A virtual (((hug))) is now a virtual (((threat))) used by alt-right
Until last year, parentheses represented love in the virtual world. Putting a person's name inside multiple sets of parentheses meant a hug for that person. Since November 2015, Jewish writers of prominent publications started noticing their names enclosed in multiple parentheses, on Twitter. Not much attention was given to it until last month (May), when Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor of the New York Times, after tweeting an article that he had written for the Washington Post that showed Donald Trump as a fascist, found his name enclosed in multiple parentheses by a Trump supporter.
Upon further investigation, Weisman found out that for the past few months, white supremacists and neo-Nazis have been using the parentheses symbol to target Jewish writers with anti-Semitic abuse. As of now, the Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish non-governmental organization based in the U.S., has added the symbol to its online database of hate symbols.
"This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots & salutes but with a television huckster." Robert Kagan https://t.co/9C8rBqyLbR
— (((Jon Weisman))) (@jonathanweisman) May 19, 2016
The symbol was first used by a group of right-wing social media users called alt-right, a segment of right-wing politics whose ideologies are presented as an alternative to mainstream conservatism in U.S. politics. According to them, the symbol is a visual representation of the fact that all Jewish surnames echoes throughout history, meaning that all the problems caused by Jewish people echoes from decades to decades, centuries to centuries.
According to Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, the echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or verbally abusing someone.
Journalists Anthony Smith and Cooper Fleishman, upon further investigating the matter, found out that alt-right used “Coincidence Detector,” a Google Chrome extension, to search for Jewish people in the social media, to target them for online abuse. As of now, Google has taken the extension down from its app store, for breaching its terms and conditions on hate speech.
— Merry Madway (@StrengthSecure) June 6, 2016
Ever since the story broke, in a way of showing solidarity, a lot of people, Jews, and non-Jews alike started enclosing their names in a set of parentheses. It was started by Yair Rosenberg, a senior writer at the online Jewish magazine, Tablet. He asked his followers to put the parentheses around their name, in order to raise awareness about anti-Semitism, to support the harassed Jews and to mess with the Twitter Nazis.
Most of the alt-right members are supporters of Donald Trump. Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, called for Trump to denounce the anti-Semitic harassment conducted in his name.