Anti-Semitic emails, tweets hit candidates and journalists

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On Election Day last week, Marin resident Erin Schrode woke up ready for the conclusion to her quixotic campaign for Congress. She switched on the computer, clicked on her campaign website and found it had been hacked.

Every single reference to her name, she said, had been changed to Adolf Hitler.

This was the latest abuse in an onslaught of anti-Semitic emails, tweets, YouTube comments and voicemails directed at the 25-year-old Jewish candidate to represent California’s 2nd Congressional District.

One email, referring to Schrode, said “all would laugh with glee as they gang raped her and then bashed her bagel-eating brains in.” Another said, “Fire up the oven.” Some emails included images such as a caricature of Schrode wearing a Nazi-style yellow star, another with the image of her face stretched onto a lampshade.

“I’ve never experienced such a thing in my life,” said Schrode, who ended up getting 8 percent of the Democratic primary vote. “This is about so much more than me. In our culture today, anti-Semitism has been on the rise.”

Journalist Julia Ioffe was portrayed as a concentration camp inmate on Twitter.

Schrode is not the only Jew to have come under anti-Semitic cyber-assault this election season. After criticizing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, several Jewish journalists received social media messages invoking Nazi-level hatred.

They include Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman, GQ writer Julia Ioffe, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro and Forward contributor Bethany Mandel, who wrote that the hate messages she received were so “terrifying and profound” that she bought a gun.

Schrode said she contacted local law enforcement officials.

Many of the offending statements were anonymously posted on neo-Nazi website comment sections. But not all. Andrew Anglin, founder of the white supremacist organization Stormfront, called Schrode “a disgusting hissing weasel” on his site, the Daily Stormer.

Anglin has endorsed Trump for president, writing: “White men in America and across the planet are partying like it’s 1999 following Trump’s decisive victory over the evil enemies of our race.”

“I was called a ‘slimy Jewess’ and told that I ‘deserve the oven,’ ” Mandel wrote in March in the Forward after she made critical comments about Trump. “The conservative Jewish writers who have spoken out against Trump and received death threats in return are almost too many to list.”

Trump has condemned anti-Semitism and said he disavows support from white supremacists. He expressed strong support of Israel at an AIPAC convention earlier this year, and his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism when she married a Jew.

Despite Trump’s condemnations, white supremacist and neo-Nazi support has been growing, the Trump candidacy perhaps emboldening some to send hate messages to Jews in the media.

“There are some among white supremacists in particular who have seen some of the rhetoric in the Trump campaign as resonant,” said Seth Brysk, central Pacific regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “We appreciate that Trump does not embrace their support and has at times distanced himself and disavowed their support. But we would like to see him do it more forcefully and repeatedly.”

Weisman last month wrote a column critical of Trump titled, “This is how fascism comes to America,” and soon began seeing hateful Twitter messages, including one on May 19 that read: “Get used to [anti-Semitism] you f***ing kike. You people will be made to pay for the violence and fraud you’ve committed against us.”

The relentless anti-Semitic attacks caused him to shutter his Twitter account, which had 34,000 followers, according to CNN.

Ioffe’s profile of Trump and his family in GQ last month inspired a torrent of hate mail and hate tweets, including cartoon images of a kneeling Jew being summarily executed, another superimposing her face over a death camp inmate’s striped uniform complete with a yellow star patch.

Another anti-Semitic marker on the internet arose in recent weeks, when neo-Nazis began identifying Jews by surrounding their names with triple parentheses on both sides, the so-called (((echo))). The ADL labeled it a hate symbol and added it to their Hate on Display list, which includes symbols such as the swastika.

The ADL took further action by establishing a task force to explore the spate of anti-Jewish hatred directed at Jewish journalists covering the campaign. Columbia journalism professor Todd Gitlin, who sits on the task force, blames Trump for ratcheting up a time-honored political tradition of blaming the media by threatening lawsuits and promising to change libel laws should he be elected.

“It’s the first time in my memory I heard anyone proposing even half-cocked to change libel laws to hem in journalists,” Gitlin said. “It’s a serious phenomenon. We’re all too familiar with the kinds of hostile campaigns that have been engineered against journalists in other countries. We tend to think of them as benighted countries like Turkey, Russia and China, but here they are.”

In an effort to push back, some Twitter users changed their handles to include the symbol. Goldberg, who received an email saying he would be “sent to a camp” if Trump becomes president, is now (((Goldberg))) on Twitter.

Though he faults the Trump campaign for inciting much of the invective, U.C. Berkeley history professor John Efron thinks this problem goers beyond the candidate.

“There is a broader thing beyond Trump,” he said, “and that is the unwillingness of large groups of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, to refuse to recognize that anti-Semitism is on the rise and in some cases explosive.”

Efron noted that hate mail of the sort sent to well-known journalists such as Goldberg and Mandel is routine.

“The anti-Semitism expressed lately has in some respects only got any play because it was directed at these journalists,” he added. “You can read the comments after any article on Israel and Palestine in the New York Times, and it’s all there and been there for years.”

With the election behind her, Schrode will continue her work as an environmental activist. She says public service is her life, and the hate mail she received will do nothing to deter that.

“I am a believer in light being the only way to keep out darkness,” she said. “The messages of support I received have resounded so powerfully.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.