OPINION | Antisemitic propaganda on TikTok

Nathaniel Miller, Staff Writer

(Emma Clark Luster)

TikTok has a Nazi problem. Under the surface level, one can find thinly veiled and crudely hidden fascist propaganda. One example is the “gnome-hunting” trend. Silly videos on TikTok about “hunting for gnomes” are not as innocent as you might think. While these videos seem like nothing more than a funny, whimsical bit of humor, they are actually an antisemitic dog whistle.

There are over 53 million views of TikTok videos posted under the hashtag #gnomehunting and many of them have hidden underlying messages. Many of them feature captions with symbols like the double lightning bolt a symbol of the SS during Nazi Germany ​​ and the number 88, a reference to the Nazi salute. Most of these posts are using “gnomes” as an allegory for Jews. Some of them even feature open hand emojis, a nod to the Nazi salute. The people “gnome hunting” in these TikTok videos are often seen wearing full-body combat uniforms and even brandishing weapons on their “hunt for gnomes.” 

Under each of these posts you can find similar comments: people saying things like “millions wear the pointy hat” and “millions must hide.” It doesn’t take much analysis to determine that “gnomes” are a reference to Jewish people and “pointy hats” are a reference to yarmulkes. Many of these posts come from accounts with profile pictures bearing German flags and soldiers. Other commenters share advice for “catching gnomes” mentioning which weapons would be the most effective. One such video even includes a scene from a Holocaust movie showing an SS officer grabbing and dragging a Jew. Under this video there are comments saying that “millions wear the hats, billions even,” in a facetious reference to Holocaust denial.

This antisemitic trend and dog whistle is not unique. TikTok has given rise to a new era of neo-fascism and neo-Nazis. TikTok has given alt-right trolls a useful platform to spread hate and vitriol. The hashtag, “#SaveTheWest,” has thousands of videos posted under it, accumulating over 400 thousand views and features a variety of antisemitic, racist and fascist content that is widely spread throughout TikTok. These videos usually feature memes and video edits glorifying fascism and Nazism, many recirculating Nazi propaganda that was used during the Holocaust. One post with over 200 thousand views reads, “Jewish population rises to 15.3 million worldwide, come brothers these degenerates aren’t going to crucify themselves.” Many of these videos promote a “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory which posits that Jewish people are somehow trying to eliminate the white race from Europe. 

As Tulane students and TikTok users, it is important not to fall down this rabbit-hole of fascist and alt-right propaganda. It is imperative that users look past the surface level, analyze the media we consume and to ask whether or not it is really what it seems. It is extremely disturbing that TikTok has not gone to any great lengths to curb the spread of these neo-Nazi messages. The lack of action has signaled that social media posting has become a tactic for far-right extremist groups to recruit new members from younger generations.

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