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If any one form of discriminatory social media expression has been on the rise in recent months, it’s been anti-Semitism.
The Donald Trump presidential campaign’s well-documented white nationalist and Neo-Nazi following continues to bring such hatred to the forefront. Trump himself had even retweeted things from members of the “white genocide” movement, and in June, the campaign tweeted out an anti-Semitic meme that originated from the alt-right fever swamps of social media.
On Saturday, a completely different organization seemed to dip its toes in those waters, too. Wikileaks started tweeting about (((echoes))), and it’s generated a great amount of controversy.
It’s one of the increasingly well-known methods of harassment used by anti-Jewish racists on Twitter, which has exploded into wider visibility in recent months―tweeting at Jews, and bracketing their names with two or three parentheses on either side.
It’s intended both as a signal to other anti-Semites and neo-Nazis, to highlight the target’s Jewish heritage (or perceived Jewish heritage, since racists aren’t always the sharpest or most concerned with accuracy), and track them on social media, making it even easier for other anti-Semites to join in on the abuse. After the phenomenon became more widely discussed in the media, many Jews and non-Jews alike began self-applying the parentheses on Twitter names, in a show of anti-racist solidarity.
That’s where Wikileaks comes in. On Saturday, amid the group’s high-profile dump of thousands and thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee, its Twitter account said something very suggestive about its critics. The tweet has since been deleted, going against Wikileaks' perceived notion of radical transparency. Nevertheless, screenshotters never forget.It’s not exactly the most coherent tweet, but the thrust is nonetheless pretty clear: Wikileaks accused most of its critics of having the (((echoes))) brackets around their names, as well as “black-rimmed glasses,” statements that many interpreted, plainly enough, as “most of our critics are Jews.” The Wikileaks account subsequently tweeted some explanations of what the offending tweet meant, suggesting that “neo-liberal castle creepers” had appropriated the racist-turned-anti-racist solidarity gesture, turning it into “a tribalist designator for establishment climbers.” A clarifying tweet also misspelled “gesture” as “jesture,” which further stoked accusations of witting anti-Semitism. Wikileaks ultimately defended the decision to delete the tweets, saying they’d been intentionally misconstrued by “pro-Clinton hacks and neo-Nazis.” It’s also been maintaining a pretty aggressive public relations posture regarding these latest leaks. It threatened MSNBC host Joy Reid for tweeting that she planned to discuss an “affinity” between the group and the Russian government on her show, saying “our lawyers will monitor your program.” So, again, not the best tone for a group dedicated to prying open closed organizations, regardless of their desires. It also responded to an article by Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin, accusing him of “weird priority” for focusing on the method of the correspondences' release rather than the data dump itself.Wikileaks has also accused Twitter as well as Facebook of censoring information about the DNC emails, highlighting DNC email-related posts that were flagged as “unsafe.” Facebook CSO Alex Stamos subsequently stated on Twitter that the problem had been “fixed,” however, and there’s no shortage of Facebook links out there directing people straight to the leaked materials. Twitter similarly denied the allegations in a tweet from its public relations account.
The Wikileaks brouhaha wasn’t the only instance this weekend of a controversial, perceived piece of anti-Semitism on Twitter getting immediately rolled back and explained away.
The Trump campaign landed in yet another such situation on Sunday morning, when General Mike Flynn―once considered by Trump for his vice presidential selection―retweeted someone who accused “Jews” of misleading people about the origins of the DNC email leak. Flynn has since apologized, saying he only meant to retweet a link to an embedded CNN article about the leak.