If ever there was a case to be made against the wild excesses of social media, consider Elon Musk’s latest attack on one of the most venerable civil rights organizations in America, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, last week, Musk “liked a tweet by an Irish white supremacist calling on the platform to #BanTheADL” and then “asked users whether he should put such a ban to a poll.” The hashtag been used increasingly by white nationalists and raging antisemites. Musk threatened to sue ADL on September 4th for the revenue losses of his company. Frank’s case is an example of antisemitism that was accelerated and advanced under the cover of law. After the governor commuted Frank’s death penalty to life imprisonment, a mob of hateful people, including many leaders of the Jewish community, dragged Frank out of his cell and lynched. The ADL has not fought only against antisemitism but for civil rights in general. In the 1960s, it stood by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It mobilized support for the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1988. It worked in the 1980s with Japanese, Asian and Pacific American and other communities to bring attention to the Japanese internment and relocation during World War II. Sully the virtuous?
Elon Musk. He’s found a new low, appearing to be anti-anti-defamation.
It should come as no surprise. The history of the spread of bigotry is based on the strategic imperative to discredit and defame the ones who expose bigots. They should be softerened so that their claims are not as stinging. The ADL becomes a tempting target. The organization has tracked and uncovered
in racist, antisemitic and homophobic content and harassment since Musk bought Twitter (now known as X) last year and restored extremist accounts banned under the previous management.
It’s a disturbing, destructive fight. Musk and the ADL clashed in May after the ADL criticized him for using antisemitic tropes to attack George Soros, a liberal Jewish megadonor. Musk has a habit of using the same rhetorical invectives as Nazis and neo-Nazis. Soros, internationalists, viruses — we’ve heard it all before. I’m not saying that Musk supports Nazis or neo-Nazis, but he seems to have no problem flirting with the rhetorical invective they’ve employed: Soros, internationalists, viruses — we’ve heard it all before.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, responded to Musk’s recent attacks about banning the group from X, pointing out the connection between the #BanTheADL hashtag and “in the real world when masked men marched in Florida on Saturday brazenly waving flags adorned with swastikas and chanting ‘Ban the ADL.'” Greenblatt was referring to an antisemitic demonstration by neo-Nazis and white supremacists outside Disney World.massive spikesMusk, of course, condones it all under the banner of free-speech absolutism. It’s an incredibly hypocritical response. How is it that one of Earth’s smartest entrepreneurs can’t see the obvious, hilarious disconnect between arguing for free speech and flirting with banning the ADL? According to the opinion, the defendant’s speech against the draft during World War I did not qualify for First Amendment protection because it posed a clear and immediate danger. The clear and present threat is even greater in the case of Elon Musk. Elon Musk owns an empire of social media, which is equivalent to owning the fire departments and manufacturers of gasoline and matches. Musk’s Teslas are equipped with self-correcting navigation so they don’t cross guardrails. Elon Musk demands the same.
Steve Israeli represented New York for eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee between 2011 and 2015. Steve Israel is the director of Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. Follow him on
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