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An anti-ADL campaign is erupting on Twitter and Elon Musk endorsed it

More than 89,000 #BantheADL posts flooded Twitter as part of an ongoing effort by the far right to defame the organization

When the hashtag #BantheADL suddenly blew up on Twitter with more than 89,000 posts Thursday and Friday as part of an ongoing campaign to defame the Anti-Defamation League, Elon Musk joined in.

“Elon Musk likes my call to #BanTheADL,” tweeted @keithwoodsyt, a pseudonym for the far-right Irish activist Keith O’Brien. “The people have spoken, we want free speech!”

The campaign against the ADL alleges that the organization is hindering free speech by demanding that social media platforms sanction neo-Nazis and other extremists who promote antisemitism, racism and other bigotry. 

O’Brien’s original post accused the ADL of “financially blackmailing social media companies into removing free speech on their platforms. … Why should they have a platform on X to hold @elonmusk to ransom?” 

The Tweetstorm gathers

Jake Shields, the mixed martial arts champion and right-wing extremist who tweets as @jakeshieldsajj, apparently ignited the anti-ADL tweetstorm Thursday evening. 

“Let’s get this trending to help wake the masses of how evil they truly are #bantheADL,” he urged his 350,000 followers

He also retweeted the ADL’s condemnation of a neo-Nazi protest at a drag queen story hour in Ohio, adding: “The ADL supports men in drag reading to kids.”  

Responding to a request from the Forward for comment, the ADL said it was “unsurprised yet undeterred that antisemites, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and other trolls have launched a coordinated attack on our organization. This type of thing is nothing new.”

The organization said the onslaught follows “a meeting with the leadership of X, formerly known as Twitter, that clearly upset these hateful groups.”

Musk, X and antisemitism

Since Musk bought Twitter in 2022, the platform, which he rebranded as X, has reinstated thousands of accounts that had been banned for promoting hate speech, including O’Brien’s, Kanye West’s and Donald Trump’s.

Musk himself has made and amplified a variety of disturbing comments related to Jews, including quotes from Nazis and friendly public exchanges with bigots.

The continuing persecution of Leo Frank

The anti-ADL campaign bubbling up this week is also preoccupied with Leo Frank. In 1913, in a case rife with antisemitism, Frank, a Jewish factory manager in Atlanta, was convicted of raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl who worked for him. After the governor commuted Frank’s death sentence to life in prison, Frank was dragged from his prison cell in Marietta, Georgia, and lynched by a mob. 

The state’s failure to protect Frank while in custody led Georgia to posthumously pardon him in 1986. The pardon did not exonerate him, but contemporary experts who’ve examined the case believe a factory janitor committed the crime

Claims of Frank’s guilt have become a rallying point for antisemites. An acclaimed revival of Parade, a musical about the case starring Ben Platt as Frank, renewed attention to the story, and the show’s 2022 opening night was picketed by neo-Nazis.

The ADL was founded the year Frank was convicted in response to rampant antisemitism around the country, including discrimination and widespread use of crude Jewish stereotypes in popular culture. 

The anti-ADL campaign falsely claims the organization was founded to defend Frank, with O’Brien posting a video calling the Frank case “the dark origin of the ADL.” 

The ADL said that “such insidious efforts don’t daunt us. Instead, they drive us to be unflinching in our commitment to fight hate in all its forms and ensure the safety of Jewish communities and other marginalized groups.”

The Forward’s engagement editor, Jake Wasserman, contributed to this story.

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