Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.
A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.
His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.
The deception was many-layered. At one point he had one of his characters charge that the anti-Semitic comments and the criticism of the anti-Semitic comments must be written by “internet trolls who have been known to impersonate anti-Semites in order to then double-back and accuse others of supporting anti-Semitism”–exactly what he was doing. (Trolls are posters who foment discord.)
The impersonation, this character wrote, must be part of an “elaborate Hasbara setup,” referring to an Israeli international public-relations campaign. When Common Dreams finally confronted the man behind the deceptive posting, he denied that he himself was involved with Hasbara.
His posting on Common Dreams illustrates the susceptibility of website comment threads to massive manipulation. As another illustration, he even audaciously tricked the white-supremacist Vanguard News Network, posing as “DeShawn S. Williams,” a “Pro-White/Black, anti-jew.”
encouraged the malevolence of Frazier Glenn Miller, the neo-Nazi accused of killing three people whom he believed were Jews outside a Jewish community center and retirement home in Kansas in April. The character Williams was engaged in a comment thread more than 200 times with Miller, whose screen name was Rounder.On Vanguard, where this African-American persona posted more than 1,400 times, he
In a Vanguard post under the Williams screen name the commenter asked rhetorically, “Are left wing folks finally waking up to the jew?” He then referred the Vanguard online community to a thread of anti-Semitic comments on Common Dreams–most of which he had written himself under several screen names.
A typical DeShawn Williams comment might include: “Israel is a stain on the world that needs to be expunged once and for all.” Or: “The jews are the most racist people on earth. Just look at their Talmud. They consider the ‘goyim’ (non-jews) to be cattle whose only purpose on earth is to serve them.”
But on Common Dreams, DeShawn S. Williams was only one among dozens of screen-name characters this poster created. They seemed to be in competition to revile Jews. Here’s how “HamBaconEggs,” the site’s most prolific anti-Semitic persona, began a conversation last October:
A few posts later the HamBaconEggs character was taken to task for his hatred of Jews by the JewishProgressive character, who responded to another (sincere) poster who had pointed out the anti-Semitism :
JewishProgressive frequently followed HamBaconEggs with an expression of disgust. Here’s an exchange begun at 11:57 a.m. on January 14:
HamBaconEggs: “. . . There are reasons beyond mere ‘anti-Semitism’ why these people were kicked out of 109 countries. You don’t elicit that degree of anger and hostility from host populations without significantly contributing to the problem through your antisocial, predatory behavior.”
JewishProgressive replied 12 minutes later: “You are singlehandedly the most vicious Jew-hater I have ever encountered among those professing to be ‘progressives.’ Do you actually post about anything on CD other than ‘the jews,’ or is that your sole agenda? No true progressive could be so unrelentingly malicious against an entire group of people the way you are.”
At 2:49 p.m., HamBaconEggs responded:
“Oy vey! Cry me a river, you Talmudic parasite. Direct your criticism at your sociopathic tribe of money-grubbers, warmongers, and land thieves.”
Here’s one more example of this back-and-forth:
When Common Dreams examined hundreds of posts in this ugly charade, the aim appeared clear-cut: to cast a deep shadow on, and drive support from, one of the largest and oldest progressive-news websites.
The man who was the source of the charade, however, claimed he didn’t want to hurt Common Dreams. ….