ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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New essay on Musk and the Jews

The political turning of Elon Musk is so abrupt, so wild and unexpected, that it verges on the inexplicable, and speculations range from the psychological to the pharmaceutical.”

At first it was unexpected: why was Elon Musk, the unorthodox liberal visionary flirting with white nationalists and Holocaust deniers on X?

But over time, a sinister pattern has emerged, making it impossible to ignore.
Yesterday, the Jewish Quarterly published Dark Star: Elon Musk’s Dangerous Turn, by award-winning writer Richard Cooke. In this ground-breaking essay, Cooke explores how Musk went from being a self-described moderate to a trolling neo-reactionary and staunch advocate for hardline US conservatives.

As Cooke explains: “The political turning of Elon Musk is so abrupt, so wild and unexpected, that it verges on the inexplicable, and speculations range from the psychological to the pharmaceutical.”

Musk’s willingness to endorse blatant antisemites and antisemitic tropes was widely exposed in November 2023, when he engaged in an online argument on his own platform, X, over the phrase “Hitler was right”. One user claimed (amongst other things) that Jews are “flooding [the] country”. Musk replied “You have spoken the absolute truth”. The outcry was global, and “in an atmosphere of already heightened antisemitism, thanks to the Israel-Hamas war”, according to Cooke, “something cracked.” But Musk’s decision to fan the flames of online antisemitism was neither random nor unexpected. Nor did it happen in a
vacuum.

Cooke unravels the DNA of the “tech right” and situates Musk within its grasp. The elite Silicon Valley subculture is described as “a religion in which the adherents are also the gods” and one that “opposes equality because it believes equality is inefficient”. Perhaps this strain of Muskian philosophy is best summarised by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI: “Elon desperately wants the world to be saved. But only if he can be the one to save it”.

The essay investigates an urgent question: what are the consequences for free speech – and hate – as Musk controls and reshapes the online town square? How afraid should we be as this impulsive tech tycoon gains an unprecedented degree of control over online spaces and space itself?

Editor of the Jewish Quarterly, Jonathan Pearlman, sees JQ’s longform format as an antidote to the very soundbites that thrive on X. “In these online echo chambers, narrowness and hate – including antisemitism – are flourishing. It is a disturbing phenomenon that is now being overseen and encouraged by one of the world’s richest, and arguably most innovative, people.” Unlike a tweet, this essay will “draw you in, hold you, and let you think”.

The Jewish Quarterly is offering 50% off digital subscriptions for readers of Times of Israel. Click here to access this discount.

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