Lewis Black once joked about driving through the American South and seeing a billboard that just said “Jesus” in bright white letters, “and there wasn’t a phone number or nothing.” Then he saw a second such billboard. Advised Black: “If you’re Jewish, driving alone on a desolate highway, and you see two signs that say ‘Jesus’—when you see the third one, it’s a tip to turn around and go home.”

That was about twenty years ago, but the Bible-toting redneck as a modern metaphor for “here be dragons” persists like some unkillable zombie. The idea was that a rural town full of men and women of faith and maybe only a high-school diploma was an especially hostile place for Jews (or anyone else). And an “enclave of coastal elitists” was supposedly code for a place overrun with Jews.

Now the two have switched places. If you’re looking for mob-think and reflexive anti-Jewish superstition, you’ll find it in the big cities and their nearby college campuses. The Charlottesville neo-Nazi march seems to have been a one-off, but its spiritual successors can be found almost daily at places like Columbia University, where students were recently suspended for holding an actual, literal terrorism rally. “That I would ever have to declare the following is in itself surprising,” sighed university president Minouche Shafik, “but I want to make clear that it is absolutely unacceptable for any member of this community to promote the use of terror or violence.”

In fact it is manifestly unclear if, in the past six months, Columbia University has promoted anything other than terrorism and violence. I have several Columbia alumni in my family as well as several graduates of Rutgers University—myself included—and the other night I marveled in horror at the fact that both universities were simultaneously hosting rallies at which attendees chanted “Intifada” and “we don’t want no two states, we want ’48,” a declaration of intent to carry out a second Holocaust.

It is more difficult to find this level of medieval, brainless bloodlust outside the university campus. And it is increasingly rare, at least relatively speaking, to find so much of it among the so-called “uneducated.” If you’ve got a conspiracy theory about Jews to peddle, you’ll want to go straight to America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. That’s where your marks will be gathering.

Not that it should be too surprising. “Younger American adults,” YouGov reported in 2022, “are more likely to say they believe in astrology than older Americans are.” You will not be shocked to hear that “Americans living in the Northeast (32%) and West (29%) are somewhat more likely to express a belief in astrology than people in the South and Midwest are.”

In fairness, in some cases the youth are merely playing catch-up. As Gallup found in 2021, “college graduates have gone from being the least likely educational group to believe [UFOs are alien spacecraft] in 2019 to being on par with adults who have no college education today. Adults with some college experience (but no degree) remain the most likely to be persuaded.”

Also in 2021, academics John Bitzan and Clay Routledge surveyed a thousand students at more than 70 U.S. colleges and found that a third had a positive view of socialism while only a quarter said the same about capitalism. But don’t worry—the students apparently don’t know what socialism is. So it’s not that they’re evil gulag goons, it’s that they are idiots who will blindly follow the crowd to save themselves the trouble of having to think. Reminder: That’s the good news.

All that should put the eruption of anti-Semitism on campuses in context. After Hamas’s Oct. 7 rampage started the current war, college students were polled on how to characterize the attacks. More than ten percent said they were justified resistance. But I don’t know if that’s better or worse than the one in five who “describe it as something else other than an act of terrorism or resistance.” Perhaps they see it as interpretive dance?

My personal favorite was what happened when Berkeley political-science professor Ron Hassner hired a firm to survey U.S. college students on the genocidal slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Most of those polled said they supported the slogan, but fewer than half could name the river and the sea referenced in the line. “Some of the alternative answers were the Nile and the Euphrates, the Caribbean, the Dead Sea (which is a lake) and the Atlantic,” Hassner reported.

That’s not all these sparkling young minds didn’t know. About 10 percent of those who supported the chant thought Yasser Arafat was the first president of Israel. A quarter of them denied the existence of the Oslo Accords, one of the most thoroughly documented signing ceremonies in modern times, the photos and videos of which are harder to avoid than they are to find.

Of course, these students are young. They’ll have their whole lives after college to get an education. Meantime, once you’ve seen a third billboard for the Ivies, might be time to turn around and go home.

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