The Internet can be an uncomfortable place for Jews.anti-semitism can be overt, but in many cases it is more subtle. Simple emojis and numbers in tweets are often references to Hitler, hidden in plain sight.
Enter John Bradley Lestrange, an adjunct professor at Keene University in New Jersey who specializes in Holocaust and genocide research. On his popular TikTok account, which has 355,000 followers, he analyzes some of the most prevalent anti-Semitic dog whistles.
He said Forward Why did he start translating these symbols, and why are they so vicious?
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
why did you start doing this?
It wasn’t a choice made in a vacuum. I’m posting a dog whistle in (my) video. So I decided to use it as an opportunity to call out prejudices and start educating people about what they see on social media.
Do you go out looking for these dog whistles, or do they just come up as part of normal internet conversation?
Beginning seven or eight years ago, Twitter started showing three brackets around usernames and tweets. I was wondering, what is it?So I looked it up and it was echoThat’s how it all started. And then I started seeing that and other pretty questionable stuff in the comments section, so I started looking them up. Once you start doing it, people start asking, “What does this mean?” And now that’s what my account is all about.
@thehistorywizard @sortaspecialish Certainly. #thehistorywizard #historytiktok #edutok #learnontiktok #wizardcommunism #greenscreen ♬ Original Sound – History Wizard
Are there other forms of racism where this sort of thing happens so often?
A lot of them tend to think I’m Jewish, so I see it mostly from the neo-Nazi, white supremacist side. But there are transphobic dog whistles and there are anti-black dog whistles. It’s just that I tend to see anti-Semites the most.
How do you know something is being used as a dog whistle?
I have spent many years studying the Holocaust and similar events. Something might be a dog whistle new to me, something I’ve never seen before, but what they’re using to express that particular kind of prejudice is so shocking. Not. At the moment, it’s just annoying because it could contain some sort of secret encrypted message, like half an emoji.
I know some of the dog whistles you described, but I was new to ballpoint pens for example.
The reason dog whistles are so effective is because they are like anything else. right?like number 14and the number 88 People born in 1988 may be more likely to appear in their email addresses and usernames.
@thehistorywizard @mistressofdreems Great question #thehistorywizard #historytiktok #edutok #learnontiktok #wizardcommunism ♬ Original Sound – History Wizard
Ballpoint pen videos explain that many people leave pen emoji comments on people’s videos, meaning “I’m taking notes. I’ll remember what you said for the future.” But I didn’t realize it. I mean, it’s also kind of diabolical. Most profiles that maliciously post dog whistles are pretty clear about it. You go to their profile and they will have a lot of terrible videos on there. Just seeing you commenting random numbers of , that in itself is pretty suspicious.
How do you keep up to date with what people are using as code?
Unfortunately, unless you go to 4chan, 8chan, or any of these white supremacist internet message boards, you have no idea what new message boards they’re coming up with. I’m not going to. Most of the more commonly used ones are outdated. Like an echo, two lightning bolts, just a nose. And these are the ones that have been in use for years at this point. The 14 and 88 are nearly 20 years old at least at this point.
Why is it so important for the average TikTok user to know about these dog whistles?
Because when we don’t know about them, we allow prejudice and hatred to go on under our noses. This is how the pipeline works if you don’t raise awareness of who is there. Someone is”What does 13% mean?When they see it in the video they go looking for it themselves but if they don’t know the proper way to do the research they end up on white supremacist message boards and completely inundated with racist messages and then fall into that pipeline.
@stupendo_117 Thank you #thehistorywizard #historytiktok #edutok #learnontiktok #wizardcommunism ♬ Original Sound – History Wizard