Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
Among many logical fallacies, consider Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. Roughly, the words mean, “after this, because of this.” It’s a common fallacy, and one which comes easily to those with tunnel vision. (For those whose comfort zone involves English, correlation does not imply causation may seem more familiar.)
Certainly, we all want to avoid the fallacy associated with attributing an outcome to an event, just because the former follows the latter. That said, although correlation does not imply causation, events do cause outcomes. And sometimes we need to look with clear eyes at what we’re facing.
So about the threats against Jewish Community Centers. Threats against JCCs or other Jewish institutions did not begin on November 9, 2016. Or on January 20, 2017. They’ve been a part of the deal for a very long time. To name but three, there was a 1999 JCC shooting in Los Angeles, a murder / wounding event in at the Jewish Federation offices in Seattle in 2006, and a triple murder in 2014 in Kansas City at a JCC and a Jewish retirement community.
In many communities Jewish Community Centers represent the public face of Judaism. Most have a significant non-Jewish membership base, often because of excellent pre-schools and good workout facilities. They are also open, welcoming facilities, used by infants, no-go seniors, and anyone and everyone in between. (An old friend classified seniors at a J as no-gos, slow-gos, and go-gos.)
The JCC movement lives in my DNA. The Tucson JCC took my daughter when she was one, after the nanny quit suddenly and my non-Jewish wife decided we needed the best pre-school in Tucson. I’m close to or over six figures at the Tucson JCC, what with dues, pre-school fees, and donations. I am also sure I raised more from others to support our fine institution. I also served on the Board of Directors for 15 years, chaired the board for two, and left lots of BS&T all over. (I drove plenty of people crazy, too!)
When the J threats started several weeks ago, I was not even a little bit surprised. When you use America First as a campaign slogan, you’re not an innocent. (For non-clickers, the term was used by an anti-Semitic, nationalist, isolationist movement circa 1939 – December 1941. Think Charles Lindbergh, and for an excellent tale on what might have been read The Plot Against America by Philip Roth.) When your campaign theme blames foreigners for all of our problems—and invents a ton of non-existent ones, for the sole purpose of ginning up your base—you’re telling people it’s OK to hate others who look, sound, or pray differently. And when you tell your supporters they should beat up protesters, and that you’ll pay for defense costs, you’re inciting violence. So President Donald Trump, you own this one.
But wait, just as the infomercials tell us, there’s more. Here’s a balanced report about President Trump’s suggestion that maybe Jews are making the threats to make others look bad. (Did he say “Jews are calling and making threats?” No. Can his comments mean anything else? Nothing I can think of.) Then there’s the on-the-record question at the February 16 press conference, asked by Jake Turx, a Hasidic Jewish reporter for Ami magazine. Here’s the account, and the magazine likes the president. A lot. Non-clickers. Stretch yourselves. You’ll see the unscripted version of the miserable SOB we elected.
So yes, I heard the nice words at the beginning of the speech to Congress. And I know about the very devout daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. I’m also 13 days shy of 59 – ½, and I have encountered many “some of my best friends are” people over my 21,718 days here. We’ve got one in the White House right now.
The threats against JCCs scare and inconvenience lots of people. Cemetery destruction—truly unspeakable acts, but not threats against the living, and we Jews are all about living—upsets many people. I don’t know whether we should expect actual violence or not. (Bomb threats suck, but I will take ∞ threats, as against one bomb.) That all said, no one should ignore the fact that electing and inaugurating Donald J. Trump as President of the United States explains the threats and the cemetery destruction. No logical fallacy; here, Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc applies.