Jewish Americans have been on edge in recent months over a spate of anti-Semitic incidents around the United States. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated in Philadelphia and St. Louis, while bomb threats have become a routine occurrence at Jewish centers from coast to coast.
In these unsettling times, it’s never been more important to… put your Twitter name in ((( ))) brackets as a show of solidarity against…Nazis? …Or something?
If that sounds a little strange, it should. Since the media first discovered last year that Twitter was replete with trollish anti-Semites secretly identifying prominent Jewish users with triple parentheses — known as (((echoes))) — Internet figures of all stripes tripped over themselves to mark their own names in virtuous solidarity.
Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg got the ball rolling and the idea quickly spread from there to journalists, celebrities and lay tweeters alike.
Want to raise awareness about anti-Semitism, show solidarity with harassed Jews & mess with the Twitter Nazis? Put ((( ))) around your name.
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) June 3, 2016
Fair enough. After all, nobody likes Nazis, but in the words of an eloquent rabbi I know, “Who gives a shit about parentheses?”
It’s safe to say that, overall, the United States of America is not an anti-Semitic country. For more than 100 years, Jews from around the world have fled real persecution elsewhere and found safe harbor here. Today, Jews have become woven into the fabric of domestic life. Their experience on these shores is as close to the American Dream as you’re likely to come by. A study released last month by the Pew Research Center found Americans overall held warmer views of Jews than any other religious group the organization measured.
Obviously, that doesn’t mean the U.S. is perfect. The recent spate of vandalism and bomb scares likely come as no surprise to the FBI, which has consistently listed Jews as the number one targets of religious hate crime in America.
Maybe you didn’t know that? It might be because (((echoes))) solidarity, arguably the most visible spontaneous movement to raise awareness about anti-Semitism, isn’t focused on any of that, but rather takes aim at a few hundred Twitter trolls, most of whom are represented by anonymous eggs or Pepe the Frog. A 2016 report by the Anti-Defamation League found that just 1,600 accounts were responsible for 68% of all documented anti-Semitic incidents on Twitter against journalists. In fact, the actual number is probably even lower, since, as the report points out, users could easily start new accounts after being suspended.
Intent also matters. While there are real Nazis on Twitter, and their leaders do sometimes try to make mischief on the platform, Internet trolling is a far cry from marching brown shirts. As mean as they can be, an organized political movement with real objectives they are not. In actual fact, America’s virtual Wehrmacht is probably little more than a gaggle of bored twenty-somethings who have nothing better to do than annoy Yair Rosenberg in between their fits of Reddit and anime porn. At this point, it should be second nature to all of us that validating trolls is the surest way to perpetuate their existence.
Frankly, we should all breathe a sign of relief that we live in a country so devoid of anti-Semitism that something as innocuous as (((echoes))) could result in such a sustained and lasting outcry.
But, of course, the Internet is full of silliness. (Remember Kony 2012?) The greater crime of (((echoes))) solidarity was that, in addition to breathing life into a problem that didn’t exist, it diverted attention from real anti-Semitism both at home and around the globe. Those very forces Jews fled in the 19th and 20th century are returning to Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.
While you may have read New York Times Deputy Washington Editor, Jonathan Weisman’s eloquent struggle with a random Twitter account named “Trump God Emperor,” you may not have heard that French anti-Semitism has now become so bad that more than half of French Jews are considering emigrating and that 1/3 are now afraid to even wear a yarmulke outside.
Perhaps you were so consumed in fighting fascist Twitter eggs yourself that you didn’t know Hamas, a terrorist organization which aspires to lead a future Palestinian state on Israel’s doorstep, openly calls for the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews therein. Their charter explicitly cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
But no…tell your therapist again about the mean Twitter eggs, and write another post on Medium.
As a Jew myself, I obviously welcome any and all genuine, good faith efforts to combat anti-Semitism wherever it appears. I just hope all these (((echo))) warriors will be there if we ever really need them.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.