‘Counter-Semite’: the Latest in White Nationalist Rebranding by the Forward

‘Counter-Semite’: the Latest in White Nationalist Rebranding

As any social media guru will tell you, it’s all about brand. And in 2016, white nationalists have clearly got the memo. Prominent Neo-Nazis are dropping the swastika for a more palatable symbol in an effort to mainstream. “Alt-right” leaders like Richard Spencer are popularizing a haircut once worn by a Hitler youth group — and calling it the “fashy,” short for fascist.

Now, some are trying to recast the very idea of anti-Semitism as “counter-Semitism.”

Rightpedia, a new Wikipedia-style online encyclopedia for “alt-right” views, describes “counter-Semitism” as a sort of evolution of the term “anti-Semitism” which has been “distorted” by media and a “neutral” term to describe a “self-defensive opposition and criticism of Jewish supremacism.” On the blog “Views from the Right,” a writer offered: “Counter-semitism implies not just an ill-defined hate, but a complete political program, that elevates Jews to the status of the Great Enemy.”

The term dates back at least to the 1990s, and may have originated in a piece by the writer Joseph Sobran, who wrote that the term anti-Semitism had become overused and that “counter-Semitism” was an attempt “to bring Jews down to the level of ordinary civil society.”

A commenter on the site Occidental Observer wrote: “The ‘counter-Semite’ meme redirects the scrutiny back on them, to their malfeasance. After all, Jews are now the foremost power-holders and the dominators in American life. They are not a powerless group of innocent bystanders. They are punching down. We are punching up.”

The preference among white nationalists for the term makes sense, says Brian Tashman, a researcher for Right Wing Watch. Members of the “alt-right” see themselves as a persecuted minority, oppressed from above (by “nefarious groups” like “globalist” Jews) and below (by immigrants and minorities).

“It’s part of this rebranding to make anti-Semitism more palatable,” said Tashman.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at kestenbaum@forward.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum


Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at kestenbaum@forward.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .

White Nationalists Rebrand Again With ‘Counter-Semite’

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

‘Counter-Semite’: the Latest in White Nationalist Rebranding

Thank you!

This article has been sent!