In the course of a review of The Plot against America, Philip Roth’s dystopian novel that has the United States adopting a form of Nazi rule after the election of America-Firster Charles Lindbergh, the Australian writer Clive James confessed to never quite suspending his disbelief in this lurid alternative history. The United States, wrote James, “will never be free of racial prejudice for the same reason that it will never enshrine racial prejudice in anything like the Nuremberg Laws: it’s a free country.” He pithily concluded that “the insuperable problem with The Plot against America is that America is against the plot.”
Bari Weiss, a staff writer and editor for the opinion section of the New York Times, used to hold the same iron conviction that the United States would never succumb to the plague of anti-Semitism. In her slim new book, How to Fight Anti-Semitism, Weiss confesses she is no longer so sanguine about the status of the “Jewish question” in the land of the free, even if the symptoms of a resurgent anti-Semitism aren’t as acute as they are in the Old World. A fair reading of the times suggests that her newfound anxiety is prudent.