How one man single-handedly changed CBC's online policies and procedures after he reported a flurry of anti-Semitic comments to CBC Moderators. Read the latest HonestReporting Canada alert guest written by Brian Henry entitled "CBC Bans Anti-Semitic Comments and Commentators" by clicking below.
CBC Bans Anti-Semitic Comments and Commentators
March 5, 2009
A guest article by Brian Henry (An earlier version of this piece appeared in the March 3, 2009 edition of the Jewish Tribune)
Until recently, the CBC was one of Canada's largest publishers of anti-Semitic material and, in some ways, still is. The problem wasn?t the CBC reporters; it was the audience, posting anti-Semitic attacks on the CBC web site.
The anti-Semitic attacks reached a crescendo during Israel?s recent war with Hamas, but this problem of Jew-haters using the CBC as their message board stretches back for years.
Last April, I wrote about the anti-Semitic comments that greeted a CBC.ca story about Prime Minister Stephen Harper laying a wreath at Auschwitz. A reader calling himself 'Baltzera' asked which would be more entertaining, "a day pass to Disney?s theme park or Dachau?"
Similar filth greeted a story about B'nai Brith's 2007 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Canada, with one reader asserting that Jews are "despised for all the right reasons here and globally."
Back in 2004, writing in the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente noted the problem with anti-Semitic reader comments at the CBC, and quoted this one: "Jesus may have been a Jew himself but I know for a fact that he didn?t take part in the eating of blood-filled pastries made from the blood of Palestinian children."
The theme of Jews thirsting for blood resurfaced during Israel's war with Hamas. For example, a reader, identifying himself as 'LoranHayden,' portrayed Jews as racist, genocidal baby-killers, savouring "Muslim juice."
In Canada, anti-Jewish extremists like this are part of the lunatic fringe. On the CBC message boards, they?re prolific.
For example, 536 CBC.ca readers clicked on the link to recommend a comment by 'sandy411' in which he/she compared Israel's assault on Hamas to the Holocaust and added a reference to Israel wanting "pounds of flesh," like Shylock the Jew.
'Sandy411' added: "How many tons of Palestinian women and children will settle your account, Israel?" It was the most popular comment of the day.
I wrote to the CBC to complain, citing eight of the most odious comparisons of Jews to Nazis, all of them taken from reader comments on a single story published Dec. 27.
While I waited for a reply, the Hamas war got into full swing and CBC.ca readers began posting more than 1,000 comments a day on the topic. I collected 50 more examples of anti-Semitic attacks: everything from 'DrDavid' referring to Jews as vermin and praising Hitler to 'FRTknocker' denigrating Canadian Jews as 'zionazis' and telling us to get out of Canada.
I could have found hundreds more, but I took my 50 examples and submitted another complaint.
Two weeks later, the CBC replied. They had reviewed the comments I'd pointed out and agreed the "vast majority" were unacceptable. They reviewed other comments posted by the same users, found many were just as bad and removed them, too.
Even better, management showed the moderators, who screen reader comments, the anti-Semitic attacks that they had allowed, made them "aware of the problem users," and refreshed them "on the issue of anti-Semitism in general."
Moreover, the CBC agreed that comparisons of Israel (and Jews) to the Nazis and of Gaza to a concentration camp "fall outside acceptable discourse on the topic."
In short, it was an outstanding, highly professional response. And I wasn?t satisfied.
A glance at recent stories showed the moderators were still allowing some gross anti-Semitism and Holocaust-baiting to slip through. Besides, though the CBC would block or remove a comment suggesting Jews are baby-killing Nazis, the reader was welcome to come back with some more subtle Jew-baiting.
So I wrote and complained again.
I?m still waiting for a reply but not impatiently, because in the meanwhile – to their great credit -the CBC has gotten better at screening out anti-Semitic attacks.
Also, they've posted a new policy, stating that people who offend the CBC's policies may have their account suspended. In other words, Jew-haters can get themselves banned.
Many readers commenting at CBC.ca still demonize Israel. They call it racist, terrorist, apartheid. They're still preparing a rationale for wiping Israel off the map, still in the business of supplying a warrant for genocide.
But the CBC has drawn a line in the sand. Attacking Jews is going a step too far. So is comparing the Nazi Jew-killers to the Jewish state. That sort of thing used to get posted at the CBC. Not anymore.
Brian Henry is a Toronto writer and editor. He's an occasional Instructor at Ryerson University's G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Studies and a frequent contributor to H-Anti-Semitism, a scholarly forum for the discussion of the history of anti-Semitism. Comments are welcome at his blog: http://brians-op-eds.blogspot.com/.