To the editors:

I’m tired of Anthony Adler’s trivializing of pogroms. Last year, his review of the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol likened the Christmas greetings of strangers to a pogrom. This year, in his December 14 review of The Miraculous Lamp, he alludes to “the annual Jolliness Pogrom.”

Let’s imagine two non-Jewish mobs. One of them wishes strangers–including Jewish strangers–a merry Christmas. The other murders Jews, rapes Jews, vandalizes and loots Jewish homes and businesses, and generally engages in behaviors that most of us associate with pogroms. Would Adler consider the activities of these two mobs to be morally or practically similar? If so, what would motivate a person to join the greeting mob instead of the pillaging mob? Maybe it’s just fear of the police, since the law protects this anti-Semitic verbal violence.

I’m sick of seeing moral distinctions cheapened by those who claim that contraception is genocide, that intercourse is rape, that animal experimentation is a Holocaust, and that whoever doesn’t accept their line is a fascist. The distinctions aren’t subtle, and the distinction between nonthreatening (although perhaps sometimes empty) greetings and mob violence is even less subtle. I don’t see why an intelligent fellow like Adler doesn’t see the distinction.

Michael Koplow


Anthony Adler replies:

And I don’t see why an intelligent fellow like Mike Koplow can’t understand how metaphors work. In my Christmas Carol review last year I referred to Christmastime as a period “when the whole culture seems to go on this bizarrely good-natured psychic pogrom against [Jews].” Note: psychic pogrom. I wasn’t suggesting that wishing a Jew a merry Christmas was the same as killing him; I was saying that America’s all-out, all-pervasive yule-mania can do on an emotional plane what pogroms do on the physical. We are assaulted, and very often killed in our hearts, by the emphatic–if genially offered–implication that we don’t belong here. That this is a Christian country, and we aren’t Christian. The phrase “jolliness pogrom” is meant to convey the same sense of collective trauma.