Why anti-Semitism is on the risePosted by Josh Taylor / November 2, 2018
The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting did not just happen. Anti-Semitism, which many Americans consider a thing of the past, is sadly on the rise. Make no mistake––anti-Semitism never truly disappeared. The Ku Klux Klan and other overtly white supremacist groups have kept that hateful ideology alive. Nevertheless, anti-Semitism had become, by the early 2000s, an underground phenomenon. According to experts on the subjects, anti-Semitism comes in waves. One Holocaust scholar, Deborah E. Lipstadt of Emory University, said in an interview with the New York Times that right now is the worst anti-Semitism has ever been in America, and it’s cropping up now because we, as a nation, are undergoing a period of tremendous stress.
Professor Lipstadt is right: we are undergoing a period of tremendous national stress. More Americans feel partisan strife is tearing our nation apart than at any point since the Civil War. According to the same New York Times article,
What has changed, said several experts in interviews, is that conspiracy theories and “dog whistles” that resonate with anti-Semites and white supremacists are being circulated by establishment sources, including the president and members of Congress. Bizarre claims about Jews have moved from the margins to the establishment.
Conspiracy theories about George Soros, a wealthy Democratic Party donor and Hungarian Jewish émigré, are an example of such anti-Semitism. Soros was among those who had pipe bombs sent to him.
But that’s not the only thing causing an uptick in anti-Semitism. Social media is a major problem––and more specifically, bots on social media. According to a study by the Anti-Defamation League, nearly 30% of anti-Semitic attacks on social media come from bots. From the NPR article
The study reports that while human users still account for the majority of derogatory Twitter traffic in the lead-up to the midterm elections, “political bots—which explicitly focus on political communication online—are playing a significant role in artificially amplifying derogatory content over Twitter about Jewish people.”
Here’s the scary part: we have no idea, yet, who is running these bots. Are they the aforementioned conspiracy theorists? Or are they white supremacists? Possibly. Another possibility that we should be very concerned about is that foreign actors are, once again, attempting to disrupt the American way of life through ideological manipulation. This happened before, just look at the 2016 election.
The onus to change cannot be on the users of social media or the victims of harassment. Individual users cannot, no matter how hard they try, police these bad actors through social media sites’ report functions. Social media companies need to far more responsibility for policing the kind of people that use their sites and the ways in which they use them. They need to take more steps to make sure that humans––and not bots––are using their sites and sharing or spreading content. Social media companies have opened a pandora’s box for their own profit, and American democracy is suffering the consequences.