Troubling Anti-Semitism Mars Election Day

Our country has a conundrum. None of the candidates at the top of the ticket are perfect, and anyone looking for that needs to look in the mirror. I’m not here to give any endorsement, in part because I don’t think endorsements from the media do a thing. Plus, I think that this year more than ever, supporters of the two sides are so entrenched for their candidates. (As an aside, this campaign started in early 2015. Honestly, who’s really undecided?)

No matter which boxes you check in the voting booth, I’d hope that we can agree that there is nothing civil about the process this time around: Insults, racism, misogyny, and as Jews, a frightening amount of anti-Semitism.

According to an Anti-Defamation League report, a total of 2.6 million tweets containing language frequently found in anti-Semitic speech were posted across Twitter between August 2015 and July 2016. Those tweets had an estimated 10 billion impressions, which ADL believes contributed to reinforcing and normalizing anti-Semitic language – particularly racial slurs and anti-Israel statements — on a massive scale. Journalists (happily, not us), have been a frequent target of this abuse.

The ADL concluded that the aggressors are disproportionately likely to self-identify as Donald Trump supporters, conservatives, or part of the “alt-right,” a loosely connected group of extremists, some of whom are white supremacists. This finding does not imply that Trump supported the tweets, or that conservatives are more prone to anti-Semitism. It does show that the individuals directing anti-Semitism toward journalists self-identified as Trump supporters and conservatives.

“The spike in hate we’ve seen online this election cycle is extremely troubling and unlike anything we have seen in modern politics. A half century ago, the KKK burned crosses. Today, extremists are burning up Twitter,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “We are concerned about the impact of this hate on the ability of journalists to do their job and on free speech, which is why we established this Task Force. We hope this report hastens efforts to combat the surge of hate on social media. We look forward to working with Twitter, media companies, and other online platforms to limit hate and harassment and preserve freedom of speech.”

The ADL has also spoken out about the ads that the Trump campaign have been running, his use of “America First” as a campaign slogan, and media outlets have been pointing out the anti-Semitism in the tweets the campaign has been sending out.

I used to love Election Day. I could have voted early, but I love going to vote early on Election Day, with the anticipation and excitement and hopefulness still in the air. One of the most fun times I’ve had working was spending the night of the 2000 election in the Chicago Tribune newsroom. And I wasn’t even working on the news side; I was just watching the chaos unfolding across the fourth floor. I loved reading the stories, refreshing news sites endlessly, waiting on exit polls and finally, watching the returns. Every part of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. I was all in.

Now? I still am. I’ll be a useless mess, sweating out the next several hours (or days or weeks, if past is prologue) and I’ll drink far more coffee than will be healthy. But all of us are more wounded by what has transpired and how we got here.

I’ve had the privilege to cover local elections for several years. Despite my personal opinions about the issues in the races and the personalities involved, the people who ran for office were largely good-hearted, dedicated public servants. I’ve had that chance again this year, talking to people who are running for state legislature race who are in it for the community, not themselves.

I spent the weekend trying to find distractions. Yardwork, watching football, doing laundry, you name it. Anything that keeps me from checking 538 hundreds of times every day, I tried. Sadly, the hangover from the Cubs World Series title has worn off; I’m now left to worry about tonight.