Sometimes columnists and other people who tend to downplay the problem of anti-Semitism speak disparagingly about anti-Semitic messages appearing on the Internet. “Since most anti-Semitic statements are posted on websites by anonymous authors who hide behind nicknames, this shows how insignificant anti-Semitism has become.
Everyone knows that most online forums (not only on Jewish topics) are filled with ridiculous, unfounded and extremely unfair opinions. Only the views of official, serious authors writing on the Internet, in newspapers and magazines matter, because only these people represent the prevailing opinion in society.”
Yes, there is a grain of truth in what has been said. I would really consider anti-Semitic remarks and nonsense about conspiracy theories to be a serious cause for alarm, if they were written by official commentators of the leading media – for example, New York Times publicists or guests of political broadcasts on CNN or MSNBC. Fortunately, we are not living at this stage in the history of anti-Semitism.
Nevertheless, I cannot agree with the opinion that it is quite safe for us to simply ignore all the acrimony about Jews that we encounter in the sections of readers’ comments on Internet sites. And I am ready to name several good reasons why anti-Semitic statements on online forums should cause us alarm.
Firstly, since the beginning of the economic crisis, the relative volume of malicious remarks related to the stereotype of Jews and money has increased. We agree: non-editable online forums do not represent the opinions of the majority of the world audience, but only the worst part of it. But shouldn’t we be concerned about the fact that these voices are now sounding louder and louder and that they have become more numerous than in recent history?
Secondly, there is an increase in the number of anti-Semitic statements on Internet forums representing non-modeled opinions of ordinary people. And this means at least an increasing prevalence of such views among the general population. Like a canary in a coal mine reacting to the appearance of life-threatening gas, the delusional statements of anti-Semites gathered on some website are important not in themselves, but as an alarming symptom of phenomena occurring on the periphery of society, outside the field of view of most mainstream media.
Finally, I am concerned that in so many bilious statements on online forums, ancient anti-Semitic stereotypes are repeated almost verbatim. Here we meet all the familiar ideas: Jews are bloodsuckers, conspirators, secret masters of the global banking system and capitalism, gangsters, sponsors of Israel, supporting it with their dishonestly accumulated wealth, etc.
This does not happen by chance. Those who voiced popular anti-Semitic ideas in 2010 did not invent them, but learned about these ideas from more ancient sources, with which they were introduced by people or organizations that somehow ingratiated themselves with the “converts” in trust. Therefore, it is likely that every single person who is not too lazy to leave an anti-Semitic comment on a website represents not only himself, but also, at the very least, a small group of people who have inspired him with anti-Semitic views and support them.