The spring of 2016 started with hate and ended with violence.
In April, Journalist Julia Ioffe published a piece related to the presidential election in GQ magazine. Twitter erupted with a barrage of anti-Jewish hate against Ioffe, who happens to be Jewish.
Ioffe, whose family moved to the U.S. from Russia, told the Forward in April that the attacks reminded her of her country of origin. “We left Russia because we were fleeing anti-Semitism,” Ioffe said, according to the Guardian.
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times was treated to a flurry of hate after he tweeted an article on fascism. In the Times in April, he wrote of the resulting Holocaust taunts, like an image of a path of dollar bills leading to an oven, followed by Holocaust denial, much of it sent to him through Twitter.
Concern in Jewish quarters has led the Anti-Defamation League to respond. The group announced in June that it is convening a task force on hate speech and journalism, to study the situation and make recommendations. There will be various journalists on the panel.
Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin “uses his website, The Daily Stormer, to attack Jewish journalists and other Jews and encourages his followers to troll them online,” according to an ADL blog post. Anglin has “used social media to attack Jews, but there are legions of anonymous Twitter users who are exploiting the Internet to carry out these anti-Semitic campaigns against Jewish journalists.”
Apparently, a ringleader identifies a target and then the rest of the haters jump in. It’s like a swarm of bees that descends on an otherwise clear day, resulting in tweets of Ioffe in concentration camp garb or images of a maniacal, hook-nosed Jew.
Some of these haters have been using a code of six parentheses around a name on the Internet to identify Jews. Rob Golub thus would become (((Rob Golub))). Some like Weisman have sought to reclaim parenthesis and show pride in their heritage by changing their own names online – Jonathan Weisman renamed himself (((Jonathan Weisman))) on Twitter.
But his account is inactive. On June 8, Weisman tweeted that he was finally done: “I will leave @twitter to the racists, the anti-Semites …. Maybe Twitter will rethink … So I will be moving to Facebook where at least people need to use their real names and can’t hide behind fakery to spread their hate.”
Hmm, there’s something to that, isn’t there?
Facebook is less anonymous than Twitter, which has enabled anti-Semitic bullying to the point where Weisman signed off. So perhaps Twitter should consider shifting to a model with more accountability?
Digital hate is related to the mistrust some feel for people not like them. Distrust of other ethnic groups can be where the hate gets started. Researchers have found that contact among individuals from different groups tends to promote tolerance and acceptance. Perhaps that suggests a cross-cultural educational effort is needed in this country?
Intolerance appears connected to the horror in Orlando. At Pulse, a military-style rifle become a miniature weapon of mass destruction in the hands of hate. Other countries without our widespread access to these weapons don’t have mass shootings quite like we do. So perhaps we should consider leaning toward more restrictions?
It seems the perfect cleansers for the dirtiness of hate are out there. Pass the bottle and a rag; let’s get started.
Rob Golub is editor of the Chronicle.