A group of Twitter users are taking a stand against anti-Semites and white supremacists by embracing the neo-Nazi symbol being used to identify them on the social media platform.
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The trend was initiated by journalists who have been the targets of the racist "cowbelling" like The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, but have been joined by other Twitter users, including non-Jews like Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times. Members of the group changed their Twitter identification by adding parentheses around their names in their Twitter identification
The group is reacting to an online trend, in which Neo-Nazis have developed a way to surreptitiously mark the presence of Jews on social media in order to alert others to their identity, and coordinate attacks, anti-Semitic vitriol, threats and images of concentration camps and Hitler.
Known as the “echo,” the symbol consists of three parentheses around a Jewish person’s name, for example, (((Efrem))). According to Mic, the symbol was first introduced in 2014 by a right-wing website The Right Stuff in their podcast called The Daily Shoah, and serves as a bat signal of sorts. Or as a neo-Nazi said to Goldberg, “It’s closed captioning for the Jew blind.”
A Google Chrome browser plugin, known as the “Coincidence Detector,” facilitates the search by automatically placing an echo on Jewish-sounding names and organizations and replacing the word Israel as users browse the web. For example, Israel appears as (((Our Greatest Ally))), and every (((Cohen)))), (((Katz))) and (((Weinberg))) were also sandwiched in parentheses.
According to Mic, the plugin is in use by 2,473 users and has a rating of 5 out of 5 stars and, as of this writing, is available for download in the Google Chrome store. The plugin is connected to a database that allows users to refresh their list and keep up to date with the Coincidence Detector’s most current list of Jews and “anti-whites.”
The plugin, though alarming, is not foolproof. A search on Chabad.org did not turn up any results and it didn’t catch many Jewish surnames on the Forward’s own masthead.
Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor for the New York Times received the tweet “Hello ((Weisman)),” from @CyberTrump after he tweeted an article about Donald Trump and a new wave of fascism in the United States. “It’s a dog whistle, fool,” he wrote. “Belling the cat for my fellow goyim.” That’s all it took to get the attention of other white supremacists on Twitter, many from self-identified Trump supporters, Weisman wrote in a May 26 article. Weisman’s account was flooded with anti-Semitic and Holocaust imagery, with one photo of the gates of Auschwitz, where the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” were replaced with “Machen Amerika Great.
“I found myself staring down a social-media timeline filled with the raw hate and anti-Semitic tropes that for centuries fueled expulsion, persecution, pogroms and finally genocide,” Weisman wrote.
Weisman is not alone in his experience. Journalists, and especially Jewish journalists, have been harassed and besieged by neo-Nazis and white supremacist Trump supporters. When reporter Julia Ioffe wrote an unfavorable GQ profile of the would-be First Lady, Melania Trump, the onslaught of hate speech was so fierce she had to file a police report after receiving death threats. When asked about it by DuJour magazine, Melania Trump said she doesn’t control her fans, and though there are “people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”
The echo is difficult to find on Twitter and even harder to police. When asked to comment by Mic reporters, Twitter representatives directed them to a statement by Karen White, Twitter’s head of public policy for Europe: “Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter and we will continue to tackle this issue head on alongside our partners in industry and civil society,” she said.