Huffington Post hailed the departure of Stephen Bannon from Trump’s White House with a provocative homepage headline of “Goy, Bye!” — and not everyone thought it was a great choice of words.
The headline is a mash-up of several viral internet memes.
It references “boy, bye” a dismissive line from the Beyonce song “Sorry” (delivered with two middle fingers up in her music video) that launched hundreds of memes.
“Goy,” of course, is a Hebrew word which literally means “nation” but has taken on a pejorative connotation to refer to non-Jews. Perhaps less widely known is the fact that the online provocateurs of the “alt-right” have taken up the word as their own — imagining shadowy Jewish forces who manipulate the “good goy” to do their bidding.
To the headline writers at HuffPo, it may have seemed like an edgy way to herald the fall of Trump’s “economic nationalist” Bannon, who once described his website Breitbart as the “platform of the alt-right.”
But it sparked instant debate.
Atlantic writer Adam Serwer wrote that it was going to “stir up a few” of the “alt-right,” tweeting an image of a frog’s head in reference to Pepe the Frog, the anti-Semitic icon of the movement.
But others thought it was offensive and played into age-old anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish control.
“I love your work, but wish you hadn’t gone with this headline,” journalist Julia Ioffe wrote.
“Yes, this is disgusting, on so many levels,” Joel Berkowitz, founder of the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project responded on Twitter.
The Anti-Defamation League even weighed in. “Not sure your intent, but strikes me as poor taste at best, very offensive at worst,” ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt wrote in a tweet.
The headline was removed, replaced instead with the (also provocative) “White Flight.” Lydia Polgreen, HuffPo’s editor in chief tweeted an an explanation.
“HuffPost splash headlines have always been edgy and playful,” she wrote. “Today’s splash was intended to be a mashup tribute to Yiddish and Beyoncé. Any other interpretation was completely unintended.”
Email Sam Kestenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum