Elon Musk vs. Jonathan Greenblatt
An Analysis of the Power Relations
Back in April, I wrote the following passage:
If the regime is clever – which it currently shows no signs of being – it will allow the right a few token wins here and there to activate one of its strongest weapons: containment. For example, the elite should fire the current CEO of Disney, support the anti-groomer bill in Florida, allow Elon Musk to buy Twitter, allow Musk to unban Donald Trump and then allow Trump to win the next election in 2024. Why? It would win back millions upon millions of Americans who have totally lost faith in their nation and its institutions. The regime needs these people as cannon fodder for its wars and as cattle to usher into its sports spectacles and whatnot. The centre-right is the backbone of any regime, and the current centre-right is viewed widely as a joke by its entire theoretical base of support. The regime has a genuine problem on its hands in this regard as it increasingly struggles to mask its own unpopularity. Instead of making those effective containment moves, of the sort that Tony Blair would make, to take us back to the proverbial Fresh Prince, the regime bleats about ‘right-wing extremism’.
Now it is November and the CEO of Disney, Bob Chapek, has just been fired; Ron DeSantis won re-election as Governor of Florida with a thumping 20 percent majority; Elon Musk has completed his twitter takeover, which I will discuss presently; Donald Trump has been unbanned, and he has announced that he will run for President again in 2024. All six of the ‘containment’ moves I outlined have come to pass and yet, somehow, living through it, this does not feel like containment. The chief reason for this is that Jonathan Greenblatt, President of the ADL – and someone we tend to take as an avatar for regime power and control – has loudly and with increasingly threatening language opposed Musk unbanning Trump. This alone makes it appear as if this is genuine revolt as opposed to careful regime containment strategy. In kayfabe terms, Greenblatt is now playing the part of a top heel magnificently, he is doing what all the greatest heels do: people are motivated to see him angry and to see him lose. But it seems that these reactions from Greenblatt are real, or if you prefer, we’re looking at a shoot not a work. I believe we have witnessed something very interesting, which is that Greenblatt has just watched his modus operandi become outmoded. We have moved into a paradigm where his style is no longer going to pass muster.
The Forbidden Texts is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
When the Musk takeover of Twitter was first touted, I mentioned (somewhere on my YouTube channel) that it was a symbol of entrepreneurial executive power represented by Musk revolting against managerial control represented by the likes of, former Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal. Since his takeover Musk has wasted no time. He’s already cleared out the old staff, formed a core team of 50 people – you might call a vanguard, who he knows he can trust and who consist of proven Pareto-distribution performers – eradicated child porn hashtags in 48 hours, unlocked Kanye West’s account, and reinstated the account of Donald Trump. This has drawn the ire of Greenblatt. The exchanges are interesting to read. Let me reproduce them, these took place on 20th November 2022:
Musk: The people have spoken.
Trump will be reinstated.
Vox Populi, Vox Dei.
Greenblatt: For Elon Musk to allow Donald Trump back on Twitter, ostensibly after a brief poll, shows he is not remotely serious about safeguarding the platform from hate, harassment and misinformation.
When the ADL and other #StopHateforProfit leaders met with Elon Musk on 11/1, he committed to not replatform anyone, regardless of stature, until he installed a transparent, clear process that took into consideration the views of civil society.
Elon Musk's decisions over the last month have been erratic and alarming, but this decision is dangerous and a threat to American democracy. We need to ask — is it time for Twitter to go?
Musk: Hey stop defaming me!
Two days earlier, the ADL had issued this statement:
Whatever happens to Twitter, new social platforms need to center trust and safety from the outset, or risk being subject to the same fate. In the meantime, Elon Musk has put Twitter on deathwatch. It didn’t have to be this way.
As many people have pointed out, the ADL’s language is starting to resemble the sort of thing you would expect to see in gangster movies, and the boldness and strength of their demands have reached fever pitch.
What is going on here? I said before now that ‘power wants to be seen’ and at least once I’ve used the example of Greenblatt upbraiding Whoopi Goldberg on national television. Since then, we’ve had three subsequent examples of Greenblatt attempting to discipline famous black people. The first was Kanye West, who has lost billions after the ADL pressured a laundry list of companies to sever ties with him. However, since West would not publicly repent or backdown from his statements, the ‘discipline’ can arguably be seen as a failure. The second was Kyrie Irving who had to acquiescence to a host of demands, which he ultimately did and issued an ‘emotional apology’. Thus the ‘discipline’ was arguably a success, although anyone with a lizard brain could see what had happened, which Dave Chappelle pointed out on SNL, who Greenblatt quickly chastised. Chastisement from Greenblatt is quickly becoming a form of social currency insomuch as it massively adds to the ‘street cred’ of a guy like Chappelle, who as I’ve argued many times is the dictionary definition of regime ‘release-valve’ containment. Now we’ve had yet a fifth example in a row of Greenblatt trying to discipline someone very famous, although this time a white man – Elon Musk, the world’s richest man – and Musk has essentially told them to do one. Then, as if to underline his defiance, he welcomed Kanye West back to the platform with a cryptic tweet ‘Don’t kill what ye hate / Save what ye love.’
The meltdown has been spectacular. But beyond the pro-wrestling theatre, something else is happening. The ADL are not formally in power, which is to say that while they seem to wield a lot of power in the US system, that power relies on applying political and social pressure to key decision-holders. In other words, it is the decision-makers who wield the power, and the ADL merely wields influence. When the ADL act as if they have power, they are only acting as a proxy for power or, if you prefer, power held in trust, which relies on the idea that stooges do as they are told. When a company is managerial – which is to say controlled by hired stooges, as opposed to owned outright by an entrepreneur-owner as Musk does now with Twitter – it is very easy for the ADL to apply pressure in this way. All Jonathan Greenblatt has to say is ‘jump’ and the fully compliant stooge asks, ‘how high?’ It is a vertical relationship between the ADL and managerial power.
Leon Wieseltier, something of an expert on the subject, outlined this as an identifiable historical aspect of Jewish survival:
If you look at the political history of the Jews in the Exile story … historians have described this, that Jews always made vertical alliances with power and authority and preferred them to horizontal alliances with populations. … So the king, the prince, the ecclesiastical authorities, the Ottomans, I mean they always did this. So the idea now that they have America involved, they no longer do that, that’s nice, but that’s already conceding that Jewish life in Europe is a little safer because they have somehow got the protection of the king.
The ADL is one manifestation of the latest version of this. Since at least 1945, the ADL has enjoyed a period of unprecedented dominance. Few other regimes in history have afforded the other side of the ‘vertical relationship’ quite as much influence, to the extent that you might easily be forgiven for mistaking the ADL for being in power. However, as with all power structures, the laws of entropy – as outlined in Polybius’s Anacyclosis – are never far away. Authority decays into tyranny. A brief survey of the history of the ADL shows a clear deterioration of elites from its founding to Greenblatt today. As the Wikipedia article notes, in the early 20th century:
it chose a non-confrontational approach, attempting to build long-lasting relationships and avoid backlash. The ADL requested its members avoid public confrontation, instead directing them to send letters to the media and advertising companies that included antisemitic or racist references in screening copies of their books and movies. This strategy kept the campaigns out of the public eye and instead emphasized the development of a relationship with companies.
Whatever you make of the ADL, as a strategy this worked. By the time we get to Jonathan Greenblatt, a Silicon Valley creature, and former White House Special Assistant to Barack Obama, we find an extremely entitled type of elite who now thinks of himself above the making of alliances. He is the ADL’s equivalent of a Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones, incapable of subtlety or cunning, tyrannical, and ultimately lacking in genuine authority instead having to rule by fear alone, which even the great Machiavelli thought to be suboptimal for power. The Poet of the North, Morgoth’s Review, pointed this out when he said:
The problem the ADL is beginning to face is that, every time they come out and demand people be bankrupted and that companies bend the knee to their will, they lose a piece of the moral authority which used to make people feel bad for saying the wrong things about Jewry.
‘I shouldn't have said that, I have wronged that people’
‘I have to be careful or they will destroy me.’
Like Charles I standing before Oliver Cromwell, the victims of the ADL are not being judged by a moral authority but just by power. Ironically, this will in turn lead to powerful people talking discreetly and in private about whether ‘something should be done’ which is the exact scenario the ADL was supposed to prevent.
The situation is, in fact, more dire for the ADL. Not only have they made an enemy of the world’s richest man, America’s richest black man and one of the most famous rappers in the world, and the former President of the USA who commands the loyalty of millions, but also, they have issued a clear threat that ‘Twitter’ is ‘on deathwatch’. Not in private, but in public, in front of millions of people. If they cannot make good on this threat, the myth and mystique of the ADL’s power is broken. This is as much mental as it is a matter of real power – the perception is that if you defy the ADL, they will destroy you. Musk has all but dared them to try. Every time Musk highlights a tweet, over 100 million people see it. Twitter isn’t an individual, it’s a company with a network of over 230 million active users, it is part of marketing budgets, it is important for companies to reach their consumer bases. Over the weekend, CBS announced that they were suspending their activities on Twitter only to U-turn and say they’ll be staying after all in less than two days, much to the amusement of Musk. Twitter cannot just be nuked and replaced overnight. It represents, in the modern world, a genuine ‘castle’ in Bertrand de Jouvenel’s terms, and Musk has captured it from the managerial regime.
Under Greenblatt, the ADL has decided to put pretty much all its eggs in the basket of the vertical relationship with the managerial regime. He has taken a partisan line against Trump and MAGA in a way that has alienated half of America. The ground is shifting under his feet as true power needs to make peace quickly with changing circumstances, he has banked on the regime staying as it was in 2014, or as it has been in recent years, forever. As I outlined back in April, half of containment is in ensuring you stay in power even as the social forces have changed, which requires some flexibility and ability to embody your opponent’s frame. This is what makes a man like Tony Blair so dangerous. Jews much cleverer than Greenblatt recognise this. Thus, Jewish media outlets, such as Tablet, are publishing articles such as ‘No More ADL: When it comes to Jews, the organization now does more harm than good’. The Jewish News Agency put out an article called ‘The ADL is waging war on free speech, not on Trump or Twitter.’ This is called ‘getting in front’ of a story. These outlets are making a bet. Greenblatt has made the opposite bet. Greenblatt has tried to make Musk’s defiance a referendum on Twitter, but it seems what is really taking place is that Musk’s deft exposure of Greenblatt to the glare of millions upon millions of screens, has produced a referendum on Greenblatt himself and even the existence of the ADL. In his arrogant, Joffrey-like impulsivity, Greenblatt is undoing the legacy and the decades of work that his much cleverer predecessors built. He has made five very high-profile interventions in 2022 and has failed at keeping the ADL ‘out of the public eye’. It’s worse than that, he’s made himself America’s number one villain, who people love to watch get upset and defeated. If he is unable to bring down Twitter, do not be surprised to see Greenblatt himself replaced as Bob Chapek has been replaced at Disney. Marx once wrote that ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please’ and I do wonder if we might adapt this to say ‘Power makes its own containment, but it does not do so just as it pleases’. I must admit I’ve been quite enjoying it. Contain me harder Mr. Musk.
 From this speech:
 The concept is outlined by me here:
 See here:
The Forbidden Texts is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
"Greenblatt is undoing the legacy and the decades of work that his much cleverer predecessors built"
Insofar as the ADL itself goes, but we can't celebrate as if the damage by it over the years is so simply undone. We have found soft flesh, what can we do to plunge the bayonet? If we don't have a bayonet to plunge then then I'd expect it to be a priority to get one.
Power doesn't exist in abstract. There is no such thing as raw power. The idea of a raw, a-moral power is something of a Machiavellian-Nietzschean-Bismarckian myth; it's a mere aesthetic, a taste for immanent action. In reality, power always has a moral shape, a spiritual form, an ideological structure—there is no abstract and transcendental 'power' operating independently, no raw fundamental energy that changes from form to form as it wishes; no, it is always and inherently conditioned, always formed. Again, this idea is a myth. The myth of so-called "realism"... which is only a peculiar aesthetic parading as a universal norm.
Plato's formula: morality forms power;... And Nietzsche's formula: power forms morality... —are equally correct. Morality is power expressing itself, yes, but power itself is moralised and moralising (even, paradoxically, when it behaves immorally).
I fully agree that if the "elite" or "regime" were clever, they would quickly pivot to the forming consensus of New Right western politics—eminently embodied by Trump, Farage, Bolsanaro, Le Pen, Meloni, Orban and Putin... A return to the nation and a new nationalism, in contrast to a morally failing and bankrupt globalism which has only utilitarian goals and no spiritual ideal. The problem is that the "regime" or "elite" don't exist in that sense of raw power expressing itself—that is just an extension of the "realist" myth. They don't exist in the hypothesised "real world" — they live in their own spiritual Maya which happens to have a political shape. The establishment can't make the required pivot (until perhaps they are forced to by civil revolt or war) because they simply don't have the imagination; all their 'power' is tied up in an ideological structure that has a life of its own. —They can't make the necessary, intelligent political compromise. They can only demonise the heretics. It's a clash of gods, a holy war dressed up as secular politics. They refuse to accept that Trump is the saviour of the Zeitgeist because they believe they, their ideological principles, are eternal. They believe they are world-representatives. They don't even know that they are just one of history's many sects.