The Internet heated up recently when X CEO Elon Musk erupted on stage over Disney and other companies pulling advertising over alleged antisemitism on his platform.
“If someone is going to try and blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money? Go f – – – yourself,” Elon Musk said, stunning both the interviewer and audience.
In case anyone missed his profane advice, Musk repeated it with a wave of his hand toward Disney’s Bob Iger, “Hey, Bob, if you’re in the audience.”
Having spoken to both Musk and his staff, after going to the company to dig through Twitter Files, I was not very shocked by his outburst.
And his anger is entirely understandable.
Democratic operatives have been targeting Musk since he took over the company and ceased censoring Americans.
Their tactic is to gin up flimsy reports that allege hate, and then scream at advertisers for supporting his company.
Think Disney’s Bob Iger is incapable of political guilt?
Take a look at his partisan bona fides.
Even before Joe Biden had been sworn in as president, Iger began angling for a position in his administration — possibly as ambassador to China.
And after claiming he didn’t want to get involved in “culture wars,” Iger hired a loyal Biden aide to run Disney’s crisis communications.
He remains a critical donor for Biden’s reelection.
In recent months Musk has sued two Democratic Party activist groups — the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Media Matters for America — for falsely accusing X of promoting hate and driving away advertisers like Disney.
Both groups claim to be nonpartisan but actually work to attack critics of Democratic Party policies.
As I documented in an investigation for Tablet, political operatives with the British Labour Party founded the CCDH in 2018.
The group’s leader, Imran Ahmed, asserts that he is now “at the forefront of reporting on the hate proliferating on X/Twitter since Musk completed his takeover in late October 2022.”
Since Ahmed moved the group to Washington, DC, one of CCDH’s main targets aside from X and Elon Musk has been presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., who leads Biden among young voters and is suing the administration over censorship.
This should not surprise anyone, especially since CCDH’s chairman is Simon Clark, a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank founded by John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign against Donald Trump.
Ahmed does not disclose CCDH’s funding, but I found that 75% of it comes from dark-money sources.
After I tweeted a series of Twitter Files on Imran Ahmed’s work with the old Twitter to censor people, Musk responded, “Anyone know who is supporting this rat?”
A month later, Musk sued CCDH for “faulty reports” that were driving away advertisers.
“CCDH’s scare campaign to global advertisers . . . is an attempt to stifle freedom of speech on the X platform.”
Media Matters has a similar history.
Founded in 2004 by Democratic operative David Brock with help from the Center for American Progress, Media Matters served as part of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election “outrage machine,” as The New York Times put it.
After Clinton’s loss, Brock retooled Media Matters to move into the digital space and attack Trump “misinformation.”
But when Biden beat Trump, this political machine pivoted to focus on Musk and Twitter, criticizing him for helping Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya look into the Twitter Files to see why he had been placed on a “blacklist.”
Media Matters has also attacked Musk for retweeting news about immigration problems at the southern border, but as border issues have overwhelmed the Biden administration, and with an election approaching, the group ceased making the issue a priority.
Instead, it recently published a bogus report alleging that X placed Nazi content alongside advertisements from major corporations — claims that caused multiple advertisers to freeze spending.
Musk immediately sued. “As the most prominent online platform dedicated to hosting free speech, X and its predecessor Twitter have long been the target of Media Matters,” reads the lawsuit.
Now Musk’s legion of online supporters have renewed calls for a boycott of Disney.
But you don’t need to love the guy to be concerned.
I am grateful Musk gave me and other reporters access to Twitter’s company documents, something no other CEO has ever done in the history of our democracy.
But I’m not one of his fans.
What worries me as I watch these attacks on Musk unfold: If a political party can target the richest, most powerful man in the country, and in a bid to control speech, who might be next?
I think that’s what Musk and I agree is important.
Paul D. Thacker is an award-winning reporter and former investigator for the US Senate.