Turns out at least some of the reported anti-Semitic threats of the past few weeks were indeed perpetrated by someone seeking to “make others look bad“:
A Jewish Israeli teenager born in the US has been arrested on suspicion of issuing dozens of fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in North America and elsewhere in recent months, police said on Thursday.
Police said the resident of the southern city of Ashkelon was the subject of a months-long undercover investigation by police’s Lahav 433 cyber unit and the FBI. It said in a statement that the motive behind the bomb threats was unclear. Police said he is 19 years old, but several Israeli media outlets reported him as 18.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the suspect allegedly placed dozens of threatening phone calls to public venues, synagogues and community buildings in the US, New Zealand and Australia. He also placed a threat to Delta Airlines, causing a flight in February 2015 to make an emergency landing.
“He’s the guy who was behind the JCC threats,” Rosenfeld said, referring to the dozens of anonymous threats phoned in to Jewish community centers in the US over the past two months.
The hoax calls were widely regarded as acts of anti-Semitism. The threats led to criticism of President Donald Trump’s administration for not speaking out fast enough. Last month, the White House denounced the threats and rejected “anti-Semitic and hateful threats in the strongest terms.”
Unsurprisingly, the suspect appears to be a troubled individual, who was rejected from IDF service as unfit. I suspect that, as with most hate hoaxes, the crime was likely motivated primarily by a desire for attention and a feeling of larger social significance. No doubt, it will be interpreted — just as the original crime was — as something of vastly greater social significance.
We’ve seen this movie so many times before, you’d think the initial reporting would have foregrounded the possibility of a hoax, while also keeping open the possibility of a new and serious threat. There are real hate crimes out there, and there are also real hate hoaxes out there, and the right way to report on these matters is to report the facts and, where possible, report responsible theories about what might lie behind the facts.
But our media has precious few incentives to behave responsibly. All the incentives line up behind fomenting panic rather than spreading information. This critique applies equally well to right-wing media as to left-wing and the supposedly objective mainstream media; they have different bugaboos but increasingly similar low standards. There is no percentage in being judicious and waiting for the facts to come in before rushing to judgment, and even if one or another outlet does take a cautious and responsible approach, they’ll be drowned out by other outlets eager to maximize the sensational spin. It’s cheaper to do and it’s also more lucrative. The audience wants to be alarmed and outraged. That’s what gets clicks. And people who don’t want that — like myself — increasingly don’t read or watch the news, because we know it has so little value. But this is hardly the best way to remain informed about the world.
I really don’t know what to do about this.