Someone To Blame

One of the most memorable scenes from any movie I’ve seen was one that occurred toward the conclusion of the 1995 film An American President. During a press conference, the current President (played by Michael Douglas) calls out his opponent–an eerily pre-MAGA character named Bob Rumson–by saying

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character…

That scene is a vivid example of the way in which art–in this case, film–can illuminate life. Nearly 30 years later, the scene seems eerily prescient. 

In the movie, it was Bob Rumson. Today, it’s Elon Musk.

After Musk purchased Twitter– now renamed X– expressions of bigotry and anti-Semitism on the site increased significantly. Thanks to Musk’s chaotic administration, the number of advertisers and users had already been steadily dwindling, but advertiser departures exploded last week, after Musk endorsed a post blaming “Jewish communities” for pushing “dialectical hatred against whites” and promoting the white supremacist conspiracy theory that “western Jewish populations” are behind the “flooding” of countries with “hordes of minorities.”

Musk tweeted “You have said the actual truth.” 

As a result, a stream of prominent brands halted their advertising. The departures included Disney, Paramount, NBCUniversal, Comcast, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent of CNN. Rather than responding to the exodus by apologizing, or by vowing to improve content mediation, Musk doubled down, blaming the Anti-Defamation League–and the Jews–for the platform’s problems and its greatly diminished value.

In true Trump fashion, Musk has sued Media Matters for reporting that company ads often appeared next to anti-Semitic content, asserting that the organization had somehow falsified the data. And Musk is threatening to sue the Anti-Defamation League, for daring to publish research documenting a striking increase in hate on the platform since Musk took it over.

Elon Musk issued a series of statements in which he has blamed secret manipulation by a Jewish organization for the destruction of the X platform, which was once called Twitter. Saying the Anti-Defamation League was the “primary” reason for falling ad revenue at X, Musk first threatened, then later seemed to promise to sue for damages.

That’s right. After months in which Musk has supported racist rants; encouraged hate speech; elevated literal Nazi propaganda; fired every Twitter employee in Brazil on suspicion of being too liberal; fired the entire company press office and the entire company communications department; decimated the team responsible for content moderation; terrified advertisers with chaos, irresponsibility, and perpetuating racism; and thrown away global brand recognition by renaming the whole platform to indulge a personal whim, Musk has put his finger on the real issue.

It’s the Jews.

Shades of Bob Rumson…

Permit me to suggest that the “real issue” with Twitter/X is a man-child with way too much money and an ego that won’t permit him to admit his own inadequacies and mistakes. 

Mmm…sounds familiar.

When you think about it, that clip from An American President applies far more widely than to Musk. It perfectly describes not just Trump, but most contemporary Republican candidates and officeholders. Today’s GOP policy-free “platform” can be entirely summed up by those same two strategies: playing on voters’ fears, and telling those voters who they should blame for whatever troubles them–immigrants, Jews, Blacks. It’s what MAGA is all about.

In Indiana, it’s the modus operandi of posturing incompetents like Todd Rokita, Mike Braun and Jim Banks. 

I guess next year we’ll see if that’s really the way to win elections… sure doesn’t seem to be the way to manage a successful social media platform…


  1. What is eery is reading Maddow’s new ‘book “Prequel”. The anti-Jew movement of the 1930s sounds exactly like the recent Musk spewing. When ideologues have no answers, or answers that only serve their narrow constituents, they blame the Jews. Of course, they do. Easy targets. Bigots wrapped in billionaire coats… What could possibly go wrong.

    I’m personally sick to death of assholes like Musk, Trump, Lee, Cruz, Johnson, et. al., performing their version of isolationist/Jew-baiting/hate-filled “policies”. Are their sponsors that bigoted too? Otherwise, why would people with such small brains say the things they say? They must be getting paid to do so.

    Once again, the specter of Citizens United v. FEC comes to light. What would we expect when we invited the fox into the henhouse? Sweetness and light? No. Instead we got today’s Republicans. I don’t care what Todd will say about how Democrats are on the take too, it’s the Republicans who are creating the mess we’re in… just as they’ve always done.

  2. I too am reading Maddow’s book Prequel, and while I am only half way through it I have to make this observation. Back in the 1930s there does not appear to have been much push back to the anti-Semitism and bigotry going on then. Today, the outcry is deafening…thank God. The news media, big corporations, and blogs like this one are hammering it home. “We know where this is going, and we aren’t going to let it take us there.”

  3. I love that scripted movie speech that foretold a global era yet to come. I explain it to myself in a different way, though.

    The previous era, the 1900s (or 19s as some call them), was the era of mass media advertising being “forced down” the throats of we the people (humans everywhere) thanks to little-known Edward Bernays.

    This century so far is the era of celebrity and those who master that “art.”

    Musk, yes, but also Trump, Netanyahu, the young British royals, Zelensky, Taylor Swift (now plus the Kelce bros of football fame), Putin, and numerous other “stars” who get wealthy and powerful for being rich and powerful (that I don’t “follow”).

    The Democrats are the last ones to master that art.

    Unfortunately, they still believe that democracy can beat celebrity in this century.

  4. When you’re in the limelight, no matter whether you believe in free speech or not, you have to be really careful about who you appear to be supporting. If you support free-speech, you must make it clear that this is about free-speech, but in the midst of supporting free-speech, he must make a disclaimer, that’s where Elon musk‘s fault lie. We also know that media matters is fully liberal and supported by radicals like George Soros turned Jews, and in the midst of a Nazi campaign against the world is on a CBS interview where he stated that I hadn’t turned them in and make profit off of the Jews as a teen, then somebody else would have. It wasn’t just rhetoric as we have today he actually sent people to the gas chambers. And somehow this scum of a person is allowed to support politicians. He too is a billionaire but he’s pushing radical Socialism and anti-traditional Jewish sentiment. But apparently no on the left wants to recognize this and targets, Elon musk. He was the EV child of the world at one time.. it is interesting how a man who breaks up a liberal media source that has full fledge bots all over the place that is showing unrealistic amounts of people through falsities can be put down and shamed. He actually did the right thing by buying it out and pushing for free speech but again, you must watch your comments on who you support as do not show that you’re antisemitic

  5. I don’t understand how you can put Zelensky, Swift, and Kelce in the same category as Musk and Trump?! What am I missing?

  6. I don’t understand how you can put Zelensky, Swift, and Kelce in the same category as Musk, Cruz, and Lee?! What am I missing?

  7. Indygaffer, right on.

    Celebrity confers wealth and power in the form of a vast soapbox to present whatever view adds wealth and power to your soapbox.

  8. I can assure you that is definitely the way to win red party voters in rural Indiana and I believe the gerrymandered districts in this state will guarantee that the rural red party voters’ choices will win elections.

  9. Theresa observed:
    “Back in the 1930s there does not appear to have been much push back to the anti-Semitism and bigotry going on then. ”
    I think it was far worse than that. In the PBS Documentary “The US and The Holocaust”
    I learned how deep and strong the antisemitism ran in the US. How unpopular it was to even try to help those being killed. How we refused a whole ship load of children and sent them back to Europe to die. How the State Department was dominated by Jew Haters. FDR had quite a challenge managing all the crazy that was making WWII so difficult to wage. Even after the war when EVERYONE could see what had happened, the US let even fewer Jewish immigrants in. Not a great showing for love of our fellow man. This problem runs deep in the USA.

  10. So the best corporate America can do is to “pause” their ads? How brave! What a strong gesture for democracy and decency! Virtue postering at its corporate finest!

    If we didn’t already, we know where they stand (er sit)….

  11. Genuine bravery is calling out the Likudniks for generating genocide. If you voted for Biden,you’re complicit of genocide. You’re either against genocide or you’re not.

    Zionism is a racist expression for supremacy. It’s amazing a group of people feel superior over others because of a silly goddamned book of fiction. The bible,koran,tora, et al, are simply works of fiction by social outliers,losers,killjoys and insufferable bastards afflicted with megalamania.

  12. Here is a new word I learned this morning that perfectly defines people like Musk, Trump, Braun and others – megalomaniac, a person who is obsessed with their own power.

  13. Welcome to the world of 1200 A.D., with but a little twist!
    Musk, like TFG, is too stupid and self-focused to see his role in his own problems, and, possibly, downfall.

  14. Again.

    The September 11 attacks, commonly known as 9/11, were four coordinated Islamist suicide terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda against the United States in 2001.


    Date: September 11, 2001 at 8:14 AM EDT
    Number of deaths: 2,996
    Location: World Trade Center, New York, The Pentagon, Ground Zero, Manhattan, Shanksville, Arlington County,

    Perpetrators: al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Lade.

  15. Ian. Since Biden is using all his influence to prevent both Jews and Palestinians from waging genocide, your statement about him is idiotic. The stated aim of Hamas IS genocide. The stated aim of Netanyahu is the destruction of Hamas (a terrorist organization) and even if he can accomplish it, which I doubt, it would not be genocide. To blame President Biden for any part of this intractable situation just reveals your ignorance.
    I do tend to agree with part of what you wrote in your second paragraph. The books you named are works of fiction but the people who wrote them were not necessarily as you describe them.

  16. As a journalist, I have more trouble telling the truth than telling folks what they want to hear. People wish to have their own biases confirmed, whether TV news or printed news.

    As a user of X, I saw many posts about the altercation in the Gaza Strip. I find it interesting that Musk cannot have his own opinion without a group of oligarchs banning together to halt their advertisers. We call that blackmail, and it’s also why lame news like Maddow (MSNBC) never tells us the absolute truth or risks losing advertisers.

    Oligarchy, Vernon, oligarchy runs the show and sets the actual or implied rules. Political parties must play by the rules or risk losing donors and lobbying cash.

    Musk took Twitter, now X, private to allow free speech without the government telling him who to accelerate in their algorithms and who to pause or make invisible.

    Lastly, how does one allow free speech and also prevent misinformation? Tricky proposition when Big Brother and the Oligarchy are peeking over your shoulders. 😉

  17. There’s nothing left to say! Except John S. and Ian amuse me. Where can one go to get such theories? Time for a reality check, guys.

  18. I’m amused by Democrat Party and Republican Party cultists such as this group of readers. You’re going to be more amusing after November 2024.

    It’s a multipolar world. The USA is a dying empire. It’s no longer in its prime and is slowly becomng irrelevant.

    Y’all still clinging to the world of old.

    Interesting times,indeed.

  19. Let’s wax philosophical. Today’s responders to Sheila’s blog represent diverse views of history, history in the making, and history to be made, like today Musk can foster his version of free speech however anti-democratic under a private design but Soros, the ADL, and ordinary Americans are not to be afforded the same rights and privileges with their versions – and if religion is to be the bellwether, I think it instructive to here note that such gentiles as Hitler, Mussolini, and other long ago mass murderers such as Atilla and Genghis Khan have no room to the high moral ground in this Jew-gentile contrast.

    Perhaps civilization will be saved not by hatred and war but by management of the bigger storms which await all of humanity, i. e., a combination of management of AI’s impact, overpopulation, and poisoned air and water, each and all of which will directly affect every human being on this sick planet irrespective of caste, religion, race, hatred, etc. Perhaps we will be forced to design a history in the making that will record that survival has trumped hatred and that the planet has recovered. Perhaps.

  20. From The Washington Post, 5/30/18, noting a most-demonstrably absurd claim about George Soros:
    “That is: That the 14-year-old boy who had to hide from his own government during the German occupation of Hungary was a war criminal who sent his own people to gas chambers.
    This particular strain of anti-Soros paranoia has festered for years on far-right message boards…”
    I probably should not bother to reply to that post. Hell, that and other posts like it are akin to episodes of Joe Pine, on channel 4 back in the day.

  21. Nothing like getting a dose of genuine hate on the day before we are supposed to give thanks for our gifts and all those we hold dear. I hope that they are able to actually swallow a meal with all of the filth they have in their mouths.

    May all of our days be blessed with love and forgiveness. We surely need it.

  22. JD – love the way you lend your support for our days to “be blessed with love and forgiveness”…”I hope that they are able to actually swallow a meal with all of the filth they have in their mouths.”

  23. It’s totally unacceptable and un-American to scapegoat a minority to promote ones political or religious beliefs. Just because someone has more money doesn’t mean they have more rights in US. Yep, buy those big defense lawyers to protect them from repercussions from their overreaching and oppressive modus operandi.
    I’ve been reading Racheal Maddow’s “Prequel” and find her research as impeccable. Racheal has a Catholic background and is a gay woman, so she brings a minority perspective to her reporting but is obsessively accurate.
    My nephew just passed the bar in Denver and has moved to DC to be a litigator for the Justice department. I told my sister that Rachel’s book “Prequel” would be a perfect Christmas gift for him. There is hope in the young people in US coming up.
    It’s a matter of evolution, and we need the freedom to progress in a positive way for all Americans. I agree that strict authoritarianism or theocracy has no place making practical decisions for all Americans. It’s scary that Mike Johnson just visited DJT at Mar-Largo last Monday. From my perspective that’s a bad look for the US Speaker of the House to visit indicted felon at the crime scene of treason.

  24. There have been a multitude of Bob Rumsons throughout American and world history. While the best antidote is usually LOTS of sunshine, in this case I hope these major advertisers will pull their advertising plugs permanently and put X out of its bigoted, money-losing misery. I doubt Musk will listen to anything other than money falling out of his pockets, if even that.

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