On January 28 2020, a screenshot of an apparent Washington Post headline musing what anti-Semites who believed that anti-Semitism itself is a “Jewish plot” might think of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign circulated on Facebook in screenshot form:
On the page above, a status update appended to the image read:
Very normal headline from the Washington post
Although no date was visible, it appeared to be a tweet that originated from the @washingtonpost account, reading:
Perspective: Anti-Semites see socialism as a Jewish plot. What will they say about Bernie Sanders?
In the comments, some users questioned the validity of the tweet, positing that it might be satire. Others objected to what they perceived as pandering to anti-Semitism, or that it referenced coded means of engaging in anti-Semitic discourse:
“Is…is this real?!”
“Won’t someone PLEASE think of the NAZIS”
“Washington Post suddenly very concerned about how “electable” the Dem candidate is to Nazis”
“There is no date attached”
“Anti-Semites see the broken ice cream machine at McDonald’s as a damn Jewish plot.”
“let’s get an over/under going for how long it takes wapo to straight up start using triple parentheses”
Still others claimed that the tweet was both real and contemporaneous, appearing one day prior on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2020 (January 27). A quick search revealed the tweet was real and accurately dated in those comments, published on Twitter on January 27 2020:
Perspective: Anti-Semites see socialism as a Jewish plot. What will they say about Bernie Sanders? https://t.co/hZDdfzWNDt
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 27, 2020
As the “perspective” modifier implied, the tweet linked to an editorial piece, which was headlined: “Perspective | Bernie Sanders may soon have to confront this anti-Semitic myth.” It appeared behind a paywall (inaccessible to many readers), and read in part:
What shape might this view take in a general election? Anti-Semites might not openly name Jews as the enemy. They might more subtly urge voters to “fight back” against the shadowy forces manipulating the little guy, such as George Soros, “globalists” or international bankers. Or they might grow more explicit, turning Sanders’s powerful criticisms of a rigged economy around to argue that Democrats’ messages of equality are a ruse. In the eyes of anti-Semites, Jews are the ones rigging things behind the scenes, whether they are capitalists like Bloomberg or socialists like Sanders.
When anti-Semitism increases, even non-Jews can’t escape it. Just ask Franklin D. Roosevelt, who presided during the last historic rise of American anti-Semitism. Roosevelt wasn’t Jewish, but that didn’t protect him from consistent rumors that he was secretly a Jew or that he was a puppet of his Jewish advisers. Nor was this phenomenon limited to the 1930s — look at the anti-Semitic rhetoric used in 2016 against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, both by Republican candidate Donald Trump and his supporters.
Americans will need a candidate who can slay this dragon, a leader who understands that the answer to both anti-Semitism and inequality in America is to face them head-on. Such a candidate will need supporters who grasp how anti-Semitism works in America: its deep roots, its power to divide movements and its strategic role in silencing people who know how possible equality really is.
In parts, the editorial addressed the insidious manner in which anti-Semitic tropes appear in the media, such as reference to “shadowy forces” or “globalists.” It also noted that anti-Semitic propaganda was harmful to politicians of all backgrounds, thanks to broader conspiracy theories and disinformation about shadow governments and “international bankers.”
However, the tweet was real, and on January 27 2020, the Washington Post tweeted “Perspective: Anti-Semites see socialism as a Jewish plot. What will they say about Bernie Sanders?” Commenters replying to the tweet largely opined that they did not care what anti-Semites had to say, or else they noted that the tweet belied or misrepresented the editorial, chiding the paper for using misleading or inflammatory language on Twitter.