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Monday, July 11, 2016

Blocking the Twitter Nazis

Jeffrey Goldberg writes in The Atlantic about how Twitter has given bigots voice to troll after Jewish people,and others the right wing don't happen to condone, while they spew hateful "tweet by tweet" hate speech.  

In fact, I have learned the fine art of "blocking" the trolls who lurk around with venom in their minds.  I don't feel sorry for any of them and I tell them so, just before I block them.
Why stay on Twitter if all I do is "block" trolls?  Because, somebody must push back on these evil minded people and blocking them is something like throwing water on the Wicked Witch of the North.  Nevetheless, Goldberg has another opionion:



As a matter of fact, he says, "....I feel pity for them because they’re so bad at anti-Semitism. I recognize high-quality, handcrafted Jew-hatred when I see it, and the far-right, which has lately been gaining attention for supporting Donald Trump’s candidacy for president (and for trolling Jews such as yours truly), is so over-the-top obvious in its deployment of anti-Semitic memes; so uncreative in the manufacturing of Judeophobic tropes (call this the banality of oven jokes); so bad at Photoshop; and so awful at spelling, that I find them as pathetic as I find them offensive.

(Frankly, I'm not impressed by this response by Mr. Goldberg, it's like he's lost his perspective about the virulence of right winger "run amoks". Nevertheless, I get his point. These Trump bullies are pathetic, but they're still, politically speaking, mighty dangerous.)

Goldberb decided to co-opt the Twitter memes of a few hateful trolls, the so-called ((echo-parentheses)) they place around Jewish names, for reasons explained here.  He's admired what LGBT activists did with the word “queer”—seize it from haters, and make it their own—but he did this on a whim. It caught on and the phenomenon was met by Nazi howling, and a doubling-down on oven jokes, about which more in a minute.  (Revolting!)

"I’m of two minds about alt-right online anti-Semitism," wrote Goldberg.  "On the one hand, as someone who has written about issues concerning Jews and Israel for a number of decades now (I won’t name the number), my skin is thick like a rhino’s."


Anti-semitism isn't new, or shocking, although he's still sometimes surprised by the speed at which social media amplifies it. And he finds undisguised anti-Semitism easy to counter when compared to the anti-Semitism of the far-left, which frequently masquerades as “anti-Zionism.” (A quick explanatory aside: If “anti-Zionism” is defined, as a plain reading suggests, as opposition to the creation and continued existence of a Jewish state, then I consider it to be a form of anti-Semitism. With some notable exceptions—certain grandees of the British Labour Party come to mind—“anti-Zionists” will expend a great deal of time arguing that their hostility to the idea of a Jewish nation-state in any part of the ancestral Jewish homeland has nothing to do with Jews. It’s just a coincidence, you see.) - (Hmmmmm, first I've heard it explained this way, but what about people who just oppose the way the Jewish government in Tel Aviv has expanded their claims to Palenstinian lands? Is this also Anti-Zionism? I'm obviously not an expert, it's just a comment. But, the point is, the right wingers are crude Anti-Semites while the left wingers are elite Anti-Zionists, says Goldberg.  Okay, so, let's get back to the point about the Nazis.....)

On the other hand, I don’t want to mitigate the damage done by the far-right. (Whew!)  I’ve met people who are traumatized by the explosion of on-line anti-Semitism, as well as physical-world anti-Semitism—for instance, the young woman I met last night at the Sixth and I Synagogue in downtown Washington who told me that a man in a Trump hat called her a “kike” on the Metro—(Yes, this is the type of hate  incited by Trump....) and so monitoring this phenomenon seems like a worthwhile endeavor. (The Anti-Defamation League will be doing just that.) In the interest of cataloguing a portion of the invective directed my way, (other journalists, including Julia Ioffe and Jonathan Weisman, have reported on their personal Nazi trolls) you will find below a partial listing of what I’ve seen in just the past couple of weeks. A number of quick observations, though, before he starts his list:

In a hopeful sign, few Nazi-style trolls use their own names. When they are bold enough to discard their anonymity, it might be time to worry more.
These far-right social media accounts seem to have small followings, generally, on Twitter. (Yes, this is something I have noticed as well.)

Twitter is not the real world, and not representative of the world as a whole. Though I would note that I also receive a large amount of anti-Semitic invective via e-mail (and through the U.S. Postal Service).

Many of these trolls will adopt Jewish-seeming names as their Twitter handles. They find this amusing.

A very large portion of these accounts associate themselves with Trump in some way, though it should be pointed out—I find it hard to believe I’m writing this sentence—that Donald Trump himself has expressed absolutely no interest in opening concentration camps for Jews, should he win the presidency. The white nationalist far-right has decided, though, that Trump will advance its interests. (OMG even the suggestion of such  actions are reprehensibly sickening.)

The first example in this small catalogue is something I’ve seen quite a bit in the past couple of weeks, both in my e-mail inboxes and on Twitter. This is me with a superimposed yellow star on my forehead.


Next is an instance of what might be the most common theme: Trolls encouraging me to follow a trail of dollar bills into an oven. 
I would point out here only that these trolls do not understand the mechanics of death camps; the victims of the Nazi death camps were murdered mainly in gas chambers. Only after death were their bodies cremated in ovens. Of course, these people are not scholars of the Holocaust. As Julia Ioffe and others have pointed out, many of them are Holocaust deniers, even as they express admiration for genocide. 

The message: “The Holocaust never happened, but it was awesome.” (This is reason enough to block these idiots when they show their Nazi heads. In fact, they hate it when that happens.)

Goldberg now includes the anti-semite parenthesis in some of his memes ((like this)) as an example of the juvenile approach many Twitter anti-Semites take.

In the June 24, 2016 edition of The Week summarizes Goldberg's article.  "After decades of writing about issues concerning Jews and Isreal, 'my skin is think like a rhino;", wrote Goldberg. "Yet, nonetheless, I'm astounded by the online explosion of virulence andd anti Semitism by white supremacists thrilled by the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump."

Moreover, Trumph has attacked Mexicans and Muslims, not Jews, but the common belief of the threatened males of the "alt-right" crowd is that if he's elected president, he will open concentration camps in the U.S. and initiate a new Holocaust.  Unbelievably, Goldberg reports that every political commentator with a Jewish name who has criticized Trump has been inundated with a torrent of threatening anti-Semite tweets and emails. In recent weeks, Trump supporters have sent Goldberg photoshopped pictures depicting him with a Nazi era yellow Jewish star on his forehead and in the striped garg of a concentation camp inmate, along with warning that Jews like him were about to get what they deseved.  

Well, Goldberg's chilling essay is quite graphic but as a Twitterzin myself, I feel like the best response to the Twitter Nazis is a concentrted effort to discredit all of them.  Meanwhile, I have learned the fine art of "blocking", they indeed "hate it when that happens!" So be it.

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