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The Huffington Post published a “list post” on Wednesday that contained an example of anti-Semitism. The Post, “The 7 Most Exclusive Secret Societies in History,” spoke of six secret societies that actually existed. However, the seventh, “the Elders of Zion,” never existed except in the bigoted minds of anti-Semites.

The post lists some of the usual suspects: the Freemasons, Yale’s Skull and Bones, the Illuminati, Rosicrucians, Bilderberg, and The Knights Templar, with short paragraphs describing each. The remaining group listed between Bilderberg, and The Knights Templar was the only fictional one, The Elders of Zion.

The author of the piece Alex Grecian, explained that the Elders are fictional:

The Elders of Zion

In 1920, a newspaper owned by industrialist Henry Ford ran a series of articles reprinting a Russian document called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The document was quickly debunked as a hoax, but those articles were collected as a book, newly titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. Adolph Hitler read the book, was influenced by it, and appropriated many of its ideas for himself. Anti-Semitic theorists around the world still believe that the Protocols were genuine and that there was once a Jewish conspiracy to achieve world domination

However the fictional label follows a description of existing secret societies, providing a false context for the faux organization which the quick disclaimer does not adequately address:

Freemasons reportedly have a number of secret handshakes that they employ when meeting fellow travelers. Thumbs are pressed against knuckles or wrists in various permutations depending on the greeters’ position within the society. Members of the Illuminati might be seen declaring their affiliation with hand signals that make them look suspiciously like classic rock fans. The Karstphanomen (the secret society in my new book, The Devil’s Workshop) whisper Latin phrases to one another, conveying their mutual agreement that the “end justifies the means.”

But beyond all the special handshakes and code words, there doesn’t seem to have been much point to most secret societies other than self-interest. Once an invitation was secured, membership in one of these societies guaranteed a person certain considerations: political favors, appointments to influential positions, business and financial opportunities. Some societies with a more religious (or perhaps sacrilegious) bent believed they could gain mystical abilities or accrue occult powers and artifacts.

Secret societies still exist today, but the advent of the Internet has made real secrets much harder to keep. Masons ride in parades and the Karstphanomen now work out in the open with lawyers and public advocates. Only Anonymous, the tech-savvy Internet entity has captured the popular imagination in the same way that secret societies once did. But even they don’t fully follow the tradition of selfishness, since they seem to want to entertain us while dragging others’ secrets out into the open.

Based on what he wrote about the Elders, it is doubtful that Mr. Grecian meant to provide propaganda to the anti-Semites of the world. However including the “Elders of Zion” in the context of a list of actual secret societies and an introduction which sets them up as real will give many readers the impression that a tool of Jew-haters and violence toward Jews, The Elders of Zion actually exists.

The Huffington Post has long been the home of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, regularly claiming the government and or media is controlled by the Jewish or Israel Lobby. And the comments posted on the site can often be worse than the articles.

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