Nazi prank highlights the need for greater care in tackling antisemitism

April 9, 2021 by Andre Oboler
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At 10:30pm on April 1, a group of Melbourne based neo-Nazis posted an April Fools’ Day prank to their channel on the Gab social media platform.

The prank announced a new campaign, “Operation Ashkenazi Strange”, whose details so fundamentally clashed with Nazi ideology it caused a backlash among the Nazi-group’s supporters.

The post called on “every honourable White man, National Socialist, klansman, skinhead, [and] racist” to go out clubbing in Jewish areas over the coming weekend and to seek to seduce Jewish women in order to “breed out the Jewish race with Alpha Aryan Australian power”. In the whiteboard, a more detailed plan warns, “You need consent, rape doesn’t count (also illegal)”. It also included a misogynistic Holocaust joke referencing Auschwitz.

The proposed campaign is so deeply flawed, when understood in the context of Nazi ideology, that it is clearly intended as a joke. Nazi ideology, adopted by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, is based on the idea of racial purity. What they refer to as “race mixing” is seen as treason. The child of an Aryan father and a Jewish mother would be seen as Jewish by both Nazis and Jews, entirely defeating the supposed purpose of the operation.

Neo-Nazis immediately spotted how flawed this operation was and expressed their dismay at the post. They were never going to implement such a campaign and indeed were vocal in their opposition to it even as a joke. One neo-Nazi angrily commented, “What would rightfully happen to you if did such a disgrace in Nazi Germany? How could that have the slightest benefit to the purity of the Aryan bloodline?” Another supporter commented, “This schoolboy level crap is only going to totally repel needed individuals of standing from wanting to [give] support.” A third lamented about the future of their neo-Nazi movement “If this is typical mentality of Aust’s main neo-Nazi group”.

While a number of organisations and government agencies were aware of the post, they chose to ignore it. One organisation, however, chose to loudly ring the alarm and seek maximum media coverage. The material they provided to the media stoked the flames of panic and omitted critical context. That missing context included details of when the post was made, the way it clashed with Nazi ideology and the negative reception it was receiving from some neo-Nazis while comment like, “I think it’s a joke dude” which light others understood it as an April Fools’ Day prank right away.

Following the first media articles, the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) released a report, Neo-Nazis April Fools’ Day, that provides the missing context, detailed analysis and background on both the neo-Nazi group and the Gab platform where this content was posted. The report provides recommendations for government action to tackle groups like this.

Despite the context having been made clear, and responsible action from a number of newspaper editors, new articles continue to appear and continue to lack the needed context despite this information now being readily available not only in the OHPI report, and more recently in posts made by the neo-Nazis themselves. Any journalist checking their facts would see this.

Media coverage is sometimes, but not always, the best approach to reduce antisemitism and the threat of extremism. There are many other ways to respond to antisemitism, depending on the context and circumstances. Any “one-size fits all” approach is going to regularly fail and may cause harm when it does. This incident is a case study into this problem. Some in the community are now in an increased state of fear without reason, while neo-Nazis have gained greater media attention. Greater care is needed if we are to tackle antisemitism in ways that avoid exacerbating it.

Dr Andre Oboler is CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute, an expert member of the Australian Government’s Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and an adviser to the Government of Sweden for the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism.

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