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Defamation by the Anti-Defamation League (UPDATED: ADL Apologizes)

The ADL defames Canary Mission.

Canary Mission is a controversial, secretive organization dedicated to publicizing extreme anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic views of various activists. Its primary modus operandi is to tweet screenshots of tweets by extemists, such as the one reprinted below.

Many people, including some who are otherwise pro-Israel and hostile to anti-Semitism, find Canary Mission's tactics objectionable and counter-productive. (I take no position on the matter.) Among them are pro-Israel students at the University of Michigan, who circulated a letter to other student Jewish and pro-Israel groups condemning Canary Mission's tactics.

The students also stated that they "view much of the rhetoric employed to villainize these individuals as hateful and, in some cases, Islamophobic and racist." I reached out yesterday via email to one of the Michigan students listed as a contact on the student letter, and asked him if he could provide any examples of Islamaphobic rhetoric used by Canary Mission, given that there were no examples provided in the letter. He has not responded. Unfortunately, I don't expect much more these days from students, who have been trained to call things they dislike "racist."

I do expect more of the Anti-Defamation League. Even if the ADL objects to Canary Mission's tactics, it is a highly professional organization that supposed to be in the same business as Canary Mission, that is, combating anti-Semitism. More important, I would expect the ADL to be very careful about labeling a group's rhetoric "racist." Yet, a day after the students' letter appeared, the ADL's national office tweeted, "thank you to @umich student leaders for exposing Canary Mission's Islamophobic & racist rhetoric as 'antithetical and destructive to supporting Israel and eliminating anti-Semitism on campus.'"

I googled ADL and Canary Mission, and could not find any ADL report analyzing or condemning Canary Mission. So I emailed ADL's media folks yesterday morning, and asked if they could "please point me to the underlying evidence that ADL has relied on in support of its accusation of racism and Islamaphobia?" I sent a follow up email six hours later, and received this response: "Our research team is pulling together examples for you, so please stand by."

It's now the next morning, and still nothing. One would think that the ADL, an organization whose reputation depends on correctly identifying anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, wouldn't accuse a fellow Jewish organization, or anyone for that matter, of racism without having the research on hand to support it. It shouldn't take a post hoc research effort, much less one that hasn't borne fruit more than twenty-four hours after an initial inquiry.

The ADL has always been a left-leaning organization, though it has taken a sharper turn left since Jonathan Greenblatt took over from long-time president Abe Foxman. Last year, the ADL embarrassed itself when some of its officials proclaimed or implied that a spate of bomb threats against Jewish institutions were Donald Trump's fault; they turned out to be the product of a disturbed Israeli-American teenager who relished the attention.

Despite practically volunteering itself as a charter member of the resistance, the anti-Semitic extremist far left remains hostile to the ADL. Nevertheless, the ADL seems to want to go out of its way to curry favor with its enemies on the left, even if that requires reckless, evidence-less attacks on other Jewish organizations. The only thing it has to lose is its credibility.

UPDATE:

The Anti-Defamation League said it regretted using "overly broad language" to describe the Canary Mission, a group that posts blacklists of what it says are anti-Israel students on campuses.

"We regret the overly broad language that we used to describe the Canary Mission in a tweet earlier this week," an ADL spokesman said in an email Thursday evening after JTA asked the group to demonstrate where Canary Mission had deployed "Islamophobic & racist rhetoric," as ADL had alleged in its tweet.

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  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    "dedicated to publicizing extreme anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic views"

    One of my pet peeves is conflating governments with citizens (occupants? residents? Needs to be a noun for such people who are not citizens, or subjects, or ...), but it seems to be especially bad when religion gets thrown into the mix. One can despise the a government while liking the people, but when a country is founded on religion, or at least makes religion part of the government, things go south in a hurry. Israel is one example, most Muslim countries are more of the same. Despising Israeli politicians and government actors is not anti-semitism; despising Saudi royalty and their intense puritanism is not Islamophobia.

    I remember a breath of fresh air on a Japanese bicycle vacation many years ago. Some kids stopped me to talk abut bicycles, McDonalds, and other things American, and were absolutely clear on the distinction between hating the American government (especially all the military bases all over) but loving Americans and things American. I wish more people would understand the difference. To those kids, it was as natural a distinction as breathing; I'm not sure they even would have understood the concept of combing the two and having to choose both or neither.

  • KevinP||

    So you found that hating the American government and its military bases was a breath of fresh air?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Congratulations on your intentional misreading. You are fit to teach at some of our more Progressive schools.

  • David Krishan||

    >Congratulations on your intentional misreading. You are fit to teach at some of our more Progressive schools.

    Never attribute to malice what is more likely due to stupidity.

  • KevinP||

    LOL, perhaps you could considered rephrasing what you wrote?

    Go back and read your passage and see the multiple ways in which it could be interpreted and misinterpreted.

  • Eidde||

    "I do expect more of the Anti-Defamation League. Even if the ADL objects to Canary Mission's tactics, it is a highly professional organization that supposed to be in the same business as Canary Mission"

    So they're rival organizations?

    Seriously, what makes these Canary Mission guys controversial? What is this controversy on which Prof. Bernstein takes no position?

    Also, the ADL is acting like the cat which swallowed the Canary Mission.

  • David Nieporent||

    Seriously, what makes these Canary Mission guys controversial? What is this controversy on which Prof. Bernstein takes no position?

    My understanding is that Canary Mission is rather indiscriminate. Publicizing anti-semitic comments from politicians or media figures or leaders of organizations is one thing, but Canary Mission (if I understand correctly) publicizes anti-semitic comments from random individuals. To be sure, it's not as if Canary Mission is bugging people's phones or anything; it's getting these comments primarily from social media. So the speakers can't complain that the speech was private. But, still, it's kind of unseemly to publicize every stupid or even bigoted statement from private individuals.

  • Eidde||

    OK, so they're a bit too comprehensive. I think I get it now.

  • FlameCCT||

    Unseemly? Like a preschool teacher asking a friend to "kiss the ground in Palestine and kill some Jews" in a tweet unseemly?

  • KevinP||


    "But, still, it's kind of unseemly to publicize every stupid or even bigoted statement from private individuals."

    Why?

  • Sarcastr0||

    I don't expect much more these days from students, who have been trained to call things they dislike "racist."

    Careful there, old man - student activists != students.

  • CrispyBacon||

    I enjoyed seeing a professor state bluntly that he doesn't "expect much more these days from students."

  • Don Nico||

    That is a bit of an exaggeration for effect's sake

  • apedad||

    Ooof. . . just scrolled through the ADL's tweet.

    You can never be too extreme or too centrist on Israel.

    No matter what you think, there will be people from all sides severely criticizing you for being too soft, too harsh, too whatever...

  • KevinP||

    Its primary modus operandi is to tweet screenshots of tweets by extemists, such as the one reprinted below.

    Many people, including some who are otherwise pro-Israel and hostile to anti-Semitism, find Canary Mission's tactics objectionable and counter-productive.

    I think this is quintessential free speech - finding and publicizing speech widely to the world, even when it is the speech of your political opponents!

    I am no fan of Al Sharpton, who was President Obama's go-to man on race relations and a respected member of the Democratic coalition. but support his right to free speech and will gladly publicize it for him.

    Al Sharpton Defends Anti-Jewish Remarks


    Quote:
    Sharpton had sided with a black record store owner against the Jewish owner of Freddie's Fashion Mart. The owner of the fashion store was a landlord to the record store owner.

    "We will not stand by," warned Sharpton, "and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business."

    Shortly after Sharpton's protest of the store, one of the protesters set fire to it before committing suicide. Seven store employees died from smoke inhalation from the fire.

  • Don Nico||

    Finding someone's speech as objectionable and counterproductive does not deny thei right to use such speech, only their foolishness in do so.

  • bernard11||

    What does Sharpton have to do with any of this?

    I'm not a fan of his, by a long shot, but still.

  • Don Nico||

    Kevin, Are you suggestion that Sharpton was complicit in the arson and manslaughter?

  • KevinP||

    What do you think, Don? This is what Sharpton said:


    "We will not stand by," warned Sharpton, "and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business."

    What is your opinion?

  • Smooth Like a Rhapsody||

    My opinion is that you sound like someone who got his J.D. from the Jack McCoy School of Law.

    (Pro tip: ask yourself: how would a civil jury in a wrongful death action view this claimed linkage? If the answer is anything on the order of: "...wow, gosh, I'm not sure...", then the idea of criminal prosecution is beyond stupid.)

  • Bored Lawyer||

    I think he meant moral complicity, not legal one. Sharpton promotes himself as a great moral force. In reality, he has instigated violence and slanderous smears of his targets. (Google "Tawana Brawley.") That he may not be legally responsible is besides the point.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Sharpton sucks, but the fact that you had to go to Brawley and not whatever Kevin is off about indicates how lame Kevin's shoehorned in comment is.

  • David Nieporent||

    Sharpton incited a mob, which led to an arson and murder. Not sure what's lame about pointing that out.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I mean, it's not super relevant to this thread. But Kevin has this obsession with bringing him up randomly.

    But even so, I don't think the connection to murder is sufficient to put that on him. It's classic overplaying your hand to frame someone who is already a villain. Stick to Brawley, or his many racist quotes, or his rainbow coalitions shakedowns.

  • David Krishan||

    Bringing up Sharpton as an example of a jew-hating racebaiter, in a thread about slander by race-baiters against actual pro-Israel, pro-semitic people, is highly relevant and not random at all.

  • nonzenze||

    A secretive organization dedicated to publicizing others indiscretions.

    Not that those indiscretions are somehow excusable, of course, but this is just too meta for me right now.

    See Scott Alexander's excellent post on SSC on "signal boosting" as a form of doxxing. Interestingly, it was about a Reason columnist :-)

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "Doxxing" used to mean exposing the real name of an anonymous person, and it was viewed as kind of jerkish. Now is seems do mean saying something embarrassing about someone.

  • RealistLiberal||

    This isn't even remotely defamation. The tweet from the ADL is strongly opinion. Opinion cannot be defamation. While I don't agree with either the ADL or Canary Mission (a pox on both their houses), they both have the right to say stupid things as long as they aren't assertions of fact that are false.

  • SilverlakeBodhisattva||

    '"Unfortunately, I don't expect much more these days from students, who have been trained to call things they dislike "racist."' ....and you're surprised, if he was familiar with a history of this sort of comment, that Mr. Canary didn't respond? Are you surprised that doing additional follow-up was not high on ADL's priority list?

  • wnoise||

    > I sent a follow up email six hours later

    Demanding a rapid response seems just a wee bit entitled.

  • David Krishan||

    >Demanding a rapid response seems just a wee bit entitled.

    Not at all. If they make a statement like "much of the rhetoric employed to villainize these individuals as hateful and, in some cases, Islamophobic and racist", then they must have a pile of EVIDENCE to back that up. You know, examples that they can quote from or point to.

    If they have to scramble to find the evidence, then it means they likely didn't have any at the time they wrote that. And the fact that they had to apologize later means someone was talking out of their backside and showing their prejudice.

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