March 22, 2019 Special Reports No. 44

Online Incitement Against Jews, People Of Color, Muslims, And LGBTQ – Introduction

March 22, 2019
Special Reports No. 44

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice

While the 21st century has inaugurated an era of remarkable innovation and progress largely driven by the digital revolution, this new century has also seen a resurgence of old evils and hatreds. Anti-Semitism, racism and other pathological hostilities are being disseminated and weaponized using some of the same digital innovations that we celebrate in so many spheres of life.  Like nuclear energy and other developments in modern technology, the internet is both a blessing to humanity and a threat to human life. While other such developments have been subjected to regulation, so as to avoid this threat, the internet has enjoyed unlicensed freedom. America's reverence for free speech has enabled extremists and radicals of all kinds to utilize the internet to promote their murderous agendas. The global jihadi movement owes its existence to the internet, which it uses as a highway for hatred and incitement. Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, racists and others take advantage of the internet in the same way, which leads to the inevitable result: the targeting of innocent people.

Each week and sometimes each news cycle brings fresh evidence that the internet has become a dangerous and dystopian neighborhood in which haters and evil ideologues can give vent to their darkest impulses and inspire others to further their radical goals. In a society that places a high value on freedom of expression, responsible people have grappled with how best to respond to this terrible toxin online. We share the belief that sunshine and exposure can be the most effective means of countering the dangerous effects of on-line hatred.

To that end, MEMRI and the Lantos Foundation have joined forces to publish a new report: The Hater Next Door: Online Incitement Against Minorities in America. This report is a snapshot in time covering a period from November of 2018 through February of 2019.

Our report is an initial effort to expose  online hatred and incitement. The truly staggering scope of hate and incitement posted daily online would require the resources of governments, major research institutes and the private juggernauts of social media, who should be held accountable for the material that they permit to be disseminated on their communication highways. We regret that to date, none of these players has been willing to undertake this task in an effective and serious way as we believe they should. With this report, we launch an on-going initiative to expose the worst of this internet-based enmity.

MEMRI brings unique skills to the task of exposing the most egregious example of this digital indoctrination to hatred and violence. For two decades, MEMRI has done ground breaking work researching the most disturbing examples of extreme anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial emanating from the Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu speaking world.  After MEMRI painstakingly translates these materials into English, the media, legislatures, and policymakers can better understand exactly what is happening around the world.  One recent study of more than one hundred imam sermons from across the United States clearly demonstrated calls for hate and violence against minority groups. With its accumulated decades of experience in this field, MEMRI is now joining forces with the Lantos Foundation to take on this new and urgent mission of exposing vicious hatred and incitement by Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, and racists against minority groups including Jews, People of Color, Muslims, and the LBGTQ community.

There has been much talk in recent years about the concept of intersectionality – the idea that certain social groups must automatically find common cause with one another by virtue of overlapping experiences of discrimination or disadvantage. Ironically, our report demonstrates examples of these hate-filled groups exhibiting a form of twisted intersectionality by supporting minority groups whom they usually attack, because of a shared hatred toward a third minority group. The material presented in this report vividly demonstrates that these purveyors of hate and advocates of violence have shared contempt for Jewish individuals, People of Color, Muslims, feminists, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Some of the organizations and individuals presented in this report are widely known, but their actual words of incitement and hate are not. Others are less familiar to the public. Our research has been guided by the following criteria: we seek to expose expressions of explicit hatred, demonization and calls for action against the targeted communities listed above.

Our report demonstrates that these purveyors of hate are not ideologically homogeneous. Some of them are distinctly neo-Nazi in their outlook, others are fascist, still other voices are specifically racist, segregationist and white supremacist in their perspective. Those targeting the LGBTQ community sometimes present their hatred with an overlay of religious justification.

One of the most important aspects of this report is the way it highlights the prevalence of "calls to action" that accompany the vitriolic expressions of hatred. These groups and individuals routinely propose specific forms of action as part of a general discourse of hatred and demonization. The forms of action called for are diverse and run the gamut from terrorism, on-line hacking, and guides for violent ethnic cleansing, to posting manuals for manufacturing and using various weapons and firearms.

The material in this report is chilling and disturbing but one of the hallmarks of the research work of MEMRI has been not merely to "tell" people about the reality of hate but to "show" it so that people can fully understand the threat for themselves. Reading the actual posts from online platforms makes it clear that these individuals must be exposed and stopped before they act on their evil impulses. Our goal above all is to prompt action to save innocent lives.

The aim of this report is to empower every one of us to become a digital first responder. After each new tragic episode of hate fueled violence, we hear the lament of family, friends, colleagues and neighbors that they "had no idea", and that they "absolutely did not see this coming". It is our hope that this report and the on-going monitoring project that we have initiated will be a useful tool in the hands of law enforcement, media, legislators, and ordinary citizens to be more alert to the threat of The Hater Next Door.

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