Advertising for the reelection campaigns of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as the Committee to Reelect Trump ran this week using symbols that have been identified by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as hate speech. The ads have been pulled by Facebook.
The ads didn’t just make negative references to Antifa and “dangerous far-left mobs”. President Trump’s re-election campaign ads displayed a marking – a red inverted triangle – the Nazis once used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.
According to The Washington Post, which broke the story, the red triangle and “mob” references appeared in paid posts sponsored by Trump and Pence, as well as by the “Team Trump” campaign, asking users to sign a petition against antifa.
The term “antifa” refers to a loose collection of anti-fascist activists, and the Trump administration is attempting to link them to recent violence during the Black Lives Matter protests. There is no tangible evidence they are related to the violence that occurred on the fringes of the protests. In fact, the violence has been linked to right-wing militia groups.
The red inverted triangle was first used by the Nazi – fascist party in the 1930s to identify and incarcerate Communists. Then it was applied to Social Democrats, liberals, church leaders, Freemasons, and basically anyone who opposed the fascist agenda. Millions of them ended up in Nazi concentration camps, or dead. The Nazis were fanatic at labeling: the badge Jewish political prisoners were forced to wear featured a yellow triangle overlaid by a red triangle so as to resemble a Star of David.
The move by Facebook may mark a shift toward more vigilance on the content it carries. Until recently, it has referred to itself as a media sharing platform, that wasn’t responsible for the accuracy or tone of the content shared by others on its platform. According to a report by CNN, and internet research by the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of adults in the United States get news from social media, as well as three-fourths who say they get news from email or social media site updates. Given this, the responsibility to ensure accuracy is an issue that continues to confront all media, including those media who don’t yet admit they are media.
The delay before Facebook removed the ads, had an impact. The ads containing the identified hate speech received more than a million impressions for the Trump ad and more than half a million impressions on the Pence ads.
The word “Antifa” is a made-up word used to define those who identify as anti-fascist. It sounds foreign, and many right-wing proponents and Trump supporters are under the mistaken impression that this is somehow a foreign terrorist organization. Applying it as Americans across the country are participating in their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom to assemble is disingenuous and inaccurate.
In fact, being anti-fascist is decidedly American. All Americans who fought World War II to defeat fascists – Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy – were anti-fascist. Nazi’s were – and are – fascists. They want to control, they want to dominate, and as the axis powers, they caused the world all sorts of trouble and chaos until they were defeated in 1945. The reemergence of fascist groups in the U.S. and Europe is a troubling development.
This is not the first time that the Trump campaign has incited hate and violence. During his 2016 campaign, he repeatedly flashed white supremacy hand signals and encouraged his followers to attack news media covering his rallies. Following the peaceful demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia three years ago that were overrun by white supremacists, he announced that “there were very good people on both sides.”
The action yesterday by Facebook was not the first time it took action against Trump’s campaign ads. In March, the company removed advertising by the Trump campaign that contained misleading references to the U.S. Census. After initially allowing the ads, it reviewed them following objections from congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who pointed out that they contained false information.
With the November elections only 136 days away, voters will need to be increasingly more vigilant about dis-information, particularly information in campaign advertising. Political advertising is the only form of advertising not required to provide claims substantiation for the claims that are made. It is slightly ludicrous to understand that a business selling butter has to substantiate its claims that its butter is creamier or the best quality on the market, but an ad for a political candidate can make any claim it wants without substantiating it. This makes the political climate all the more volatile.
While Trump is warning of leftist violence, a dangerous threat is emerging from the right-wing boogaloo movement
Featured image: a poster created by Jon Tyson, for Unsplash.