Ignorance and arrogance
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Ignorance and arrogance

Abe Foxman talks about Elon Musk at Auschwitz

Holocaust survivor Gidon Lev, European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Elon Musk with son, and Ben Shapiro stand together at the entrance to Auschwitz on January 22, 2024.
Holocaust survivor Gidon Lev, European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Elon Musk with son, and Ben Shapiro stand together at the entrance to Auschwitz on January 22, 2024.

Abe Foxman of Bergen County, the director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League, is neither charmed nor convinced by billionaire Elon Musk’s trip to Auschwitz.

Mr. Musk, who owns both Tesla and X, as he renamed Twitter while making huge changes to the social media platform, including firing its moderators and opening it up to even more hate speech than it had held before — much of it antisemitic — went to the concentration camp in late January.

Accompanied by right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro; a European-based Chabad rabbi, Menachem Margolin, who is the chair of the European Jewish Association; a Holocaust survivor, Gidon Lev, and one of his young sons, whom he held on his shoulders underneath the Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the gate to the death camp, Mr. Musk toured the site.

Later, at a public forum, he said that “If there had been social media, it would have been impossible to hide. If there had been freedom of speech, as well. One of the first things the Nazis did when they came in is they shut down all the press and any means of conveying information.”

Had it existed 85 or so years ago, X would have saved the Jews of Europe, Mr. Musk suggested.

Abe Foxman

“I don’t have a problem with him going to Auschwitz,” Mr. Foxman said. “Even though he went there for PR purposes, and to clear his image of charges of being an antisemite.” (Those charges were earned by some of the statements Mr. Musk had posted on X; he’s also gone after the ADL with both venom and glee.)

“But what he said was a mixture of ignorance and arrogance, and it just shows how dangerous ignorance is. He said that millions of Jews would have been saved if the internet existed,” claiming that the Holocaust happened because nobody knew that it was coming, or that it was happening.

“That is an abysmal misunderstanding of what happened,” Mr. Foxman said. “It wasn’t a question of lack of knowledge. The world knew what was happening to the Jews.

“Okay, not everybody knew, but people in positions of power, who could have made a difference, knew. They knew. And it didn’t matter to them. It didn’t make any difference. They didn’t do anything. So for Musk to say what he did is such abysmal ignorance that it borders on Holocaust denial.”

And, Mr. Foxman continued, despite Mr. Musk’s claims that there were no means of mass communications, “Goebbels” — that’s Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister — “mobilized and weaponized propaganda and misinformation without the internet.

“Can you imagine what they would have done with the internet,” he asked rhetorically. “How much worse it would have been if they could have used social media to spread the lies across Europe.

“We are seeing today that because of social media and the internet, people can engage in the denial of facts in real time. It happened on October 7. It took some 50, 60 years to deny the Holocaust,” but it’s taken just weeks for October 7 denial. (Rape? What rape?)

“Arrogance and ignorance feed on distortion and denial,” Mr. Foxman said.

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