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June 15, 2016 1:28 pm

NPR Producer: Deluge of Jew-Hatred in Response to Broadcast About Online Antisemitism Forced Program to Shut Down Comments Section (INTERVIEW)

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NPR's "Here and Now" program. Photo: Screenshot.

NPR’s “Here and Now” program. Photo: Screenshot.

A producer for a Boston-area National Public Radio (NPR) station expressed her shock on Wednesday at the barrage of antisemitic and racist remarks posted in response to a broadcast about online antisemitism — which resulted in the shutting down of the comments section of the station’s website. 

Karyn Miller-Medzon, a senior associate producer for 90.9 WBUR-FM NPR’s “Here and Now” nationally syndicated program, told The Algemeiner she was “caught by surprise” at the hatred spewed in response to a post of a previously broadcast, eight-minute segment highlighting the controversial “(((echo)))” symbol used by white supremacist groups and antisemites to track Jews online. The segment featured an interview with Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who spoke about the organization’s decision to place the (((echo))) on its list of hate symbols. Within hours, she said, the site was flooded with vicious epithets.

“There was a deluge — over 100 comments — of offensive, racist and antisemitic remarks — the kind that you know people somewhere think but don’t expect to see,” she said. “Every time an offensive comment appeared, five or six more people would add their own comment to that one. So each comment would spawn new ones.”

According to Miller-Medzon, these included “stereotypical depictions of Jews, about their physiology and long noses, things like, ‘Well, of course, we want to show who the Jews are online so they don’t interbreed with the common population,’ and, ‘We wouldn’t have to use the (((echo))) symbol if Jews wore yellow stars.’”

As soon as she became aware of what was happening, Miller-Medzon said, she alerted the show’s host. She then contacted the managing editor, who informed the web department. An immediate decision was taken to remove the antisemitic and racist remarks and shut down the comments section. A WBUR web moderator announced the closure and linked to the station’s community guidelines:

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“This kind of occurrence is rare,” Miller-Medzon told The Algemeiner. “We are a news and current-affairs show, and report on everything you can imagine. We do sometimes cover controversial topics that spawn offensive comments, and we take steps to remove the comments and ban the user. So it’s not uncommon for us to remove a post or warn posters that if they continue with their offensiveness, we will ban them. However, I can’t remember ever having to shut down all comments on a particular segment, and I’ve been here a long time.” 

While there were a handful of people speaking out against the antisemitic comments, she said, any defense against them proved futile. “The comments were coming so quickly and from people with such clear hatred that I don’t think it was realistic for someone who felt otherwise to engage them,” she said. “Engaging would have led to more of the same, and I think the wisest thing to do was not to engage.”

Miller-Medzon said she believes the alt-right community — which is responsible for creating the (((echo))) symbol — got wind of the “Here and Now” segment and decided to launch an online trolling attack. “We have wonderful listeners and readers who regularly, in our online forums, really defend the oppressed and speak out against racism,” she said. “This is not our regular community of listeners, because we don’t usually get this kind of venom.”

Miller-Medzon also bemoaned the timing of the incident — which “couldn’t have been more depressing” — in the wake of Sunday morning’s massacre in Orlando and the show’s subsequent reporting on hate crimes. “On the day when one of the few segments we ran wasn’t about Orlando, this segment spawned even more hatred,” she said. “This was all a surprising turn of events.”

She first brought the issue to light in a Twitter post on Tuesday:

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