The Arty Semite

Was Justin Bieber Right About Anne Frank?

By Jay Michaelson

  • Print
  • Share Share

To paraphrase internet celebrity Chris Crocker, Leave Justin Alone.

Getty Images

Let’s start with two things we don’t know. First, we don’t really know anything about Justin Bieber. All of our opinions about him are mediated by publicists, reporters, bloggers, and lots and lots of spin.

Second, we don’t know that much about Anne Frank. We do know that she had posters of teen idols up on her wall, and that she was hardly the saintly figure her hagiographers have created. That too is a product of spin.

So, when Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam — not a usual stop on the teen-idol itinerary — and wrote: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber,” we are all free to come to our own uninformed conclusions.

Personally, I’m pretty sure Anne Frank would’ve been a Belieber. The point of freedom is not for 13-year-old girls to be martyrs or saints, but for them to be young girls, full of the same lightness and triviality that young girls (and boys) everywhere are, if they are lucky. Let’s not hold our icons so solemnly.

Indeed, what Bieber seems to have meant is: I hope she would have been normal and fun and happy. I hope that she would’ve connected with my music, that she would’ve appreciated the things I do. I hope she would have been a fan.

However, in the 15-minute news cycle that is the Twitterverse, a lot of people are wringing their hands. How dare Bieber be so narcissistic? (After all, no good-looking 19-year-olds are narcissistic.) He must be a spoiled brat! (Because that’s the kind of person who visits the Anne Frank House.) He’s going to be the next Lindsay Lohan! (At which time we will cluck our tongues in self-righteous schadenfreude.)

Notably, this chorus of Bieber-haters does not include the Anne Frank House itself, whose spokesperson defended Bieber’s comments and applauded his visit. But then again, if there’s one thing Jews love to claim ownership of, it’s the Holocaust and anything connected to it.

Which is what this is really about: us. Our ownership of the capital-H Holocaust; our right to patrol how people are supposed to relate to it (solemnly, seriously); and above all, our right to take offense. Forget what Bieber actually said; forget that in so doing, he probably introduced Anne Frank to millions of teenagers who had never heard of her; the mere mixture of pop culture ephemerality with the American Jewish state religion that is the Holocaust is contamination enough. The Holocaust is meant to be one endless Yom Kippur, and Bieber is goyishe treyf.

This Shoah-dolatry has substituted for actual Judaism for many decades now. It has redefined Jewish identity, Jewish theology, and above all the notion of the Chosen People. It’s as if the unspeakable evil of the Nazis confirms that we were Chosen, we are special. The irony here is that the very Holocaust-deifying Jews accusing Bieber of narcissism… are themselves guilty of narcissism.

Nathan Englander recently asked us to ponder what we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank. For Jews of a certain Jewish-educational status, myself included, we talk about her as an iconic figure, a saint. She’s not a girl at all but some kind of totemic figure for all that we hold dear, for all that we have lost. But for Justin Bieber, she is just what her diary depicts her as being: a young girl, with both a beautiful moral vision and a love of pop stars. Her life was tragically cut short precisely because it needn’t have been cut short — because it should have been as light and filled with ephemera as that of other teenage girls.

The tragedy, in other words, is that Anne Frank turned out to be “Anne Frank” instead of a Belieber, unencumbered by the heavy pieties of those who are so offended by the very suggestion.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Justin Bieber, Jay Michaelson, Anne Frank

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.