Forward Thinking

Why Ryan Braun Sparked Anti-Semitic Twitter Flood

By Doni Bloomfield

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Ryan Braun

The recent suspension of Ryan Braun, the star Milwaukee Brewers outfielder known affectionately as “the Hebrew Hammer,” has brought in its wake a host of anti-Semitic tweets directed at Braun — and pretty much everyone else of Jewish heritage.

The Huffington Post reported on the Tweets in the best way they could, by compiling a top 10 ten list of the most anti-Semitic responses to Braun’s suspension. Highlights include a charming Tweet by a user named Tyler Winslett: “Of course Ryan Braun took steroids. He’s a Jew, and last I checked, sports aren’t really their thing.”

The sentiment was shared by Ryan Hicken:

Some went with an older anti-Semitic trope:

Justin Credible, whose eloquent tweet, “NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS TO JEWS HAHAHAHAHA” was featured on Huffington Post, simply locked his account and changed his profile summary to “Living life, I am not antisemetic.” [sic]

Braun has been accused on Twitter of being a “Juicing Jew” since allegations of his performance-enhancing drug use began. Bigotry online, and particularly on Twitter, the only major social networking site which doesn’t prohibit hate speech, is rampant and doesn’t take prompting.

“The most anti-Semitic postings about Ryan Braun didn’t begin with his suspension,” says Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights director.

“The [ADL] sees [internet bigotry] as the newest trend in anti-Semitism,” said Lauter, though she noted that it’s difficult to quantify the amount of hate circulating online. Despite the decline in overt anti-Semitic incidents in 2012, as measured by the ADL, a ramp-up in online hate speech is weakening the positive trend.

Anti-Semitism directed at Jewish baseball players is nothing new, says Peter Ephross, co-editor of a new oral history of Jewish major leaguers.

“In 1918, Bob Berman, the catcher for the Washington Senators, was heckled by anti-Semites and the famous pitcher Walter Johnson stood up for him,” Ephross said.

Al Rosen, who, like Braun, won the MVP award, was known to fight anyone who dared insult his Judaism. Still, Ephross thinks the days of widescale anti-Semitism pointed at Jewish players is 30 years in the past.

“Only two types of people know who the Jewish baseball players are,” he assures me. “Jewish baseball fans and virulent anti-Semites.” And you need to search Twitter to find at least one of them.

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Ryan Braun's Jewish Disgrace

By Peter Ephross

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Ryan Braun

The best of times has turned into the worst of times for Jewish baseball fans now that Major League Baseball has suspended slugger Ryan “Hebrew Hammer” Braun in baseball’s latest performance-enhancing drugs scandal.

The Milwaukee Brewers slugger and former National League Most Valuable Player, who is the son of an Israeli-born Jewish father and a Catholic mother, has boasted of setting a good example for Jewish children.

“I do consider myself definitely Jewish,” he has been quoted as saying. “And I’m extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids.”

Oy. Some role model.

After months of denying any involvement in the doping scandal, Braun now says he is accepting his suspension — a tacit admission that he broke baseball’s rules on performance-enhancing drugs.

“I realize now that I have made some mistakes,” Braun said in a statement. “I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”

With Braun’s acknowledgment of his links to Biogenesis, a Miami-based clinic (MLB did not specifically mention Biogenesis when it suspended Braun), those Jewish fans who defended Braun will have to change their tune. Some of his supporters once cited an arbitration panel that overturned his 2011 test because of the chain-of-custody issues in handling his urine sample, while others believed Braun’s high levels of testosterone were linked to medication they believe he took for herpes.

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Lance Armstrong and the Meaning of Chutzpah

By Robert Zaretsky

Two confessions: I am neither a speaker of Yiddish nor a fan of professional cycling. But as we hover in the halftime break of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, I can’t help but wonder if the televised confession has implications for the meaning of chutzpah.

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Lance Armstrong

Most of us are familiar with Leo Rosten’s classic definition: chutzpah denotes “gall, brazen nerve, effrontery…presumption plus arrogance as no other language can do justice to.”

As an illustration of the word’s usage, Rosten famously offered the man who, having murdered his parents, then seeks the court’s mercy because he’s an orphan. There is decidedly a dark element to chutzpah, one that smacks of the ineffable, the awesome, even the amoral. There is nothing cute to chutzpah, though there may well be something sublime.

Can Lance Armstrong’s cheating be justified under Jewish law? Read Micah Kelber’s assessment.

But one needn’t be a lexicographer, much less a Jew, to notice the word has changed. We have moved from the sublime to the slick. Passing through the Cool Hand Luke or Sky Masterson type we now seem mired in the bog of Disney heroes, where chutzpah morphs into pluckiness.

I think about my kids who ask to be paid for doing their homework. I chuckle in admiration before I send them packing to their rooms.

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