Home > Uncategorized > Why Representative Dawn Johnson’s apology for anti-semitism was so inadequate – posted 12/20/2020

Why Representative Dawn Johnson’s apology for anti-semitism was so inadequate – posted 12/20/2020

I do not personally know school board member and newly elected state representative Dawn Johnson of Laconia. I know she is a Republican. Rep. Johnson shocked New Hampshire when she posted a link to a Daily Stormer article. The Daily Stormer is a leading neo-nazi website.

In the post, the word “Jews” appears above a cartoon image of a man wearing a Jewish skullcap. He is holding a sign announcing a rent increase, next to another man with the head of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp photoshopped onto the body. Above Kemp’s photo is the term ”Riggers”, a clear reference to Kemp’s refusal to block certification of Georgia’s electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden. Below both cartoon figures are the words “Bad News”.

Rep. Johnson tried to post the Daily Stormer link on Facebook. Her effort was blocked because Facebook does not allow links to the Daily Stormer since it is a hate site. Rep. Johnson complained on her Facebook page, “When you try to share truth, FB says NOPE we will not allow it. “

After a big adverse reaction, Rep.Johnson apologized for putting up the post and she deleted the post from her Twitter feed. She claimed she was unaware of the source. One peculiarity about Rep. Johnson’s apology: while she apologized, she never made clear what she specifically apologized for and, to date, that has never been clarified. She said she was unaware of the anti-semitic cartoon that got posted.

Rep. Johnson adamantly expressed opposition to the idea she should resign from the school board and her position as state representative. Very defensively, Rep. Johnson lashed out at others on the school board who had called for her to resign. She called others on the board “a disgrace”.

In considering the affair, I have to begin by wondering why Rep. Johnson was linking to the Daily Stormer website at all. For those who have never been there, it is not a subtle website. It is probably the world’s biggest neo-nazi website. It defies credibility that Rep. Johnson did not know what that was. She had complained that Facebook would not let her post her “truth”.

I suppose it is possible that Johnson was mostly focused on arguing the crackpot Trump theory that the election was rigged, given the word “Riggers” in the cartoon, but how could she ignore the depiction of the Jewish person? It was a classic anti-semitic caricature. Was she not looking at what she was posting?

The Daily Stormer takes its name from the German newspaper Der Sturmer which published from 1923 to the end of World War II. Der Sturmer was a propaganda organ of the German Nazis and it was infamous for its virulent anti-semitism. It was published by Julius Streicher who was later hanged at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity. Der Sturmer often ran cartoons depicting graphic caricatures of ugly Jews with exaggerated noses.

The paper aimed to dehumanize Jews and It promoted medieval stereotypes of blood libel where Jews were accused of killing Christian children and drinking their blood.

The current Daily Stormer was an early endorser of Donald Trump’s candidacy for President back in 2015. It proclaimed “Heil Trump – the Ultimate Savior”.

Every incident has a context and the incident with Rep. Johnson is no exception. It happened at a time when anti-semitism is on the upswing. The Trump presidency opened Pandora’s box of anti-semitism, racism and misogyny. Anti-semitic incidents in America reached the highest on record in 2019 with more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Just this Hanukkah there was another anti-semitic incident in New Hampshire. At Dartmouth College, someone with a pellet gun shot out seven of the nine lights on a public menorah which stands in a central location on campus.

For those who say Jewish people like me and others are making too big a deal out of Rep. Johnson’s post, I would cite history. Living in the shadow of the Holocaust, the historical experience of anti-semitism informs our present reality which is why it is impossible to ignore the type of crude propaganda posted by Rep. Johnson. Letting it slide is not an option. Failure to respond would encourage more of the same as silence would be acceptance.

For perpetrators of the Holocaust, propaganda was necessary to persuade the German masses that Jews were evil. The historian Raul Hilberg has said propaganda was needed by the Germans “to combat doubts and guilt feelings whenever they arose”.

The job, for the political anti-semite, is to persuade people that the Jewish people they know, their neighbors and acquaintances, are not the real Jews. The real Jews, for anti-semites, are a collection of negative stereotypes, the type of stereotypes exemplified in Rep. Johnson’s cartoon.

I have to admit I was surprised by how vehemently I responded to this story, and it seems that many others had the same reaction. Witness the Laconia demonstration on December 14 and the many calls for Rep. Johnson to resign her positions.

The response of the state GOP to this episode has been weak. While to his credit Governor Chris Sununu criticized Johnson, most of the rest of the GOP remained silent or said she did nothing wrong and opposed any action about her behavior. This betrays a cluelessness about anti-semitism.

While I generally believe in second chances, Rep. Johnson has said nothing of substance about why anti-semitism is hateful and destructive, Without more, she should resign. The public has a right to expect a higher level of public conduct and responsibility from elected legislators and school board members.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Pat Dawson
    December 20, 2020 at 11:37 pm

    I don’t know about the incident, but agree silence is not an option.

    • December 21, 2020 at 1:11 am

      Pat, it is really a local NH story but I do think it is illustrative of a broader pattern. Happy holidays to you, by the way!

  2. Kay Anderson
    December 31, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    I live in Laconia and am very discouraged and disheartened by the lack of any consequences for Dawn Johnson’s posting and re-tweeting of racist remarks. Particularly in lieu of the fact Gov. Sununu signed NH HB1135 in 2020 which was subsequently adopted by the NH Senate. The bill requires Holocaust and Genocide prevention education to be a criteria for an adequate education. It further states, “The general court finds that intolerance, bigotry, antisemitism and national, ethnic, racial, and religious hatred and discrimination are incompatible with the fundamental principals of democracy, and that such ideologies and practices when unchallenged can lead to genocide. ” It would seem to me the very least the Republican leadership in Concord could do is Censure Representative Johnson for her irresponsible behavior and educate her on legislation she is now expected to support.

    • December 31, 2020 at 5:11 pm

      I agree. I do find her failure to address her own situation telling. She could have said more to explain her actions and she has not. That makes me think her posting was intentional and hateful. The Republicans are not stepping up. I guess they figure people will just forget and everybody will move on.

    • January 1, 2021 at 2:21 am

      One other thing I wanted to say: I was completely unaware of HB 1135. You should write something to the Monitor about that. I doubt many are even aware of that law. Thanks for telling me about it.

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