Yesterday, my husband sent me a horrifying local news article about how cars at two high-end shopping centers in Estero, Florida, were plastered with anti-Semitic flyers. The city of Estero is a short drive from our house, and we frequently visit one of the shopping centers mentioned in the article. In fact, we went to a Brazilian steak house there only a couple days ago to celebrate my birthday.
“It’s quite unsettling, terrifying honestly,” Koche said. “I couldn’t believe it, what it was. It was just staggering. I didn’t even read the whole thing. It was disgusting quite frankly.”
The flyer was filled with swastikas, racial slurs and other hate speech towards prominent leaders.
“It’s full of antisemitic, racist, bigoted promotion with QR codes which I do not want to promote at all,” Koche said.
Among the many racial slurs, the person who made this flyer wrote “this flyer is to be spread randomly and without malicious intent by concerned citizens united for a Jew free Florida.”
This event was shocking, not only for the hate behind it, but because this sort of thing really doesn’t happen here. South Florida is an incredibly diverse region culturally. We have people not only from all over the United States here, but from all over the world. If you are seeking some utopia of ethnic purity, South Florida would be the most miserable place on the planet for you to choose to settle down in. There are many places in the country where race-baiting violence is de rigueur, but this is certainly not one of them. It’s one big, never-ending block party down here, and we like it that way.
I started looking at other local news sources to find more information about the incident. From them, I learned that the flyers (falsely) claim that Governor Ron DeSantis supports the message.
This, of course, made me roll my eyes so hard it hurt. DeSantis is extremely pro-Israel, frequently networks with Jewish interest groups, and even famously asked Floridians to boycott Ben and Jerry’s after the founders decided to stop selling their product in Israel. This ranks right up there with Putin calling Ukrainian President Zelenskyy a Nazi, despite being Jewish himself. It’s simply ridiculous.
Great, I thought, we have false-flaggers running around Florida towns trying to stir up trouble as DeSantis seeks re-election. But to what end? DeSantis is not in any danger of losing his election bid in this part of the state. This population is brick-red politically. Heck, most of the Fox News primetime line-up owns mansions down the road in Naples. And it’s not like the people here – particularly practicing Jews – are unclear about DeSantis’s position on Israel. What is there to gain from a stunt like this?
The media asked the sheriff’s office if they were looking into it, and they obviously are, but the sheriff’s office noted that distributing flyers is not a crime. This counts as free speech, even if it is vile – at best, they can only be charged with littering, he added. But you do want to know if potentially dangerous groups are lurking in your area.
Then my research took a peculiar turn.
One of those articles led me to another article about anti-Semitic flyers being distributed in my own neighborhood. Not in a public shopping area – they were putting them on cars and doors in private residential areas. I had not seen any of these flyers or spoken with anyone who had – but to be fair, I would rather be waterboarded with apple cider vinegar than check the screeds people post on NextDoor. Nonetheless, this was starting to feel a little personal.
Unsurprisingly, the flyers had upset many folks living in our area. I would not say we are a heavily Jewish part of town relative to other faiths, but there is a synagogue and a Jewish day school within a mile of my house. One Jewish neighbor said it reminded her of the petty terrorist acts Jews experienced in the build-up to the Holocaust. Things to make you feel like you cannot be safe on your own street.
That apparently occurred back in February. The flyer was an allusion to Whoopi Goldberg’s comments that the Holocaust was “not about race,” which threatened to get her cancelled. The flyer said “Whites for Whoopi” at the top, followed by a gross cartoon of Whoopi Goldberg farting on a caricature of a Jewish man. Underneath the grotesque image, the flyer said “Let’s Go Brandon” in all-caps. Sound familiar?
That article took me to another article about the same thing happening in Miami Beach, where Trump’s kids now live (including his Jewish daughter and her family). The flyers plastered in neighborhoods there were trying to make the point that everyone connected to covid was Jewish. It listed a bunch of folks at the CDC, working for Pfizer, and so on – with JEWISH next to their names. It likewise tried to pass the message off as coming from Republicans. That was back in January. So basically, they’ve been running this disgusting game for at least five months now.
I was intrigued, and wanted to see what other Florida towns were graced with this election cycle gimmickry. So I just Googled “anti-Semitic flyers.”
Oh, boy. It turns out they have been doing this all over the country in recent months. And they are singling out specific neighborhoods (not cities) based on the scale of their Jewish population. Talk about creepy.
Here’s a taste:
CAIR Condemns Antisemitic Flyers Distributed in South Dakota (May 24, 2022)
Antisemitic Flyers Found in Highland Park, Other North Shore Communities (April 28, 2022) These flyers also say “Let’s Go Brandon” on them and ““every single aspect of the Biden administration is Jewish.”
Beverly Hills residents wake up to antisemitic fliers — again. Police are investigating (April 16, 2022) These flyers said “Every Single Aspect of The Ukraine-Russia War is Jewish.” They seem to hit Beverly Hills and Hollywood on Jewish holidays – the first night of Hanukkah and then Passover. It looks like the flyers in California date back at least to November 2021.
Police investigating antisemitic flyers found in Mt. Lebanon (Pennsylvania – April 26, 2022) This is a town with 32,000 people, but it does have a large Jewish population.
In an even more bizarre incident, the flyers were left inside books in a college library – Racist, antisemitic flyers found in books at Williams College library (February 24, 2022):
The flyers are designed to resemble Confederate States of America currency including images of the Confederate Flag, and a profile of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The flyers also include Bible verses and images of the Star of David.
It goes on and on for 54,000 results. Then I made it to this….
Colleyville, Texas, is among dozens of U.S. cities blanketed with antisemitic flyers (February 23, 2022) This article mentions similar flyers being distributed around dozens of cities. Police interviewed in the article say they do not know who is behind the flyers, but it is clearly a coordinated effort nationwide.
NPR cites the ADL, who say a group called the Goyim Defense League is behind it. “Goyim” is a Yiddish/Hebrew word for non-Jews (with a negative connotation). “The most zealous individuals are in Colorado, California, Florida and New York. They work alone, in small cliques and occasionally travel across the country to work together in larger teams,” the ADL says.
The group was founded by some failed actor/comedian in California, who I guess blames Jews for the fact that he could not make it in Hollywood or something. His “zealous” members are skinheads who follow his YouTube clone and buy gear advertising offensive messages. Despite their large impact, there does not seem to be a lot of them.
Based off of other Jewish news sites, it would seem the flyer campaign started at least two years ago, but has only recently become a national phenomenon as the Goyim Defense League has succeeded at building a following. They attribute a lot of the attention they receive to local and national news outlets (as far as I can tell, mainly NPR and CNN) writing about people reacting to their flyers and hyperventilating about them on their shows.
This makes the references to politicians who would clearly view them in contempt make sense. If you want Jake Tapper to lead with a story about your shenanigans (and he has, in fact, featured the flyer campaign on his show), bait him with the opportunity to join in your smear of DeSantis during an election cycle. They always knew these people were secretly connected to Nazis and this proves it! And then they can’t stop talking about it. It’s the easiest way to get the word out about a group that any sane person would shrug off when they discover its basically just a bunch of internet trolls on the world’s most freakish road trip.
This is the holding pattern our media has been in since June 2015 – giving every batshit fringe group their 15 minutes of clickbait fame because this sort of outrage is basically a form of masturbation for their Twitter mob. Another hate group? So exciting!
One interesting thing about the hundreds of articles I skimmed is most do not mention who is behind the flyer campaign, even though a 30-second Google search will get you to the ADL’s explanation. But they are sharing images of the flyers in their reporting, which contain QR codes for any nut jobs that actually enjoy the content to find friends via the Goyim Defense League’s online platform. Fascinating application of technology, no? It’s like asymptomatic spread of an illness. (In this case, mental illness.)
Why leave that information out? Because when you find out it’s a small group of conspiracy theorist losers that lack gainful employment and are living out of a van, it’s suddenly less terrifying than thinking you have homegrown terrorists in your backyard ready to attack your neighbors at any moment. The news media wants the story to be more sensational than it is and keep their audience fearful. We are keeping a watch out for new developments! So exciting!
It never gets less incredible to me how much toxic bullshit in our political discourse continues to have currency for no other reason than people operating in bad faith want to keep it going and love the drama so much. We have this culture that loves slacktivism – “we need to raise awareness” and “silence is violence” – which does more to imperil our quality of life as a nation than improve it. You can’t stop talking about the jackass skinheads, so congratulations on your participation in making them important. Suddenly every person with a nutso YouTube channel is a movement. Maybe next you can cut out the middleman and just write a check to their demented little club directly; it will have the same net effect.
There is one dimension of this impromptu research project that I did find genuinely chilling, however. After reading about the Goyim Defense League, they don’t really seem like a group that is capable of actual violence. (At least the ringleaders don’t seem that way. Nonsense like this may actually become a proximate cause for some lone wolf flying off the handle though.) For the most part, they just seem like internet trolls…. But through the 54,000+ Google search results of news articles written about their flyer campaign, they have effectively created a blueprint to every Jewish neighborhood across the country for another hate group that is quite capable of violence. Anyone who wants to start a race war in this country can now just Google “anti-Semitic flyers” and get a long list of incredibly specific targets. And that work was totally outsourced to an unwitting media that loves to magnify hate.
Be careful out there friends, people in this country are going mad.