NEW YORK (JTA) — Baron Cohen has slammed the social media industry and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, saying the site would have let Adolf Hitler post 30-second ads on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem.’”FULL SPEECH:
Cohen made a career out of playing absurd comedic characters, from the dopey Brit Ali G to the Kazakh journalist Borat to the Israeli veteran Erran Morad. He rarely gives interviews and stays relatively far from the movie star limelight.
But on Thursday, Cohen tossed aside the humorous facade to excoriate the social media industry and the “autocracy” he says it promotes in a non-ironic speech.
After receiving the international leadership award from the Anti-Defamation League at its annual conference at the Javits Center in Manhattan, the British Jewish comedian slammed social media sites as the “greatest propaganda machine in history” — reserving most of his 15-minute speech to specifically critique Facebook and its CEO Zuckerberg.
“Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear,” Cohen said. “It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.MORE: https://www.timesofisrael.com/sacha-baron-cohen-calls-social-media-greatest-propaganda-machine-in-history/
“And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history — the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, ‘Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.‘”
Cohen spent a significant part of his speech criticizing a recent address Zuckerberg gave at Georgetown University in which the Facebook founder spoke about the importance of upholding free expression on social media. Cohen called out Facebook for allowing political ads on its platform without verifying the veracity of their claims. Twitter and Google have recently taken steps to ban such ads.
“Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem,’” Cohen said, saying the site should fact check all political ads.
The actor also urged social media sites to consider delaying real-time posts that could spread hateful content, citing the gunman who attacked two mosques in New Zealand and livestreamed his attack.
“Why can’t we have more of a delay so this trauma-inducing filth can be caught and stopped before it’s posted in the first place?” he asked.
Cohen said that social media companies should be held responsible for the content spread on their sites, referencing a federal law that shields them from liability for specific posts.
“Maybe it’s time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: You already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail,” Cohen said.
“On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.”
The speech was not completely devoid of humor — Cohen joked about a key Jewish adviser for President Donald Trump.
“Thank you, ADL, for this recognition and your work in fighting racism, hate and bigotry,” he said. “And to be clear, when I say ‘racism, hate and bigotry,’ I’m not referring to the names of Stephen Miller’s Labradoodles.”
Cohen additionally addressed the idea that he promotes anti-Semitic stereotypes in his movies, which groups like the ADL have criticized in the past.
“Now I’m not going to claim that everything I’ve done has been for a higher purpose,” he said. “But when Borat was able to get an entire bar in Arizona to sing ‘Throw the Jew down the well,’ it did reveal people’s indifference to anti-Semitism.”
Cohen said he has been “passionate about challenging bigotry and intolerance” his entire life and wrote an undergraduate thesis on the American civil rights movement “with the help of the archives of the ADL.”
The ADL said that more than 1,600 people attended the daylong event, which included a range of sessions on anti-Semitism and hate.
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Rep. Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother. Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup. The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!
Content warning: Antisemitismus, BDS
The European Broadcasting Union responded to the Madonna incident later on Saturday night, saying according to Reuters, “This part of the performance were not part of the rehearsals which had been approved by the EBU and the host broadcaster, Kan. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna has been made aware of it.”"
"All the appreciation over the organizing of an exemplary event was erased in one moment. I do not know who is responsible for this, but the flag on the right is responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Israelis. Since when has it become legitimate to proudly present it on the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation? I expect those responsible to be held accountable for this failure, there is a limit to our flattery to the world, and the buck stops here."
"The off key singing was embarrassing for a singer like Madonna." ... "The truth is that she was totally off key"
A cross-party alliance in the German parliament on Friday passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and cutting off funding to any organizations that "actively support" the BDS movement.MORE: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/German-Bundestag-rules-BDS-is-antisemitic-589999
BDS seeks to financially pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories and allowing full equality for its Arab-Palestinian citizens. Its third key demand, to grant the right of Palestinian refugees from 1948 to return to Israel, is controversial, since some argue that it threatens the state's right to exist. The movement, founded in 2005, is supported by over 170 pro-Palestinian organizations.
"The pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic," the Bundestag resolution stated, before adding that BDS' calls to boycott Israeli artists and the "Don't Buy" stickers applied to Israeli goods "recall the most terrible phase of German history." The resolution also pledged not to financially support organizations that question Israel's right to exist, projects that call for the boycott of Israel, or organizations that actively support BDS.
The resolution was brought by all the centrist parties in the German Bundestag, including Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, the Social Democrats (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) brought its own alternative resolution, calling for an outright ban on BDS. The socialist Left party brought a milder resolution, calling for the condemnation of any anti-Semitic BDS statements.
Speaking in Friday's debate on the issue, CDU Bundestag member Axel Müller reminded the chamber that upholding Israel's right to exist remained a basic principle of the German state. He also claimed that the BDS campaign's social media accounts showed that it was occasionally influenced by the "propaganda of the [Nazi]dictatorship."
"We hopefully remember the many hate-filled images from the Third Reich, where one could see signs with the writing, 'Germans don't buy from Jews': a first step on the way to genocide," he added.
Anti-Semitic or not?
The question of whether BDS should be considered anti-Semitic remains controversial for some. BDS' German branch published a statement this week in anticipation of Friday's resolution. Signed by dozens of Jewish and Israeli academics, who identified both as supporters and opponents of BDS, the statement warned the German political parties, especially those representing the "democratic center," against supporting a resolution that "equated BDS with anti-Semitism."
The statement also said cutting off German funding for NGOs that support BDS represented a threat to freedom of speech.
During Friday's debate, the Green party's Omid Nouripour was among several Bundestag members to bring up the significance of this week's Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, and the BDS call to boycott the event.
"[The ESC] is one of the most successful formats of international understanding and cultural exchange in Europe of the last few decades," Nouripour said. "The fact that BDS is trying to organize a boycott against this form of international understanding speaks volumes about the character of this movement."
Nouripour particularly condemned a logo for the ESC that had been rejigged by the BDS campaign to include barbed wire and an SS symbol. "That is simply intolerable," he said. "That is the kind of comparison of Israeli policy with the crimes under the Nazis against Jews, Roma, homosexuals and many others that has nothing to do with criticism of the Israeli government."
Jürgen Braun of the far-right AfD made an intervention typically provocative for his party, saying that the AfD was the only party in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, that could claim to be "a friend of Israel," a claim that drew scoffing laughter from other lawmakers. Braun was also rebuked by the Bundestag's Vice President Claudia Roth, moderating the debate, for describing the other political parties as the Altparteien ("old parties"), a phrase sometimes associated with Nazi rhetoric.
German government takes a stand
In May 2018, the German government appointed diplomat Felix Klein as its commissioner for anti-Semitism, and he has made clear his view of BDS.
"BDS must be classified as anti-Semitic in both its aims and its methods, as Israeli citizens are collectively held hostage by the boycott," he told DW at the time. "And its methods have clearly borrowed from deplorable Nazi rhetoric: 'Don't buy from Jews.'"
Klein welcomed Friday's Bundestag resolution. "We must oppose every form of anti-Semitism, even if it seems to be harmless," he told the German dpa news agency. "The implementation of the aims of the BDS movement would call Israel's right to exist into question."
That was echoed by the German government during Friday's regular press conference. "We have already made clear several times, both for the government, but also for the European Union, that we are against every form of boycott against Israel," Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said.
Though Breul later went on to take a more nuanced line: "At the same time, it is clear that a whole variety of organizations are collected under the label 'BDS,' and that there are certainly differences in one form or another, how their engagement looks. One must assess in individual cases whether they should be considered anti-Semitic or not."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry also welcomed the Bundestag's resolution on Friday, saying in a statement that, "the German parliament has recognized the anti-Semitic nature of BDS and its unlawful boycott activities."
© 2019 Deutsche Welle