A Lost Opportunity to Teach People About the USS Liberty

Brett Favre and USS Liberty

Brett Favre was recently pranked by an activist called “Handsome Truth.” But did he go too far and, in doing so, miss an opportunity to draw attention to the plight of the USS Liberty?

By Dr. Kevin Barrett

Quarterback Brett Favre was by far the best thing that happened to the Packers since the Bart Starr era. He was great fun to watch: His love of playing the game was contagious, and his toughness was legendary. Favre was a terrific passer, except when he had lousy receivers and lousy protection and had to keep trying to force the ball into nonexistent windows, which led to his throwing lots of stupid interceptions.

Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s understudy during his last three years with the Packers, watched, took notes, and learned an important lesson: Don’t throw when the receiver isn’t open.

But as much as I love Favre, I have to admit I was rolling on the floor laughing when I saw that somebody had pranked him into making an “anti-Semitic” video. An anonymous individual calling himself “Handsome Truth” had paid Favre $500 to say: “Brett Favre here with a shout-out to Handsome Truth and the GDL boys. You guys are patriots in my eyes. So keep waking them up and don’t let the small get you down. Keep fighting, too, and don’t ever forget the USS Liberty and the men and women [sic] who died on that day. God bless and take care.”

The GDL (Goyim Defense League), which puts up Twitter accounts almost as fast as they can be taken down, describes its mission as being “To stop the defamation of the non-Jewish people, and secure justice and fair treatment to all.” The GDL name is obviously a parody of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and JDL (Jewish Defense League), both of which are rabidly Zionist-extremist organizations.

So far so good. But if you look at the GDL’s material on Twitter you’ll see legitimate criticism of Zionism and Jewish supremacism mixed in with words and images that appear to be racial attacks on, and caricatures of, Jewish people.

While some may find such material funny and refreshingly politically incorrect, most of it strikes me as stupidly racist and not particularly funny.

Playing around with racial and ethnic stereotypes can be done well, or it can be done poorly, and the best rule to follow is: If you can’t do it well, don’t do it at all.

By mixing in stupidly racist material with the good stuff, the GDL is turning itself into an off-color joke at best, an obnoxious, offensive, and strategically counterproductive fiasco at worst.

Consider the Favre video. The “remember the USS Liberty” part is great. How could Favre or anyone else ever renounce that? If Handsome Truth had left it there, Favre might have come under pressure, investigated the attack on the USS Liberty, and decided that honoring veterans and dead sailors was defensible. In short, Favre might have come down on the side of free speech, patriotism, and (at least in appearance) anti-Zionism.

But Handsome Truth didn’t leave it there. He couldn’t resist having Favre do an unknowing shout-out to the Goyim Defense League. Sure, it’s hilarious, since the concept of the GDL is a clever parody of the obnoxiously extremist ADL and JDL. But the reality is that most people are brainwashed into believing that Jews have good reasons and the right to defend themselves against non-Jews, but that non-Jews most certainly do not have a corresponding right to defend themselves against Jews. So including the GDL in Favre’s script guaranteed that Favre would eventually have to walk it back.

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And then there is the small matter of the “small,” i.e., the “small hats,” a derogatory reference to yarmulkes, and by extension, a slur on Jews. Obviously, this is something that Favre could never defend saying. Nor could media coverage of the ensuing scandal possibly cast it in anything but a “hateful anti-Semitic” light.

By including “GDL” and especially “small (hats)” in Favre’s script, Handsome Truth made the video a whole lot funnier than it would have been if Favre had just said, “Remember the USS Liberty.” So let’s give him an A+ for comedy, and another A+ for shock value.

But the offensive material detracts from the prank’s rhetorical effectiveness.

In the future, it would be interesting to see whether celebrities can be tricked—or convinced—to just “remember the USS Liberty.”

Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., is an Arabist-Islamologist scholar and one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror. From 1991 through 2006, Dr. Barrett taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin. In 2006, however, he was attacked by Republican state legislators who called for him to be fired from his job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison due to his political opinions. Since 2007, Dr. Barrett has been informally blacklisted from teaching in American colleges and universities. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, public speaker, author, and talk radio host. He lives in rural western Wisconsin.

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