One in five young Americans think the Holocaust is a myth – and it’s all down to TikTok

A further third aren’t sure the Shoah happened. Blame social media


Judaism symbol. Jewish Star of David. Jude Cemetery in Cracow Ghetto. Kazimierz district. Poland. Auschwitz and Holocaust metaphor. Black and white.

December 13, 2023 16:04

v The fact that one in five young Americans believes the Holocaust is a myth, according to a new survey, is a figure so preposterous that the mind wants to discard and ignore it.

It’s the equivalent of “unexpected item in the baggage area”. Unfathomable.

This was the approach taken last week by the Economist which, apparently bamboozled, published precisely five paragraphs on its own exclusive YouGov poll from which the finding came.

But the facts bear repeating. Some 20 per cent of Americans aged 18-29 stated that the Holocaust is a myth, compared to 8 per cent of those aged 30-44. A further 30 per cent of young people said they do not know if the Holocaust is a myth.

So that is 50 per cent of young Americans who either deny the Holocaust outright or at the very least question it.

The random sample of 1,500 American adults found that the number of Holocaust deniers is similar across all levels of education.

YouGov estimates the margin for error at 3 per cent. Frankly, if the margin for error was 50 per cent it would still be enough for the average reader’s brain to want to reject the offending information as impossible.

But what if instead of an anomalous inflation of antisemitic attitudes, the survey is an undercount? Surely most Holocaust deniers or sceptics — aware of how loathsome their views are to the wider world — would be reluctant to share their opinions openly with a pollster from YouGov? If anything, the numbers could be higher.

TikTok — the social media app of choice for the 18-29 generation — is the petri dish in which this new strain of antisemitism and Holocaust denial is being cultured. Americans under 30 are as likely to trust information on social media as they are to trust national news organisations, a 2022 Pew Research Centre survey found. Pew also found that 32 per cent of people aged 18-29 are getting their news from TikTok. That is worth saying again: getting their “news” from TikTok.

Just last week, Jewish TikTok employees revealed that the firm “no longer has any control” over its 40,000 moderators who do little to stop antisemitic posts, and that colleagues openly express Jew-hatred on an internal chat. The story had surprisingly little pick-up in the US, and one wonders if the lucrative contracts some media organisations have with TikTok are relevant. Sacha Baron Cohen last month accused TikTok of “creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis”.

A spokesperson for TikTok told Fox News: “Hateful ideologies, including antisemitism, are not and have never been allowed on our platform. From October 7, we have removed more than 1.1 million videos in the conflict region for breaking our rules, including content promoting Hamas, hate speech, terrorism and misinformation.”

The row comes against the backdrop of a society where being an activist is mandatory. Fighting for social justice is required on applications to top universities and looked on favourably in workplaces. One must pick a cause. But that cause can be hard to choose when you’re being fed a diet of misinformation that you might wrongly assume has had its tyres at least gently kicked by fact-checkers.

No action, at least in the short term, will be taken against the Chinese-owned TikTok, which has more than 150 million users in the US. Last week it was announced that Congress will not take up legislation this year that would allow the Biden administration to move against TikTok. Republican frontrunners for president have vowed to ban it.

A day of reckoning may be coming for TikTok, but it will only be after it has persuaded vast numbers of young Americans of grotesque lies about the Holocaust. A deradicalisation of American minds corrupted by Hamas propaganda may be needed.

Crosshead there

l Three Chanukah menorahs this year are lighting up the home and offices of Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff: one in the VP’s office, one in the Second Gentleman’s office and one in their official residence, the Naval Observatory.

The Second Couple began the tradition of lighting Chanukah candles at their residence two years ago.

The menorah in their residence is on loan from the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where in 2018 11 people were killed in the worst antisemitic attack in US history.

The menorah in Emhoff’s office is designed by Erwin Thieberger, a Holocaust survivor and coppersmith. He modelled his menorahs on those he made out of flattened nails and scrap metal in the concentration camps.

The menorah on display at the entrance to Harris’s office is on loan from the Jewish Museum in New York. It was presented in 1935 to Kahilath Jakob, a small prayer room in Vienna, one of 60 or so Jewish places of worship in the city to survive the Nazi occupation of Austria.

Emhoff said: “These menorahs are incredibly meaningful and deeply impactful. Each one reminds us that we must continue our efforts to combat antisemitism and all forms of hate, while living openly, proudly, and with joy as Jews.”

December 13, 2023 16:04

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