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March 22, 2021

NY Times Defends Holocaust-Inversion

The historian Deborah Lipstadt described Holocaust inversion — the act of described Jews in Israel as the new Nazis — as a form of "soft-core denial." This style of Holocaust denial is part of an equation that, when looked at from one direction, amounts to hateful anti-Israelism, and from the other, as no less than historical revisionism about the Nazis. In Lipstadt's words, Holocaust inversion is "a false comparison which elevates by a factor of a zillion any wrongdoings Israel might have done, and lessens by a factor of a zillion what the Germans did."

It seems that Mike Isaac, a tech writer for the the New York Times, would prefer his readers think of the phenomenon as innocent commentary—certainly not something that a social-media site should regard as hateful speech.


Isaac's March 19 piece in the paper's Technology section speaks of how Facebook's algorithms, and even its human moderators, sometimes fail to recognize satire and so wrongly flag as hate-speech political cartoons that are in fact meant to mock and highlight hate-speech. Or as the story's headline and subhead put it, "For Political Cartoonists, the Irony Was That Facebook Didn’t Recognize Irony; As Facebook has become more active at moderating political speech, it has had trouble dealing with satire."

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As an example, the piece points to a cartoon mocking violent inclinations of the far-right "Proud Boys," which Facebook removed from its site because it wrongly interpreted the cartoon as "advocating violence.”

Later in the piece, the author turned to what he cast as another example of Facebook screwing things up:

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2019 that he would bar two congresswomen — critics of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — from visiting the country, Mr. Hall drew a cartoon showing a sign affixed to barbed wire that read, in German, “Jews are not welcome here.” He added a line of text addressing Mr. Netanyahu: “Hey Bibi, did you forget something?”

Mr. Hall said his intent was to draw an analogy between how Mr. Netanyahu was treating the U.S. representatives and Nazi Germany. Facebook took the cartoon down shortly after it was posted, saying it violated its standards on hate speech.

Here's the cartoon in question:

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In the view of many Jews and others, the content of this cartoon is indeed an example of hate speech. It's not only Deborah Lipstadt, who specializes in the history of the Holocaust, who has argued as much. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (or IHRA), a multinational Holocaust-education organization, includes in its definition of antisemitism the following example of the hatred: "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis." (A similar definition was used by the Obama-era State Department.)

And so a Times piece meant to show Facebook failing recognizing the difference between hate and satire itself failed to distinguish between Holocaust minimization and innocent irony. What more should we expect from a newspaper with a history of failing to recognize antisemitism?

Posted by gi at March 22, 2021 11:45 AM

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