Ritchie Torres, AIPAC’s Most Dutiful Rentboy

Of all the venal and easily purchased members of Congress who take AIPAC money in the manner of an eager head-bobbing whore pretzeling his position to show the money men just how limber and rentable he truly is (even at the expense of listening to constituents, a basic duty of any sitting Representative), Ritchie Torres is my personal favorite. He is such a preposterous cartoon of a man — a smug and treacherous scumbag who blocks anyone on X rightly calling him out on his bullshit — that you almost get the sense that he’s cozying up with the genocide-friendly financiers so that he can pluck some Zionist diplomatic position from the horrific jaws of a potential second Trump administration.

Ritchie Torres is a truly impressive specimen. Because just when you think Torres couldn’t become any more of a self-serving tosspot, he descends into self-parody, complete with anti-Semitic “Jewish mother” tropes that bristle with the telltale timbre of casual misogyny:

Yes, that’s right. This was how Torres was spending Juneteeneth on social media. And while Torres was happy to serve up predictable and phoned in platitudes about Juneteenth, Torres, living up to his present status among progressives as a corrupt and unprincipled coward without political credibility, remained silent about Mayor Eric Adams denying Black Lives Matters’s Hawk Newsome a permit (one that two city employees had promised Hawthorne would go through) to celebrate Juneteenth in the South Bronx on the corner of 163rd Street and Sheridan Avenue — not far from Torres’s own district (the 15th). Which is truly something. Ritchie Torres cares more about Israel than his own borough, much less his own congressional district, which is the poorest one in the United States.

But Torres’s remarkable hubris has only grown ever since cashing AIPAC checks and selling out at dimebag levels became part of his regular routine. As Marisa Kabas has cogently unpacked, Torres, who is not Jewish, is policing exactly what being a “good Jew” is:

Imagine having the gall to be a non-Jew and tell a Jewish organization that they are not worthy of representing Jewish interests. Imagine thinking that steadfastly supporting the state of Israel gives you authority over people who are part of the religion for which the state was founded. Imagine being a member of Congress and using your position to demean Jews in service of ousting your own Democratic colleague.

The Democratic colleague that Kabas is referring to is Representative Jamaal Bowman, who has continued to remain unequivocally against AIPAC and Israel’s policies, despite AIPAC putting up a colossal $2 million to attack Bowman and prop up a pro-Israel candidate that even the right-leaning Politico had to confess was “the Cher of Westchester County.”

Torres attacked The New Republic‘s Talia Jane for an October 7, 2023 tweet in which Jane, trying, like many of us, to wrap their head around the immediate aftermath of the October attacks, had posted, “State oppression vs rebellion against state repression,” and falsely insinuated that The New Republic had promulgated these views and put Jane’s reporter status in mock air quotes. But he didn’t stop there in his tone policing. Torres blasted the far left for “falsely accusing George Latimer [Bowman’s AIPAC-financed challenger] of racism.” Never mind that Politco — which is about as far from a fringe-left outlet as you can get — reported on how Bowman accused Latimer of sending mailers that had darkened Bowman’s skin. (Back in 2022, The New York Post — clearly a bastion for Marxism under News Corp — reported on similar racist efforts made by then Bowman challenger Vedat Gashi.)

When Netanyahu released a video attacking the Biden Administration, Torres suggested that anyone who criticized this tyrant was somehow emboldening Hamas. (Never mind that a Gallup poll last month pointed out that only 36% of Americans approved of Israel’s actions against Gaza. If we look through the ridiculous and disingenuous Overton window opened by Torres, we would have to risibly infer that a good 55% of Americans who oppose Israel’s actions are somehow stumping for Hamas.)

The convenient manner in which Torres twists the facts like this has caused many of his constituents to rightly call him out. Since they have been ignobly blocked by Torres on Twitter, many of Torres’s critics have attempted to call him out in person. Sometime in March, some enterprising people with a camera confronted Torres, asking, “As a citizen who pays my tax dollars, okay, I’m wondering why you are in favor of sending our tax dollars to starve children to death.”

“Well, that’s a lie,” responded Torres. (The liar here is Torres. Here’s a Human Rights Watch report documenting the starving children in Gaza.)

After the people behind the camera pointed out that this was not a lie, Torres responded, “If you have an issue with me, you should run against me.”

“How is it a lie?” asked the man behind the camera. “Are you saying there are no children starving in Gaza?”

Instead of answering this question, Torres said, “I think Hamas started the war, which led to starvation.”

When the man behind the camera calmly and reasonably tried to ask another question, Torres interrupted him and snarled, “That’s a terrorist organization that you support.”

The man said that he did not support Hamas. Then Torres accused the man of lobbying for them, which the man also denied. Then Torres said, “You’re a disgrace.”

And in these collective moments, we see the feeble and pathetic toolkit of a fact-denying attack dog who has seen his coffers fatten by way of AIPAC. If you are against Israel’s actions, you are somehow for Hamas. If you criticize Torres on facts, you are somehow lobbying for Hamas. And if you question Torres using objective examples obtained from reality, Torres resorts to insults and false accusations.

In short, this kind of contemptible behavior (which resembles any number of efforts by activists with cameras to confront Republicans) clearly evinces that Ritchie Torres is not a man who is fit to serve his constituents, much less the American people. He is more of a thin-skinned and not very bright AIPAC rentboy than a “Congressional Representative.”

[6/20/24 4:00 PM UPDATE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Ms. Jane’s pronouns. This has been corrected. I regret the error and offer my most fulsome apologies to Ms. Jane for my oversight.]

The Bat Segundo Show: Elia Suleiman

Elia Suleiman appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #374. He is most recently the writer and director of The Time That Remains.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Constantly examining his watch.

Guest: Elia Suleiman

Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]


Correspondent: I wanted to touch back on a point you were making about the democratization of the audience with a specific ultimate…

Suleiman: The popcorn-less?

Correspondent: Well, the popcorn-less and those with popcorn. In Divine Intervention, there’s a wonderful clip involving your answer to The Matrix. The ultimate democratic video scenario, YouTube, features this clip and a quarter of a million people have seen the clip. A user named Firestarter89 offers this comment: “It’s like some Muslim smoked a bunch of weed and watched Wonder Woman and The Matrix.”

Suleiman: (laughs)

Correspondent: I’m wondering, with a clip like that presented on YouTube, if you’re worried if that gets away from the point of the trilogy. That presented independently without any kind of context, people don’t actually know that it’s really your clip. There’s just a bunch of people who enjoy that clip for what it is. Is that troublesome for you as a filmmaker? On one hand, you’ve got an audience here. But they have taken it and turned it into something completely different, as this user Firestarter89 clearly has.

Suleiman: Well, I mean, it would be too long to now discuss the potence and impotence of the Internet and YouTube. And I don’t look at my own clips, by the way. I never watch what they say. I’m not really interested in this kind of image ghettoization and the very consumerist element of it on the Internet. So I actually protect myself from this pollution. However, yes, to take it out of context is really harmful. Because in the narrative of the film, what we see is his fantasy, his inner fantasy of his lover disappearing. So he wants her to come back as a victorious hero in an almost B-movie like or kitsch-like ambiance. When that episode is finished, he is cutting onions in order to cry. So we see that the result of it is this impotent character who is even unable to cry. So it is an extremity to that violent and that victorious heroism.

I have to tell you a story. A funny story actually. One time, a man stops me. A young man stops me. I was trying to film something on a small camera in Ramallah on the street. For nothing specific. I forgot. Maybe to take a note. I don’t even remember. And he doesn’t know who I am. He just stops me. He stops me and he says, “Are you a filmmaker?” I said, “Well, kind of.” And he said, “You know, you Palestinian filmmakers are all losers. You know, you don’t know how to make a real film. You don’t know how to do anything. You know, make us a film like this guy who made this ninja film.” And I told him, “What guy made the ninja film?” I asked him to describe the action and it turns out to be the segment of Divine Intervention. And I told him, “Well, I’m going to try.”

Correspondent: (laughs)

Suleiman: And he said, “That’s filmmaking for me!” So of course there’s going to be always this level of misinterpreting or taking things out of context. You cannot control that. Look at my biography. I mean, I’m sure that I’ve been presented with at least ten biographies of my life. None of them is true to my biography.

Correspondent: And yet here you are making movies that are rooted in autobiography. As such, there’s the classic saying that we accept fiction for its truth — particularly in this country — more than autobiography or memoir, in which you constantly question the facts.

Suleiman: But, you know, I’m not at all pointing fingers at anyone. But the fact is there’s always a tendency to bring down to earth again what you’re trying to bring to a potential reality. Rather than bring it back to the actual reality. So you’re trying to fight the media distortions. And they bring it back. Eventually you have a TV interview. You’re put in the news. So I don’t know how much we can — on how many fronts you can actually start or stop, deter — I mean, I can barely make my movies. So to start also campaigning against YouTube or distortions of the media, it’s very difficult for me. But I think that one could also say, rather than look at it from a defeatist point of view, if it gave anyone out there some pleasure and some dreamlike potential for a better world, then I think we are — if I feel that I’m doing the best I can, if I feel that I’m trying to dig out the little monster inside of one’s self. Not necessarily the monster only that you project on. You’re trying to evaluate. Re-evaluate your own acts. And trying to become a better person and call it your own moral equation. I think this far I can do. But I can’t go beyond that.

The Bat Segundo Show #374: Elia Suleiman (Download MP3)

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