Is Wokeness Awakening Antisemitism?

Over the last few years it seems as if an entire generation has become ‘woke.’ This is a term that describes a growing awareness of issues related to social and racial justice.  But is this sincere desire to be diligent in combating inequality  being manipulated by extremist people and groups to push their own hate-filled agendas?

On July 6,  Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson highlighted a quote attributed  to Adolf Hitler in a series of Instagram posts. Jackson, who has 1.4 million followers on Instagram, posted:

“Because the white Jews knows that the Negroes are the real Children of Israel and to keep Americas secret the Jews will blackmail America. They will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were. The white citizens of America will be terrified to know that all this time they’ve been and discriminating and lynching the Children of Israel.”

Jackson also posted a clip from a speech from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan made in Chicago on July 4th.  Farrakhan is a noted antisemite and homophobe who was among several prominent people whose posts were banned by Facebook in May of 2019 for promoting or engaging in “violence and hate.”

Broadcast on YouTube, Farrakhan’s speech has been viewed close to 900,000 times.  The address was promoted by the rap artist Sean Combs to his 35 million Twitter followers. This kind of massive exposure is enabling Farrakhan to hijack the underlying cause of racial justice and equality that Black Lives Matter represents. And this failure to  act on Farrakhan’s long history of making antisemitic remarks is enabling public figures with massive social media followings to promote the minister.

Condemnations: Nice, But Not Nearly Enough

To their credit, the Philadelphia Eagles quickly and unequivocally condemned DeSean Jackson’s antisemitic postings:

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Also, while  most NFL players have been silent on the issue, the controversy prompted Pittsburgh Steeler offensive tackle Zach Banner to speak out against antisemitism.

But with celebrities claiming to be ‘woke’ spreading Farrakhan’s message far and wide, all the condemnations in the world may not be enough.

Is the Media A Toothless Watchdog?

When social media outlets are used to disseminate hatred, they enable bad actors to promote their lies.  The good new is that Facebook, YouTube , and Twitter have occasionally deleted accounts that violated their policies against the promotion of violence or incitement to hatred.

But all too often they seem to be playing catch up.  As Mark Twain said: “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.” That’s the reason that antisemitism cloaked in wokeness is a problem. Society has a long history of bigotry, sexism, racism, discrimination, homophobia, and related ills.  Being woke is thus a virtue, since it implies a deep concern about and dedication to social justice. But when known antisemites cynically seize upon this most noble of impulses,  the media must act. But how?

Defining Antisemitism: The Time Is Now

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there’s been a significant increase in antisemitic social media posts over the last few months. And the danger of not acknowledging the growth of  online antisemitism is that it often doesn’t stay online. That’s why it’s crucial to develop a clear definition of what constitutes anti-Jewish hatred and intolerance.

In recent years, one definition of antisemitism has gained traction. Drawn up by the Berlin-based International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, this definition has been adopted and endorsed by a growing number of governments.

By working towards a consensus definition of antisemitism, the world’s oldest hatred will finally come with a clear label. For years, many people felt that smoking was unhealthy. However, this suspicion only became a widely accepted fact once smoking companies were compelled to clearly label their products, describing the potential consequences of inhaling nicotine.

Going forward, defining antisemitism will empower lawmakers, colleges, professional sports franchises,  and social media platforms  to devise more effective policies against the dissemination of antisemitism.

If not now, when?

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