A prominent sports journalist and Israeli activist needed to hire a personal bodyguard to protect her in New York following threats of violence from Hamas supporters.
Emily Austin, who frequently appears on television in support of Israel and is known as a social media influencer, told JNS that pro-Israel influencers, out on the frontlines of the narrative war, are operating in a challenging environment.
“It’s tough. There’s a lot of scrutiny that comes with it,” Austin told JNS last weekend at the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership Summit in Las Vegas. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with before Oct. 7.”
The recent barrage of antisemitic vitriol directed at her, Israel and Jews at-large is not surprising considering the “vile hatred that we see online all the time,” Austin said. The most effective way to respond, and to win the media “wars” is to “take it a battle at a time,” she advised.
Austin judged the Miss Universe pageant last month. Many of the contestants have large social media followings, and one contestant, whom Austin would not name, has posted pro-Hamas messages publicly. In fact, Austin voted for her.
“I don’t think she knew what was going on,” Austin told JNS. “I reached out to her and I said. By the way, I loved her. I voted for her. I was like, ‘Hey love. I just wanted to let you know what you posted is really harmful. And here’s why. And I would like to know, why did you post that?’”
The reply Austin received was that “Everyone was posting it in my country.”
“I said, ‘When everyone is standing on the wrong side of history, does that make it more right?'” Austin said. “We got into a 30-minute conversation of why it was so harmful. She took it down, and now I know that I educated one more woman with such an influence on the reality of it,” Austin said.
Austin has also used her sports connections—including her NBA podcast, on which she interviews basketball players, coaches and executives—to affect change.
She saw an NBA coach condemn Israel on social media a few years ago. She called him on his cell phone, shared her view of the situation and asked why he had posted what he did.
“He said, ‘Because my team asked me to do it and I couldn’t say no,’” Austin said. “So I said, ‘You are inflicting harm upon people, because someone asked you to. You didn’t do your due diligence like Googling something?” (She didn’t say how, if at all, the coach responded.)
“It’s things like that, that we’re doing every single day, that actually make the difference,” she said. “It’s just taking it one battle at a time.”
Austin also said that her favorite word is “allegedly.” If one doesn’t have the facts, it’s so easy to just add “allegedly,” she advised.