Thank you very much for your reply, and please, no need to apologize for the delay; I know you're busy.
I'm pleased you're treating the problem of antisemitic reader comments with due seriousness. And I'm very glad indeed that you've tightened up your stance regarding comparisons to concentration camps and Nazism and agree with me that these comparisons fall outside acceptable discourse on the topic.
However, I glanced at the reader comments for one recent story, "Livni, Netanyahu vie for Israeli coalition partners," (Feb 12, 2009, http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/02/12/israel-election.html#socialcomments
) and found a posting by JordanThornton in which he claims Israel turned Gaza into: "the world's largest Concentration Camp."
In the the very next reader posting, "TheFacts," wrote:
Israel bring allways the Holocaust subject to life ..... Israel: what about the Holocaust you inflict Palestinians? ((2009/02/12 at 8:38 PM ET)
So again, while it's great that you've tightened up your stance, please be aware that these comparisons continue to slip past the moderators.
Also, it's good that you removed the antisemitic attacks I pointed out [in my last email] and that you found and removed many more such attacks.
Unfortunately, this is a case of cleaning up a program after it's already been broadcast.
You write that:
Our users are quick to alert us to these cases via the 'report abuse' link.
But the 50-plus comments I noted had already been up for hours if not days. If I'd had time to look at all the thousands of comments posted throughout the Gaza crisis, I'm sure I would have found many more antisemitic attacks - many hundreds more. And of course your team did find plenty of other antisemitic comments posted by the users I alerted you to.
So while it's certainly useful, the 'report abuse' link is no answer to the problem.
For myself, I do often use the 'report abuse' link, but I use it with a sense of futility, knowing that the offensive comment has already been broadcast and that most of the people who are going to read it already have. Moreover, reporting abuse takes time, since I feel it's necessary to explain the problem with a given posting, as it's already been screened and okayed by a moderator. Finally, merely deleting their worst postings is in some ways a service to the bigots: it disguises where they're coming from and may result in making them appear halfway credible.
I was much more encouraged to hear that you've reviewed the inappropriate postings with your moderation team, refreshed your team on the issue of antisemitism and, most especially, that you've made them aware of the problem users.
Do you have a feature that automatically highlights comments by these users as they come in? If not, I'd think your IT people could set up something like that quite easily.
In the meanwhile, I note that antisemitic attacks continue to slip through. For example, on February 6, the day after your reply to me, "FRTknocker" (who believes the CBC is a "Zionist mouthpiece") contributed a rant against "Zionists," by which he means "Jews," specifically including Canadian Jews, and brings up the old antisemitic canard that Jews ("Zionists") believe they're "the elite, chosen people":
More zionist lies.
It is the PALESTINIANS attacking the terrorist occupiers. One
of the many problems with the zionist mouthpiece is that it tries to get us (the non-zionist public) to believe that everyone who attacks the zionist/terrorist occupiers is a member of hamas. PALESTINIANS attack the zionist terrorists because said terrorists have invaded the Palestinians' land and are murdering their women and babies en-masse. If you take a country by force, displace and exterminate it's people, then call yourselves 'the chosen people'; those who you've invaded will likely respond with violence.
Are you terrorist/zionist sympathizers starting to get the picture?! No. Of course not. Because many of you have been brainwashed into believing zionist bs since you were children. Growing up you were stuffed with all this bs about you being the elite, chosen people, and now your agendas on zionism/israel etc etc have been ingrained.
People raised this way will likely believe their own lies until their time on this earth is finished. It is really sad.
ZIONISM IS TERRORISM!
77 People recommended this comment Report abuse - Reported
(Posted 2009/02/06 at 9:00 AM ET)
This is the same FRTknocker who (as I pointed out in my last email) invited Canadian Jews to leave, writing:
Go home zionazis. We want none of your fascist, racist terrorism here in Canada.
(2009/01/09 at 2:13 PM)
I don't understand the CBC's reluctance to ban problem users, especially as this problem of Jew-haters using the CBC as their message board isn't new.
Last year, when Stephen Harper laid a wreath at Auschwitz (story April 5, 2008, http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/04/05/harper-poland.html#storycomments
), a reader calling himself baltzera objected, writing:
I got a bad feeling about this one. Getting a little too close
to Americans and Jews, aren't we folks? I'm stuck here watching my Canada deteriorate and become another vassal of Zionist and American imperialists.
Later baltzera added:
I'm thinking of vacation next year and have to watch my spending. Which is cheaper? A day pass to Disney?s theme park or Dachau.
Similarly, a reader, going by the name Patrice, accused Israel of genocide and continually compared Israel to the Nazis, which seems to be the 21st Century equivalent of calling Jews "kikes."
On April 9, 2008, another CBC.ca article reported on B'nai Brith's annual audit of antisemitic incidents in Canada http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2008/04/09/anti-semitic-incidents.html#storycomments
). Some readers expressed dismay at how often Jews are harassed and shock about the firebombing of a Jewish community centre. Many comments, though, were directed against Jews.
A fellow identifying himself as "archboca" defended harassment of Canadian Jews as: "a reaction to what is going on in the Middle East," where he explained, the real Semites are the Arabs and the Israel is the anti-Semite.
Archboca also condemned the B'nai Brith because it: "is very active in hunting down former German soldiers close to the Nazi government."
While archboca's support for war criminals suggests he speaks from some point on the neo-Nazi right, his sentiments were echoed from the anti-Jewish left.
This "so-called antisemitism," wrote a fellow calling himself "Bobalink," is nothing but an attempt to recast "Israel and Jews as 'victims' rather than perpetrators of human rights violations."
Jews aren't really even Semites, wrote Bobalink, yet they misuse this term for "silencing public criticism of the state of Israel's policies." And, he said, "their influence is so pervasive that most western media and journalists will practice a form of 'self-censorship'" rather than print "criticism of Israeli history."
EastVanMan summed up a few of the main anti-Jewish smears:
This report is rubbish? You lot best tidy your own house before you come and disapprove of how people perceive these people. I am not fond of Jewish and often Zionist control of media? Your despised for all the right reasons here and globally.
As far back as April 8, 2004, writing in the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente noted the problem with antisemitic reader comments at the CBC, and quoted this one:
Jesus may have been a Jew himself but I know for a fact that he didn't take part in the eating of blood-filled pastries made from the blood of Palestinian children. (http://tinyurl.com/bww5wc)
The theme of Jews thirsting for blood resurfaced during the crisis in Gaza. For example, on January 2, 2009, a reader identifying himself as "LoranHayden" (a problem user if ever there was one) portrayed Jews as rejoicing in "Muslim juice":
Gideon: "Great news, my friend - did you not see the explosions next to the mosque? sadly, there were no swine inside, but we did manage to wipe out a potential sty of their young. Oh, we are doing very well now, Moshe!"
Moshe: "Oh, my good and righteous friend, Gideon - I agree. What can I do, but agree with this continued and beautifully bloody affair - tell me, was there vapor? Was there Muslim juice?"
Gideon: "Yes, my friend - there was Muslim juice - look now
and you can see from our ultra high-tech surveillance drones - given to us from our good friend Condoleeza Rice - see how they bleed, Moshe? See how the tanks keep progressing regardless of their tracks being slick and lubricated with human blood. Yes, this is a good week for Israel - the very best ever!"
(Posted 2009/01/02 at 6:29 PM ET, "Foreign passport holders exit Gaza" http://tinyurl.com/dlzxnh).
I applaud the CBC's desire to "provide an open forum for debate for all Canadians." But in reality, this isn't a forum for all Canadians; it's dominated by a hate-filled fringe represented by the likes of LoranHayden. Within Canada, only a tiny minority subscribes to anti-Jewish politics. On these forums, they're a majority.
For example, as of February 14th, 536 people have recommended a posting by "sandy411" in which he compares Israel's war with Hamas to the Holocaust and adds a reference to Israel wanting "pounds of flesh" - like Shylock the Jew - and adds:
How many tons of Palestinian women and children will settle your account, Israel? (http://tinyurl.com/b9bjy9)
Similarly, 769 readers have recommended a posting by "Bobsan" (on 2009/01/08 at 1:40 AM ET), comparing what the Nazis did to the Jews to what Israel does to the Palestinians.
I don't see how this problem can begin to get turned around unless the CBC starts banning problem users. Banning repeat (or even first time) offenders is standard procedure on most message boards; it's how they remain functional.
In other CBC programming, if guests start making racist comments on-air, the CBC doesn't invite them back. But for its reader comments pages, the CBC has made an exception, and the result has been to turn them into a playground for bigots.
I urge the CBC to change its policies and to ban problem users.
Brian from Toronto
P.S. I notice you don't sign your name. I assume this isn't a lapse in professionalism but reflects your delicate position as referee for highly emotional topics?
P.P.S. For Jews (as opposed to antisemites), "chosen-ness" is the theological concept that Jews have additional religious obligations; for example, Jews traditionally observe 613 commandments, not just the usual 10.