Caroline Calloway, the only person on the internet who can’t be cancelled (so it seems), is at it again with an curious explanation of latent anti-Semitism in her unstoppable social media presence.
For the uninitiated, Calloway is an influencer making a name from her somewhat hate-able and extremely watchable online behavior. She’s gained (and embraced) a reputation as a “scammer” after accepting payment for and then failing to deliver both a book and a “creativity tour” for her acolytes. For the past year, Calloway and her former amanuensis/ghostwriter, Natalie Beach, have been feuding via cryptic Instagram posts and biting personal essays. Predictable scorn and approbation followed these public debacles, but literally nothing can or will deter Calloway from cultivating (or fans from consuming) a social media presence she describes as a “24/7 reality show” broadcasting her “consciousness.”
On Thursday, Calloway live-streamed an hour-long interview with the Cambridge Union, a debating society at ye olde Cambridge University that prides itself on being the oldest such club in the world.
Towards the end of a discussion of influencer culture that lasted about 50 more minutes than it should have, interviewer Hussein Kesvani asked Calloway to explain a meme she’d posted in April, which showed a hook-nosed man relaxing on a palanquin and dangling money in front of the two shabbily-dressed servants struggling to carry it.
Antisemitic meme posting. pic.twitter.com/qlRUlHiPOj— easy bake coven 👹 (@ro_town_) June 18, 2020
Calloway acknowledged the meme’s anti-Semitic connotations and said she’d apologized after several people pointed them out. Then she offered an unusual, but not totally illogical, explanation for posting it in the first place: she’d become inured to anti-Semitic imagery through her favorite children’s books and movies.
“As a lover of Harry Potter, and a girl who was raised on Disney, I’ve been really desensitized to the idea of hook-nosed villains, whether it was a Disney witch or the goblins at Gringotts,” she said. Calloway was referring to the unsettling creatures who control the banking world in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, who do indeed have hooked noses and care primarily about money (this critique of the Harry Potter universe is the single thing on earth Caroline Calloway and my mother have in common).
“I take full responsibility for those associations. It’s a privilege I didn’t have to learn about them because they didn’t affect me,” she said.
For a hot second, it seemed like we were witnessing that rarest of online phenomena: a public figure offering a cogent analysis of her own screw-ups.
BUT. Just a minute later, Calloway proceeded to double down on several other questionable posts. In an Instagram story during the coronavirus pandemic, Calloway posted an image from a 17th-century Japanese erotic art tradition called shunga, which depicted a woman having sex with a bat. The caption read, “the first human case of the corona outbreak, but make it porn.” At a time when many, including American lawmakers, were blaming coronavirus outbreaks on culinary practices in Wuhan markets and stoking prejudice about Chinese culture, the post seemed callous at best, affirmatively racist at worst.
But this, it seems, is where Calloway’s appetite for self-education ends: despite the caption, she insisted she wasn’t responsible to any conclusions viewers drew from a piece of art she posted.
Furthermore, she dared anyone to come at her over the post. “I don’t apologize for things I’m not sorry for,” she said.
OK, Caroline. Thank you for examining your schnozz stereotypes, but come back to the Schmooze when your newfound goodwill towards Jews extends to other cultures as well.
Irene Katz Connelly is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact her at email@example.com.