Several users of the social media site Gab have posted antisemitic threats targeting Pennsylvania state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-District 23).
The posts appear to be in response to Frankel’s criticism of Gab last month after news reports revealed that Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano was active on the site and had paid Gab a $5000 “consulting fee.”
Gab gained national attention in 2018 when it was discovered that the man accused of murdering 11 Jews in Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life building was a regular user of Gab and had posted neo-Nazi propaganda and screeds on the site against the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. He often called for violence against Jews.
Frankel’s chief of staff, who is not a regular Gab user, discovered the antisemitic posts directed against Frankel when doing a search on the site.
In one post, a Gab user posted a photo of Frankel and included the quote:
“State. Rep. Dan Frankel, a Democrat representing Allegheny County, said he was there to speak out against the ‘white nationalist vision that unifies Gab users’ before it gains a larger foothold in mainstream politics.”
Another user replied: “It’s coming kike. Hold on to your yamulke.”
Another user replied: “He knows what happens to people like him once it happens.”
The Gab page belonging to the user on whose account the posts appear is filled with other antisemitic, racist and conspiracy-driven posts written by both him and others. In his “About” section, the user has links to essays promoting white supremacy and conspiracy theories against Jews.
Frankel said he wasn’t surprised by the posts targeting him on Gab, noting that the social media site’s users often react against politicians who criticize them.
Frankel criticized Mastriano and his relationship with Gab founder Andrew Torba in a July 21 press conference in which he called Gab a “festering cesspool of intolerance.” The press conference was in response to the news that Mastriano paid Gab $5,000 in “consulting fees,” apparently leading all new accounts on the platform to automatically follow him. Mastriano’s page was littered with scores of antisemitic comments left by people following him on Gab, many of them targeting his Jewish opponent, Josh Shapiro. After criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, Mastriano released a statement saying, “I reject anti-Semitism in any form,” and closed his Gab account. Notably, he has not specifically condemned the antisemitic comments on his page or Torba.
“I feel an obligation to make as much noise as I can,” Frankel said. “Other politicians are giving a wink and nod to this stuff. That’s not acceptable. Mastriano says ‘Well, you know Josh Shapiro is on Twitter,’ but this website is absolutely focused on white nationalism in particular, and is rife with hatred and antisemitism.”
Frankel, whose district includes Squirrel Hill, called Gab “very dark” but said “there’s very little that can be done to shut them down other than to call them out and identify them and to hold people accountable who participate.”
“That’s what I think we’re trying to do with Mastriano and his followers,” he added.
Frankel said he is concerned for his safety and that of his staff. He has taken steps to enhance security.
Shawn Brokos, the director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said it’s important that law enforcement be made aware of social media posts like these so they can do a threat assessment.
“It’s something that we absolutely have to take seriously and as in many instances we’ve seen, especially through Gab, there is an implicit or direct threat against the Jewish community,” Brokos said.
For Frankel, the threat isn’t simply against him and his staff.
“I represent an area with very identifiable communities,” he said. “There’s a huge Jewish community that’s a target. We have a very identifiable Asian Pacific community that has been targeted. Both communities have seen an increase in harassment that have persisted well beyond the Tree of Life shooting three-and-a-half years ago. We need to make sure people are aware of this and prepared.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at email@example.com.