Two weeks ago, Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times tweeted an article attacking Donald Trump, and was promptly bombarded with anti-Semitic garbage from supposed Trump supporters. You may recall that it began with a seemingly innocent reply to Weisman’s original tweet.
Notice the parentheses around Weisman’s name? Well, the folks at Mic delved further into what they mean. It turns out that they are a very sneaky and dangerous tool for some of the worst people in the world to target and harass Jewish users on Twitter.
For most of us, whenever we put multiple parentheses around someone’s name, it’s a way to send them an online hug. But it turns out that a cabal of racist and anti-Semitic thugs have hijacked that symbol and turned it into what they call “echoes.” It started in 2014, during an episode of The Daily Shoah, a podcast aligned with the alt-right blog The Right Stuff. The hosts gave Jewish-sounding names a cartoonlike “echo” effect. “TRS” readers soon picked up on what became known as “the parenthesis meme,” or an “echo.”
As TRS sees it, Jewish last names “echo throughout history” with the supposed damage that Jews have done. The editors at TRS went further in an email to Mic.
“The inner parenthesis represent the Jews’ subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism.”
Wow. They aren’t even trying to hide it, aren’t they? A quick perusal of posts on TRS reveals a number of posts that place the “echo” around the names of prominent Jews. Take this post attacking Amy Schumer as a “debased creature” as an example. I counted at least 10 instances of people being “echoed.”
Recently, these knuckledraggers have started using “echoes” as a way to flag people whose last names “look” Jewish. The guy who was responsible for launching the harassment on Weisman openly admitted what he was doing.
Once someone is flagged with an “echo,” the garbage starts in earnest–anti-Semitic cartoons and pictures, images of concentration camp ovens and Jews being slaughtered, and even death threats. It’s not just limited to Twitter either. These bottom-feeders have resorted to sending ugly emails and even making threatening phone calls.
“Michael,” a longtime journalist, is used to getting bombarded with hateful emails. But when he wrote a story that attacked the GOP last year, someone “echoed” him on Twitter, and he experienced a level of hate he’d never seen before. One of the worst warned him that there will come a day when “the Jews are going to be in trouble, lined up.” The experience shook him so badly that he asked to keep his last name anonymous in order to protect his family.
The Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other groups keeping a watch on hate groups have seen a frightening jump in online attacks on Jewish journalists. The SPLC’s Heidi Beirich lays this squarely on the feet of Donald Trump’s blatant appeals to nativism and Islamophobia. She says things have gotten so bad that it’s all but impossible for anyone whose name even sounds Jewish to attack the Donald “without being trolled to hell.” She called for Trump to denounce this garbage.
All search engines strip punctuation from search results, making it difficult to search for bottom-feeders who are “echoing” people. Any technical attempt to snuff this out would ensnare too many innocent users for it to be worth the effort. In the short term, the only way to get this garbage off Twitter is to play whack-a-mole and report it, tweet by tweet. In the long term, it’s time for us to take back those parentheses and use them for what they were originally intended to do–show some love.