When news of the Bernie Madoff investment scandal broke in late 2008, a wave of anti-Semitic sentiment quickly followed. “The greed and corruption of the Jews has brought the financial system and the American economy low,” wrote a reader named Jeanrenoir on Portfolio.com, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Web sites, newspapers, and magazines in both the United States and Europe likewise hosted racist vitriol and conspiracy theories.

Yet if there was any conspiracy, it was that of Madoff...

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