Antisemitism as “Entertainment”: ADL Webinar Shines a Light on Hate & Extremism in the Selfie Era

A man runs up to a car stopped at a traffic light and screams that “Hitler was right,” while a second man records the incident on his cell phone.

A few blocks away an elderly Jewish couple is accosted by a skinhead who yells, “The ovens are waiting for you at Camp Auschwitz!”

Again, the incident is duly recorded.

Antisemitic banners

These recordings are then promptly sent to law enforcement, right?

No, they are posted on social media for “entertainment” and—of all things—fundraising.

Welcome to the latest in 21st-century high-tech hate. It’s the “new” antisemitism: neatly packaged, efficiently marketed, precisely targeted, and growing.

A banner draped on a highway overpass blares, “HONK IF YOU KNOW JEWS DID 911.”

Livestream video of an Israeli flag set ablaze is captioned, “Burn in hell, Jew bastards!”

Video of a man screaming obscenities at a Jewish man in a car in real time is accompanied by a running stream of comments including “dirty kike rat,” “he looks like a Goblin,” “KVETCHFACE” and “ugly Jew.”

The panel took up the new and “modern” tactics used by hate groups to spread their message, a phenomenon ADL has monitored closely. 

These and other grim and horrific images were shown by the ADL in its recent webinar “Fighting Antisemitic and White Supremacist Propaganda,” which exposed the proliferation and monetization of high-tech antisemitism in America today.

The webinar, moderated by ADL Vice President of Leadership Deb Leipzig, featured panelists Oren Segal, ADL Vice President of the Center On Extremism (COE); Carla Hill, ADL Associate Director of the COE; and Yael Hershfield, ADL Southern Division Director of Incident Response and Law Enforcement Initiatives. Speakers acknowledged disturbing upticks in hate statistics, particularly an ADL study that revealed a 27 percent leap in extremist propaganda, including antisemitic disinformation.

Oren Segal
Oren Segal, Vice President of ADL’s Center on Extremism, shares insight and research during the webinar

The panel took up the new and “modern” tactics used by hate groups to spread their message, a phenomenon ADL has monitored closely. 

One network, the “Goyim Defense League” (GDL), has garnered much of the attention. The webinar featured a livestream of a GDL member shouting unprintable antisemitic epithets at a Jewish man in a car. The livestream is followed by a plea to “Donate To Hate” via the platform “Goyim TV.”

The GDL, distributing propaganda in 11 states to date, has gained nationwide attention, even awarding money to those whose harassment gets media coverage.

Communities targeted for what the GDL calls “Name The Nose Tours” (an obvious reference to a shopworn ethnic slur about Jews) include nonprofits and community centers, such as a Holocaust museum in one town and its neighboring Jewish Community Center where children play. Livestream followers are advised to prowl for Jews in “wealthy neighborhoods” as well, to attract the most media.

“They’ll post and share,” Ms. Hill says. “Getting media attention is like a merit badge.”

Other popular targets for hate are places and people already subjected to some of the most extreme forms of antisemitism: several survivors of the infamous 2018 mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, for example, have found antisemitic messages at their homes.

The propaganda has mushroomed over the past year as GDL has grown and allied itself with other hate groups. A total of 74 documented incidents of GDL propaganda were reported in all of 2021, but in the first two months of 2022 alone, the count is already at 60.

“They’ll post and share,” Ms. Hill says. “Getting media attention is like a merit badge.”

Flag being burned

The propaganda takes the form of fliers, stickers, banners on highway overpasses with obscene and hateful messages, images of swastikas and other symbols, quite in addition to live streaming of harassment—all for the twisted titillation of seeing someone in real time walk over and bully another human being for his religion.

Ms. Hershfield urged viewers who receive or are targeted by such propaganda not to destroy the evidence, but to turn it over to law enforcement. Thanks to alert witnesses, ADL has been able to ID certain harassers for law enforcement and thereby get them off the streets.

One is tempted to ask the snarling hater what he seeks to achieve.

“No one should ever feel helpless in the face of campaigns designed to intimidate and harass and isolate,” said Mr. Segal.

Indeed, after the initial shock and intimidation, some communities have pushed back.

Ms. Hershfield cited as an example of this community resilience a woman in Savannah who found a hate flier on her door early one morning, got on her bicycle and gathered up 60 other such fliers distributed in her neighborhood, promptly turning them over to law enforcement.

“You can also denounce a hateful message without naming the perpetrator, thus denying them the promotion they want,” she added.

One is tempted to ask the snarling hater what he seeks to achieve. The answer, lurking in the space between the rage and the spittle, will be that he is seeking to handle a problem, and that the banishing or vanishing of the targeted group would bring about an end to that problem.

But he is so consummately, heartbreakingly wrong.

As Maya Angelou wrote, “Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but has not solved one yet.” 

Michael Leb
Michael was raised and educated in a loving Orthodox Jewish family, later discovering Scientology as a perfect complement to the poetry and majesty of Judaism.