Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s Week in Jews: Musk this guy be so contrarian on Twitter?

A verified tweet from Nov. 2, 2022.

Is unfettered free speech—forgive the expression that’s coming—good for the Jews?  

It’s not a simple question.  

The minute you announce that people are now free to say whatever pops into their head, you get a certain percentage who take that as an opportunity to finally express their long-repressed (or so they imagine) thoughts on the Jews.

And those thoughts tend not to be things like, “well-done with all those Nobel Prizes! and thank you for the dissemination of the bagel.”

It’s therefore not surprising that Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s arrival at Twitter, claiming a free-speech mantle, brought with it a storm of coordinated antisemitic tweets.  

And yet! Liberal values tend to be more conducive to Jewish safety than their authoritarian left or right alternatives. Freedom of expression is a rather central such value. Maybe a little fringe antisemitism is the price to pay for an open society? Maybe it’s that very freedom that keeps hate on the fringes, which no fine is not as good as a world without hate, but if there’s going to be hate (and there is, there is always going to be hate) then the fringes would be the best place for it. 

Then there’s the murky question of so-called wokeness, or modern-day political correctness, of which Musk is thought to be an enemy. Is a Twitter liberated from wokeness a better or worse place for Jews? Does the culture of social justice-oriented sensitivity do more to protect Jews—among other marginalized groups—from bigotry, or does its not-infrequent focus on all -isms except antisemitism accomplish the opposite? Put another way: Is wokeness an all-purpose defense against hate, or is it an ideology that casts Jews as privileged oppressors?  

Time will tell. In my own latest Globe and Mail opinion column, I took a look at Twitter under Musk’s influence. The early evidence points to… a mix. There are emboldened haters, but there’s also a fair amount of business as usual, which is to say, of progressives warning of a fascist apocalypse that doesn’t seem imminent.  

In other recent Jewish news… 

For a recent U.K. Sunday Times column, Hugo Rifkin opines on Jews, whiteness, and the existence in British politics of people who are members of minority groups as well as conservatives.  

Also in the land of Midsomer Murders, a theatre company is putting on a play that asks what if Romeo were a Hitler Youth and Juliet a Jewish girl. This led to some drama when a casting call asked for “’non-binary artists, and/or those of Global Majority, black or Asian heritage, as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure our on-stage team is representative of the wider U.K. population.’” A Nazi romance, yes, but one sensitive to equity and inclusion. Huh. 

Meanwhile in Texas, a legislative candidate has written a novel. How Renaissance man of him! How like a French statesman! Except it’s a novel about Anne Frank becoming a Christian. Which, look, people are allowed to write fan fiction, even ill-advised, and other people are allowed to think less of them for it. Why he went with this topic, rather than something like where two members of One Direction realize they’re secretly in love with each other, I cannot say, but it takes all kinds. 

Now you can tell Phoebe what you think: pbovy[@]

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