Social Media’s Antisemitic Underbelly
Twitter and Instagram recently locked rapper Kanye West out of his accounts after he posted, “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going full death [sic] con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”
West is a social media influencer with more than 49 million followers between the two social media platforms. What he says, sells, and shares reaches a global audience in seconds. His antisemitic post followed an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in which the rapper claimed Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, arranged the peace agreements between Israel and the Arab nations “to make money.”
In a separate interview, West claimed Kushner “is an example of how the Jewish people have their hand on every single business that controls the world.” Besides being untrue, his statement is a textbook antisemitic trope that singles out the entire Jewish race for the world’s problems. His words follow a disturbingly familiar pattern: When there is no one left to blame, you can always point the finger at the Jewish people.
Since being barred from these social media platforms, the rapper has claimed, “Jewish people have owned the Black voice”; and he invokes racial stereotypes about Jewish people controlling media and money.
To all his critics, West says he cannot be labeled antisemitic because Black people are Jewish, too, a view held by the Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI). BHI is a fringe religious movement that rejects major tenets of Judaism while asserting that people of color are the true children of Israel.
West didn’t invent Jew-hatred on social media. It has long been a problem that plagues these giant tech companies. But he is certainly adding fuel to the fire that’s already burning.
A study tracking antisemitic posts on Twitter found that in the week of May 7–14, 2021, more than 17,000 tweets included variations of the phrase Hitler was right. The hashtag #Covid1948 was also repeatedly used to connect the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re not an active Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram user, you might think these trends don’t affect you. But even if you don’t get your news from social media, many people you know do. A 2021 Pew Research poll found that nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. adults get their news from social media “often” or “sometimes,” while 31 percent regularly get news from Facebook, 13 percent from Twitter, and 11 percent from Instagram. Social media platforms also spread Holocaust denial. A report by The Guardian found that nearly two-thirds of young American adults had no clue that 6 million Jewish people were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jewish people caused the Holocaust.
Social media’s version of Holocaust education often opposes truth. A recent study found that 19 percent of Holocaust-related content on Twitter promotes Holocaust denial and distortion. That number stands at 17 percent on TikTok, 8 percent on Facebook, and 3 percent on Instagram.
Since his offensive post, West has lost millions of dollars in business partnerships, as high-profile companies such as Balenciaga and Adidas have cut ties with him. But many still fear his post and comments will lead to physical violence against the Jewish community. Jewish people make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population, yet they are the target of 60 percent of the country’s hate crimes. West’s words quickly emboldened antisemites to share his message, as a banner reading “Kanye is right about the Jews” hung above a Los Angeles highway days after his comments.
West needs to understand the danger of antisemitism before he ends up inciting violence. If West is really the born-again Christian he says he is, he should retract his words and take a stand against hatred of the Jewish people because God loves His Chosen People (Gen. 12:3). And He will love them forever (Jer. 31:3).