Elon Musk is going “thermonuclear.”
No, this has nothing to do with SpaceX or any of his other wild technology projects—but it’s how Musk described the lawsuit he was filing against Media Matters for America this week.
The lawsuit is in response to a Media Matters report last week that X, the Musk-owned social media platform formerly known as Twitter, was placing ads for major brands such as Apple and IBM next to “pro-Nazi content.” After some prodding from Media Matters, within a day of its report, a slew of major corporations, such as IBM, Disney, Comcast, Sony, NBC, and Warner Brothers, announced they were pulling ads from X.
As part of his announcement, Musk posted a statement making specific allegations that Media Matters technologically manipulated the service to produce the desired juxtapositions of ads and extremist content—and that these contrived ads were seen by virtually no one.
“For one brand showcased in the article, one of its ads ran adjacent to a post 2 times and that ad was seen in that setting by only two users, one of which was the author of the Media Matters article,” reads the statement. If Musk’s claim is accurate, it means that the organized boycott of X was prompted by less of a display of Nazism than one would see at the average pro-Palestinian demonstration.
A layman has no easy way to evaluate which side is telling the truth, but it’s a matter of record that Media Matters founder David Brock is a practiced smear artist, and his organization is relentlessly partisan.
And though there are obviously more important issues than whether political actors can succeed in de-monetizing a business owned by an eccentric billionaire, much more is at stake in the Twitter wars than Elon Musk’s bottom line. What’s in play may be nothing less than free expression in this country. Musk’s purchase of Twitter engendered a sweeping and aggressive campaign to sully his name, an effort that escalated as he started speaking out against censorship. It would seem to be a stance Musk has adopted out of principle, since it’s been demonstrably bad for business.
It’s true that one can find ugly sentiments expressed on X, but that’s true of every other social media platform, and X does have policies and algorithms to deal with it. Holding Musk personally accountable for every random person popping off on a site that has hundreds of millions of users seems absurd on its face. His defenders believe, not unreasonably, that America’s left-leaning political establishment fears the existence of even one major media outlet that can’t be bullied into suppressing disfavored views—or inconvenient truths.
Recall that in 2020, both Facebook and Twitter (before it was owned by Musk) immediately censored the New York Post for reporting the details contained on Hunter Biden’s now-notorious laptop. One doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that the reason organizations such as Media Matters are ginning up slurs against Elon Musk is because we are heading into another presidential election. Musk critics don’t really fear he’ll use his control of a major social media platform to put his thumb on the scale; they fear he won’t do it at all—that he’ll allow the give-and-take that was once taken for granted in this country.
So, the problem for the establishment isn’t just that Musk believes in free speech. He also practices it, and he has a large megaphone. The manufactured Media Matters scandal had so much impact because it was piled on top of another press campaign against Musk.
It started when someone recently posted on X the following diatribe: “Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them. I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest s— now about western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realization that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much.”
Musk responded, “You have spoken actual truth.” The corporate press almost unanimously and immediately declared Musk antisemitic for agreeing with this statement.
The original post was blunt, angry, and lacking nuance. One can argue that associating himself with it, as Musk did, was insensitive, particularly since it echoed the rantings of the unhinged bigot who murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue five years ago.
Not content to merely accuse Musk of a lapse in judgment, however, the legacy press made wild claims that far outstripped what was actually said.
“Jewish groups have compared the statement in the original post to a belief known as replacement theory, an antisemitic conspiracy theory that nonwhite immigrants, organized by Jews, intend to replace the white race,” The New York Times reported. “That idea fueled Robert Bowers, who raged against Jewish people online before killing 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.”
Neither Musk nor the original tweet said anything about a Jewish “conspiracy.” Imputing the logic of a mass shooter to Musk seems an overreach motivated by malice rather than legitimate concern.
Leaving immigration policy out of it, the sentiment expressed on X is one that politically conservative Jews have been making for years: Liberal Jewish organizations have been supporting left-wing identity politics, causes, and ideology that will eventually be turned against the Jewish community.
Mainstream conservative Jews have said as much. “These claims that [Trump and Musk] are antisemites is a transparent dodge aimed at diverting attention from the obvious fact that the explosion of antisemitism in America, Britain, and other Western countries is taking place primarily on the progressive Left—and that this explosion of antisemitism is being driven by the same alliance of ‘anti-racists’ that have been trying since 2016 to brand most conservatives and Christians as ‘racists,’” observes Yoram Hazony, adding, “If you actually want to see antisemitism defeated in America, Britain, and other Western countries, let’s see you direct your fire at the actual source of the danger and violence right now—which is two orders of magnitude greater on the Left than it is on the Right.”
The real issue isn’t that what Musk posted is wrong or can’t be parsed as part of a reasonable debate. After all, several members of Congress have said things that were widely perceived as antisemitic. They have largely escaped censure because, well, they’re Democrats. The current president of Media Matters has a history of inflammatory comments about “Japs,” “Jewry,” and “trannies” that are more offensive than anything Musk has said.
The real issue is that when Musk says he’s going “thermonuclear” against the censorious hypocrites in the left-wing political establishment, it’s not an idle threat. And anyone who cares about free speech should hope there’s a lot of fallout.
This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics
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