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The “Happy Merchant” Meme

The “Happy Merchant” meme, also known as Jew-bwa-ha-ha.gif is a derogatory caricature of a stereotypical Jewish man using signifiers such as a kippah, long nose, full beard, malicious smile and the rubbing of hands, suggesting nefarious plans, for an antisemitic image. Posted on image boards where politics is discussed, such as 4chan/pol, it is used to spread antisemitic ideas.

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The very name “Happy Merchant” points to the antisemitic trope of equating Jews with money. Racist stereotyping such as the long nose make it look similar to drawings in the Nazi-newspaper Der Stürmer. The idea of the nefarious and scheming Jew is part and parcel of traditional antisemitism.

The ubiquity of such caricatures which depict of Jews as nefarious, greedy and manipulative dehumanizes a part of society and turns them into scapegoats for social ills.

Blamed for society’s ills and depicted as evil, Jews can individually or collectively become victims of violence that uses this narrative as justification.

Debunking such a meme means debunking antisemitic stereotypes in general. Jewish life in all its diversity should be shown so as to demonstrate that Jewish people do not conform to those stereotypes. Young users of image boards in particular have to be informed about the history of antisemitic imagery and the role that Der Stürmer played in laying the ground for the Holocaust.

References

https://bit.ly/39mWRVc (Research article with the title “A Quantitative Approach to Understanding Online Antisemitism” focusing on the spread of the Happy Merchant meme)

The Happy Merchant | Anti-Defamation League (short article about the meme on the website of the ADL)

Happy Merchant (short article in an online encyclopaedia about memes about this meme, usage and origins)

The Surprisingly Mainstream History Of The Internet’s Favorite Anti-Semitic Image (news article by Joseph Bernstein identifying the caricaturist behind the image as Nick Bougas, published in BuzzFeed News on February 5, 2015)

Debunking response