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Anti-Semitism at Hacker News

EDIT: I wrote a new more detailed article about this.

Paul Graham created the social news website Hacker News (HN), associated it with his company Y Combinator, and ran it until recently. Graham's website contains anti-Israel material. Graham also compares Winston Churchill's speeches to a German "purge". As head HN moderator, Graham banned the user qqq for referring to an inflammatory, off-topic anti-semitic article as "anti-semitism" and suggesting it shouldn't be on a non-political technology news site. The article stayed on HN; anti-semitism, Graham (username pg) believes, is merely legitimate "criticism of Israel".

The article, by Paul Reynolds, applies double standards to Israel, such as calling their public relations "propaganda", when the same public relations by the USA would not be called "propaganda". Reynolds also questions whatever Israel's accountable, democratic government says, while promoting the unsubstantiated claims of a random, unaccountable Palestinian. That is an evidential double standard. Double standards like this are not merely "criticism of Israel", they are anti-semitism.

Reynolds posted updates admitting it was an inflammatory political article that caused outrage. Reynolds acknowledged and commented on the accusation that he was siding with the anti-semitic terrorist organization Hamas. To his slight credit, Reynolds considered it par-for-the-course that his article – which took some similar positions to Hamas – could draw serious complaints, so he spoke to the issue. Graham, on the other hand, has more extreme views than Reynolds and won't admit there's any controversy. Graham banned a user for a criticism that even Reynolds would find understandable, thus trying to silence any defense of Israel on HN.


The new head moderator of HN, Daniel Gackle (username dang), is following in Graham's footsteps. He took moderator action against a recent USA Today article reporting on anti-semitism. Then he applied a double standard by refusing to take action against an anti-Israel article meeting the same criteria which he had said justified burying the other article.

Gackle ignored a prompt email explaining the problem in time to act. At the same time, he replied at great length to some minor comments about downvoting, proving he was available to moderate. When pressed about the issue, Gackle admitted two days later that he had made an intentional decision as HN's head moderator. Gackle told the user who raised the issue to stop sending emails; Gackle is unwilling to consider facts or arguments which contradict him about Israel.

How bad is it? Gackle's best defense was to claim the anti-Israel article was a "fairly substantive historical piece". But we are talking about a site which Gackle had already been informed publishes extreme anti-semitic revisionist history like this:
First, Israel cannot be said to face an existential threat when, in the many Arab-Israeli conflicts that have occurred since World War II, Israel has almost always been the aggressor.
Gackle closed his eyes to his role in spreading this kind of material. HN moderation has a clear bias. It's fair to call it anti-semitism.

Elliot Temple on April 21, 2014

Comments (16)

Definitions, definitions, definitions…

“Antisemite”: someone zionists don’t like (for example, anyone who criticizes them)…

Jean Naimard at 9:53 PM on April 21, 2014 | #2272
"The article, by Paul Reynolds, applies double standards to Israel, such as "calling their public relations "propaganda", when the same public relations by the USA would not be called "propaganda"."

Who would not call them propaganda? Paul Reynolds? If he would then you have a right to call double standards in that instance. But many people criticse both america and israel for similar propaganda; paul reynolds might be one of them, you simply gloss over offering an statement clarifying this. He cannot be criticsed for focusing his point, if you had to mention all the countries that engage in the same type of propeganda or have done just to satisfy people who say yeah but what about x? which is called changing the subject, you would simply lose your subject and criticism among enumeration.

Andrew Crawshaw at 4:17 AM on April 23, 2014 | #2273
I meant to say "if he would not..."

Andrew Crawshaw at 4:30 AM on April 23, 2014 | #2274
People like Gackle and Graham who do not go around calling Obama's speeches (or announcements by various government officials) "propaganda" are applying a double standard if they think the article that calls Israeli public relations "propaganda" is fine.

As for Reynolds himself, you could try looking into him. I've looked over some of his articles and didn't find anything contradicting my article. If you find something problematic, show me and I will reconsider.

Elliot Temple at 4:34 AM on April 23, 2014 | #2275
I did a quick search (I do not read the BBC, I think it is pretty dire news reporting), but apparently he has done pieces on both Hamas and Israeli Propaganda. Mmaybe you have alread seen it, and have criticism of the article, it would be interesting to see your view on it anyhow, if it so then he might still have double standards but not, or not only, anti-semitic.

Andrew Crawshaw at 1:25 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2276

Paul Reynolds


Andrew Crawshaw at 1:26 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2277
Treating Hamas and Israel equally well is not even close to fair. Israel should be treated in a similar category to USA and France. Hamas in more like a similar category to Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

If someone did an article on U.S. "propaganda" and I complained, and someone replied "He did an article on Saddam Hussein propaganda too" I wouldn't consider that a reasonable defense. However if the guy writing about U.S. "propaganda" had done similar articles about France and Japan, then I might not like him that much but I wouldn't think that particular piece of evidence demonstrated anti-U.S. bias in particular.

Elliot Temple at 1:37 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2278
Sorry, I did not want to come off as though I was defending him, or his journalism, I was not convinced and still am not that he is motivated by anti-semitism, he is just not a very good journalist.

"Israel should be treated in a similar category to USA and France"

In what way? I am not saying they should not be, I just don't understand.

Andrew Crawshaw at 1:43 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2279
"If someone did an article on U.S. "propaganda" and I complained, and someone replied "He did an article on Saddam Hussein propaganda too" I wouldn't consider that a reasonable defense."

Sorry, what? Can you give a more detailed explanation of why this is the case?

Anonymous at 1:49 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2280
OK no problem. I mean that Israel has a democratic government and a free press. So it has things like *accountability* when its various officials make official statements. This is certainly not perfect but it works similar to US government press releases, France, Japan, etc, but different than stuff like Hamas or Al Qaeda or dictatorships that lack a free press, lack accountability and lie. U.S. (or Israeli or French) press is not a perfect system at all, all governments are flawed, but there's a big difference between the top tier ones and the really crappy ones, let alone terrorist organizations.

BTW if you haven't seen it yet, I wrote a second article which is longer and I think I explain my thinking better and I comment on Reynolds' article more there.

http://www.curi.us/1612-anti-israel-bias-at-hacker-news

Elliot Temple at 1:49 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2281
One way Israel is similar to the US and France is that they are all first world countries basically ruled by liberal democracy.

Unlike e.g Hamas.

Anonymous at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2282
Regarding, "Sorry, what? Can you give a more detailed explanation of why this is the case?"

If someone thinks that the U.S. and Saddam Hussein both do propaganda, but Japan and France do not, that would be serious bias.

Elliot Temple at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2283
"If someone thinks that the U.S. and Saddam Hussein both do propaganda, but Japan and France do not, that would be serious bias. "

I am confused about why you think I am making the point that someone is bias against use and saddam without being bias against france and japan. You are confused about something, because the point is simply that the guy might be bias, it is pretty hard not to be, being human and all, but I doubt he is motivated by anti-semitimism.

Anonymous, go away.

Anonymous at 2:08 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2284
Sorry, I forgot to fill in my name in the last one the post timed 1:08 is mine.

Andrew Crawshaw at 2:09 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2285
"Anonymous, go away."

Are you trying to flame my guest, your fellow commenter? That is not OK.

Elliot Temple at 2:13 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2286
No, I read his comment completely wrong, I thought he was trying to flame, so I told him go away. I apologize.

Andrew Crawshaw at 2:16 PM on April 25, 2014 | #2287

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)