Discover more from Michael Ian Black
Those Darned Jews
Elon Musk is threatening to sue the Anti-Defamation League for pressuring advertisers not to advertise on Twitter, saying that it’s the ADL’s fault that the social media site has lost about 60% of ad revenue since Musk took charge. He goes further, saying ““To clear our platform’s name on the matter of anti-Semitism, it looks like we have no choice but to file a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League … oh the irony!”
No mention of Musk’s erratic behavior, firing of key staff, blue checkmark fiasco, platforming of white supremacists, mercurial platform alterations (including rebranding it for no apparent reason), collecting users’ biometric data, throttling of posts, giving up user info on Saudi dissidents, canoodling with Putin, and all the assorted random bullshit that has caused an exodus of users from the “world’s town square.”
None of that got mentioned. The problem, according to Elon, is the Jews. In other words, there wouldn’t be so many antisemites on The Site Formerly Known as Twitter if it wasn’t for those darned Jews.
I’ve often recounted my experiences with antisemites on Twitter, beginning during the first Trump campaign when Jews like myself who were critical of the candidate often received hateful antisemitic messages, some of which might include our faces superimposed into a cartoon of a gas chamber. The volume of these messages was so overwhelming, and I suspect that they were produced en masse at some troll farm somewhere in Maldovia or whatever. But somebody was paying for them and somebody was disseminating them.
These messages subsided somewhat after Trump won the election, but have picked up again – though not to the same extent – after Musk took over the company. I, and others, have reported hateful messages to Twitter and usually receive back a message saying something like, “The comment ‘Gas the Jews’ does not break our terms of service.”
Hateful speech is obviously neither new nor confined to Jews. I know Black voices and LGBTQ voices get hit equally hard, or harder. But the disingenuousness of Musk blaming the ADL for his problems is almost breathtaking in its blatant Jew-hating. It’s the lowest possible hanging fruit and Elon snatched it.
For me, it also points to something our community has long wrestled with, which is how much to make a stink when somebody says or does something antisemitic. How often do you raise your voice in protest? Does doing so help or hurt the problem? Does calling attention to it actually exacerbate it? The ADL’s position is morally correct: you object to it wherever and whenever you see it. So when a website fires the content management staff and opens the floodgates for every Nazi troll, they are correct in going to advertisers and saying, “Hey, you sure you want to be associated with this brand?”
And advertisers are correct in taking a step back. No wonder advertising rates have plunged. So what does he do? Correct the problems he himself has created? No, rather than risk alienating his rightwing fuckboi fanbase, Musk pulls the awkward jujitsu move of blaming the Jews for reporting on the antisemitism he allows to thrive. It’s disgusting.
Subscribe, won’t you? It’s the least you can do for the Jews.
I’m also angry because I love Twitter. It’s still my digital hangout. It’s still the place where I get much of my news. It’s still where I interact with the dwindling number of Twitter friends I still have on there. I don’t want the platform to go away and I don’t want to surrender it to that narcissistic weirdo. But nor do I want to support a site owner that deflects his own responsibility for the ruination of his purchase onto some of the people who have been victimized by his taking the helm.
I hope he does follow through on suing the ADL because, as users have pointed out, discovery cuts both ways. Musk can gain access to the ADL’s information about him, but they can also gain access to Musk’s private information. Who do you suspect will come out looking better in that process?
Hitler analogies are lazy and unproductive. I’m not calling Musk Hitler. But taking a page of Hitler’s playbook by blaming the Jews for his organization’s myriad problems is so slimy, so underhanded and cheap, so classically Musk.
Years ago, long before he purchased Twitter, my then teenaged son used to tell me that Musk was an asshole. I defended Elon then, saying I didn’t see any evidence to support that claim. He might be eccentric, I said, he might say or do some questionable things. But so what? He makes good products. Yesterday I apologized to my son for ever doubting him. The world’s richest man could be doing so much good in the world, but instead seems hellbent on reducing his legacy to nothing more than King Shitposter on a shit site. Fuck him.