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Anti-Semitism or Sarcasm? It's Immaterial to Bloomberg

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04.09.2019

Unearthing social media posts to target public figures, and even ordinary citizens, has been a standard journalistic tactic for years now. We got a powerful reminder of that Tuesday morning when Bloomberg reporter Ben Penn wrote a story about a Trump administration official, accused of posting an anti-Semitic screed on Facebook in 2016. Within hours, the story had claimed a scalp: Labor Department lawyer Leif Olson had resigned. All in a day’s work for a crusading journalist.

Except what Olson was accused of wasn’t remotely what had happened. What he wrote was actually the opposite of anti-Semitic. The Facebook post in question was a sarcastic send-up of Paul Nehlen, the alt-right anti-Semite who primaried then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Even the most obtuse social media maven would have been tipped off when Olson wrote of Ryan, “The guy just suffered a massive, historic, emasculating 70-point victory. Let’s see him and his Georgetown cocktail-party puppetmasters try to walk that one off.”

Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter famously said that after 9/11 “irony was dead,” but apparently it took the election of Donald Trump for journalists to get out the backhoe and toss our collective sense of humor into the family plot.

Speaking of irony, the thread that got Olson into trouble began with his attempt to defend the media. After a friend of Olson’s made a joke about Paul Ryan being Jewish (3%, according to genetic testing), Olson responded sarcastically: “It must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own.”

It’s a small consolation that Penn was immediately blasted for his hatchet job by liberal journalists as well as conservatives. But a bigger clue as to the direction of........

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