Over my career as a public commentator, I have always gotten the occasional anti-Semitic email. That was particularly if I wrote about abortion, (rarely) Israel, or some other hot-button issue. When the Journolist scandal broke, I got an especially high volume of hate-mail that focused on my name, appearance, and heritage. Of course I often get rough messages from people who disagree with me in the thrust and parry of presidential politics and the politics of health reform.It wasn’t always pleasant. It comes with the territory.

None of this prepared me for 2016.

I and many others who write for fairly broad audiences are being deluged with antisemitic messages from Trump supporters. They come mostly on Twitter, but on private emails and blogs, too. Many alt-right messages bracket our names like so: (((haroldpollack))), to indicate that we are Jewish. A message from this morning is one of the milder and more printable ones:


I’ve lost count of such missives, and many worse ones. Many include four-letter words and colorful vocabulary that is quite familiar to me from my experience working on public health interventions for high-risk adolescents and adults. I block everyone who sends me these messages. For all I know, there are hundreds more.

Then there was the long rambling email that recently landed in my box, whose highlights include:

….The 1960s feminism were led by jewish Marxists (Betty Freidan, mentally ill Gloria Steinem). Porn and the sexual revolution and anti-American propaganda came directly from the jews in Hollywood and media….

Every single detrimental social movement in the US came from utopian jewish Marxists.

Joe McCarthy and the House Unamerican Committee was absolutely correct. Most of the jewish community should have been shot or imprisoned…


I don’t generally share such missives. Why give hateful and sick people a larger platform? Besides, every commentator with a vaguely Jewish-sounding name is getting the same stuff. This isn’t exactly newsworthy. Yet if you’re not in the public eye, you should know this is going on.

In a strange way, I’m almost–almost–glad that these anti-Semitic messages are out there. They remind many of us on the receiving end of a few basic realities that hang over our contested, pluralist democracy. They should remind us of what many others are facing, who have so very much more to lose if our nation jumps off the political cliff this November.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.