In recent months, celebrity-driven controversy has been fuelling the rise in open hate speech in the United States, leading to the alarming normalization of anti-Jewish tropes.
President of the United States Joe Biden condemned antisemitism in a tweet on Friday, December 2, “Silence is complicity. The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting anti-Semitism wherever it hides.”
His message came one day after Kanye West voiced a “love” for Nazis and 10 days after Donald Trump dined with West and white supremacist political commentator Nick Fuentes.
According to experts, the president’s open condemnation was driven by the alarming normalization of anti-Jewish tropes and hate speech by influential public figures and on social media in recent months. The most recent controversies underscore a difficult new-generation fight against bigoted memes and conspiracy theories about Jews entering the mainstream, reports the Times of Malta.
Some of the new forms of antisemitic sentiment has been driven by Trump’s MAGA movement and the parallel QAnon conspiracy community. Moreover, by influential celebrities like hip-hop star Kanye West and basketball star Kyrie Irving, boosted by largely uncensored social media platforms.
West has been on an antisemitic rapage for weeks, before he appeared in a podcast where, along with Fuentes and extremist Alex Jones, he praised Hitler and then posted online a Nazi swastika interlaced with a Star of David.
Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said the trend has been building for some time, with more people spreading antisemitic ideas. “When you have celebrities who are promoting classic antisemitism like Kanye West, who has more followers on Twitter than there are Jews on the planet Earth, that is going to make that part of the public discussion.”
Trumpism is an important factor, he added. Several Republican officials attended a pro-Trump conference organized by Fuentes earlier this year, which is a normalization tendency that has been seen in the public for a long time.
„If Trumpism is understood as normalising disinformation and conspiracy theories, the normalisation of antisemitism is not far behind,” Segal said.
According to Cheryl Greenberg, a professor at Trinity College, the rampage of West and Irving is “the trend of mainstreaming otherwise fringe ideas.” One of the factors that makes this maintstreaming possible is social media, where it is easier to preserve and share anything, including hate.
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter was an example of how fast uncensored material can return to a platform. However, according to Segal, bigger problem is the “ecosystem” of algorithm-based video hosts like TikTok, and mostly uncensored messaging and discussion boards like Telegram and Reddit.
Greenberg believes another problem is that antisemitism’s importance has dissipated among younger Americans who are less knowledgeable about the Holocaust. For example, a younger generation of Blacks and other minorities today don’t see Jews as “fellow sufferers,” in part because they consider Jews as successful whites, he said.
Greenberg said the only solution is if minorities work together to keep alive the problem of antisemitism in the minds of the general public.