The Impact of Social Media and Celebrity Influence on Combating Antisemitism

May 30, 2023
Julia Bakman

Los Angeles, California, United States

Class of 2025

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In the context of modern antisemitism and activism, the power and reach of social media paired with the influence of celebrities have both bolstered and undermined resistance efforts, revealing a complex connection between technology, public discourse, and the effectiveness of combating antisemitism. Modern activism has faced new challenges as resistance efforts are affected by social media, which began as a response to a rise in antisemitic incidents driven by political figures, extreme ideologies, and of course, social media. Ultimately, the advancement of the movement has been hindered by the involvement of public figures, whose statements and actions on social media have contributed to the perpetuation of harmful narratives and the amplification of the modern antisemitic rhetoric. Influential figures in the media play a big role in combating antisemitism, and actions like these perpetuate negative stereotypes and send us far in the wrong direction. While social media can be a positive resource in our society, negative celebrity engagement damages the movement and perpetuates harmful ideas, both digitally and in our real world today. Public figures like Donald Trump and Kanye West have been known to spread harmful antisemitic messages, and when created on platforms as significant as theirs, remarks are amplified and cause unimaginable harm. As written by Forbes Magazine, "On October 9, 2022, Kanye West released a statement claiming that he is going to go "death-con 3 on Jewish people", and on December 1st, praised Hitler saying he "likes nazis" and can see "good things about Hitler". Kanye West (as of January 2023) has 15 million instagram followers, that's more than double of the amount of Jewish people on our earth today. Following the statements created by Kanye, NPR news states that, "Adidas cut ties with 'Ye' over antisemitic remarks that caused an uproar amongst his platforms." Also in NPR's article titles, "antisemitism is on the rise, and it's not just about Ye", they discuss the steady rise of hateful incidents directed at jews over the past several years, which they have no doubt has been negatively impacted by Kanye West. As for Donald Trump, he has publicly met with antisemites, and has publicly posted harmful messages, perpetuating these negative stereotypes and harming the movement as a whole. Although there have been instances where public figures have effectively advocated for Jewish rights, negative celebrity involvement overpowers the good by furthering negative stigmatism and spreading messages that hinder the advancement of combating antisemitism as a whole. In order to effectively make a difference, we need responsible engagement by influential figures and to teach the importance of effective and continued positive activism to foster an inclusive environment and combat antisemitism in a modern world

The spread of hate speech and antisemitic, discriminatory content in the media hinders the progress of the movement and creates negative rhetoric in both our digital and real world today. Modern antisemitism in the media encompasses online harassment, hate speech and conspiracy theories, along with many other forms of hate. Online harassment targeted individuals and communities based on their Jewish identity, and social media facilitates its rapid spread of content. The effectiveness of movements, community initiatives, and organizations are negatively impacted by the stereotypes social media spreads. According to the Anti Defamation League, "2022 was the highest year on record for documented hate crimes against Jews", which proves the fact that the spread of misinformation, conspiracies and hate speech on social media perpetuates harmful narratives and leaves the movement moving rapidly in the wrong direction. According to the "Stand With Us" Instagram account, a post on Mach 28, 2022 states that nearly 70% of all Jewish Americans faced antisemitic hate online last year". Activism empowers individuals and communities being affected by antisemitism, by fostering resistance and social change. In a ted talk by Iseult Gillespie he discusses a girl who after being in a camp in Munich, in a state of fury before her execution says, "how can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up to a righteous cause?" This message proves the power of positive activism, and is a motivator in making social media a positive space, which will not only slow the spread of antisemitism, but foster a healthier, happier and more peaceful world

Social media hinders the progress in combating antisemitism by providing a platform for hate speech. Digital literacy and responsible engagement are crucial in countering the negative influence of social media. Social media provides a platform for hate groups to organize, recruit and spread their antisemitic ideologies, which leads the movement in a dangerous direction. In an analysis of TikTok content between February 2020 and may 2022 they found a 41% increase in antisemitic posts, a 912% increase in antisemitic comments, and a 1,375% increase in antisemitic usernames. In a gale scholarly article, it discusses ways to fight hate both in real life and digitally, and highlights the significance of not being a bystander, and standing up to hate in order to make a difference. According to "The Dark Side of Social media; How it Fuels Antisemitism'' from magazine "The Jewish Experience", it says that all social media platforms have facilitated antisemitism and that platforms such as TikTok and instagram expose children to antisemitism, "TikTok has become a magnet and a hotbed for violent and extremist content", which is dangerous and incredibly harmful in several ways, and in many cases evolves into hate speech online, or hate crimes, many of which have resulted in permanent injury or death, just this year. The importance of initiatives and strategies that counter the spread of antisemitic content online and the role of social media platforms is shaping the landscape of activism against antisemitism and will make or break the success of this movement.

Some may argue that social media has not hindered the advancement of the movement. they might believe that social media has facilitated a greater awareness and mobilization against antisemitism, and that the involvement of celebrities brings attention to the cause. While social media can facilitate necessary conversation and awareness, we need to consider the negative impact. The same platforms that allow for awareness can also serve as breeding grounds for hate speech, theories, and spread of antisemitic content. This overshadows the positive forces, but it is still crucial to address these challenges and promote responsible engagement to effectively combat antisemitism. The advancement of the movement has been hindered by the involvement of public figures such as Trump and Kanye West, has given celebrities a large role in various movements, proved the power of action and activism mixed with online harassment and hate speech, and shown us how social media influences our resistance efforts, perpetuating harmful narratives and amplifying the dangerous and harmful antisemitic rhetoric. Going forward, we need to prioritize responsible digital engagement, to teach others the importance of effective activism, and destroy the negative rhetoric. This will help us all to effectively combat antisemitism and make strides in both our digital and modern world, today, and forever.

Julia Bakman is a BBG from Lilith BBG in Pacific Western Region. When she’s not at a BBYO event, you can find Julia reading a good book or going to a concert with friends!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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