The 2016 presidential election is a reminder of just how horrible the world can be. Like Ben Shapiro, who was a star reporter at Breitbart before their pro-Trump-putsch, I used to think that tales of right-wing anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and other backwoods fascists were largely ghost stories the Democratic party told Jews to keep them from venturing out of the party’s tent. I imagined that maybe 10% of the population adhered to these fringe beliefs on the right and perhaps another 10% believed in the left-wing version of Jew-hating conspiracy craziness.
Like Shapiro I now have to admit that I was wrong. This election has brought the crazies out of the woodwork and it is clear they are not a tiny fringe. America is not as moderate and sensible as I always believed. We can see evidence of this not only from the huge spike in “alt-right” activity in social media, but also from the large number of voters supporting hateful nonsense in the primaries and in general election polls.
America has a real fascism problem. So, what are we supposed to do about this? One essential weapon in the anti-fascist arsenal is humor. Charlie Chaplin mocked Hitler in The Great Dictator. Stanley Kubrick ridiculed Soviet despots as weepy drunks in Dr. Strangelove. Latin American dictators in the mold of Che Guevera and Fidel Castro were portrayed as silly madmen in Woody Allen’s Bananas and in Alan Arkin’s The In-Laws.
Part of the attraction of these dangerous despots to their crazed followers is the appearance of strength and stature. And part of the attraction of fascist movements to the stupid and weak is the illusion that they may be part of something great and powerful. Mocking fascists undermines this appeal by revealing how ridiculous they actually are.
This is why my nominee for the 2016 Al Copeland Humanitarian Award is Yair Rosenberg. Rosenberg is a journalist who writes mostly for Tablet Magazine, but his work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Magazine and elsewhere. But the forum in which Rosenberg excels in mocking anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and other backwoods fascists is Twitter. You might say that he is the Picasso of trolling the “alt-right” and Twitter is his canvass.
One of Rosenberg’s most common methods for mocking the alt-right is to take internet memes they have adopted to spread their views and modify those memes so that they advocate for the opposite. For example, the alt-right has adopted “Pepe the Frog” as one of their symbols. Rosenberg turns the meme on its head by putting a Mossad t-shirt on Pepe that declares “It’s Never an Accident.”