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#BanTheADL Hashtag Only Benefits Antisemites and Jews Who Want to be Liked by Them

The #BanTheADL hashtag and the widespread attacks it has fostered have opened the door to gleefully hateful humor that takes the ADL as its target.
[additional-authors]
September 13, 2023
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images; JP Yim/Getty Images for The Asian American Foundation

Not long ago, a major influencer known to her followers as Pearly Thingz (H. Pearl Davis) created a video that made a joke of antisemitism. Laughingly, she sings a song—dedicated to the antisemitic Christian White Nationalist influencer, Nick Fuentes, who had previously appeared on her podcast—and glibly says, “I am not saying that Hitler was a good guy, but I kind of want to know why…” But she wasn’t doing anything original. Nick Fuentes, who became mainstream through his Nazi glorification tour with Kanye, made a joke about Holocaust denial, suggesting, with a big smirk on his face, that there is no way one can bake “six million cookies” with a few ovens.

The #BanTheADL hashtag and the widespread attacks it has fostered have opened the door to gleefully hateful humor that takes the ADL as its target. Just the other day, for instance, Jewish comedian Danny Polishchuk released a video making a joke out of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which was liked and commented on by Elon Musk.

The goal of such antisemitic humor is to minimize the importance of Holocaust denial and antisemitism. The intended result is that when people engage in antisemitism, it is of little concern. After all, antisemitism and Holocaust denial, or happily admitting that you like Hitler, is normal these days; it’s the thing to do. It’s funny. When we see such trivialization of evil and genocide, which is now targeting the ADL (as a proxy for Judaism), we need to ask two questions: What is the goal of making such jokes or of attacking the ADL and who does this benefit most?  

The #BanTheADL hashtag was started by antisemites in response to X’s new rules about hate speech (that speak directly of Holocaust denial, antisemitism, etc.) and the meeting of the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt with the CEO of X, Linda Yaccarino. The purpose of the so-called ban was to serve the interests of real antisemites who want to show that they can single-handedly take down the ADL: the organization that got in the way of their efforts to spread antisemitism on Twitter (X). They can do this through equating antisemitism with “free speech.”

This has been their agenda all along. For these rabid antisemites, real free speech is epitomized by antisemitism (which Kanye and others, deludedly, see as speaking “the truth”). It’s the door through which they aim to make America into a Christian White Nationalist country that punishes Jews and reduces their power to defend themselves. It gives antisemites, who do not deserve to be called Christians, baseless exaggerated influence and opportunity to bully others with impunity.

So when Musk dialogues with or likes posts made by Nazis, he vindicates them, and makes way for baseless slander against Jews by attacking the ADL and belittling and muddling its main mission, which is to fight antisemitism. Musk has created a way for these antisemites to mainstream antisemitism. He gave their initiative a boost by approving their posts, and he knows it.

The bottom line: All people who launch attacks on the ADL, despite their “good” intentions, are in fact doing the bidding of people like Nick Fuentes, Keith Woods (Keith O’Brien) and Andrew Torba (to name a few key antisemitic influencers who passionately pushed this hashtag).

The last week has been very bad for the Jews in America. It will have reverberations for years to come that will, without a doubt, lead to an increase in vandalism, violence and hate crimes against Jews.

To better understand what is going on here, let’s take a look at what the main antisemitic influencers are saying and how not only mainstream conservatives like Christopher Rufo, Matt Walsh, Charlie Kirk and others, but also Jewish voices like Ben Shapiro, Yoram Hazony, Laura Loomer and Stephen Miller have made such hatred of Jews mainstream by attacking the ADL.

Attacking the ADL is a proxy for ending censorship of Holocaust denial and antisemitism and making antisemitism mainstream all under the guise of “free speech.” The goal is to separate good Jews from bad Jews and make antisemitism and Holocaust denial arbitrary. By making antisemitism into a free speech issue, by making the ADL into an evil Jewish organization, they act out the first phase of Hitler’s playbook, which is to separate good Jews from bad and make antisemitism commonplace.

One of the masterminds behind this plan to mainstream antisemitism is the Christian White Nationalist Andrew Torba. On a daily basis, Torba, who has over 370k followers, posts on antisemitism. He is the founder of Gab, an online platform for “free speech,” which serves as a place to gather the antisemitic base that he and people like Nick Fuentes, Keith Woods and others use as their shock troops.

Here’s how it works. While Elon Musk tweets about the ADL, Torba gives the antisemitic translation, the hidden reason behind why Elon is attacking them. So while Musk may claim to not be an antisemite, his actions show that he is teeing up the ball for antisemitic influencers to spread explicit antisemitism.

After Musk said he was filing a lawsuit against the ADL (who had the audacity to victimize antisemites), major antisemitic influencers celebrated.

Keith Woods, with whom Musk dialogued last week, granting him validation for the #BanTheADL hashtag, has big plans to normalize antisemitism by portraying the ADL as an organization that is based on keeping the real truth about “the Jews” and their hidden mendacity from the public. His libelous, antisemitic, twisted claim is that the ADL really isn’t there to protect Jews from antisemitism; its goal is to keep the fact that Jews are evil and perverted from the public. Popular antisemitic phrases/memes such as “The Goyim Know” say it all. It’s the utterly stupid and barbaric antisemitic secret knowledge (gnosis) of Jewish mendacity and perversion that binds the antisemites together. It’s their secret code and mythology, which aims to spur violence and hate.

The #ADLfiles, which Woods has piloted, are a new thing (playing on the “Twitter Files” about censorship). They purport to expose the deep-dark secrets of “the Jews.” The ADL, he claims, is founded on protecting a sexual predator. His libel: They don’t fight antisemitism; they are founded on perversion and rape of white people. This kind of Nazi pornography is circulating right now on social media. Woods, who Musk encouraged and vindicated, is sharing this secret history of corruption and evil on Twitter (it currently has over 3800 likes and 1,232 retweets).

But the way all of this is given the final stamp of approval is through mainstream Republican thinkers, like Christopher Rufo, and even Jewish influencers.

In a recent dialogue I had with Rufo on Twitter, I suggested that his attack of the ADL was benefiting antisemitic Christian White nationalists. He denied this, so when I asked him if he distanced himself from them, he said this:

“I oppose the politics of white nationalism and have written recently and explicitly against it.  Those figures hate me and my family as much as you and yours. Perhaps I misunderstand, but are you arguing that pointing out the ADL’s false smear campaign against me somehow aligns me with Fuentes and Torba? I reject that notion completely.”

Following this, Andrew Torba tweeted:

“I don’t hate you or your family, Christopher.”

But the implication is that Torba hates me and mine, because we are Jewish. Rufo replied to Torba’s tweet (since deleted by Torba) saying, “thank you, it’s the groypers who hate me and my family.” The conceit of this is that while the groypers are antisemitic trolls who align themselves primarily with Fuentes, they are also all over Torba’s X page and populate his Gab platform. Rufo’s reply is odd.

By thanking him, Rufo is doing what Torba wants. It’s socially symbolic. When the Republican mainstream aligns with or passes attacks against the ADL, they are providing a Trojan horse for increased antisemitism, which is exactly what Torba wants.

Jews can also play unwitting accomplices. Yair Rosenberg aptly describes some Jewish pundits and the situation they have created:

“There’s a certain type of Jewish political partisan who things that if they feed enough ‘bad’ Jews to the antisemitic dragon, it won’t eat them. But no matter what your politics, if you create an acceptable permission structure for antisemitism, it will ultimately eat you too.”

The goal of antisemitic influencers like Torba, Fuentes, Woods and Witzke and the groypers who are their shock troops and trolls (who promoted the hashtag to no end over the last week by adding thousands upon thousands of antisemitic comments) is to empty antisemitism of any meaning and to make the Holocaust, the Jews, and any organization that looks to fight it by pushing back against antisemites, into a joke. It’s already happening. We need to be vigilant and to fight against these people who—as Fuentes recently said—want to wage a “holy war” against Judaism, noting that some people “will die.”

By participating in the #BanTheADL hashtag, these antisemitic influencers showed us how they could turn criticism of the ADL into a proxy for spreading major antisemitism on Twitter and gaining more converts to antisemitism. They took their fringe antisemitism and made it mainstream.

Any Jew who has joined in on this attack and given power to this hashtag and plight has done the bidding of Fuentes, Torba, and others whether they admit it or not. Before we sign on to an attack against the ADL, Simon Wiesenthal Center, or other well-known Jewish organizations because it is trending on social media, we need to ask who started this hashtag, who is it benefitting, and why would they benefit from it.

While one may have a valid criticism of the ADL, when hundreds of thousands of people are attacking the organization, most of them spewing antisemitism, maybe one should reconsider voicing it at this time and aiding those who started it all and whose intent was not merely to get antisemitism into the mainstream, but also to divide Jew against Jew.


Menachem Feuer teaches Jewish Studies at the University of Waterloo. He has published essays on the Holocaust, Jewish American culture, antisemitism, and Jewish humor and is the author of the most popular blog on the Jewish comic character known as the schlemiel (www.schlemielintheory.com). Twitter (X): @menachemenkis

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