The Banality of Evil: Tech CEO Edition
Scott Hardie | December 1, 2022
And for the record: Bootstrap, the code library that powers most of Funeratic's user interface, started out as a Twitter invention being developed by Twitter employees, but it quickly went open source instead (before its very first release) and has stayed that way ever since. Some people still associate it with Twitter but they're separate in my opinion.
Erik Bates | December 2, 2022
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Scott Hardie | December 2, 2022
That's a great quote, Erik, and it summarizes my attitude too. I have deleted my main Twitter account and I'm waiting for automated data exports to finish before I delete my other two.
I worry that I wasn't clear enough with what I wrote above, since you really need to click on the example links and know what neo-Nazi dog-whistles like "88" and "Madagascar" mean in order to understand. Otherwise it sounds like I could just have said "Elon Musk is a Nazi" more casually as a vague pejorative, as if I don't like his right-wing politics or the way that he abuses his employees (although I don't). No, I'm using that term very literally: He's posting antisemitic coded messages, containing allusions that are commonly understood in white supremacist circles but are plausibly deniable in public. I'm not the only one seeing this.
The pattern is one tell, as I said. Here's another: If a reasonable person like you or me posted something referring to 88 and Madagascar, and people pointed out that this sounded like a coded neo-Nazi message, our immediate response would be something like, "Oh no! That's not what I meant at all! I'm mortified to have written something mistaken for that! I denounce antisemitism, I denounce Nazis, and I want nothing to do with those scumbags. I'm so sorry that it caused distress or alarm in anyone. I promise never to write something like that again." Can you imagine Elon Musk responding like that?
There are several things that worry me about this situation, chief among them:
• As Michelle Goldberg wisely observed, antisemitism has shifted from punching up to punching down. In the decades since the Holocaust ended, American antisemitism was mostly restricted to poor rural whites who clung to the last threads of the KKK and popped up occasionally on freak shows like Jerry Springer or Phil Donahue to espouse their beliefs that Jews were conspiring to keep them down. But consider our current cultural moment: A former U.S. president who is currently the Republican front-runner for 2024, the richest man on Earth who just gained absolute control over one of the world's most prominent social networks, and one of the world's most successful and internationally-recognized musical artists, are all now openly and publicly making antisemitic statements and/or mingling with career white supremacists. These men are not at the bottom of society; they are at the top. This is an extremely alarming sign that we are entering dangerous times, judging from history.
• Not nearly enough people are denouncing Musk's Nazism, too quickly writing it off as "maybe it was an accident." Consider the photo of a Nazi soldier, which some people guessed was merely Musk reposting something that someone sent him that amused him, as he has done in the past. I say bunk; if he was operating in good faith and it truly was an accident, he would have written the apologetic response that I demonstrated above and stopped posting more things like it. We all need to condemn this antisemitism and Nazism as loudly and forcefully as possible. Politicians need to say at every possible opportunity that they denounce this conduct by Elon Musk and Donald Trump and Kanye West. Journalists need to cover this as front-page news instead of whatever dumb fluff they're covering instead, like Black Friday deals or World Cup highlights. Public figures need to use their megaphones to say over and over and over again that this is unacceptable, until it crawls back under the rock it came from. The pushback against West has been a good start, but it's not nearly enough to turn the tide, especially if it focuses solely on one man who happens to have mental health problems. (His mania and/or schizophrenia do not excuse him. Other bipolar people do not post swastikas or praise Hitler like he does.) And the rest of us non-famous people need to do our part too, by withdrawing all means of support for these bastards and saying emphatically that antisemitism is absolutely unacceptable. Failure to do so permits it to fester and grow.
As for Musk re-banning West from Twitter this morning, I consider it irrelevant. The cynical interpretation would be that Musk is buying credibility for himself and punishing a fellow neo-Nazi for dropping the dog-whistle pretense. Personally, I don't really care whether Musk was sincere about it or not; he has made too many other steps in the wrong direction for this right step to matter.
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Scott Hardie | December 1, 2022I despair at the people who comment under each of Musk's insidious tweets that it's probably just a coincidence that Musk happened to use the number 88 or that he happened to use a photo of a German soldier and so on. If it had occurred only one time, I'd say sure, give him benefit of the doubt. But you can't when it's an ongoing pattern.
I wasn't going to say more about this, but people are discussing it with me privately, so I may as well start a discussion for anyone who wants to comment further.
Elon Musk is a Nazi. That epithet, like "fascist," has been thrown around so casually for so long that it's in danger of losing its meaning, but I mean it. Yesterday I wrote this on Funeratic's News page:
To be clear, I have no doubt that some of those "probably a coincidence" people are Nazis arguing in bad faith, publicly planting seeds of doubt while privately fist-pumping that the world's richest asshole is one of them. But I despair at the good-hearted people who sincerely doubt. You don't want to think the worst of someone, especially someone with so much power in our culture. But with Musk, it has reached a point where it cannot be ignored. I used to defend Kanye West as an artist (like Nickelback, it was a lazy fad to pick on him), but I certainly cannot ignore the terrible things that he has said and done since then and I cannot support him either.
The Nazi garbage that Musk spews doesn't get much press coverage compared to some of his milder transgressions (the dumb literalization of the "let that sink in" meme was not worth the effort expended to discuss it), but I believe that it should get far more. History is clear: We collectively ignore this stuff at our peril.