Editorial: Musk is a bigot and a blunderer: Antisemitism and curbing speech in just a few days

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There isn’t much Elon Musk hasn’t made a hash of at the social network once called Twitter. But over the last week, the man who has described himself as“a free-speech absolutist” has gone from promoting a vile antisemitic conspiracy theory to far too aggressively trying to control political debate on X.

And as Musk has trashed his own credibility as the head of what should be one of the internet’s most vibrant public squares, the antisemitism watchdogs at the Anti-Defamation League have stepped in it as well. What a mess.

Last Wednesday, a tweet complained about antisemitic rhetoric: “To the cowards hiding behind the anonymity of the internet and posting ‘Hitler was right,’ You got something you want to say? Why don’t you say it to our faces.”

A white nationalist then answered the challenge thusly: “Jewish commun[i]ties have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them…” and proclaimed “I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest s–t now about western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realization that those hordes of minorities that [they] support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much. You want truth said to your face, there it is.”

To which Musk replied “You have said the actual truth.”

The odious claptrap Musk so publicly endorsed is essentially the same one that animated the man who perpetrated the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history, the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh: that George Soros and other Jews “bring invaders” who purposely and corrosively undermine the cultural and racial sanctity of America.

It was well and good that the ADL under Jonathan Greenblatt took extreme umbrage, calling it “indisputably dangerous to use one’s influence to validate and promote antisemitic theories”; and X advertisers started jumping ship; and a White House spokesman said, “We condemn this abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate in the strongest terms.”

But rather than apologizing like a responsible person would, Musk made matters worse. The very man who upon taking over Twitter said he wanted free speech with as few restrictions as possible reacted to the backlash by declaring that “ ‘decolonization,’ ‘from the river to the sea’ and similar euphemisms necessarily imply genocide” and would therefore result in suspension from the platform.

Greenblatt — who just days earlier had lambasted Musk — praised this as “an important and welcome move,” lending it essential support.

We don’t in the least bit like either term Musk forbade, nor do we suggest Musk doesn’t have the right to do what he wants on the platform he owns. But it’s deeply counterproductive for those who support Israel and revile terrorists to try to win the argument by censoring speech, that, while often used by Jew-haters, has legitimate uses as well.

Don’t hold your breath to see if X suspends the accounts of those who call for the restoration of Judea and Samaria — or, put another way, the creation of a unified Israel from the river to the sea. Or if it will take action against those who embraced the casting off of colonial control in subsaharan Africa, India, the Philippines and elsewhere.

It all would be funny if it weren’t tragic.