How should we respond to Neo-Nazi internet trolls?
Last week, Talkin’ Reckless (my personal blog) was the subject of a blog post on a Neo-Nazi website. Ever since then, I’ve been getting a lot of shockingly graphic, anti-semitic, hatemail. I’m talking “Elders of Zion”-type shit. To be honest, I was taken aback. I can’t say I’ve ever had that kind of Nazi-speak directed at me, personally, before. I’ve grown up not completely sheltered from anti-semitism, but luckily it was rare. Much more common was just ignorance, like the kind revealed in the “Shit Christians Say to Jews” video. But there’s a big difference between ignorant comments and hateful comments. And boy howdy, was I getting some hate.
Now, I know as much as the next person how important it is not to feed the trolls. And these Nazi commenters are trolls of the worst order — the angry, threatening kind. I tried to ignore the whole thing. But everyday, new anti-semitic threats and slurs kept showing up in my inbox.
Two of my grandparents are Holocaust survivors. They lived in the Lodz ghetto in Poland and were both sent to Auschwitz, although they didn’t meet each other until after the war. I always felt that they, and my dad (their son), were paranoid about anti-semitism. I mean, the paranoia was pretty damn rational for them, but it never felt like a real threat to me. Then again, I had never received emails from people saying they’d like to put me in an oven before.
I’ve taken a few days to think about it — whether I should respond, and if so, what I should say. I figured out what I wanted to say long before I decided whether I should say anything at all. I made a video. And then I agonized about whether or not to share it.
“You’re just going to bait them and get worse hatemail,” said a friend. “Why are you taunting them?” It’s true. I probably will get more hatemail. But is this just feeding the trolls, or is this a chance to say something important? To call attention to the reality that old-school anti-semitism still lives (even if it is in a small and pathetic sort of way).
In the end I thought about my grandparents. How would they feel if they knew their granddaughter was getting this sort of hatemail? They loved to say things like “I didn’t survive the Holocaust so you could drop out of high school and become a janitor.” Or maybe it was my dad who loved to say that… (“Your grandparents didn’t survive the Holocaust so you could get a tattoo!)
Well here’s what I have to say: My grandparents didn’t survive the Holocaust so that I should stand silently and be bullied by racist idiots.
It may not be the most mature way to handle internet trolls, but at least I live in a world where I’m free to express myself, free to be Jewish, and free to delete emails without reading them.
So, without further ado, this is what I have to say.
[Warning: The video contains the "B" word and the "C" word and scary, anti-semitic hatespeak.]
This post was originally posted on Talkin' Reckless.
How to cite this page
Berkenwald, Leah. "How should we respond to Neo-Nazi internet trolls?." 19 January 2012. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 1, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/how-should-we-respond-to-neo-nazi-internet-trolls>.
Live and let live !
Freaking beautiful. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, that made me cry, it was so moving.
You are a wise and courageous young woman. Your parents and grandparents should kvell.
It sickens me that such hate and ignorance still exists.
Thanks for your comment. It was recently pointed out to me that using the word "nutjob" was a bit insensitive to those in the mental health community, and I realize that now and regret my word-choice there for that reason as well.
Loved this vid and almost shared it on Facebook but wish you had not stooped a bit to meet your enemy by name-calling. In the future... "nutjob" = unnecessary. Your video would have been much stronger without it but at the end of the day I still say well done!
Together with you in the struggle for social justice,
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you." Proverbs 25:21-22