Are Israel And Jews …. Being Trolled Right Now?
Could the irrational Israel-hatred and Judeophobia we’re seeing around the world right now be explicable through the prism of internet culture?
A few months ago, I had a series of unsavory exchanges on the popular social media called Reddit — which has a well-justified reputation as being a kind of safe haven for all manner of online nastiness.
If LinkedIn is the corporate suit of the social media world and Medium is where writers and poets come to share their work … then Reddit is sort of the slightly unhinged internet café populated by a normal majority with a virulent and slightly deranged fringe. Anything goes there. Almost.
The trolling I experienced on Reddit was relatively short-lived but it was also completely anonymous and vicious.
I was called all manner of slurs ranging from “sperg” (apparently a reference to Asperger’s) to “ugly AF.” In what I’m sure was an attack motivated by anti-Semitism, my “big beak” was repeatedly derided (I was told to take it off the network post-haste). I am unaware of whether any action was taken against those accounts that hurled abuse at me. I do know that the accounts continue to post on Reddit.
While the experience was certainly painful, it also taught me a lot about cyberbullying. And specifically what the best methods of reacting to it might be.
For one, anybody who has encountered cyberbullying won’t have to dig far around Google before they stumble upon the phrase “don’t feed the trolls.”
It’s based around the notion that trolls are perverse individuals who derive a lot of their pleasure from “getting a rise” out of their targets. And whether it’s wise or not, it’s the boilerplate advice that’s issued to many who experience online bullying.
The trolls want to see their targets becoming infuriating and tormented.
They want to see them attempting to justify, explain, defend, and argue (JADE) themselves.
And so those who experience online bullying are advised to stop doing that (while also blocking the perpetrators and taking other steps to try protect their mental health).
But perhaps it’s time we began applying the concept to Israel and the Jewish people.
Is The World Trolling Us Right Now?
Right now, I think there’s room to argue that the world — and certain countries far more so than others — are actively trolling both Israel and the Jewish people.
In previous weeks, we’ve seen anti-Israelism conflated to a substantial extent with anti-Semitic agitation. The same people are often responsible for both. It’s often the same group of hateful trolls.
Their modus operandi for doing so, at the very least, comes straight out of Trolling 101.
They level towards us inflammatory and patently false allegations that Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing and is an apartheid state. That its targeted aerial campaign in Gaza attempted to exercise its right to self-defense and prevent terrorist rocket fire by a group seeking its elimination was “indiscriminate” in nature.
If they don’t get a reaction on the first occasion they try again on the second.
Like internet trolls, they’re both stubborn and persistent. They’re nasty and vicious and sometimes they’re also anonymous. In other words, they tick all the boxes.
And here’s another similarity between the online debate around Israel and your typical internet flame war.
Eventually somebody steps in to answer the trolls.
This is only natural. And it’s also why cyberbullying is so difficult to deal with. Because everybody feels an innate need to defend themselves and correct falsehoods and lies being spread about them. It’s human nature. And the same human nature that trolls rely upon to feed the cycle of hatred.
And so the ADL or the Israeli Embassy in [European capital city] or me answers back the trolls on Twitter (or Reddit or any other online space).
We come armed with facts and arguments. We come ready to JADE.
“It’s not ethnic cleansing. It’s a targeted air strike attempting to minimize civilian casualties,” we rationalize. But unfortunately like any group of trolls those slinging the mud towards Israel aren’t particularly interested in listening. They’ve heard our arguments before. They’re not there to engage. Or to debate. They’re there to troll.
There are many ways of looking at the world’s oldest hatred and its transmutation into an obsessional form of hatred directed towards the world’s only Jewish state.
But as a millennial that grew up with social networks and computers, I’d like to suggest that this unsavory facet of internet culture — trolling — provides a good point of reference through which to understand the obsessional hatred of Israel and the unrelenting nastiness of many engaging in it.
Those hating on Israel and Jews are trolls — plain and simple.
Some are projecting their own unhappiness onto what they see as a convenient target.
Others just derive perverse amusement and entertainment from causing predictable aggravation to Jews. Because (arguably) our repeat trauma makes us reactive and sensitive to repeat instances of it. So we’re almost as good a target as they come.
It might be time for us to think when the time comes to disengage from the debate.