The Normalization of Anti-Semitic “Jokes” On Tiktok

By: SYDNEY YACULLO

For hundreds of years, Anti-Semitism has been a very prominent issue everywhere in the world. Some like to believe that these anti-Jewish thoughts, jokes, or actions may have stopped after the Holocaust, but they’ve actually been incredibly normalized. 

Anti-Semitism is the prejudice towards Jewish people solely based on their religion and stereotypes around their religion.. According to Britannica, “the term anti-Semitism was coined in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns under way in central Europe at that time.” 

Anti-Semitism has been a tremendous issue for many years, but was significantly increased during the rise of Christianity. Because Christans believed that Jews “rejected Jesus and crucified him”, “By the high middle ages (11th-14th centuries), Jews were widely persecuted as barely human “Christ-killers” and ‘Devils.’’ Many Jews were tortured, killed, and sometimes forced to convert to Christanity. 

As the rate of Jews continued to rise and the rate of Christans declined, Anti-Jews turned to another excuse for their hatred. They argued that, “ Jewishness was not a religion but a racial category, and that the Jewish ‘race’ was biologically inferior.” This new idea that Jewish was a race helped to justify the many hate crimes against Jewish people including the Holocaust which resulted in the death of 6 million Jews. 

Though the amount of Jewish related hate crimes has decreased since the Holocaust, that doesn’t mean they disappeared. In fact, they’ve become extremely common nowadays. These anti-semitic crimes don’t just occur in America however, but all over the world. 

According to a report by the Jewish Community of Vienna, “the number of antisemitic incidents in Austria surged last year to a record high since the Jewish community’s official records began 19 years ago.” There were many motives behind these attacks last year, as well as the types of crimes. 

According to that same study:

  • “Around 40% of the incidents had a right-wing political motivation (229), while 15% were tied to the left. The second largest category was  “not possible to assign” with 195 incidents.”
  • “Abusive behavior, including online abuse, made up 62% of incidents with 135 antisemitic publications in offline and online media.”
  • “The report also counted 22 threats against Jews, and 364 insults. An Islamist extremist motive was found in 13% of cases.”
  • “Physical attacks on Jews accounted 2% of the total, or 11 incidents, up from six from the year before.”

These are just some of many attacks that have happened in the last year. Along with Austria, the U.S has had a record high amount of attacks this past year as well. “An arson at a Needham synagogue and vandalism at a Fall River cemetery contributed to a record high number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S last year.”

Due to the recent rise in hate crimes,  “An ADL survey just last month indicated that two-thirds of American Jews feel less safe today than they did a decade [ago]. There’s still a level of high anxiety amongst people about safety and security at places of worship.”

It is very clear the anti-semitism is still an ongoing  issue everywhere, so when Jewish people’s trauma is joked about, they don’t find it very funny. 

Due to all of these attacks against Jewish people, they have a fear of practicing their religion in public, as they are scared one of these crimes may happen to them. Anti-semites have resorted to online attacks and targets, making everywhere a dangerous place for Jews. 

Social media especially in the past decade has become a huge place for anti-semitic jokes and comments. On the platform Tiktok, the amount of casual hatred is alarming. 

Anti-semitic content is one of the most prominent categories of “far-right postings” according to a study by Gabriel Weimann, “a professor of communication at the University of Haifa and senior researcher at the Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT)”, as well as Natalie Masri, “a research assistant and graduate student at ICT.”

The study was “conducted from February through May of 2020”, and it proves that there are ”196 postings related to far-right extremism. The most prevalent category of far-right postings on TikTok pertained to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, as the study recorded 43 postings of that kind, translating to more than one-fifth of the total posts.” 

In the mix of all of those anti-semitic Tiktok videos, “the researchers also discovered 14 postings of Adolf Hitler’s speeches; 11 postings of the “Sieg Heil” victory salute used by Nazis; 17 videos encouraging violence that featured Nazi or neo-Nazi symbols such as the swastika and sonnenrad; and 26 accounts featuring the numbers “88” in their username, the white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.”

Some may claim that making anti-semitic jokes discussing torturing tactics and other trauma is funny dark humor, but it actually affects people on much deeper levels. 

An example of the normalization of anti-semitic behavior was on Tiktok. A user by the name Anna Shumate has been under fire after making some racist, sexist, and anti-semitic comments. She posted a tiktok asking her fans to put “dark humor jokes” in the comments, but they were extremely inappropriate. 

Fans are upset at her irresponsibility since “Anna Shumate has more than 10 million followers on TikTok, and it’s all thanks to her viral videos. They’ve been liked almost 550 million times, and the numbers keep on rising.”

After posting the tiktok asking for dark humor jokes, many Tiktok users including her made jokes out of other people’s trauma. These jokes included a comment made by Shumate herself saying, “I like my bacon how I like my Jews. Burnt and Crispy.” She also replied to other anti-semitic and racist comments with replies such as “yes” and “this. is it,” agreeing with these unfunny and hurtful statements. 

While some Tiktok users called her out for her traumatizing comments and terrible apologies, some believed everyone was overreacting and that they were just jokes. Following the publicity of her recent statements, Shumate uploaded a total of 9 videos addressing all of the minorities she offended, including Jews. “In the series Shumate admits that she was wrong in writing and responding to racist comments, deeming her behavior “dark humour” but “unacceptable.”

In one of the videos, Shumate mentions that “The ones that I liked and commented back to were very unacceptable and wrong in so many ways. And I’m here to say that I’m sorry to everyone that I have affected with that video and those comments.”

After receiving a lot of backlash from her apology videos, as people claimed they were “history lessons” rather than apologies, Shumate deleted all of the videos. While Tik Tok users claimed that her apologies were not sincere, it also made them unhappy when she completely deleted them from her page. 

When justifying these comments or behavior, it really shows normalization of these “jokes” not only on Tiktok, but everywhere. 

It is important to think about these “jokes” that you’re telling, and to make sure you aren’t making fun of other people’s trauma for your own gain or laughter. As serious as Anti-semitism is all over the world, there is no need to be joking about the terrible things Jewish people have been though throughout history. 

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