Four Reasons the ADL’s Twitter Report Embarrasses #NeverTrump Pundits
The ADL released its report titled “Antisemitic Targeting of Journalists During the 2016 Presidential Campaign” which essentially defuses exaggerated rhetoric from anti-Trump operatives Ben Shapiro, Bethany Mandel and other Jewish conservative political pundits. Here’s what you need to know about the report. I’ll focus on Ben Shapiro, who the report lists as the #1 target, and also Bethany Mandel, who made the top 10 despite her minuscule social media footprint.
1. Most damning: The incredibly small number of accounts actually sending antisemitic tweets.
The most damning of the report’s findings is that only “1,600 Twitter accounts generated 68% of the anti-Semitic tweets targeting journalists … confirming that these were persistent attacks on journalists by a relatively small cohort of Twitter users.” Twitter allows unlimited multiple accounts, so possibly the number of actual persons responsible is even smaller. Thus, the ADL report confirms that conservative pundits have been exaggerating the scope of antisemitism among Trump supporters.
Specific examples of conservative pundits’ over-the-top rhetoric are easy to find. Consider Ben Shapiro’s in a National Review piece, “Trump’s Anti-Semitic Supporters” wherein Shapiro bellows, “This isn’t a majority of Trump supporters, obviously. It’s not even a large minority. But there is a significant core of Trump support that not only traffics in anti-Semitism but celebrates it — and god-worships Trump as the leader of an anti-Jewish movement.” And yet, the ADL report suggests this “significant core” is profoundly insignificant. Shapiro apparently made allegations without any data backing his “significant core” claim. He was either guessing, or lying — readers can decide for themselves. In any case, it’s clear that Shapiro’s views and opinions can’t be trusted on the issue of Trump supporters’ demographics, views and beliefs.
Bethany Mandel also repeatedly smeared Trump supporters broadly, based on only a few tweets, for example:
“This is what Trump supporters look like,” she says. Never mind that photos and videos from Trump’s rallies reveal that among his millions of supporters there are Jews, Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities. Many of his supporters support Israel. The ADL report clearly proves that Mandel was wrong and reckless to use the tweets she received as a proxy for Trump supporters.
Indeed, the report explicitly states: “We cannot conclude that Mr. Trump’s extensive use of Twitter ‘encouraged‘”’ these attacks. Mr. Trump’s use of
Twitter as a key communications tool is notable, but the platform is used extensively by all candidates. … As stated, there is no known causal relationship between Mr. Trump or his campaign and the wave of anti-Semitic attacks against journalists.” This last admonishment against broadly blaming Trump supporters for the tweets of an extreme minority is what millennials like to call a “mic drop.”
2. ADL’s report fails to mention despicable “chumming the waters” by Shapiro and others.
Fishermen “chum the waters” by dumping bloodied, wounded fish hoping to attract larger catches. Shapiro and Mandel extensively engaged in this practice on Twitter. For example, one of Shapiro’s more infamous tweets:
Is it any surprise then that Shapiro ranked highest in the ADL’s list of Jewish journalists receiving antisemitic tweets? Through this tweet and others, and by his awarding “trophies” to attackers by retweeting the most despicable, Shapiro encouraged attacks.
Bethany Mandel engaged in similar aggressive retweeting campaigns, essentially amplifying her attackers’ messages to thousands of her followers (many Jewish). Re-broadcasting’s impact is clear when one considers that Mandel made the ADL’s top ten list, yet she has roughly only 5% of the Twitter follower numbers as Shapiro. Mandel made up for her relatively small social networking footprint by aggressively retweeting and literally inviting her attackers:
In today’s day and age, readers understand how social media metrics drive the incomes of political pundits, and can draw their own conclusions as to why Shapiro and Mandel so fervently encouraged antisemitic social media attacks upon themselves.
3. Why did conservative pundits embrace and promote this wildly exaggerated narrative, conflating the scope of the antisemitic tweet issue?
Why, you ask, would conservative pundits want to conflate the antisemitic tweet issue? Isn’t Trump the Republican candidate? What gives?
First, most of the targeted pundits oppose Trump’s candidacy and circumstantial evidence suggests some are indirectly compensated for opposing Trump. Many proudly stamp themselves with the #NeverTrump hashtag, suggesting they will actually vote for Hillary or stay home on Election Day. In a piece titled “The Campaign to Toxify Donald Trump Among Jews” Joel Pollack insightful calls the game what it is: a political ruse. Second, millennial conservative pundits like Shapiro and Mandel adhere to so-called “Social Justice Warrior” (SJW) tactics, successfully developed by the progressive left, which emphasize sensational emotional appeals over facts, logic and reason. Shapiro once laid out the game plan: “This is what the left does: they pick a target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it. They use individual cases as a baton to wield against groups they hate.” Shapiro exhibits this blunt instrument tactic in a post titled, “The Anti-Semites Are Out In Force For Trump,” wherein he “proves” his point by revealing a handful of cherry-picked antisemitic tweets.
Shapiro and other conservative pundits so gleefully re-tweet cherry-picked antisemitic tweets because they learned that tactic from the left, and have no ethical restraints against smearing and shaming millions of innocent Trump supporters. All’s fair in the world of modern conservative punditry, which at its core is driven by social media metrics, not “conservative principles.” Shame on them.
4. Jewish conservatives’ behavior is inconsistent with their typical reaction to antisemitism from the right. Why?
I wrote about this hypocrisy before(here). For example, pundits like Shapiro and Mandel openly support the NRA, are nowhere to be found when Jews supporting gun control are threatened by antisemites within the NRA (likely the same people threatening Jewish Trump-opposition), and have passively acquiesced to Ted Nugent’s membership on the Board of Directors. Why isn’t the same level of hysteria warranted? Again, this was a red flag suggesting that conservative pundits were grossly overstating the scope of antisemitism among Trump supporters to quash his run. People who use their Jewishness and the memory of the Holocaust to serve short term political goals are, in my opinion, despicable.
A Few Words of Caution
While my intent is to expose this gross injustice done to Trump supporters by disingenuous #NeverTrump pundits, it is not meant to minimize or trivialize the legitimate threats they received. According to them, the attacks spilled over into the real world, manifesting as stalking, phone calls, and threats. This is horrible and should be addressed with the full weight and force of the law. Nor do I believe any of the pundits should have been silent about the tweets they were receiving, but should have reported on the issue in a more responsible, more factual, and less partisan way.
Also, I’m not unsympathetic to the fact that these conservative pundits are essentially running marketing businesses, and interacting with the world on Twitter is essential. It’s utterly amazing to me that Twitter fails to provide users with even the most basic filtering tools (e.g. the ability to block tweets containing specific words like “kike” or “Jew-boy”) or advanced services for accounts under specific attack. Many have criticized Twitter’s filtering and blocking schemes as primitive and unrefined, and a factor causing people to leave the network. To some extent I blame Twitter for adding fuel to the fire, which probably contributed to some of these conservative pundits losing perspective.
Let me clarify though, that while I feel strongly that Twitter would be vastly improved by providing users with advanced abilities to block and filter, i.e. “choose not to see” tweets they find offensive, I strongly oppose closing accounts or banning users for otherwise perfectly legal (albeit offensive) speech. And this seems to be where #NeverTrump pundits want this to go (which is bizarre given their claim to be strict constitutionalism). That’s a very dangerous path to go down, because it could very quickly be turned against pro-Israel Twitter users who criticize the Palestinian government, defend Israeli housing policy, or criticize Islamic governments in the Middle East. In short, every thing about #NeverTrump’s actions has been disingenuous and reckless.
[Update: Shapiro has come out today claiming he’d also oppose Twitter bans. That’s fine, but he may have through his actions already set in motion something very ominous that can’t be undone.]