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.
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…..it sure doesn’t seem to be the way to manage a successful social media platform…