Content Warning: This article includes in-depth discussion of antisemitism.
Over the past few years there’s been a drastic rise of antisemitic incidents, especially in popular media. In early 2023 the Anti-Defamation League posted findings that put antisemitism in America at an all-time high. According to their studies over 85% of Americans hold at least one antisemitic viewpoint (a 24% increase since 2019), and at least 20% of Americans strongly believe in over six antisemitic conspiracies. Publications like Fox News have been spreading antisemitism in the mainstream media in increasingly blatant fashions, and over the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of prominent far-right figures brought back historical antisemitic conspiracies blaming Jewish people for the spread of disease (a lie that’s been spread since the Middle Ages). Antisemitism has always influenced society, but why are we seeing an increase in antisemitic events right now?
Historically antisemitism has increased in times of socioeconomic and political turmoil. Struggling people want someone to blame for their hardships, and throughout history bigots have exploited this desire to foster hatred of specific racial and ethnic groups. So while the world has grappled with the Coronavirus pandemic, recession, and increased political division, rates of antisemitism have increased exponentially. I want to make it clear that this is not a phenomenon that only happens to Jewish people—hatred towards people of color, Disabled people, the LGBT+ community, and all other minority groups also get targeted in this way. While the focus of this article is how this impacts Jewish people, it’s important to recognize that bigotry has a number of targets and that over the past few years rates of all forms of bigotry have been on the rise, not just antisemitism.
A brief recap of some recent viral antisemitic incidents:
Ye West, the popular rapper formerly known as Kanye West, spent most of late 2022 making violently antisemitic remarks including tweeting that he was going to go “death con 3 on Jewish people,” blamed the “Jewish underground media mafia” for his problems, said that he had a deep admiration and respect for Adolf Hitler and, in response to growing criticism of his antisemitic remarks, said that he was “starting to think that ‘anti-Semitic’ means [the N-word].”
George Santos, Representative of New York, claimed to be a Jewish Republican and lied repeatedly about having the support of Jewish communities in New York. He was later exposed as lying about this (and many other things) and said that what he meant was that he was “Jew-ish,” not Jewish.
The TikTok account @AnneFrank.Education went viral after posting a video where the owner showed off her two Anne Frank tattoos and said that experiencing lockdowns in 2020 meant she understood what Anne Frank experienced during the Holocaust.
A man named Felix Cipher filmed a video claiming to be the modern reincarnation of Hitler. While at first many took this as an absurd joke, he’s continued to post videos supporting Nazis and has commented on Holocaust survivors TikToks telling them that “there’s a reason [he’s] back.”
J.K. Rowling released a new video game in which players work to put down a goblin rebellion against the Wizards. Goblins in the world of Harry Potter have always been depicted as having hooked noses, being greedy, and controlling the banks (all common antisemitic stereotypes and conspiracies). Creating a game in which you’re putting down Jewish coded characters for being greedy is an interesting response to being criticized for antisemitism.
While some of these incidents are clearly problematic, such as Kanye’s violent remarks and Cipher’s Hitler cosplay, others speak to a more “accepted” and pervasive form of antisemitism. A lot of non-Jewish people have a sort of morbid fascination with the Holocaust. “The Holocaust: Romance” is a real category of books on Amazon, a concerning number of which are marked as bestsellers. In The Fault in our Stars, an incredibly popular story by John Green, the two main characters kiss inside of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, a scene that drew next to no criticism from audiences around the world. Every few months someone goes viral for referring to Anne Frank as a “bisexual icon” based on pages they’ve read from her diary. These are only a few examples of the many times someone has used the Holocaust and/or its victims as the backdrop of some romantic love story or for “relatable content.”
@AnneFrank.Education got Anne Frank’s handwriting tattooed because she says she cares so much about what happened to Anne, but was silent when antisemitic conspiracy theories were projected onto the windows of the Anne Frank house just last week. Felix Cipher is Jewish and lost family in the Holocaust, but he spends his days cosplaying Adolf Hitler and threatening Holocaust survivors in their comment sections. It’s easy for people to use the Holocaust for shock value or romanticize what happened, but the reality is that six million people were summarily executed by the most successful genocidal regime in history. We’re only 77 years past the gas chambers and yet the cultural consciousness surrounding the Holocaust is basically nonexistent.
Kanye West remains incredibly rich, powerful and influential. Felix Cipher has already made a new TikTok account and continues to post deplorable content without consequence. The teenager responsible for @AnneFrank.Education continues to insensitively post about Anne Frank and ignore any criticism. J.K. Rowling and John Green are both millionaires and George Santos still holds significant power as a congressman. Antisemitism is horrifyingly pervasive and normalized in our culture, and until we start recognizing it when it happens, it’s not going to change.
By Clary Taylor, Copy Editor