On Tuesday of this week, the above cartoon appeared on a Facebook group called Occupy Wall St. I don't know about you, but to me it looks pretty anti-Semitic. The kind of thing that you might have seen stuck to the side of a Bavarian beer hall circa 1942. Which, considering Occupy is supposed to be a left-wing organisation, most populated by out-of-work performance artists (oh hai, "in work" performance artists) and people who sleep-talk Noam Chomsky quotes, seemed surprising to me.
The picture has been taken down now, but at the time I checked it out, it had been up for three hours and had over 650 “Likes”. While a few of the commenters seemed either nonplussed about or excited by the obvious Nazi overtones, most posts were along the same lines as my initial reaction. Which was (approx): “Oh man, are they really going to #OccupyRaceHate now? Fuck that.”
The cartoon’s audience increased when aghast members of the Twitterati introduced it into the echo-chamber without taking a deep breath and working out that, in fact, the Facebook group was not the “official” Occupy Wall Street Facebook group. I emailed OWS and got talking to someone called Priscilla, who told me that the page that posted the racist toon is a troll site and also: “the very bane of our existence. We’ve had a co-ordinated effort to report this page several times and it’s still not coming down.”
The appearance of the cartoon on Tuesday wasn't the first time the OWS imposter page has erred on the side of Jew hate. The above picture was posted there on the 19th of April – International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Classy.
It’s not clear whether the page is run by somebody who wants to discredit the movement, or if it is representative of a genuine rash of sinister anti-Semitic insanity lurking in the bowels of Occupy – I messaged the page, but they’re giving me the silent treatment.
Either way, nearly 250,000 people follow the Occupy Wall St. page. Which means there are either a lot of racist Occupiers or, more likely, a lot of people being exposed to bat-shit ideas from a seemingly respectable source because they thought the page was legit when they clicked “Like”.
There are other people out there in the world hating on Jews who you might not expect to be – like the guys at British Revolution, who insert claims about WikiLeaks being a Jewish hydra (no joke) between shitty "pleb-gate" meme images and links to chem trails sites. Then there's the National Anarchist Movement (NAM) which says it doesn't "hate all Jews", but refers to a cabal of rich ones as "vampiric parasites" and puts dubious quotation marks around the word "Holocaust". Ergh.
Just in case talk of Jewish vampires and holocaust denial is too ambiguous for you, NAM’s head honcho Troy Southgate started his political career in the good, old-fashioned, straight-down-the-line racist National Front. So maybe it's no surprise that his organisation also bemoans the fact that people with different colour skin are making babies together.
“The world will become increasingly drab," says NAM, "standardised and monotonous and the only people left on the planet will inevitably form part of a coffee-coloured mush of uniform humanity.” Yeah, inbreeding FTW! I’ve often thought about how there isn’t enough hereditary illness in the world. Guys, that dystopian future already exists: it’s called Brazil and it’s sexy as hell. Bring on the coffee mush people.
Obviously, the overwhelming majority of Occupiers and the political left don’t hate Jews. I’ve witnessed lefties chomping at the bit to beat the shit out of anti-Semites across the UK, and when I showed my "normal" anarchist mate the NAM website, he did a kind of dry heave like he had just seen a puppy get run over. But the depressing history of anti-Semitism has often included ideas about a cabal of Jewish bankers pulling the strings of world capitalism to their own nefarious ends. You can see how the people peddling this drivel can appeal to people's banker blood-lust and hold off on dropping the Jew-bomb until a sucker has been brought round to the overall train of thought.
Daniel Sieradski, organiser of "Occupy Judaism" who gave an “Occupy Rosh Hashanah” sermon in Zuccotti Park in September, told me that, as far as he is concerned, anti-Semitism has been, “vastly overstated in order to demonise the movement,” and that in his many months at OWS he “experienced only one first-hand incident of anti-Semitism and it was by an angry, crazy person who everyone was trying to shut up and drive away".
"According to the Anti-Defamation League," he continues, "15 percent of Americans have anti-Semitic beliefs. Some of them are going to be at Occupy, some of them are going to be at a Tea Party rally. That’s just a fact of life. The movement itself isn't anti-Semitic, even if there are a few assholes here and there.” He also said that, “online it is a whole other story, because people hide behind anonymity. You tend to encounter it online more than you do in person at Occupy itself.”
I suppose you could argue, so what? Crazy people post crazy shit on the internet all the time. But what these examples show is that ridiculous or pretty horrible ideas can be dropped into a stream of otherwise uncontroversial information and given new clothes.Many people only ever experience politics through the internet, where you can easily say things that would have you pissing blood for a fortnight if you said them in your local and where information overload means sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the international Jewish conspiracy.
Could this be a conscious attempt to subtly introduce conspiratorial and racist ideas to an uninitiated audience who would never “Like” an unadulterated stream of New World Order bollocks? I guess we'll find that out at all the parties, protests, riots and demonstrations the world throws as it continues to writhe in financial agony over the next few years.
Follow Simon on Twitter: @simonchilds13