I saw this tweet last night and glossed over it on the assumption that it couldn’t be as bad as it looked and there must be some important context that was missing that would explain it.
There was context, it turns out. But not enough to stop Facebook from nuking it.
Facebook removed 88 ads Thursday posted by the accounts of President Donald Trump, the Trump campaign and Vice President Mike Pence that the social media giant said were “violating our policy against organized hate.”
All of the identical ads featured an upside-down red triangle, a symbol used by the Nazi party in World War II to identify political dissidents in concentration camps. The ads caught the attention of some Twitter users Thursday who pointed out the symbol’s historical significance…
“Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” [a Facebook] spokesperson wrote.
I have no difficulty believing that Trump had nothing to do with this and that he wouldn’t have recognized the red triangle even if he’d seen the ads before they went up. By his own admission, he didn’t know what Juneteenth was until a few days ago when a black Secret Service agent told him. The odds of him being able to identify lesser-known Nazi concentration camp badges for prisoners are slim to none.
Whether the staffer behind the ads was able to identify them is a separate question.
The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection using a Nazi concentration camp symbol.
Nazis used the red triangle to mark political prisoners and people who rescued Jews.
Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors.
Their masks are off. pic.twitter.com/UzmzDaRBup
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) June 18, 2020
A red triangle that marked 'political prisoners' was the most common category of prisoners registered at the German Nazi #Auschwitz camp.
In August 1944, political prisoners constituted 95 percent of camp prisoners'. A letter inside the triangle could mark the nationality. pic.twitter.com/jBuNn0xmL1
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 18, 2020
Reporters started sniffing around and asked the Trump campaign where they got the idea that the inverted red triangle is a symbol for Antifa. It’s “widely used” by the group, the campaign replied:
But that image comes from a make-your-own-merchandise site posted by some rando in Spain. It apparently doesn’t exist elsewhere on the Internet, although there is a Dutch Antifa group that uses a red triangle in its logo. There *are* well-known symbols of Antifa out there — we’ve all seen the double-flag icon pictured here, for instance. How’d the campaign end up overlooking that one for a red triangle?
It’s true that the red triangle doesn’t appear in the ADL’s compendium of hate symbols, as the campaign notes, but there’s a reason for that:
Murtaugh, the Trump campaign spokesman, noted that the marking is not included in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols. But the ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, condemned its use in political combat as “offensive and deeply troubling.”
“It is not difficult for one to criticize their political opponent without using Nazi-era imagery,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “We implore the Trump campaign to take greater caution and familiarize themselves with the historical context before doing so. Ignorance is not an excuse for appropriating hateful symbols.”
Jake Hyman, an ADL spokesman, said the marking is not in the organization’s hate database because the inventory is not for “historical Nazi symbols” but rather for “symbols commonly used by modern extremists and white supremacists in the United States.”
The most charitable explanation for this episode is that some Trump staffer encountered the red triangle while reading sh*tposts about Antifa on a message board somewhere and stupidly assumed that it was Internet-created shorthand for the group. (The sh*tposters themselves would know the symbol’s pedigree, of course.) The campaign might not want to admit that, though, in which case they’d need an alternate explanation. Pity the poor aides who had to scramble this morning and find some image of Antifa with a red triangle in it online, however obscure, so that they could retcon a story about where they got the idea for it. They did the best with the material they had to work with.
As for why Facebook leaped to punish the Trump campaign after Mark Zuckerberg made a show recently of saying his platform wouldn’t ride herd on Trump content the way Twitter does, read this. Lots of Facebook employees are unhappy with that policy; at least one has quit over it. In an extreme case, like when Nazi imagery is being used, Zuck’s going to have to placate those critics with some action. That’s what happened today. Hopefully Trump won’t tweet indignantly about it and inadvertently feed a massive amount of media oxygen to this little brushfire, but you know him. Probably a matter of time.