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Antisemitic posts have been shared across both fringe and mainstream social media platforms. The Anti-Defamation League wrote that extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and a network of white supremacist leaders who coalesce around a “White Lives Matter” message have reshared Ye’s statements, along with extremist sects within the Black Hebrew Israelite movement and Nation of Islam.
Though some social media platforms removed Ye’s comments, his antisemitic statements have been applauded and shared by some users on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and elsewhere.
The Anti-Defamation League has tracked such posts and tweets from users that have hundreds of thousands of followers.
It isn’t every day a celebrity goes on social media to spread the kind of antisemitic rhetoric that fueled a world war and left 6 million Jewish people dead.
But Ye, the musician and fashion designer once known as Kanye West, has not backed down from attacking Jewish people. After saying on Twitter that he would go "death con 3" on "JEWISH PEOPLE" — an apparent reference to the U.S. military defense readiness system known as Defcon — he continued to reference antisemitic conspiracy theories in interviews with Tucker Carlson and the Drink Champs podcast.
Platforms like Twitter and Instagram have removed his comments for violating their policies against offensive language.
But experts say the effects are rippling across social media in hate-fueled messages anyway. Posts that praise Ye’s comments, share clips of his statements or repeat baseless conspiracy theories rooted in more than 100 years of antisemitic hoaxes are finding new audiences thanks to Ye’s high-profile status, experts say.
"Kanye West ain’t crazy," said a man in an Oct. 18 Facebook video with thousands of views that includes a clip of a Ye interview. "What he’s saying is 100% right when you speak about Jews and this and that, knowing that they run everything."
Ye’s messages were further amplified over the weekend by supporters who took to a Los Angeles freeway overpass to raise banners expressing support for his hate-fueled views. Photos showed them giving the Nazi salute near a message that said, "Kanye is right about the Jews." The hand gesture was originally used in 1930s Nazi Germany to pay homage to German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Brendan Lantz, assistant professor and director of the Hate Crime Research & Policy Institute at Florida State University, said social media environments provide a means for people to amplify such harmful rhetoric.
"When a prominent public figure like this gives voice to these extremist attitudes, extremist groups who are already saying these things can just now piggyback on that media presence and the social influence that someone like him has," Lantz said. "They can leverage his words, they can express support for him, they can use his words to promote their own beliefs."
Isabelle Williams is an analyst in the Center for Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish organization specializing in civil rights law. Williams told PolitiFact that the organization recognized an uptick in activity from extremists and others praising Ye’s rhetoric, including white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes, chapters of the Proud Boys, QAnon followers and white supremacist leaders who the ADL says have coalesced around a "White Lives Matter" message.
Ye’s rhetoric has also been shared by extremist sects within the Black Hebrew Israelite movement and the Nation of Islam. Wesley Muhammad, a leader within the Nation of Islam, defended Ye in a YouTube interview and said he was "speaking a lot of truth right now." Muhammad, who said he feared for Ye’s safety, said that Jewish people were "commandeering" the hip-hop industry and alleged that record labels could invoke a "death clause" on music artists.
The ADL wrote in an Oct. 20 report that some leaders within the Black Hebrew Israelite movement and the Nation of Islam use hate speech against Jewish people and claim that Black people are the "real Jews" — a claim Ye has used as his own defense, suggesting he cannot be antisemitic if he is Jewish.
PolitiFact also noticed antisemitic posts on mainstream social media, including on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Some Facebook and Instagram posts were flagged by Meta as part of its efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
An Instagram post from Oct. 17 claimed, "Every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish," listing the names of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials and others involved in health care. Another from Oct. 18 praised Ye and falsely claimed that "the Jewish Elite" are putting white children in McDonald’s fast food. Another post from the same day shared a clip of Ye talking on Drink Champs, accusing the parents of Jewish children of harming him. "He’s speaking FACTS here," the caption said.
These are not facts. Conspiracy theories about Jewish people date back hundreds of years.
The false blood libel claim that accuses Jews of murdering Christians to use their blood for rituals dates back to medieval times and was also used as Nazi propoganda, according to The American Jewish Committee, a Jewish advocacy organization headed by former U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch. The idea that Jews have control over the economy goes back to the Middle Ages, too, "when commerce, trade, and other financial industries were the only professions Jews were allowed to have," the committee wrote.
Historians trace such antisemtic tropes to a book, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," published in 1903. It concocted a fake conspiracy and alleged that Jewish people planned for world domination. Although discredited as hate speech, the book’s content was promoted across the globe. The book’s ideas found a U.S. audience after a newspaper owned by auto inventor Henry Ford published a series of articles based on the book, according to the ADL and the United States Holocaust Museum.
The ADL detailed the ways white supremacist groups and leaders are using platforms like Telegram and Parler to share Ye’s claims. Fuentes wrote on Telegram that the rapper was right that "Jews run the media." Some well-known white supremacists celebrated news that Ye offered to buy Parler after getting booted from Twitter and Instagram by "creating new accounts or reviving their old ones," the report said.
Williams said that mainstream users with hundreds of thousands of followers have tweeted positively about Ye, or shared clips from his recent interviews.
"So whether or not these mainstream users are explicitly endorsing the antisemitism, or just posting clips of other parts of the interviews is certainly concerning," she said.
In general, hate crimes are hard to track because such incidents aren't always reported by victims, or aren't always documented as hate crimes by law enforcement agencies that receive the reports. But data suggests hate crimes have been increasing in the U.S., with a clear surge in reported anti-Asian American incidents. In its annual audit of antisemitic activity in the U.S., the ADL in April found such hate crimes were at a record high in the U.S. in 2021, with 2,717 reported incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism. This represented a 34% increase year over year, according to its data. The analysis pointed in part to a surge following 2021 violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Lantz said social media users should be aware of the content they engage in and speak up when necessary. This kind of rhetoric is appealing to those who are looking for someone to blame and serves to embolden and legitimize people in the general public who may harbor these feelings, he said. Responding is an option — but people should be judicious about when and how to engage.
"We know that counter speech has important impact on countering the spread of prejudicial attitudes," Lantz said. "Obviously, I'm not suggesting that people go engage and argue with online trolls. When we see our family or friends spreading something without thinking about it critically, that's where counterspeech can be effective."
Ye Twitter post, Oct. 9, 2022
Instagram post, Oct. 17, 2022
Twitter post, Oct. 17, 2022
Facebook post, Oct. 18, 2022
Instagram post, Oct. 18, 2022
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Phone interview with Brendan Lantz, assistant professor and director of the Hate Crime Research and Policy Institute at Florida State University, Oct. 21, 2022