Elon Musk and His Demons


According to Walter Isaacson, a well-respected biographer who just spent two years writing the biography of Elon Musk — one of the world’s richest men, the savior of Tesla, the founder of SpaceX and the owner of the floundering social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter — “there are multiple Elon Musk personalities and demons dancing around in his head.”

We worry about the demons. They drive Musk to do and say stupid things. And sometimes the demons make him sound like an ignorant antisemite.

How else can one construe Musk’s recent outburst on his platform where he sought to explain the 60% drop in X ad revenues since he bought it for $44 billion, as being “primarily due to pressure on advertisers by @ ADL” – the Anti-Defamation League – which he claims, “has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic.”

And to show how serious he was about the ad-sabotage accusation, he blamed ADL for the multi-billion-dollar collapse in X’s value and said he was considering legal action against it for those losses. In his words, “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!”

We are not concerned that Musk will follow through on his lawsuit threat. And, even if he does, the claim is so outrageous that we know it will fail. What is concerning, however, is Musk’s effort to scapegoat ADL for the failures of his erratic running of X, his disturbing engagement with antisemitic accounts on his site and flirting with antisemitism in his statements.

Last May, Musk claimed that Jewish billionaire George Soros “wants to erode the very fabric of civilization.” And last week, he replied positively to a post that claimed Jews “support censorship,” citing a user who described a white nationalist as a role model.

Calling Musk out for the hateful antisemitism in his attacks is not defamation. And Musk’s criticism of ADL for doing so simply validates the critique.

We don’t agree with every position the ADL takes. But when the leading organization dedicated to fighting antisemitism becomes concerned about antisemitic tendencies or leanings of prominent individuals, influential organizations or media, we pay attention.

We join ADL’s concern that since Musk bought Twitter last year, he has made the platform a safer space for antisemites and hate. And we agree with ADL that Musk’s decisions to make the verified “blue checkmark” of credibility available to everyone on his site, and his decision to reinstate a series of far-right accounts that were banned under previous management, have resulted in a substantial surge in antisemitic content being posted on X.

By making X a safe and friendly haven for antisemites, Musk has made it a bad place for Jews. And when Musk repeats antisemitic tropes and mind-bending conspiracy theories, we can’t help but cringe.

We hope Musk learns how to deal with his haunting demons. And we hope he realizes that it’s not ADL that has victimized him. He is doing it to himself.

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