Facebook removes Trump campaign ad featuring Nazi concentration camp symbol

Tribune Content Agency

Facebook pulled down an ad from President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign on Thursday that featured a Nazi concentration camp symbol, saying the inflammatory post violated the social media platform’s “policy against organized hate.”

The disturbing campaign ad, which was launched Wednesday, called on Facebook users to sign a petition hailing Trump’s decision to designate antifa as a terrorist organization and charging without evidence that members of the left-wing movement are “running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem.”

Beneath the ad’s text is a picture of a red upside-down triangle.

Badges with the exact same symbol were sewn onto the sleeves of political prisoners in Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps during World War II. Schutzstaffel, or SS, the Nazi Party’s dreaded paramilitary arm who ran the camps, put the red triangles on anyone from communists and anarchists to trade unionists, Freemasons and people who tried to rescue Jews from slaughter.

A Facebook spokesman confirmed the ad was scrubbed from the platform because of the Nazi connection.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” the spokesman said. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

Refusing to acknowledge the Nazi link, Trump campaign officials claimed the red triangle is actually an antifa symbol.

“The inverted red triangle is a symbol used by antifa, so it was included in an ad about antifa,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. “We would note that Facebook still has an inverted red triangle emoji in use, which looks exactly the same, so it’s curious that they would target only this ad.”

Along with Murtaugh’s statement, Trump campaign aide Ken Farnaso emailed the New York Daily News a handful of links to obscure online retail stores selling water bottles, T-shirts, posters and other gadgets with the red triangle on it, with descriptions calling the symbol “anti-fascist.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, did not buy Murtaugh’s explanation and called the ad “offensive and deeply troubling,” whether or not the Trump campaign was aware of the red triangle’s dark historical significance.

“It is not difficult for one to criticize their political opponent without using Nazi-era imagery,” Greenblatt said. “We implore the Trump campaign to take greater caution and familiarize themselves with the historical context before doing so. Ignorance is not an excuse for appropriating hateful symbols.”

As the controversial ad stoked outrage on social media, Trump posted a tweet that used a phrase commonly associated with the Nazis to attack Democrats.

“ ‘BLITZ, Trump Will Smash the Left and Win,’ by David Horowitz. Amazon #1 Bestseller,” Trump wrote. “Hot book, great author!”

The Blitz, short for blitzkrieg, was a military tactic used by the German Nazis early on in the war as they invaded a number of neighboring countries, including Poland and France. Translating to lightning war, the tactic is focused on short, fast and powerful mechanized infantry attacks supported by low-flying air bombardments.

Facebook’s ad scrub came a couple of weeks after Twitter added fact-checking features to a couple of false Trump tweets about mail-in voting, signaling social media companies are stepping up oversight of the president’s dubious messaging ahead of November’s election.

The since-removed Facebook ad isn’t Trump’s first flirtation with Nazism.

During the 2016 campaign, then-presidential candidate Trump tweeted a doctored photo of Hillary Clinton’s face next to a Star of David against a backdrop of $100 bills, along with the caption “most corrupt candidate ever!” Amid widespread outrage that the tweet perpetuated anti-Semitic tropes pushed by the Nazis, Trump deleted the post — but never apologized.

Trump’s newfound obsession with antifa as a political boogeyman began when mass protests over George Floyd’s death erupted in cities across the country in the beginning of June.

Trump and other Republicans have insisted antifa is responsible for the rioting and looting that has come with some of the largely peaceful protests over the black man’s death at the hands of a white Minneapolis officer.

There’s little evidence to substantiate Trump’s antifa charges, but that hasn’t stopped him from claiming his administration will designate the movement as a terrorist organization.

The terrorist label threat has caused confusion, since antifa is not an organization and doesn’t have any centralized leadership, generally prerequisites for such a designation.

Antifa, an abbreviation for “anti-fascist,” attracts a mishmash of leftist activists, counting hardened anarchists as well as progressive Democrats among its flimsy ranks. The movement dates back to Antifaschistische Aktion, an underground network of far-left radicals who fought the Nazi insurgency in 1930s Germany.

Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish advocacy group, speculated that the Trump campaign may have intentionally used the Nazi concentration camp symbol in the ad as a dog whistle to fire up the president’s hard-right base, as he seeks reelection on a politically divisive platform.

“The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection using a Nazi concentration camp symbol,” the group tweeted. “Trump and the RNC are using it to smear millions of protesters. Their masks are off.”


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