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WATCH: Confusion on Alleged Super Bowl Ad Designed to Combat Antisemitism

AP Photo/Allen G. Breed

To be blunt, there’s a lot to untangle here, but rather than just cutting the Gordian Knot, we’ll try to pull out each thread, one at a time.

It started when we saw this post claiming that this ad was going to run during the Super Bowl:


We saw several other accounts talking about this ad that was going to run tonight, except then we saw this:

Mr. Ali has been a pretty straight shooter on these kinds of things, so we took his claims seriously enough to do some digging and we initially thought he was right. We found an article that featured literally the same ad almost a year ago, here:

Thus, we wrote this entire article on the premise that Ali was probably right. And then at about 5:16 Eastern time we were editing this piece for publication and watching the coverage of the Super Bowl pre-game show on Paramount Plus, which was getting the feed directly from CBS and … suddenly we saw the same ad. It might have been a little truncated, we can’t be sure.

Thus we had to readjust.

So, the ad was definitely shown in the run up to the Super Bowl. Maybe it will be shown during the game, maybe it won’t. Still, we wanted to talk about it, anyway.

Now, first, we absolutely credit the ad for having its heart in the right place. We even think the overall message is actually a pretty effective one. Many ads designed to address bigotry really aren’t very persuasive in our opinion because they are trying to persuade people who aren't very persuadable. If you are, for instance, a hard-core antisemite with posters of Hitler on your bedroom wall, a thirty second or sixty second ad isn’t likely to change your mind. We’re not saying people like that can’t be reached, but you need more time than sixty seconds to even move the needle. If your goal is to persuade someone like that, this author’s suggested strategy would be to create a website which gathers hard documentary and video evidence, from Jewish survivors and even some of the criminals who carried out the holocaust. Ideally, someone who knows how to present evidence in a compelling manner should write a long piece helping to organize that evidence. Then your ad mainly tells people how to find the website and challenges people to look the evidence over. As they learn about the reality of the holocaust, not only would this negate holocaust denial—and many antisemites are also holocaust deniers—but it would expose the evil of antisemitism, perhaps leading to a change in heart.

But the message of this ad is aimed at a more persuadable group. Those are the people who sympathize with people facing bigotry, but maybe are too quiet about it. And the message is pretty straightforward: Make the victims of bigotry know you stand with them. It’s something we can get behind. We have long thought about this pivotal scene in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus:


Honestly, it gets us every time.

For those who never saw this movie … first, find a way to see this movie! It’s genuinely great.

But what is going on is this (SPOILERS for a movie that came out in 1960):

Spartacus is about a revolt by Gladiators and other Roman slaves, trying to earn their freedom. It is based on real events, but it is necessarily fictionalized to a great degree because history was definitely written by the victors in this case. This rebellion failed, and in this scene, the Romans are offering a deal to the surviving prisoners. They are saying that they were literally going to crucify them unless the slaves told the Romans which of them was Spartacus. They’d still be slaves, but at least they would not be subjected to a horrifying death. Every person knew that if they ratted out Spartacus, that he would be subjected to something horrible, maybe worse than crucifixion.

Kirk Douglas plays Spartacus and you can see he tried to identify himself. He wanted to save his fellow slaves from crucifixion. But literally the rest of the slaves wouldn’t let him. They all said ‘I am Spartacus’ because their attitude was that they weren’t going to let the Romans single any one of them out. They weren’t sheep led by a shepherd, but men who each decided stand up to fight for their freedom. The cause wasn’t the property of one man—they all owned it.

It's for a similar reason that this author puts triple parenthesis around his handle on Twitter/X. About eight years ago, we read a piece by Yair Rosenburg … 

… and in the article, he explained that some bigots were using a Chrome extension to put (((triple parenthesis))) around the names of people these bigots believed were Jewish on social media. Rosenburg recommended that people who were not Jewish put the parenthesis around their own handles, in order to confuse the signal. This author and most of his friends did so immediately and have left it on ever since, to make it harder for bigots to figure out who the real jews are. For a similar reason, we have put a mezuzah on our front door frame, because our understanding is that this is a subtle way of telling Jewish people that if they are in trouble, they can find sanctuary in our home.

So, we think the ad sends an important message of making sure that when someone faces hate that the people opposed to it positively show their opposition and act to show solidarity. Don’t just assume the other person knows how you feel: Say it, or show it.

(Of course, the other problem, is people crying ‘wolf’ about hate, like Jussie Smollett, but we’re going to put that aside for now.)

So, it is good to for you show solidarity to a neighbor at a moment like that, but the way this guy did it in the ad, while well-meaning, is not the right way to do it.

Let’s break this down.

The ad starts off with an apparently Jewish mother and daughter getting ready to go somewhere and someone has vandalized their garage door by painting a swastika and writing ‘no jews.’ This is almost certainly at least criminal trespass. After all, it seems reasonable to believe that whoever wrote this came onto the property without permission and even the painting itself is trespass. We also happen to know off the top of our head that there is a specific crime in the New York penal code called Graffiti and basically it amounts to marking up someone else’s property without their permission—and many other states have adopted similar laws. We are glossing over some technicalities, but the visual language of this ad implies that this would almost certainly be criminal graffiti in the many states that have such laws.


And an important thing to understand is that these laws are triggered regardless of the actual message. The person could have snuck onto the property and written ‘I love Jews’ or 'smile more, everyone!' and it would be equally criminal. You don’t go on someone else’s property without permission and you really don’t paint on it without permission.

Then later you see the mother and daughter come home and someone painted the garage white again, covering up the graffiti. The strong implication is that the neighbor did it just to be nice. The woman is shown as being shocked and maybe even moved by the gesture.

Except what did we just say? You don’t go on someone else’s property without permission and you really don’t paint on it without permission. This guy, obviously well-meaning, also committed trespass. We think it probably wouldn’t be the crime of graffiti—more like erasing graffiti—but it’s still technically trespass. Check your local laws, but that is probably how the law would see it in most American jurisdictions.

Now the truth is trespass happens quite a bit without prosecution. Like a kid might accidentally kick a soccer ball into your yard (which is technically a trespass) and then trespass further by going in to get it. Even if someone complains about such technical trespass, prosecutors are not likely to prosecute. We suspect that if the woman in the ad got angry and demanded a prosecution, the neighbor would get off with a warning. ‘We won’t prosecute you, but don’t do that again.’ And we will note that the law typically allows you to enter their property via a sidewalk and even to knock on their door (but check your local laws).

But there’s an additional problem with the neighbor’s behavior in the ad: He destroyed evidence of a crime. For all we know, the graffiti artist accidentally left his fingerprints on the garage, and the neighbor painted them over.

The correct approach isn’t to commit further trespass, destroy evidence and paint the graffiti over, without the homeowner’s consent. The correct approach, if he wants to help, is to speak to the neighbor, offer to help and then let her decide what she wants to do. She might say that she would rather preserve the evidence. Or she might say she would rather see the message gone ASAP, and give him permission to paint. The key thing is that she (and anyone else who owns the home) should decide what will be done about it, not a well-meaning neighbor.

Thus, while we think the overall message is good, the details are bad. His desire to affirmatively let his neighbor know he’s got her back is good. The specific things he did were well intentioned, but mistaken.

And it wouldn’t be hard to reshuffle the ad and display the right behavior. Maybe have the ad show the mother come home to find the graffiti and maybe show her doing her best to shield her daughter from even seeing the message. Maybe show her in her home after seeing this, feeling anxious and she gets a knock on the door. She opens it nervously and her neighbor is there with a can of white paint, saying ‘would you like me to paint that ugliness over for you? I would be happy to do it and your daughter will never see it.’ It's the same sense of surprise and kindness, but its done with respect for her right to make the decision.


In any case, while the ad might not literally air during the Super Bowl (and we aren't 100% sure it won't) it still generated discussion:

But you know, Biden needs to win Michigan.

Seriously, Mr. Biden, didn’t you say that you wanted to heal this country of its bigotry? Well, here’s your chance! Stand up to the bigots in your own party and show you care more about principle than winning re-election.

But who are we kidding?

We’re not sure about the intricacies of British law on this but we know that hate speech laws often produce perverse outcomes. For instance, there is a series of games called the Wolfenstein series that goes back to 1981. It is about an American—later revealed to be a Jewish man—killing nazis, often with body counts that put Rambo to shame. Not only do you kill Nazis like it is going out of style (except why would it ever go out of style?) the series has allowed players to kill Hitler at least three times that we know of. In other words, this is about as anti-Nazi as a game series can get. But because you have to use Nazi imagery in order to depict your hero killing Nazis, this entire game series was banned in Germany until pretty recently. Thus, you never know what dumb thing will be banned in another country under the banner of hate speech laws.

It’s one of the reasons why we oppose hate speech laws—because they are almost always enforced in a dumb and uneven way.


To be fair, Hamass types love swastikas, too. They will very often make common cause with modern Nazi supporters in a process we like to call moronic convergence.

No, not quite the right thing, but a well-meaning thing. But we digress…

We also want to get something else off our chest. We’ve heard a lot of people say that antisemitism has been on the rise since October 7. Respectfully, we disagree. There is little doubt that expressions of antisemitism has been on the rise since then. But we don’t think the massacre of October 7 made many people into antisemites. We think in most cases it brought out the antisemitism that had been there all along. It’s important to correct that misconception, because if you don’t understand the problem, you have little chance of solving it.


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