Musk tweets meme with soldier of Nazi Germany, mocks fleeing users

Twitter CEO posts picture of Wehrmacht soldier towing carrier pigeons, with caption ‘How times have changed’

A screen capture of a tweet by Twitter CEO Elon Musk on November 7, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
A screen capture of a tweet by Twitter CEO Elon Musk on November 7, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Elon Musk tweeted a picture of a Wehrmacht soldier on Monday, the latest in a string of controversial posts by the new Twitter CEO who is in the midst of overhauling the social media giant he purchased last month.

The picture of a German Wehrmacht soldier with a cage of carrier pigeons strapped to his back during the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 was fashioned as a meme with the caption, “Three unread messages” and attached to a tweet in which Musk wrote: “How times have changed.”

In a subsequent tweet in the same thread, Musk added, “Back when birds were real” followed by “But if Twitter is bird, that’s means [*head exploding emoji*].”

No further context or explanation was given for the string of tweets. It was not clear whether Musk was aware the soldier was a member of the Wehrmacht.

The posts were uploaded as Jewish groups in the US were urging the social media giant’s mercurial new owner to do more to keep hate speech off the site.

Against the backdrop of Kanye West’s antisemitism row, anti-Jewish content on Twitter is experiencing a “prolific surge,” according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, a firm that monitors the spread of online hate and disinformation. The institute said Friday that “terms associated with Jew are being tweeted over 5,000 times per hour,” and that “the most engaged tweets are overtly antisemitic.”

The Anti-Defamation League has called on all advertisers to suspend their relationship with Twitter, while offering a harsh critique of Musk’s leadership.

“We met with Elon Musk earlier this week to express our profound concerns about some of his plans and the spike in toxic content after his acquisition,” the Stop Hate For Profit coalition, a group that includes the ADL, said in a Friday statement. “Since that time, hate and disinformation have proliferated, and he has taken actions that make us fear that the worst is yet to come.”

The group’s relationship with Musk came off the rails with stunning speed. At their initial meeting, the ADL and various members of the coalition including the NAACP, Color of Change, the Asian American Foundation, and media equity advocacy group Free Press had pushed Musk to develop robust content moderation tools.

The groups also tried to get Musk to stop tweeting out conspiracy theories and problematic content himself. The entrepreneur had previously tweeted, then deleted, a link to a right-wing conspiracy theory involving a man who had attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband at his house (the attacker himself was active in many antisemitic conspiracy theories online).

Musk tweeted approvingly about the ADL meeting afterward (a move that enraged some of his antisemitic fans), and ADL Vice President Yael Eisenstat told Protocol that Musk had assured the groups he did not want Twitter to become “a hate amplifier.”

Also on Monday, Musk tweeted a series of posts mocking the new Mastodon site that was created as an alternative for users fleeing Twitter.

“If you don’t like Twitter anymore, there is [an] awesome site called Masterbatedone,” Musk tweeted, attaching a picture of posts on the site by a user repeatedly lamenting that the platform was malfunctioning.

The Twitter CEO then posted several more jokes about masturbation in addition to encouraging the public to vote for Republican candidates in Tuesday’s midterm election. “Shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties, therefore I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic,” he wrote.

JTA contributed to this report

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