I’m an ADL advisory board member. The CEO’s tweet appeasing Elon Musk is dangerous
Dear Jonathan Greenblatt,
It was baffling and frankly embarrassing to see you praise Elon Musk for condemning antisemitism on Nov. 17, when just a day prior, he endorsed a tweet spouting the Great Replacement Theory.
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) November 17, 2023
I write to you as a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s NextGen Advisory Board in New York and a former Glass Leadership Institute fellow. I have long admired your tireless work in combating antisemitism and all forms of hate, seeing you as a voice of moral clarity in the face of growing extremism. I became involved with ADL at your encouragement when you approached me at the 2019 Never is Now Summit.
I can imagine that leading the ADL in today’s polarized climate is no easy task, to say the least. But aligning with someone like Musk, who repeatedly dabbles in conspiracy theories and white nationalist rhetoric, is a misstep that undermines the ADL’s credibility and core principles.
What Musk called “the truth” on Thursday is the same conspiracy that motivated the Pittsburgh shooter to murder 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. You even called Musk’s post “indisputably dangerous.” Following his vile tweet, Comcast/NBCU, Paramount Global, Apple, Disney, Warner and Lionsgate have all paused advertising on X.
I’m grateful you called Musk out. But praising him the next day minimizes the greater damage he’s caused. There’s no justification for playing sycophants with an unhinged leader who frequently engages in conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetoric that puts Jews and all marginalized groups at risk.
You have said the actual truth
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 15, 2023
There’s no winning with a narcissist
In many ways, the ADL has become an allegorical proxy for the Jewish people, a scapegoat onto which many people project their own political discontentment. Some on the left view ADL’s stance on Israel and Zionism as right-wing, while many on the right view ADL as too progressive and universalist. The left thinks ADL is too harsh while the right thinks ADL is too soft. It’s a tightwire act impossible to please everyone. These criticisms are often unfair and relentless, which is why it’s so important that the ADL remain true to its principles and not fall prey to bad-faith actors.
It’s simply not worth trying to appease a reckless leader who propagates extreme ideologies to his 160 million followers. Musk is not just any eccentric provocateur. He dabbles in white nationalist rhetoric. I understand that Musk’s series of confrontations with the ADL, which include open threats of legal action of up to $4 billion, may provide some motivation to stay on his good side. However, it can’t come at the expense of ADL’s integrity and standing up to antisemitism wherever and whenever it appears.
It’s not possible to appease a man lacking a coherent sense of reason.
I wouldn’t have joined as a paying board member if I didn’t have faith in its CEO and believe fully in its mission. But unfortunately, this time, the ADL’s top leader was duped.
Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, uses his status to amplify far-right ideologies and conspiracy theories. And you cannot make digital diplomacy with a man like that.
Musk is an agent of chaos. He’s repeatedly shown his true colors as someone who stirs up controversy for sport with little regard for the impact of his words. His volatility underscores that appealing to his interests is completely untenable.
Before Musk took the helm of Twitter (now X), I thought that he had some good qualities. I even wrote a piece commending him for openly sharing that he, like me, is on the autism spectrum.
But Musk has proven himself to be erratic and untrustworthy. He conducts himself as an irrational bully, internet troll and edgelord, providing a conduit for white supremacist ideology in the form of racist memes and talking points.
I realize now that he is a narcissistic bully who only cares about himself. His dangerous rhetoric and disregard for his words can’t be overlooked. And his glowing embrace of the far-right overshadows any of his positive attributes.
I commend you for trying to walk the tightrope of finding consensus and common ground with problematic public figures. I’m a firm believer in pluralism and dialogue, which includes building relationships with people with whom we disagree.
But Musk consistently violates the basic tenets of decency, integrity and respect that ADL stands for. There comes a time when it’s just not worth it. And acquiescing to Elon Musk’s ego is certainly not worth compromising the organization’s integrity for.
We can be diplomatic without excusing vile, dangerous antisemitism — especially when it comes from a repeat offender like Musk. He’s not worth giving any further credibility to when he’s repeatedly violated our trust.
We’re experiencing a grave and frightening moral decay in society. In these disturbing times, we must be the leaders in restoring justice and sanity in a world that seems to have lost its moral compass.
ADL NextGen NY Advisory Board Member
To contact the author, email [email protected]