Symbols are powerful communication tools. They convey considerable meaning in an immediately recognizable form, and the power they can have is tremendous...Some symbols are meant to evoke feelings of hate or anger, or to spark fear and insecurity. Hate symbols, for instance, can be found scrawled on the outside walls of synagogues, churches and schools; tattooed on the bodies of white supremacists; or displayed on jewelry and clothing. Extremists use these symbols because it gives them a sense of power and belonging, as well as a quick way of identifying others who share their beliefs.
From the Anti-Defamation League website, Hate on Display
The “Trump effect" has emboldened a bold new generation of internet racists, a loose affiliation known as the “alt-right:”
A pair of white nationalists cackled with glee at the growing popularity of their fringe movement — thanks to social media and Donald Trump.
James Edwards, host of the “Political Cesspool” radio program, gloated that the so-called “alt right” movement had ushered a diverse collection of younger social media users into the white nationalist movement, reported Right Wing Watch.
The Anti-Defamation League, well-attuned to spotting bias trends in the digital media, defines the alt-right as “alternative right,” a term that encompasses folks for whom run-of-the-mill conservatism just doesn’t satisfy their urgent need to slander and demonize everyone with a different skin color or non-Christian religious preference:
People who identify with the Alt Right regard mainstream or traditional conservatives as weak and impotent, largely because they do not sufficiently support racism and anti-Semitism.
What these people try to do is interject white supremacist memes into the broader culture, and stake out territory in the conservative political spectrum, through a small number of white “nationalist” publishing sites and the employment of internet symbols and coded language. They’re not all equal opportunity haters either—some of them solely focus on white superiority or “identity”, some on conspiracy theories involving Jews or African Americans.
Made up mostly of the denizens of various “deep web” sites that normal people (apparently we’re known as “normies”) don’t visit too much, the “alt-right” movement, comprised partly of maladjusted white males and partly of traditional seething racists, has in the last year proudly emerged from under its virtual rock, blazing enough inroads to prompt the ADL to call out the alt-right “echo” symbol now in vogue to target Jewish writers for harassment, especially if those writers post something negative about their newfound folk hero, Donald Trump:
New York, NY, June 6, 2016 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced today that it is adding the triple parentheses – or stylized (((echo))) symbol, the latest gimmick used by white supremacists and anti-Semites to single out Jews on Twitter and other social media -- to the ADL “Hate on Display” online hate symbols database.
“The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “We at ADL take this manifestation of online hate seriously, and that’s why we’re adding this symbol to our database and working with our partners in the tech industry to investigate this phenomenon more deeply.
The "echo” symbol, “((( ))),” originated in an anti-Semitic podcast called “The Daily Shoah,” in which the podcast’s anti-Semitic creators created a visual representation of the “echo” sound effect by placing triple parentheses around the names of Jewish people. As the New York Times explains, thereby an internet meme was born for the “alt-right,” which gratefully seized upon it:
This is how a hate symbol rises in 2016: A podcast sound effect becomes a Twitter meme and a browser extension before it finally slithers into the physical world.The “echo” is the first officially recognized symbol to emerge from the “alt-right,” a movement of white-and-proud extremists who are as obsessed with cultural memes as they are with white nationalism.
It’s clear that Trump has given these folks a new lease on their life’s passion—spreading pro-white, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic hate anonymously through the far-reaching and soothingly anonymous scope of the internet:
The alt-right takes the online subculture’s discourse and dials it up to the level of political agitation. The Southern Poverty Law Center has charted fervent support for Donald J. Trump among “right-wing extremists,” who share “exultant memes celebrating Trump’s ascension.” In April, the center reported that some of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric can “drive mainstream attention to racist memes.”
So if you see those triple parentheses popping up in chat rooms, as least you know who you’re dealing with, and why. It's being inspired by the Republican Party’s gift to America in the form of its Presidential nominee, Donald Trump. From the ADL’s press Release:
Over the past several weeks, the echo symbol has been used by white supremacists and others as part of a pattern of harassment against a group of journalists including Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times, Julia Ioffe of GQ, and Bethany Mandel of the New York Post and Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire.
What the ADL doesn’t say in its Release—but should—is that each of these five writers, Goldberg, Weisman, Ioffe, Mandel and Shapiro—all have something in common besides being Jewish—they have all been targeted by the ”alt-right" for writing negatively about Donald Trump. Here’s one cartoon Jeffrey Goldberg’s been receiving a lot:
This drawing, which I’ve received a number of times, holds that Donald Trump is bringing about a 4th Reich, and vampire Jews such as myself are doomed.(This is actually a pro-Trump Benjamin Garrison cartoon later defaced by an anti-Semite and spread by other anti-Semites.)
Goldberg and other Jewish writers are fighting back. Having co-opted the echo symbol, Goldberg and others are using it mockingly as a self-identifier:
As the Times article points out, the “cover” provided by the Internet and the general ubiquity of coarse, insulting discourse one can find in the “comments section” to just about any unmoderated news outlet creates a kind of digital “gloss” for this type of bigotry, allowing it to be excused as black humor or obnoxious trolling. It’s neither. It’s bigotry and hate deliberately injected into our public discourse, laundered through a digital medium that magnifies it exponentially. The fingertips drumming the keyboard simply become a substitute for the mocking voice, the cackling “likes" and "thumbs up” ratings become a substitute for the collective march into the backwoods for a cross-burning. As Ryan Milner, a communications professor at Charleston College explains, in the end it makes no difference to the purposes of these people—it just makes it a whole lot easier for them to hide their faces:
Online, white supremacists spread their message “not through crosses burned on front lawns, but through little bits of conversation shared on Twitter,” Mr. Milner said, “that then spread to classrooms and bars and living rooms.” Who cares if the Klansman is smirking beneath his hood?
When a Presidential candidate premises his campaign on intolerance, this is the kind of “trickle down” hate that infects the broader culture as a result, the kind that you end up hearing “in classrooms and bars and living rooms.” For his followers, this is just another way the Trump campaign is “Making America Great Again.” For the rest of us, it’s just another ugly consequence of Donald Trump that we’ll have to deal with long after the 2016 election is over.
For more on this subject, see posts here and here.