Jewish jazz band leader accused of being ‘vile’ bloodsucker in New York Times article


A taxi drives past the New York Times headquarters on February 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri/File.

Is the Jewish owner-operator of New Orleans jazz venue Preservation Hall a bloodsucker exploiting black musicians for profit?

The New York Times devotes over 7,000 words to an article exploring this question. Near the very beginning of one article, we see a scene of the owner and creative director of the jazz hall, Ben Jaffe, visiting the “Jewish cemetery” where his parents are buried.

Later, the article cites a blog post published in 2010 by a trumpeter, Nicholas Payton. The Time reports:

Payton’s screed was colored with grief and what appeared to be personal animosity; he and Jaffe (whom Payton pointedly referred to by his childhood nickname, Benji) had known each other since elementary school. Nevertheless, it summed up many of the criticisms still heard: that Jaffe can be seen as a disrespectful and imperious boss. That he places his interests and those of the room before those of the men who play there. That he pays the musicians too little while the room is getting richer. Such behavior was “endemic to those who have controlled things in the music industry since its inception,” Payton wrote. “From my point of view, he is nothing but a despicable predator who sucks the blood of the artists he uses to maintain his wealth and status. None of them receive a fair percentage of the salary that he works so tirelessly to win.

If portraying a Jewish landlord as a bloodsucker sounds anti-Semitic to you, well, you’re not alone. A Time One online reader-commenter noted: “It’s sad that everything is seen from a slightly anti-Semitic and completely racial perspective. Without the Jaffes, there would be no jazz culture in New Orleans.

The Time described the “screed” as “colored by grief and what seemed like personal animosity”, but she could also have said that it echoed classic anti-Semitic tropes. Instead, the document treated the underlying charges seriously, as worthy of lengthy exploration.

Payton has a troubling record on this issue. In a 2020 Twitter feedPayton defended his social media posting of a video describing Jews as a “synagogue of Satan” and describing Jews as obsessed with blood. “I don’t hate anyone. And I only posted facts,” Payton wrote at the time. “None of you can tell where I’m wrong. Only that you don’t like it. , including the trope of Africans does not absolve the Jews for their participation in the enslavement of my people”.

In a 2013 interview with Ha’aretz ahead of a performance in Israel, Payton explained why he prefers to use the term Black American Music, not jazz. “Black people don’t control the jazz economy, and when you don’t control the economy, you have no power. Festivals, clubs, record companies, magazines – they’re all white-dominated, and they’re the ones who decide how the music is played and how it’s received. Blacks are even a minority of the public. Jazz is a white invention, which took over black music and controlled it.

A 2011 article in Tablet says Nicholas Payton’s father, Walter Payton, was a late convert to Judaism.

The degree of explicitness of reporting racism or anti-Semitism to readers is a current controversy in journalism. Go too far in doing this, and it may seem excessively heavy or censored; don’t do it at all, and it may seem like the newspaper is spreading the hate rather than talking about it.

The Time navigated similar issues in a 2018 Q&A interview with Alice Walker. Then, in response to a reader who blamed the Time for giving Walker “a forum to spread hate”, a Time the editor replied, “Our readers are smart and insightful. We trust them to sift through what anyone says in an interview, whether it’s the president or a musician or someone accused of sexual harassment, and judge for themselves: Am I okay with this nobody ?

I asked the author of Time article, Brett Martin, “What do you think about explicitly mentioning or pointing out to readers that bloodsucking Jews are a classic anti-Semitic trope? Have you considered doing it and rejected it and if so, why? »

He refused to answer.

Ira Stoll was editor-in-chief of The Forward and North American editor of the Jerusalem Post. His media review, a regular Algemeiner article, can be found here.

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Henry R. Wright