How I accidentally found an archetype.
by Thomas R. Eddlem
Last week the National Libertarian Party re-tweeted the following image, generating a wave of fake rage that the Libertarian Party had become anti-Semitic:
If you don’t see the anti-Semitism in the imagery, you’d have lots of company. I’d guess 99% of people would see nothing anti-Semitic about the above image. But if you look closer, the hands of the lower image match the hands in an anti-Semitic “Happy Merchant” image created by filmmaker Nick Bougas in the 1990s:
Though I was vaguely familiar with the “Happy Merchant” (and with the fakertarian rage online of the “blatant Nazi propaganda” I’d assumed at first it was an actual Nazi-era image, and not one created during the Internet era), I didn’t see any resemblance at first. I jumped in to defend the national LP, as friends do, but in retrospect I probably hastily jumped into a snare.
Why would someone do that?
And it was only after seeing the overlay of the two images did I see the “anti-Semitic hands,” and even then I didn’t see how it could be anything other than a coincidence: Why would someone inset such a small, easily-overlooked detail into a photo? Moreover, the “anti-Semitic hands” in the graphic are cut off in some screen previews, making it less likely anyone would even see the “anti-Semitic hands.”
My experience is that anti-Semites are not known for subtlety; they’re like vegans: They usually announce loudly and precisely what they believe as soon as they enter the room, whether it is related to the conversation or not. I’ve seen this in the form of “Eddlem? Is that a Jewish name?” (it’s not), though the vibe they send is in more the way it’s asked than the actual words used. Nor are anti-Semites the brightest bulbs. The overwhelming majority are kind of like those people who, when God was handing out the brains, thought He said “trains” and went to ride on the caboose.
Along with those are fellow caboose-riders, the fakertarian Insane Clown Posse, who used the meme posting to loudly and absurdly accuse the Libertarian Party of becoming anti-Semitic for unwittingly posting the image.
Even Dave Chappelle would be forced to admit that the proportion of Jewish libertarian economist heroes is “coincidentally” higher than that of Hollywood producers: Pretty much all Libertarian economic heroes— Ludwig von Mises (after whom the caucus is named), Milton Freidman, Ayn Rand, David Ricardo, Peter Schiff, Murray Rothbard, Walter Block — are Jewish. The Libertarian Party is positively marinated in Jewish people, as it always has been, and nobody cares one way or the other, with the exception that Libertarians continue to recognize talent (which its Jewish members often have in abundance) and seek to let cream rise to the top.
It would only be a slight exaggeration to call libertarianism a Jewish movement.
That’s why beer always comes out my nose in a belly laugh when the fakertarian Insane Clown Posse essentially says:
“Yeah, they named their caucus after a Jewish economist, and most of them self-describe themselves as ‘Rothbardians’ (another Jewish economist), and they listen to podcasts by Dave Smith & Robbie Bernstein, and Peter Schiff, and — sure — their favorite presidential candidates for 2024 are Dave Smith and Spike Cohen…. But they’re anti-Semites.”
— Insane Clown Posse of fakertarians
My dudes, I would tell you: You’re giving insane clowns a bad name. Anyone who says the Libertarian Party is in any way anti-Semitic is the surname of the author of The Three Musketeers (you pronounce it the way you want, and I’ll pronounce it the way I want).
The ironic super-spreaders of anti-Semitic imagery
There are two answers to the question “Who would put easily overlooked anti-Semitic imagery into a meme?” and, surprisingly, neither one is to spread actual anti-Semitism. Indeed, it’s a pretty inefficient way to spread anti-Semitism if it’s a message nobody is looking at or recognizing.
The first answer to the above question is there’s a small subset of Internet trolls who will put some small detail into a meme just to get a reaction, even a negative reaction, for the notoriety or in order to monetize the hate they receive. There are some people who are just that attention starved, though more often, the goal is to monetize the higher number of impressions and shares. And the reality is that there’s not a lot to be gained from monetizing such imagery. So it’s the less likely of the two answers.
Interestingly enough, the target audience for putting semi-hidden racist/anti-Semitic minutiae into such memes (in both answers) is not the unwitting initial sharer of the meme itself, but the persons who will get upset about it. The latter — the wokesters, of which the Insane Clown Posse is only a subset — become the super-spreaders of the meme, sharing it publicly with reckless abandon and highlighting the anti-Semitism/racism in the meme that would have remained otherwise unnoticed. Without the wokist super-spreaders, such memes would have perhaps a few thousand shares and die on the vine in a day or two without anyone even realizing the anti-Semitism. With the glaring spotlight of the wokist super-spreaders, an otherwise mediocre meme can get millions of impressions and live on for years.
And while the troll-factory authors who create memes with objectionable minutiae in order to monetize the controversy are evil, more evil still are the people who instantly take to social media to harp on those who unwittingly share them. The former are motivated by greed, but the latter are motivated by hate. The meme-troll is counting on that hate, that the wokester will publicly take his outrage to social media rather than privately tell the person who shared the meme that it might be best to take it down. The latter is the only way to deprive the memes with metaphorical “anti-Semitic hands” of any air.
The meme-troll is counting on the hate of the wokester based upon a personal grudge or a political difference, more specifically the character flaw on the part of the wokester who is assuming the worst possible motivation for sharing the meme. The vice of assuming the worst possible motivation of your political opponents is manifested on the left by racism/anti-Semitism and on the right by assuming child molesting or transgenderism (explaining the right’s fetish with Pizzagate and silly attempts to portray Michelle Obama as a man).
That the Insane Clown Posse chooses to go public first, rather than privately urging a post to be taken down, is a choice (usually an unconscious one) to amplify the message of the anti-Semitism more widely. In that sense, the “anti-Semitic hands” spreading anti-Semitic imagery are those of the Insane Clown Posse. In their defense, none of this — neither the initial poster nor the manufactured outrage — spreads anti-Semitism itself in any significant way.
Reason#2: The kind of psy-ops the MISC loves
But there’s another and more important answer to “why do people do that?” And it shouldn’t be overlooked. Massive attention toward perceived “anti-Semitism” or “racism” or any other similar negative attitude on a meme distracts from the overall message of the meme itself, and in this case distraction from scrutiny of money-laundering to Ukraine is something the Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex (MISC) is very happy to see. The above meme has already been fact-chucked by the “professionals” on Facebook to declare there’s nothing shady about US money flowing to and from Ukraine, as if Hunter Biden heartily earned his salary on the board of Burisma.
The MISC of the United States and several other nations positively has a hand in spurring this kind of distraction, even if it was not specifically the case with the above “anti-Semitic hands” meme by @Kalvous. Kalvous may or may not be a state actor, but his meme is an archetype of what state meme factories almost certainly do. The state has a very strong incentive to promote metaphorical (and perhaps actual) “anti-Semitic hands” in memes.
The creation of such memes provide what the communists used to call “multiple gains” in a propaganda war. First, they distract from the message the person opposing the government policy (in this case taxpayer aid to Ukraine), but secondly, they tie up organizers’ time and effort in defending themselves against the worst of political smears. Thirdly, if political persons or organizations can be enticed to share multiple images, or even singly by multiple individuals within a larger organization, the whole group can be unjustly tarred with the political poison label of “anti-Semite” or “racist,” effectively limiting their efforts to lobby, expand, and impact the public debate meaningfully.
The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird was re-established after 9/11 into several propaganda programs with different names through several military and surveillance agencies, including Operation Earnest Voice. And while the Earnest Voice program is officially for information warfare outside of the United States, no sane person believes that the military and the intelligence agencies have limited themselves to that. It’s also probable that some of the most egregious digital manipulation of US public opinion has been outsourced to friendly foreign intelligence agencies which don’t have the statutory restrictions on them, like the MI6/GCHQ and the other “five eyes” agencies. The US government has been subsidizing foreign intelligence agencies for more than a decade.
Kalvous’ feed looks like typical Trumpster-fire Republican fare, with no anti-Semitic or racist tropes that I noticed (though I didn’t notice this one). I don’t know anything about Kalvous, not even if he is a man or a woman (but my money is on non-binary). If the image was indeed drawn with hands that only coincidentally resembled the “Happy Merchant,” Kalvous hasn’t rushed out to defend his drawings or to explain the similarity. It’s noteworthy that Kalvous suddenly opened up a host of social media accounts late this past summer (none earlier than August of this year), after the Russo-Ukraine war was already well underway.
That makes it clear to me is that this is probably not a CIA sockpuppet account; the CIA is better planned and without a doubt has hundreds of sockpuppet meme-troll factories already set up and ready to call upon. They wouldn’t have to create a new account from scratch after the war had already started. So if Kalvous is a state actor and not a low-grade grifter, he’s definitely not a professional like a CIA/MI6/Mossad guy. If he’s a government agent he’s probably some schlub working for a second-rate intelligence agency (think Poland, New Zealand or Ukraine).
The sock-puppet meme-factories of the state would have to be unquestionably backed by a professional outrage social media posse, as seeding professional outrage organizations with spook influence agents ensures the proper level of controversy and that a subtly-generated meme with hidden racist or anti-Semitic imagery won’t be ignored.
I’m not sure what this means going forward. People tend to share memes freely and on a whim, without examining the images through a microscope first. That’s unlikely to change.
I could advise LP national to share memes they didn’t create more carefully, and, in fact, that’s my recommendation. But the reality is that the LP is a de-centralized organization with 51 very independent state affiliates, so even if LP national is fastidious, one or two of the state (or local) affiliates is going to miss these “anti-Semitic hands” in the future.
In the end, people are going to have to be made to understand both the insidious nature of what the Internet has become and that some people are going to share memes with hidden details innocently.
And that’s the purpose of this blog post. That, and to remind Americans that we need to abolish the surveillance state.