SAN FRANCISCO — Tech billionaire Elon Musk faced criticism from some Jewish leaders and at least one advertiser on Thursday after he once again embraced an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that echoes his years of anti-Semitic bigotry. The latest in resonance.
Musk triggered the criticism with six words posted Wednesday afternoon on X, the social media app he purchased a year ago. Responding to another user who accused Jews of hating white people and who expressed indifference to anti-Semitism, Musk wrote: “You told the real truth.”
Musk, CEO of automaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX, drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, an organization founded by Jews to oppose anti-Semitism, after his first tweet. Musk has been feuding with the ADL for months over its efforts to curtail extremism on social media, a campaign Musk says has hurt X ad sales.
On Thursday morning, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said Musk was acting dangerously.
“At a time when anti-Semitism is exploding in America and growing around the world, using one’s influence to validate and promote anti-Semitic principles is undeniably dangerous,” he said. written on xAlong with a screenshot of Musk’s six-word tweet.
Accounts that support anti-Semitic views celebrated Musk’s tweet as welcome news and confirmed that he agreed with them “on JQ”, an acronym for “Jewish Question”. It’s a term used by anti-Semites for decades.
“It’s old-time anti-Semitism with new language,” said AJ Bauer, an assistant professor of journalism who studies right-wing movements and media at the University of Alabama.
IBM said Thursday it had removed its ads from X. A recent investigation by the progressive organization Media Matters found that advertisements for IBM and other corporations were running on X near pro-Nazi material.
“IBM has a zero tolerance for hate speech and discrimination and we have immediately suspended all advertising on X while we investigate this completely unacceptable situation,” the company said in a statement. An IBM representative said the company was investigating the Media Matters report, not Musk’s post specifically.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino said on stage that anti-Semitism and discrimination are unacceptable, though she did not directly address Musk’s tweet or IBM’s move.
“When it comes to this platform – X has also been extremely clear about our efforts to tackle anti-Semitism and discrimination. There is no place for it anywhere in the world – it is ugly and wrong. full stop,” she wrote, Ax also said in an email that Media Matters’ investigation was flawed, partly because ads are designed to follow people as they browse the site, so the researcher saw the same ad multiple times that way. Other people may not have seen.
As of late Thursday night, Musk had not addressed the backlash, and his tweets were still online. An email seeking comment from X was not immediately responded to.
Musk defended his past tweets in an interview with CNBC in May, saying he is a “prosemite”, not an antisemite.
Musk’s latest comments come at a fraught time for Jews around the world and in Israel. According to the ADL, reports of anti-Semitic incidents in the US increased by 388% after Hamas terrorist attacks last month compared to the same period last year. This week, the Biden administration announced an effort to reduce anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization named after the famous Nazi hunter, said he was struck by the way Musk used the
He said, “I don’t understand why Elon Musk, even though it’s his toy, would jump into a statement like this, regardless of his motivations, which aligns him with radicals.”
He added, “I almost feel like telling him, ‘Grow up.’
Experts who study anti-Semitism and other extremism said Musk was repeating decades-old baseless claims about Jews colluding with each other at the expense of others.
“Not only is there no evidence; These have been discredited again and again,” said Matthew Hughey, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut who has studied white supremacy.
Hughey said Musk has 163 million followers on X, more than anyone else, so what he publishes can have a real impact on the real-world activities of others.
He added, “We should expect to see more hate crimes because of his promotion and to unite around this type of discourse.”
Musk’s tweet was the third post in a thread joined by others. The initial post, by a self-described Jewish conservative from South Florida, was a video condemning online anti-Semitism. It said: “You have something you want to say? Why don’t you say it to our faces.”
The second person then jumped in with a multi-paragraph outline of a conspiracy theory sometimes known as the “Great Replacement theory”, which has been advanced by others, including former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. This person said that the Jewish community is promoting “hatred against whites” and supports “flooding” the US with a “crowd of Jewish minorities”.
The man wrote that he was “deeply disinterested” in the “Western Jewish population” who are now facing threats, to which Musk responded, “You have spoken the real truth.”
Musk has a long history of promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In 2018, he tweeted: “Who do you think *owns* the press? Hello”; one in follow up tweet In response to accusations of anti-Semitism at the time, he said he was only referring to “powerful people”. Last year, he tweeted a photo of Adolf Hitler as part of an apparent joke and welcomed rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, despite Ye’s opposing comments on social media.
“Elon Musk has been making anti-Semitic comments on Twitter and other formats for several years,” said Bauer of the University of Alabama.
“When someone tells you who they are, you should listen, and he has been telling us for a long time that he is an anti-Semite,” he said.