an elf in a basement

HBO Max/YouTube

Antisemites, Holocaust deniers flood comments on trailer for Seth Rogen Christmas movie

Comments on the YouTube trailer for 'Santa Inc.' are being celebrated by far-right extremists.

 

Claire Goforth

Tech

Published Nov 30, 2021   Updated Dec 1, 2021, 8:06 am CST

Antisemites and Holocaust deniers are brigading the comment section of the trailer for an upcoming HBO Max Christmas special. “Brigading” refers to coordinated trolling campaigns. Many of the comments clearly violate YouTube’s policies prohibiting hate speech.

Santa Inc. is an animated limited series written for an adult audience. The plotline centers on an elf, voiced by Sarah Silverman, who wants to take over the role of Santa Claus. Seth Rogen plays Santa.

It’s not clear precisely what attracted the attention of antisemites and Holocaust deniers. That two Jewish people, Silverman and Rogen, are starring in the Christmas special seems to have factored in, as many of the comments reference their religion.

Far-right groups and figures are also circulating a list of people involved with the production identifying those who are purportedly Jewish or sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Keith Woods/Telegram

Many comments criticize the series’ “woke” message. The trailer notes that Santa has traditionally been “a white man’s game” and vows to change that. At another point, Silverman’s character tells Santa, “Good news, sir, more American kids believe in you than they do in vaccines or the Holocaust.”

Whatever the impetus, the trailer’s comment section is now flooded with antisemitism and Holocaust denialism. More than 25,000 have commented on it as of this writing.

Claims are circulating that YouTube disabled the “dislike” count after tens of thousands disliked the Santa Inc. trailer.

However, YouTube recently announced a plan to remove the dislike count from its site. The timing might be coincidental here.

The Western Chauvinist/Telegram

YouTube’s policies prohibit hate speech on the basis of race, nationality, religion, etc. The company says it uses “a combination of people and machine learning” to identify content that potentially violates its rules.

“In addition, we rely on the YouTube community as well as experts in our Trusted Flagger program to help us spot potentially problematic content by reporting it directly to us,” it adds. “We also go to great lengths to make sure content that violates our policies isn’t widely viewed, or even viewed at all, before it’s removed.”

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Like other platforms, YouTube has grappled with policing hate speech, including antisemitism, for years.

Many of the comments are written in thinly disguised code, potentially to evade punishment or detection. For example, commenters use “elves” to refer to Jewish people and 6 million “toys” or “presents” to refer to the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The top commenter, Man of Low Moral Fiber, has a verified YouTube channel with 100,000 subscribers. He wrote, “Did you know? Elves have been knocked off of at least 109 shelves? Somehow they always end up climbing back on and making rules about knocking them off.”

“And they always display the same voracious elfnocentrism that got them knocked off the shelf in the first place. Some might suggest that it’s simply time to take the shelf down. The international elf is the world’s foremost problem.”

“The number 109 is white supremacist numeric shorthand for an antisemitic claim that Jews have been expelled from 109 different countries,” the Anti-Defamation League reports.

Man of Low Moral Fiber’s comment has 10,000 likes and more than 100 comments, such as, “Total elf extermination is the only option.”

All the top comments are of similar nature. Many either deny the death toll of the Holocaust or celebrate it.

Another top comment says, “6 million presents every Christmas eve? That’s not possible. It takes about one to five minutes to wrap a package.”

“Did you know? The Elves tell this great story about the 1940s when more elves were killed by Santa than actually existed. If anyone questions the story, their lives are ruined by the elves instantly. Truly magical creatures, the elves,” another commenter wrote.

White nationalist and far-right groups and their sympathizers are delighted by the bigoted brigading of the trailer. Many have posted approvingly about the comments on other platforms and suggested their followers read them.

Some made similar comments on Rogen’s tweet promoting the series.

While it seems to have increased rapidly in the last few days, the antisemitism and Holocaust denial began shortly after the Santa Inc. trailer was uploaded to YouTube on Nov. 22. An archive from Nov. 26 shows dozens of comments that negatively refer to Rogen’s and Silverman’s Jewish heritage.

YouTube has previously disabled and deleted comments to address rampant policy violations. In 2019, it disabled comments on a congressional hearing about online hate speech and white nationalism. HBO Max could also disable comments.

As of this writing, comments remain enabled on the Santa Inc. trailer.

Update 7:47am CT, Dec. 1: In a statement to the Daily Dot, YouTube said that comments were now disabled on Santa, Inc. in wake of the brigading.

“As part of our Community Guidelines, we have clear policies that prohibit hate speech on our platform, and we work quickly to remove any content violating these policies when flagged, including comments,” Jack Malon, a YouTube spokesperson, told the Daily Dot via email.

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*First Published: Nov 30, 2021, 11:56 am CST