Rapper and businessman Kanye West, who goes by Ye, has been broadly criticized for making antisemitic comments on social media and the Drink Champs podcast, resulting in companies like Adidas, Balenciaga, and The Gap terminating their partnerships with him.
In Los Angeles last weekend, a group of Nazi supporters hung banners from a bridge over the 405 Freeway, one of which read, “Kayne is right about the Jews.”
Some were observed giving a Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute to drivers below.
Unlike news coverage of crimes or car accidents, there are few ethical guidelines for how the media should cover hate speech. Those decisions are typically left up to individual news organizations.
While some media outlets opted to show the freeway banner and the Nazi salute, others decided against it.
In its live news broadcasts, KTLA showed the banner but blurred the salute.
“Some may argue that showing hate symbols give groups and individuals undeserved publicity, but it’s important for people to see them to see what pure antisemitic hatred looks like,” said Liora Rez, the Executive Director of Stop Antisemitism. “These symbols represent some of the worst atrocities that have ever been committed against a marginalized group. So it’s very important for people to not only recognize them, but to understand the meaning behind them.”
Beth Kean, CEO of the Holocaust Museum LA agrees.
“Once people understand the root cause for using these hate symbols, then you can understand what all of the hate and prejudice this speech could lead to,” Kean said.
Sam Yebri, an attorney and L.A. city council candidate, was among thousands of drivers who saw the banners over the freeway on Saturday. He also discovered a small plastic bag containing antisemitic propaganda on his front lawn the following morning.
“It was hateful nonsense,” Yebri said. “I was shocked and horrified.”
“These folks who used to be limited to the dark corners of the internet feel emboldened to bring their hate to the doorsteps of Angelenos,” Yebri said.
Kean, a Santa Monica resident, recalls what her grandparents endured during the second World War.
“My grandmother had a number permanently seared into her arm,” Kean said. “That number meant that she wasn’t worthy of being a human being when she got to Auschwitz. She saw her parents and siblings walk straight to the gas chambers.
“For me, I take this very personally because I know the Holocaust started with words.”
A consensus among the experts we spoke with is that the media should show hate symbols, including swastikas, to inform the public of what they are, but to be mindful of the line between news coverage and promoting an agenda – a tricky matter that can only be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Rez says Stop Antisemitism has been tracking the group responsible for the freeway banners for several years. Her organization has an Antisemite of the Week section on its website to inform the public of specific incidents. Kanye West and Jon Minadeo II, the alleged leader of the group responsible for the banner, have both been featured.
Community leaders have called on L.A. city officials and law enforcement to do what they can to stop the spread of hateful rhetoric and for celebrities, like Kanye West, to understand the impact of their words.
“Imagine if Kanye were using his platform for good, education or love, we would be in a much better place,” Yebri said. “Antisemitism was here before Kanye, and it will be hereafter, but at this moment, his comments surely added more fuel to the hateful fire.”