2023 in Elon Musk and Antisemitism semafor.com

Recently, you may recall, Elon Musk amplified some antisemitic conspiracy theories on the social media platform he owns and, notably, is its most popular user, and that caused widespread outrage. Which conspiracy theory? Which backlash? Well, it depends on how far back you want to look — but you need not rewind the clock very much at all.

David Gilbert, Vice:

Musk was repeating an oft-repeated and widely debunked claim that [George] Soros is attempting to help facilitate the replacement of Western civilization with immigrant populations, a conspiracy known as the Great Replacement Theory.


Musk also responded to tweets spreading other Soros conspiracy theories, including false claims that Soros, a Holocaust survivor, helped roundup Jews for the Nazis, and claims that Soros is somehow linked to the Rothschilds, an entirely separate antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish bankers which the Soros’ conspiracies have largely replaced.

This was from six months ago. I think that qualifies as “recent”. If I were a major advertiser, I would still be hesitant to write cheques today to promote my products in the vicinity of posts like these and others far, far worse.

So that is May; in June, Musk decided to reply to an explicitly antisemitic tweet — an action which, due to Twitter’s design, would have pushed both the reply and the context of the original tweet into some number of users’ feeds.

Which brings us to September.

Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria, Popular Information:

Musk quickly lost interest in banning the ADL and began discussing suing the organization. In a series of posts, Musk said the ADL “has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic” and “almost succeeded.” He claimed that the ADL was “responsible for most of our revenue loss” and said he was considering suing them for $4 billion. In a subsequent post, he upped the figure to $22 billion.

“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!,” Musk said.

The ADL, however, never accused Musk or X of being anti-Semitic. The group reported, correctly, that X was hosting anti-Semitic content and Musk had rolled back efforts to combat hate speech. And the ADL, exercising its First Amendment rights, encouraged advertisers to spend their money elsewhere unless and until Musk changed course. The notion that the ADL, a Jewish group, has the power to force corporations to bend to its will is rooted in anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power over the business world.

Perhaps you feel like being charitable to Musk, for some reason, and would like to assume that he does not understand the tropes and innuendo with which he has engaged. That seems overly kind to me, and I am impressed you are more willing than I to give him the benefit of the doubt. But it sure seems like Musk took the condemnation of his tweets seriously, as he hosted Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, in San Francisco in an attempt to smooth things over. How did that go?

Well, on November 15, Musk doubled down.

Lora Kolodny, CNBC:

Musk, who has never reserved his social media posts for business matters alone, drew attention to a tweet that said Jewish people “have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.”

Musk replied to that tweet in emphatic agreement, “You have said the actual truth.”

That, and several other things, is a likely explanation for why major advertisers decided to pause or stop spending on the platform. On Friday, Ryan Mac and Kate Conger of the New York Times reported that Twitter may miss up to $75 million in ad revenue this year as a result of these withdrawals; Twitter disputes that number. Some companies have also stopped posting.

Clearly, this is all getting out of hand for Musk. But his big dumb posting fingers have gotten him into trouble before, and he knows just what to do: an apology tour.

Jenna Moon, Semafor:

Elon Musk toured the site of the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas in southern Israel on Monday, as the billionaire made a wartime visit to the nation amid allegations of antisemitism.

How long are the remaining advertisers on Musk’s platform going to keep propping it up? How many times do they need to see that he is openly broadcasting agreement with disturbing and deeply bigoted views? I selected just the stories with an antisemitic component, and only those from this year; Musk routinely dips his fingers into other extremist views in a way that can most kindly be compared to a crappy edgelord.

I will leave you with the story of what happened when Henry Ford bought the Dearborn Independent.