Hiltzik: Should anyone be in business with Elon Musk?
Elon Musk’s recent tweet endorsing an openly antisemitic message has sparked outrage and prompted major corporations and the U.S. government to reconsider their relationships with him. The controversial tweet, which has attracted millions of views, echoes the “great replacement theory,” a far-right conspiracy that holds Jews responsible for importing non-white immigrants to diminish the influence of the white majority.
This is not the first time Musk has been accused of promoting antisemitism on his platform, which was formerly known as Twitter. In response to Musk’s divisive behavior, Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of the platform, has claimed that X is actively working to combat hate speech and discrimination. However, this has been contradicted by the appearance of ads from prominent companies alongside hateful content.
In the wake of Musk’s tweet, IBM, Apple, and other companies have suspended their advertising on X indefinitely, citing concerns about the platform’s association with hate speech. The European Commission has also advised services to refrain from advertising on X amid growing disinformation and hate speech on social media platforms.
Musk’s promotion of antisemitism has also raised concerns about SpaceX, the private company he controls, which holds contracts with the Defense Department and NASA. The government is now grappling with the question of whether it is appropriate for any company led by Musk to be a government contractor.
In August, the Department of Justice sued SpaceX for discriminating against legal asylum seekers and refugees in hiring, and a federal judge in Texas later blocked the lawsuit. The Pentagon also faced challenges over Musk’s claim to have unilaterally shut down or blocked Ukraine’s access to SpaceX’s Starlink broadband internet service.
While none of Musk’s tweets clearly violate government regulations, his behavior has prompted federal agencies to reassess their relationship with him. His promotion of antisemitism risks inciting violence and has raised concerns about the suitability of his company to be a government contractor.
In light of this, there is growing support for companies to stop funding X through their ad spend and for government agencies to reevaluate their contracts with SpaceX. The controversy surrounding Musk’s behavior has sparked a renewed urgency to address his harmful influence and the potential consequences of his actions.
This isn’t the first time the controversy has focused on the tech billionaire. The debate has a long history – The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has long been critical of Musk and in 2021 has accused Musk’s Starlink of enabling “dog whistles” marking out users with numbers that align with white supremacist ideologies. In response, Musk sued the ADL for “defamation,” and accused the ADL of enabling antisemitism. There was then a back-and-forth in which they would do counter suits to each other.