The battle against rising antisemitism online

In this week’s Australian Jewish News, OHPI’s CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, looks at the rise in online antisemitism in the first two months of 2017 and the way it has gone mainstream. Make no mistake, in 2017, antisemitism is not being normalised, it has become normal. We’re living in particularly scary times.

The article, reproduced below, raises the urgency of the problem and the need for a multi-pronged approach in which a range of organisations all play to their strengths. Of course for them to do so, the community needs to recognise that no one organisation is the solution to this problem and all who are active in this space need to be financially supported for they can continue to play their part.

OHPI is now five years old, We are both the newest organisation in Australia working to combat antisemitism and one of the leading organisations globally when it comes to online antisemitism as well as other forms of online hate. We are the only charity in Australia dedicated to tackling online hate. Unfortunately the level of financial support we receive is quite small and is impacting significantly on our capacity.

In the last six months less than 30 people donation to OHPI and the total raised was under $3,500. The organisations is only able to continue, at a much reduced capacity, thanks to the support of a group of donors have set up regular monthly donations of around $10 each and a few very generous one off donations. If we are to continue, and not be buried under the rising tide of online hate, we need to grow this pool of donors significantly.

You can help by joining us as a regular donor, or by making a one off donation, at: Sharing this article on your Facebook page would also help. 


The battle against rising antisemitism online

[The full text of this article appears below the image]

Andre Oboler, “The battle against rising antisemitism online”, The Australian Jewish News, 3 March 2017, p 19. 

Hate is the new normal in an online world spinning out of control. Antisemitism is the new flavor of the month. We live in a world where an antisemitic conspiracy theory website might be getting White House press credentials, while CNN is labelled “fake news” by the President of the United States.

After Bourke Street a conspiracy theorist on United Patriots Front Facebook page commented, “Media are criminals… they’re trying to cover-up the truth… all of the westernised countries under attack have been ordered to follow the same template as Europe, courtesy of the Jews”. Another person commented, “Goldstein… Goldstein… Goldstein… Oh yeah now I remember, I think my grandad put his grandad on a one way train! Hahahaha!” then “Lol…. Kill yourself!” and “That’s it! Get on the train! Lol” “It appears Hitler missed one…” someone replied.

A core of the far-right, which has been focused on Muslims for the last two years, is increasingly turning back to antisemitism. Our research shows this is linked to the Alt-Right in the US who are engaging with domestic Australian online discussions. As all forms of online hate increase, those riding the crest of the wave are increasingly focusing on antisemitism. At the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance last year Prof. Yehuda Bauer spoke of the uniqueness of the Holocaust, “all genocides except for the Holocaust were based on pragmatic reasoning” he explained. The diversion back to Jews in the midst of other hate to me echoes what Prof Bauer described as the Nazis “ideologically driven and totally unpragmatic” nature.

Then there is the problem of antisemitism normalisation. On January 11 PewDiePie, the most popular person on YouTube (53 million subscribers) posted a video which included a clip he commissioned in which two men hold up a sign reading “Death to All Jews”. A few days later he played a Nazi anthem while bowing to a Swastika, and later still he argued, “there’s a difference between a joke and actual, like, death to all Jews”, then cuts to a satirical video in which he says, “Hey guys, PewDiePie here. Death to all Jews, I want you to say after me: Death to all Jews. And, you know, Hitler was right. I really opened my eyes to white power. And I think it is time we did something about this.”

PewDiePie’s actions led the neo-Nazi websiteThe Daily Stormer to change its banner from “The World’s Most Visited Alt-Right Website” to “The World’s #1 PewDiePie Fansite”. PewDiePie himself said , “I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive” and that this was not his intention.

We faced this problem in Australia back in 2012 when, for a time, Facebook labelled racist Aboriginal memes “controversial humour” rather than deleting them. Spreading hate is never ok; humour attempts are no exception. The problem is that this isn’t just some YouTuber, he’s the single most viewed person on the planet with 14.7 billion views across his videos; that an average of two views for every person on earth. PewDiePie’s and other popular YouTubers have attacked the media for calling him out, describing it as a witch hunt. This is not something that could normalize antisemitism, it’s evidence antisemitism is now considered normal and acceptable by those who aren’t antisemitic. PewDiePie’s statement that, “regarding hate-based groups: No, I don’t support these people in any way” is not enough to counter that. They can use his material and make an antisemitic hero out of him with or without his support.

Back in the real world, as reported in last week’s AJN, a new Nazi group plastering Melbourne with antisemitic posters. When they formed last October their tag line was “We’re the Hitlers you’ve been waiting for”, it was posted in a forum with the slogan, “Gas the Kikes, race war now, 1488 boots on the ground!” What starts online doesn’t stay there.

That’s just some of the online antisemitism so far in 2017 and February isn’t yet over. Whether we realise it or not, we’re in a crisis. We need to deploy every asset we have, from the political work of our representative bodies like the ECAJ, the JCCV, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and their equivalents in other states, the security from CSG, ADC’s Click Against Hate program to the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s (OHPI) research and monitoring tools. We need to use everything and we need to use it cooperatively.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute, established five years ago, is the newest kid on the block. Due to limited resources, we’ve dropped from 5 paid staff a little over a year ago, to none today. Major work is still occurring, like the 150 page report into the Bourke Street attack and far-right extremism online following the attack, but without resources it is incredibly difficult. As children are rightly being educated against hate, adults are being radicalised online by extremists of all flavours. OHPI’s plays a leading role globally in this work and is recognised internationally as the gold standard.

As a community, we need to ensure every tool we have is financially supported and playing its role, both in the long term and in the here and now. That’s a challenge not just for leadership, but for individual donors large and small alike.

Dr Andre Oboler is CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI), Co-Chair of the Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism and an Australian Delegate to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

This article was first published as: Andre Oboler, “The battle against rising antisemitism online”, The Australian Jewish News, 3 March 2017, p 19

Take action

The most helpful thing you can do to help us tackle the growing problem of online antisemitism is to step forward as a regular donor to OHPI. $10 a month would allow us to grow our capacity and would make a big difference to our work combating online hate into the future. One off donations are also very welcome. Details on donating to OHPI: 

You can also help by sharing this article on your Facebook page. A buttons for sharing on Twitter and other platforms are at the top of the page.