Editorial | When Not to Act Against Anti-Semites


A Google Chrome app automatically placed a set of three parentheses around Jewish-sounding surnames to make them targets of online harassment.

For a while last week, Jews were able to indulge in a conspiracy theory of their own. “(((Echoes))), Exposed: The Secret Symbol Neo-Nazis Use to Target Jews Online,” read the headline on Mic.com, which brought to light a Google Chrome app that automatically placed a set of three parentheses around Jewish-sounding surnames to make them targets of online harassment.
The “exposure” of the “Coincidence Detector” quickly led Google to remove it from its Chrome store. But the app’s existence certainly made it seem like there were hidden forces at work. Reactions varied from horrified to amused with one pundit calling for the subversion of the symbol by asking everyone on Twitter to put three parentheses around their names — a sort of “We are all Jews” response. Other reactions were a combination of creative, dismissive, defensive or resigned acceptance responses to the offensive app.
That is about as much time and energy as the Jewish community needs to spend on this. There is a difference between the bizarre acts of hate-driven developers and the direct, targeted hatred that can threaten the physical safety of the harassed. An example of the latter is what happened to Erin Schrode, a 25-year-old candidate for Congress in California. “Fire up the oven” is one of the many hate-filled and obscene messages she received last week. But her attackers also posted her personal information, including her phone number and email address. It is these kinds of hate-filled threats to which the Jewish community and others of good will should vigorously respond.
The fact that many far-right anti-Semites are supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump further complicates matters. But we do not believe that a candidate is responsible for the words of each of his supporters. Calls for Trump to repeatedly distance himself from and denounce each crackpot only serves to magnify the offending comments and ideas and does not really help.
Instead, what the Jewish community needs to do is to call on all politicians to denounce the unrepentant white supremacist and anti-Semitic public leaders who support them. In this vein, Trump is public distancing from David Duke several months ago was a positive move.
By focusing our anger and indignation where it is truly warranted, we likely will have a better chance of protecting our community. But no matter how vigilant and effective our efforts, the cold, hard fact remains that we will never be able to eradicate baseless hatred from this earth.


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