Twitter allows Russia to share anti-Semitic cartoon of Zelensky

Elon Musk’s Twitter It failed to stop the circulation of an anti-Semitic caricature posted online by Russian diplomats, depicting Ukrainian Jewish President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with a giant nose, using the image of Nazi propaganda.

Despite pleas from Twitter users protesting the cartoon’s anti-Jewish racism, the tweet had not been deleted, decontextualized, or otherwise visibly restricted by the time of this article, 17 hours after the image was first posted on the official account. From the Russian Embassy in London.

Before Musk took control of the social network, tweets containing images that used racist tropes to attack individuals or groups based on their ethnicity were routinely removed from the platform or made impossible to share.

Joan Donovan, director of research at the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy and co-author of Meme Wars, posted a screenshot of a tweet from the Russian embassy, ​​noting that diplomats were using “blatant anti-Semitism” to beat the drum. Support for Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The cartoon is a version of an old Internet meme in which an image of Bart Simpson writing on a chalkboard during an after-school detention — from the opening sequence of “The Simpsons” — is reworked with actual new text on the chalkboard. In the image shared by Russian officials, Bart’s character was also replaced with a crude depiction of Zelensky, where his nose was altered to evoke the image of a Nazi Jew.

The text on the board and the tweeted Russian caption for the cartoon refer to Russian-promoted but unsubstantiated speculation that Ukraine fired a defensive missile into Poland as part of a false flag operation during a recent Russian attack. He intended to involve NATO in the conflict.

Twitter’s failure to immediately remove the photo or restrict the account of the Russian government that posted it was consistent with Musk’s earlier statements. He sympathizes with Russia’s war aims and his active embrace of right-wing ideas about the need to make social networking a forum for “free speech” even as it allows hate speech to flourish.

But Musk’s definition of who should be allowed to speak freely appears to be influenced by the right-wing ideologues and trolls he often encourages and agrees with on Twitter. The social network’s decision to allow the Russian government’s racist attack on Zelensky came at the same time as some anti-fascist accounts went viral. has been suspended After Musk reinstated the accounts of both Donald Trump — who used his tweets to incite a January 6, 2021 coup — and Kanye West, who recently threatened to punish the “Jewish people.”

Eliot Higgins started with the founder of a news organization called Bellingcat Collaborative, open-source research on Twitterwas among those who caught Musk’s attention with his image and he asked if the new owner of the social network is “satisfied with the state’s Twitter accounts that use anti-Semitism?” Higgins suggested that Musk could even poll his followers on the platform to see if they are “cool with casual anti-Semitism.”

Elizabeth Tsurkov, a researcher at the Regional Think Tank, a Jerusalem-based Israeli-Palestinian think tank, noted that the tweet came from diplomats working for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who defends Russia’s wild claims about its governance of Ukraine. They confirmed the Nazi conspiracy theory that Adolf Hitler was Jewish.

“What if Zelensky is Jewish?” Lavrov told Italian television in May when asked about Russia’s claim that Ukraine was run by Nazis. “I believe that Hitler also has Jewish blood.” The foreign minister later claimed that the “wise Jewish people” had said that “some of the worst anti-Semites are Jews”.

Commenting on the cartoon shared by Russian diplomats on Twitter, Tsurkov wrote: “The people who brought you ‘Hitler was a Jew’ decided to describe the Jewish president of Ukraine in this way.”

Lavrov’s statements provoked anger condemned “An unforgivable and outrageous statement, as well as a terrible historical mistake,” said Israeli colleague Yair Lapid. Jews did not kill themselves in the Holocaust. “The lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews themselves of anti-Semitism.”

Three days later, Vladimir Solovyov, a hawkish host of Russian state television who is himself Jewish, told viewers that it was entirely possible for Zelensky to be both Jewish and a Nazi, at least according to the definition used by those around Russian President Vladimir Putin. . Nazism, Solovyov insisted, was a form of extreme nationalism that could target any national group, not just Jews. “Nazism doesn’t have to be anti-Semitic,” he said, “it can be anti-Slavic, anti-Russian.”

The idea that the main victims of Nazi Germany were Russians, not Jews, has a long pedigree in Russia. As historian Timothy Snyder explains in his book Lands of Blood, the official Soviet history of the nation’s “Great Patriotic War” against Nazi Germany was written to minimize the suffering of Jews affected by Joseph Stalin’s anti-Semitism.

Snyder writes: “If the Stalinist understanding of war was to prevail, the fact that the Jews were its primary victims had to be forgotten.” “Also, what must be forgotten is that when the war started in 1939, the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union was not prepared for the German attack in 1941. and from himself; brought up other unwanted memories. It was necessary to forget that.”

Snyder wrote in Substack in April: “Not because Putin’s Russian regime opposes the far-right than ‘Nazis’, it certainly doesn’t, but as a rhetorical device to justify a policy of gratuitous war and genocide.” “[T]”Russia’s policy of ‘denazification’ is not directed at Nazis in the normal sense of the word,” Snyder added, but operates within a specific Russian definition of “Nazi”: a Nazi is a Ukrainian who refuses to admit that Ukraine itself is fascist. Russian.”

“The actual history of the actual Nazis and their actual crimes in the 1930s and 1940s is thus completely irrelevant and completely dismissed,” Snyder said. “This is completely consistent with Russia’s war in Ukraine. No tears are shed in the Kremlin over Russia’s killing of Holocaust survivors or Russia’s destruction of Holocaust memorials, because Jews and the Holocaust have nothing to do with Russia’s definition of “Nazi.” This explains why Vladimir Zelensky became the democratically elected president and a Jew who fought in the Red Army and died in the Holocaust with his family members can be called a Nazi. “Zelensky is Ukrainian, and that’s what ‘Nazi’ means.”