November 20, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Another billionaire, another round of Jew-hatred

Elon Musk is emulating Henry Ford, a car mogul who bought a media platform to spread antisemitic libels, writes Lindsay Beyerstein.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Last week, X CEO Elon Musk endorsed a tweet accusing Jews of pushing “dialectical hatred against whites” and supporting “hordes of minorities … flooding their country.” 

“You have said the actual truth,” Musk replied. 

In parroting the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, and giving antisemites free rein on his site, Musk is emulating Henry Ford, a car mogul who bought a media platform to spread antisemitic libels.

The Great Replacement is the delusional belief that someone is trying to replace white people by championing liberal immigration policies and racial justice. As is typical, Musk cast the Jews in the role of racial puppet masters. 

In endorsing the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, Musk is partaking in an ancient and ugly tradition of twisting one of Judaism’s proudest traditions – a commitment to social justice. 

When fascists in Charlottesville chanted “Jews will not replace us,” they were referencing the myth of the Great Replacement. The following year, Robert Bowers accused the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HAIS) of perpetrating white genocide before his shooting spree at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh: 

“HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people,” Bowers said. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

In 2019, a gunman killed 52 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. His manifesto was entitled “The Great Replacement.” The same year, a shooter cited the Great Replacement to explain why he took 23 lives at an El Paso Walmart. The Buffalo supermarket shooter was also a believer

Jewish philanthropist George Soros is routinely cast in conspiracy theories for his foundation’s support of liberal causes, such as criminal justice reform and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

During the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, American Jews played a prominent role in founding and funding major civil rights organizations. Many of the white student Freedom Riders were Jewish and 17 rabbis were arrested alongside Martin Luther King in St. Augustine in 1964. Segregationists spread their own conspiracy theories about Jews teaming up with Blacks to destroy the white way of life. 

In fact, the image of the liberal Jew goes back at least as far as the French Revolution. In the prevailing spirit of liberalism, the revolutionary government became the first in Europe to grant citizenship to Jews in 1791. In keeping with this liberalizing ethos, various European countries emancipated their Jewish residents. This wave of emancipation vastly expanded opportunities for Jews in terms of where they could live, what jobs they could do, and how they could participate in politics, business and the arts. Not surprisingly, many Jews embraced liberal ideologies because liberal tolerance improved their lives. 

It was during the 19th century that Europe’s longstanding Jew-hatred curdled into modern antisemitism. It was during this time that the myth of the international Jewish conspiracy was fully fleshed out. 

Some scholars argue that conspiracy theories are the defining characteristic of antisemitism. It’s wrong to hate someone for their religion, but the animosity is rooted in a real difference of opinion: Jews aren’t Christians, and some Christians have had a problem with that for centuries. Whereas, antisemitism is based on pure racial and political fantasy. 

Modern antisemitism construes Jews as both the racial other and as agents of malignant modernity. Jews are identified with both communism and capitalism. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most successful antisemitic tract of all time, was forged by agents of the Russian secret police in the late 19th century. It purports to reveal the secret deliberations of a group of rabbis gathered in Prague to take over the world. By some estimates, the Protocols have been republished more than any other book except the Bible. 

In 1920, Henry Ford began publishing the Protocols under the header of “The International Jew” in his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. At the time, the Independent had a greater national reach and more influence than the Times. Hitler praised Ford by name in Mein Kampf as the “single great man” of the “American Union” standing against “the Jews.” 

The Protocols were debunked as a crude forgery in 1920 and Ford was eventually forced to retract them and apologize after being sued for libel by an American Jewish lawyer whom Ford accused of furthering the conspiracy by founding farm cooperatives. 

In endorsing the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, Musk is partaking in an ancient and ugly tradition of twisting one of Judaism’s proudest traditions – a commitment to social justice. 

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Lindsay Beyerstein covers legal affairs, health care and politics for the Editorial Board. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she’s a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Find her @beyerstein.

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