Antisemitism Goes Mainstream: What is the Media’s Culpability?

While vilification and violence against Jews increase around the world, mainstream media sites are playing with fire as they provide succour to racists by becoming a microphone for their hate speech.

While vilification and violence against Jews increase around the world, mainstream media sites are playing with fire as they provide succour to racists by becoming a microphone for their hate speech. Credit: Danil Melekhin / Getty Images

Students at a Jewish school in Melbourne announced that they are collecting for display, a million and a half buttons in remembrance of the 1.5 million Jewish children slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust. As with many Australian Jews, the Holocaust is part of the family history of many of these students. The buttons are to be a permanent monument to the murdered children.A month later, in September, students from the same Jewish school in Melbourne were visiting a Christian school in Alice Springs. It happened to be book week and the host students put on a book parade. One student dressed up as Hitler, the perpetrator of the Holocaust in which family members of many of the Jewish students had either been exterminated or had survived the slaughter.

The boy dressed as Hitler received one of the “best dressed” commendations from the school. The principal later apologised for the insensitivity of the Hitler dress-up.

Both of these Australian stories had common elements: Hitler, the Holocaust, Jewish students and events occurring in schools. Both stories were reported in the mainstream media. The stories had some moral lessons for all: remembering the victims of racial hatred and genocide, and a lesson not to give genocidal murderers normalcy or to minimise their crimes.

However shockingly, the stories became an opportunity for some to express the very same hatred that resulted in the mass murder of Jews. On the ABC News Facebook page, the raw hatred was given free reign. Fortunately, many comments expressed dismay and disgust at the antisemitic posts.

The two stories very quickly turned from remembering the Jewish victims of the Holocaust to comments on Facebook accusing Jews of: committing their own “genocide” against the Palestinians; being “Christ-killers”; controlling the banks; “milking” the Holocaust for money; and being greedy and of caring only about themselves. There were jokes and comments about ovens, and of telling Jews to get over it.

Images of Jews as parasites and shysters, and images of memes mocking the Holocaust, were posted. These included many images mocking gas chambers, showers and concentration camps. The Holocaust was denied or minimised. Through the technique of Holocaust inversion, the Jewish state of Israel was consistently attacked and accused of committing genocide, and in some comments, of being worse than Nazi Germany. Hitler was praised and vindicated. Jews were blamed for antisemitism, and antisemitism was said to be justified and deserved.

There were over a hundred comments posted – full of venom and vitriol.

On 17 August, comments on the ABC News Facebook page on the story of the buttons to remember the 1.5 million murdered Jewish children, included the following:

  • “stop exploiting the holocaust”
  • “You are not the only people to have suffered genocide”
  • “the Zionist state of Israel is now doing the same to Palestinians.”
  • “How long are they going to use the holocaust horror stories. This was then, the genocide of Palestinian is now.”
  • “Buttons for the Palestinian children killed by Israel?”
  • “Typical of Jewish organisations, charity is only collected for Jewish causes … the Holocaust the only significant event in world history………no wonder they make themselves the target of resentment.”
  • “Was a great injustice what they did to hitlers name.”

On 9 September, comments on the ABC News Facebook page on the story of the boy dressing up as Hitler during book week, included the following:

  • “If hitler was sellig new ovens on an crowdfund site tomorrow id probably donate.”
  • “i literally want to put you in an oven bro. You are a filthy lieing land thief.”
  • “jews deserve every thing they get haven’t heard any aussie jews speak out about the mass murdering Zionist scum jews in Israel”
  • “the Jews next. This iss not their country either they accept or get out of this country.”
  • “every Jew should be viewed with suspicion and contempt until one knows that they prove to be different from their peers. I.e. A benefit of the doubt should NOT apply to them at all.”
  • “this whole war was a hoax .100000 perished not 6 million ..most of these where not Jews .History books are a lie …but hey if you control the media like jews do anything goes”
  • “But, Jon, muh 6 gorilliun! Don’t let the goyim forget!”
  • “Oh yes oh yes. 6 gazillion it was actually, (((some))) say 6 gazillion. But hush hush, if the common goy revealed our agenda they’ll be free from the corporate hogtie.”
  • “And they still extort money from germans for it.. typical jewish greed…”
  • “Now those Jewish people are creating genocide and illegally killing Palestinians.”
  • “We all know Jews don’t like to hear about their own evil deeds. They make hitler look like a boyscout”
  • “Jesus. […] He was the one they Crucified because he threw the money lenders out of the Temple.”
  • “Should have dressed up as a giant golden coin for the Jews instead. Would have annexed and sold him at interest quicker than you can say he was an obedient goy and dindu nuffin.”
  • “History is a lie written by Jewish bankers and sold by their puppet politician who help sell the lies.”
  • “Hitler was a fucken great man. Not a good man, but a great man.”
  • “There’s a reason why an entire nation stood up to them. It was the final opportunity mankind had against the corrupt greedy Jewish. […] all the Jewish people in power in media, politics and finance”

All these, and other racist comments and images, were posted on a mainstream media outlet – on Australia’s national public broadcaster, the ABC. They were not posted on some neo-Nazi or far Left anti-Zionist or Islamic theo-fascist website or Facebook page. While the same sentiments can be found in such places, with so little traffic in comparison, they do not get the airing or are afforded the status that is available on mainstream media sites.

Antisemitic expression has reached into the mainstream media from the hate-filled fringes, and is becoming normalised as acceptable discourse about Jews. As Professor Irwin Cotler, former Canadian Minister of Justice, stated: “The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers – it began with words.”

While vilification and violence against Jews increase around the world, mainstream media sites are playing with fire as they provide shelter and succour to racists by becoming a conduit and microphone for their hate speech. When the mainstream media allows this to happen, it contributes to a toxic social atmosphere in which it becomes acceptable to demonise a people, to undermine their human rights to liberty and security, and eventually to commit brutal crimes against them.

Remember, the Holocaust did not occur in a vacuum.

Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

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