Magda Teter joins us to discuss the history of the blood libel accusation and its continued relevance. Listen in for a wide-ranging conversation about the history of the blood libel, its origin and how it has transformed over the century, and what it tells us about misinformation and how it spreads.
Magda Teter is Professor of History and the Shvidler Chair of Judaic Studies at Fordham University. She is the author of numerous books, most recently Blood Libel: On the Trail of An Antisemitic Myth (Harvard, 2020), which we’ll talk about today.
You can also check out the accompanying website, www.thebloodlibeltrail.org, where you can explore the book as well as fascinating maps and other related media about the antisemitic myth.
The blood libel is one of the long-standing false accusations against the Jews, the myth—in different variations—that Jews murdered Christian children and used their blood for various rituals. It’s obviously, patently false, and yet it has persisted across nearly a thousand years. From medieval England to modern Nazi antisemitism and beyond, we see the imagery of the blood libel persists – even in new forms like the conspiracy theories of QAnon.
As Magda Teter argues, these accusations became a vehicle for different anxieties about Jews, and about the world at large. And further, it was the printing press which enabled the proliferation and persistence of these false myths and disinformation, which when published allowed them both to spread more widely and also gave them an air of “respectability” because they existed in print. This allows us to think deeply about the role of media technologies—both in medieval and early modern Europe, and also more recently with the internet—as avenues not for the spread of information, but misinformation.