If there’s one thing I hate more than Illinois Nazis, it’s Twitter Nazis.
Correction. I don’t hate them. Mainly I pity them, because their souls are so corroded, and because they are so pathetically frightened by Jews and blacks and Mexicans and gays and change and their own confused sexual identities (they are obsessed with “cucks,” “cocks,” and “faggots”) and pluralism and, by the way, Hillary Clinton.
But I also 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.
A few days ago, I decided to co-opt one of their Twitter memes, the so-called echo-parentheses they place around Jewish names, for reasons explained here. I’ve always admired what LGBT activists did with the word “queer”—seize it from haters, and make it their own—but I did this on a whim. It caught on (this Haaretz story explains how) , and the phenomenon was met by Nazi howling, and a doubling-down on oven jokes, about which more in a minute.
I’m of two minds about alt-right online anti-Semitism. 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 is not new, or shocking, to me, though I am still sometimes surprised by the speed at which social media amplifies it. And I find 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.)
On the other hand, I don’t want to mitigate the damage done by the far-right. 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—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 we begin:
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.
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, charmingly, 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.
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.”
Here is a photoshopped image of me as a concentration camp camp prisoner (two places in front of the journalist Yair Rosenberg). It’s always nice to wake up in the morning to images like this.
Here is an example of unoriginal oven-centered trolling. This person’s Twitter bio describes him as an “oven technician.”
I include this one mainly because of the Twitter handle, “Mengele matters.” For those unfamiliar with the name, you can read more here.
I include this one as an example of the juvenile approach many Twitter anti-Semites take. I’m hoping the ADL identifies some of these trolls, and let’s us know how old they are.
Another oven-oriented Nazi fellow:
This was a very common illustration directed my way (and in other directions as well). The message was that we should return the ((())) to the Nazis and use menorahs instead.
I’m pretty much a free speech absolutist, but when this one came over the transom, I did wonder about the level of effort Twitter is making to reduce the volume:
Extreme fear of Hillary Clinton, and her relationship with Jews, is another theme:
This drawing, which I’ve received a number of times, holds that Donald Trump is bringing about a 4th Reich, and vampire Jews such as myself are doomed. (This is actually a pro-Trump Benjamin Garrison cartoon later defaced by an anti-Semite and spread by other anti-Semites.) Please take note of the “Happy Kristallnacht” message in the lower right corner.
Again, the common belief, or hope, is that Trump will initiate a new Holocaust. The Nazi-leaning Trump extremists never appear to address the fact that Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, and grandchildren, are Jewish, or that Trump spends essentially no time talking about Jews, and a great deal of time talking about Muslims and Mexicans.
Again, not clever:
Finally (for now), this illustration, which I’ve seen many times, advances the common pro-Nazi theme that the Jews were the aggressors in Germany, and that Hitler was operating defensively when he initiated the Holocaust, except that he didn’t initiate the Holocaust, because the Holocaust is a lie perpetrated by the Jews, who deserve to die in a Holocaust: