh, it's fine. We'll just get some attention from it.”

So, you never know whether they actually hate Jews or whether this is just all a big joke for them.

And in the middle is the Jewish community going, “Hey, maybe do something about the Nazis marching in your city. Maybe you could say something about that. But of course, that would entail being censorious and well, we can't have that.”

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, give me your serious take on that, because there are a couple of interpretations. We see the Nazis, we did a video about this on our companion series Against All Enemies.

They're now, parading across overpasses in Florida doing the Seen Kyle and waving Nazi flags. And DeSantis has nothing to say about it.

One interpretation might be he doesn't want to elevate, he doesn't want to even engage with them. I mean, that's the excuse I've heard, but it seems like the most obvious thing in politics is you can criticize Nazis, right? Why can't he criticize Nazis?

Mike Rothschild:

You would think criticizing Nazis is kind of a slam dunk. Like we can disagree about a lot of things, but Nazis are bad seems like something we can all agree on. But they say nothing.

And we have seen this in the Republican party now, for the last few years. And we certainly saw it with QAnon.

We saw mainstream Republicans not denouncing it, but also, not approving of it. So, when it gets bigger, they can say, “Well, of course I disapprove of that.” But they don't want to lose their base. They don't want to anybody off, so they just do nothing.

In the case of somebody like DeSantis, I don't think Ron DeSantis is like secretly a Nazi. I think he's a bad person, and terrible in a lot of ways. But I don't think he has like a secret shrine to Hitler.

What I think, though, is that it's more expedient for him to just say nothing and to hope it'll go away and to not give it attention.

But we know that when you ignore these things, and you can say this as a politician or as a journalist, when you let these things fester, they don't go away. They just get emboldened. They just think, “Well, no one's paying attention, so I can do anything I want.”

Now, of course, the danger is giving them too much attention, overstating their influence. But you would think it would be the easiest thing in the world to say, “That's bad. We can disagree about everything, but we can agree on this.”

And the fact that they won't is to me, more than anything, just spinelessness. Just abject cowardice of anybody on your side thinking less of you. And it's a shocking lack of moral clarity more than anything else for me.

Ken Harbaugh:

I think we need to remember that this is a new thing, not the spinelessness, although it is in some ways. But the permission that now, exists in the minds of Nazis to parade openly.

I think maybe Skokie, Illinois, decades ago, we had things like this. You have small towns in the South where that permission structure exists.

But correct me if I'm wrong, in my living memory, I don't remember Nazis wearing swastikas, parading openly. This is a newish thing, right?

Mike Rothschild:

It's new to this extent. We did have the Nazis marching in Skokie, and I actually grew up around that area. So, I mean, that's a very Jewish community. So, that was clearly done as a provocation, but the community came out and hated these people.

Now, it's like people are either apathetic or they support it. And it is a mainstream and a normalizing of the iconography of fascist movements and of people saying, “Well, it's somebody else's problem. I'm not going to get involved. I'm not Jewish. That doesn't have anything to do with me.”

What we're not seeing is the outrage in these communities. We're not seeing the local government rising up and saying, “We don't want this. This reflects badly. We are not Nazis. Maybe we're conservative. Maybe we disagree on a bunch of culture war stuff, but we're not Nazis, and we don't want these people here.”

Now, what you're getting is just a shrugging, is just, “Eh, somebody else's problem.”

Ken Harbaugh:

That apathy is probably the scariest thing to me. I mean, support among isolated quarters is scary by itself, but the apathy among the larger public is reminiscent of Hannah Arendt’s observation about the banality of evil, right? If evil like this becomes boring to us, God help us.

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah. And it's an interesting parallel that I talk about in the book. The earliest reactions to the Nazi demonizing of Jews was not sort of mass genocidal media. A lot of it was just shrugging of shoulders and going, “Yeah, I don't really trust these people, but I'm not going to do anything about it.”

The big spike in Nazi propaganda films in the late ‘30s and into 1940, (and I write about some, because a couple of these films revolve around Rothschilds) was specifically done by the Nazi regime because the response to the Kristallnacht pogrom was not what they anticipated.

You didn't have a mass uprising against the Jewish people. You had vandalism, you had attacks on Jews, you had murders, but most of German and Austrian society just didn't care. They just didn't want to get involved either way.

So, Hitler and Goebbels and the people around them really realized, we have to ramp this up. We have to actively make films portraying the Jewish people, not as even outsiders, but as global controllers.

And then two years later, you've got the Holocaust truly beginning. You've got the opening of the camps.

So, it doesn't start with, “I'm running for office, I'm rounding up all the Jews.” German society would've been shocked by that.

What we have is, “These people are not like us. We have to slowly degrade their rights. We have to slowly make it more acceptable to publicly attack them. And then after years of that, then we inject the rocket fuel, then we ramp people up for genocide.” It doesn't happen overnight. It happens over years.

Ken Harbaugh:

It doesn't start with people running for office on that platform. But even so, we are beginning to see at the local level, openly antisemitic people running for office, winning local elections, school board seats.

I suspect there have always been antisemites running for those positions, but they're open about it now. And that should alarm us as well.

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah. It's another stage in that normalizing of hate. We've moved past the first stage. We're not at the, we don't trust these people, we don't like them. We are now, moving up to open antisemitism, to people getting into positions of power based on these conspiracy theories.

And I don't know if America will ever be ramped up to the point that Nazi Germany was in 1940. That that takes many, many other things happening. But the fact that we are this far is terrifying for somebody like me.

Ken Harbaugh:

Take us deeper down the rabbit hole. Your title, obviously is Jewish Space Lasers. Give us the quick primer on that conspiracy theory, and then some of the other really, really weird ones that are sort of the narrative force of the book.

Mike Rothschild:

Sure. So, the Jewish Space Lasers meme is based off of a Facebook post from Marjorie Taylor Greene from 2018.

No one had ever heard of her. Then she was just a CrossFit mom in Georgia who posted on Facebook about the Camp Wildfire in California in 2018, being started by a space-based solar generator, run by a company that was funded through then Governor, Jerry Brown.

And PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric was found responsible for the fire, and one of their board members was also, a vice president at Rothschild Inc.

And isn't that interesting? It's so many insane conspiracy theories are launched with, “Whoa, isn't that interesting?”

Ken Harbaugh:

Just asking questions.

Mike Rothschild:

Just asking question. Don't you want me to know the truth? Just getting answers. I mean, those kind of banal phrases.

So, this Facebook post disappears, no one knows who this person is. And of course, then she runs for office and she wins, and she's an out and out conspiracy theorist. I mean, she's QAnon, she's asking questions about 9/11, like basic conspiracy theory stuff.

And so, after she's sworn in in late January of 2021, Media Matters finds this old post, and they write a story about it. Now, she never uses the term Jewish space laser. She never says Jewish, but she talks about Rothchild Inc.

And of course, everybody knows what that means. Everybody knows that means Jewish bankers, the Rothschild family, the globalist controllers, the same ones we've been fighting for centuries.

So, this meme of Jewish Space Lasers takes off, and there's hashtags and there's memes, and everybody has a big laugh at it.

But you're also, realizing that this is a mainstreaming of blaming Jews for something that was essentially a natural disaster. The only part of it that, of course, wasn't natural, was the influence of climate change, which none of them want to talk about.

So, now, we're not only obscuring the real issues behind the fire, we're obscuring them with an antisemitic conspiracy theory. And of course, as I dive into in the book, it is far from the first time that a massive world event is boiled down to the Rothschilds did it.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yep. There are a few of them in there that were mind blowing to me. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but from the Battle of Waterloo, to human hunting in the Black Forest, I mean, it's a weird tale.

Mike Rothschild:

It is, and it has real world reverberations. A lot of this stuff is like so weird that it can be dismissed.

But in 1931, the Great Depression is spreading all over Europe. This banking contagion that is going from Germany and Austria through Europe to North America, to Central America, is a worldwide disaster.

The banking contagion starts at a bank called Creditanstalt, which is one of the biggest banks in Austria.

That bank was founded by Salomon Rothschild, the son of family patriarch, Mayor Amschel Rothschild. His descendant Louis de Rothschild is held personally responsible by the Nazi party for the banking contagion. He's taken a hostage by the Gestapo and held for over a year.

One of the Nazi newspapers writes an article demanding that the Rothschilds personally make good on every single deutschemark lost by Germany. It is an avalanche of blame directed at the Jewish community.

And of course, it results in the Rothschilds fleeing Europe, their palaces, their art collections being looted. Several members of the extended family died during the Holocaust. And these myths are used writ large against the Jewish people.

So, what starts with just sort of ordinary, average scapegoating of a wealthy Rothschild, it becomes a disaster for Europe. And it's not the only thing that caused this, but it is one of the principle drivers.

Unfair question because I'm asking you to be a little bit of a psychoanalyst here. How do you explain the continued presence of people like Steve Miller and Jared Kushner and their constant defense of the former president and the antisemitic tropes and all of that?

Maybe it's as simple as the, those Jews versus all Jews distinction, but I would love some insight.

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah, it's baffling. There's sort of the modern version of the collaborator. The person who, rather than take a stand, finds it safer, or more advantageous, or more lucrative to just go along with it.

And I think for some of these people, it unleashes something that's already in them. I mean, Steven Miller to me, probably had some of these tendencies very early on, but never was able to use them in a political sphere until Trump came along.

I think for a lot of these people, it's just, “I've got mine. I'm going to get everything I can. I don't care what happens to anybody else.” It's not about their Judaism, it's about just grabbing as much as possible for as long as possible while you still wield the levers of power.

And I think that is very much the collaborationist mindset. I don't care what happens to other people, I'm not going to stick my neck out. I'm going to take advantage of this situation for myself.

So, in that sense, I wonder if it's less about Judaism and more about sort of their own just personal greed.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm sure that is a huge part of it.

How do you see these trends developing and evolving between now and the 2024 election? Do you have any hope that in a general election there is a sense of moderation and that what we're seeing now is just the cynics appealing in a primary to the kind of people who turn out in primaries?

Or do you think like I do that things are going to get worse?

Mike Rothschild:

Oh, I think things are going to get worse. I mean, the thing is with antisemitism, people ask me what do you do about it? I'm like, “We've been asking that for 2000 years and we haven't come up with anything yet.”

It's hard right now, because these people have very powerful advocates and very visible advocates. When you've got somebody like Elon Musk who is blaming the failures of Twitter since he bought it on the ADL, that's not going to get better.

That's going to get called out. And maybe it's more visible right now, but I don't know why it would get better, because it is so advantageous for the people doing it.

These people feel emboldened. They feel like they've got the ear of society and they're just going to keep doing it because it's good for them.

Maybe it dies down a bit after the primary, but there isn't really a primary, there's no Republican primary. It's Trump. It's not like there's a real debate going on.

So, in one sense, what we're seeing right now, is what we're going to be seeing until November, 2024, unless something really unforeseen happens.

But everything that's going on with this primary is just a song and dance until the main event starts. And the main event is going to be Trump and Biden, and it's going to be exactly what it was for 2020. And it's going to just continue to do that because these people feel like this is their moment.

Ken Harbaugh:

Do you think Trump is a driver of antisemitism in this country? Or is he reflective of an existing reality that's been more of an undercurrent until it's found voice in people like Trump and others?

Mike Rothschild:

I think it's both. I think he is absolutely driving this, but he's also reflecting back what people are showing him.

Again, I try not to psychoanalyze whether people are actually antisemitic or not, but what Trump is very good at is monetizing the loyalty of people who are antisemitic.

He reflects these things back. He makes it more acceptable because he's made all of these things more acceptable. He's made this crassness and crudeness and out and out hate much more publicly palatable for a lot of people.

And when you do that, you eventually come back to Jews. And it gets reflected to him. He reflects it back to his fan base, and it's an almost parasitic relationship.

So, I don't know what's in Trump's heart as far as Jews, but I know he's really good at manipulating people who are very outwardly anti-Jewish.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah. Trump hasn't just made this kind of hate and the expressions of it more palatable to the public, he's actually created a competition around them.

And that's new in our politics as well when I look at DeSantis whole aesthetic, now, it's to out hate Trump, to take his grotesqueness to a new level where he can break through.

There was this recent exchange he had with a black veteran who asked him at a campaign stop or told him what it felt like to be hunted in Florida, and he was thrown out of the event in just a disgusting way.

And Trump's not only made this antisemitism and hate writ large more palatable, he's created a competitive structure around it.

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah. The whole the sales pitch with DeSantis was like Trumpism without Trump, which DeSantis doesn't have the charisma to pull it off. He doesn't have that it factor. I mean, the guy is about as charismatic as a bowl of wet spaghetti. But that is appealing for a certain type of person.

The problem is he's not going to get anywhere as long as Trump is still there. And of course, he's not actually running against Trump. He's sort of throwing out this sort of even worse version of Trumpism while never saying a bad word about Trump.

Like how do you win a primary when you're 40 points down to this guy and you won't criticize him and your pitch is like him, but more. That's not a winning campaign, that is a grab for attention or like a cabinet position or something.

So, somebody like DeSantis, it's like taking the worst aspects of Trump without any of the charisma, without any of the sort of aspirational ability, and it is just pure hate.

Ken Harbaugh:

Did you see Romney's comments about J. D. Vance along with McConnell and others, this idea that having political power is not the most important thing in the world. You're selling your soul really, really cheaply.

It makes me look at people like DeSantis, and Haley, and even Tim Scott and ask, I mean, if your chances of winning are in the low single digits anyway, (I guess this is the cynic in me) you're giving away your honor, your character for nothing. For nothing.

Mike Rothschild:

Yeah, you are selling your soul and you're not even getting the magic beans. You're just getting like 10 minutes on a debate stage.

Say what you want about Chris Christie. But at least he is really hitting Trump with both barrels. I find him loathsome, but at least he's sort of pushing back in some way. He has no chance of winning, but he's at least voicing some opposition, the opposition that I think a lot of these people actually feel.

I haven't read all of it yet, but the Romney stuff is really interesting how he's talking about how privately, all the senators are saying how much they hate Trump and how disgusting he is. Publicly, they're all racing each other to jump in front of the train to protect him.

So, it's like, well, it doesn't matter what you think in private, no one cares about that. That doesn't mean that means nothing. Your influence is what you can do publicly and what you're doing publicly is getting down on your knees and having a competition for who can lick his boots most efficiently. That's not helping.

Ken Harbaugh:

No, it's not. I am alarmed as Bill Crystal often says, as we approach 2024. Mike, your book is out at exactly the right time. We'll put a link in the show notes. I encourage everyone to read it. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mike Rothschild:

Thank you. This was terrific.

Ken Harbaugh:

Thanks again to Mike for joining me. Make sure to check out his book, Jewish Space Lasers. The link is in the show description.

Thanks for listening to Burn the Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We're always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on Twitter at Team_Harbaugh. And if you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to rate and review.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our audio engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.

I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

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