by Domenico Maceri * –
“What if someone wants to blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money? Go aff… aff… Clear?” Thus Elon Musk, owner of X (formerly Twitter), Tesla, and many other companies, which made him become the richest man in the world. Musk repeated his vulgarities several times during an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times Deal Books meeting. The tycoon had lost his temper because more than 200 corporations, including the most famous brands such as IBM, Apple, Paramount and Disney, had suspended or canceled advertisements from X due to some of his anti-Semitic comments. Musk was especially angry with Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, who shortly before had announced that the position of “Elon Musk and X was not positive” for his company. Musk wasn’t done there though and specifically addressed Iger in his rant by calling him by name, saying, “Bob, if you’re still in the room, I really see it that way,” “you can take the ads down if you want.”
The comment that earned him the anti-Semitism charge was unclear to Musk, but he accepted the potential misunderstanding and apologized. He explained that he should have clarified his position in more detail without giving “a gun” to his haters and anti-Semites. In any case he apologized to him. The owner of X clarified that of his 30 thousand posts, the one in question was “the silliest”. He continued to say that he is not anti-Semitic but “philosemitic”
His recent trip to Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was interpreted as part of his apology. However, Musk explained that the two events were not connected since the trip had already been planned before the post that caused him to be accused of anti-Semitism. Musk reiterated his sympathy for the Israeli victims caused by Hamas on October 7. In fact he met with a family of hostages who gave him a necklace engraved with the phrase “Bring them home”. Musk promised to wear it until the hostages were freed and in fact he wore it on stage during his attacks on corporations. However, the owner of X did not express any concern for the 15,000 Palestinians who lost their lives in the conflict with Israel.
The suspension and cancellation of corporate ads will cause X to lose more than $70 million, according to a New York Times analysis. However, the platform’s managers have denied the figure, declaring that it is in fact 11 million. In any case, Linda Yaccarino, the CEO, the CEO of X for six months, present in the room during Musk’s outburst, has the difficult task of mending relationships with corporations.
After her boss’s lecture, Yaccarino said the freedom of expression and independence embraced by X cause “inconvenience” to some. She thanked the advertisers of The X community is powerful and to advertisers she simply says “Thank you”.
Despite Yaccarino’s diplomatic efforts, the fact remains that X was bought by Musk for 44 billion dollars and is now valued at only 19 billion, losses of more than half the value in the thirteen months of the tycoon’s ownership. The banks that lent money to Musk won’t be too worried considering the entrepreneur’s resources. However, the tycoon’s attitudes are worrying. The case of the anti-Semitism accusation is not the only blemish. Another of his tweets from 2018 cost him $40 million in fines from the US Security and Exchange Commission, a federal body that protects investors.
Musk continues to smile at the ultra-right and conspiracy ideas. He recently amplified a far-right group’s Pizzagate conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party was involved in child abuse. Musk’s post supporting this conspiracy has been removed, suggesting that he evidently realized the fake news. The fact also remains that Donald Trump’s ban on the use of However, Trump decided not to return to X and to continue using his Truth Social platform, which is also in financial trouble. The problem with these two and other platforms is the loss of advertisements from traditional media. At the same time, the platforms spread quite a bit of fake news which increases the dangers to democracy.
Musk’s outburst towards advertisers could “kill” X according to the owner. And everyone “will know that the advertisers took out the company”, continued the tycoon. And he? No fault?
* Domenico Maceri, PhD, is professor emeritus at Allan Hancock College, Santa Maria, California. Some of his articles have won awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.