On the competing visions of liberalism at the heart of Twitter X vs ADL war
There’s an interesting exchange in George RR Martin’s Clash of Kings in which Varys, the scheming eunuch, and Tyrion ruminate over the ethereal nature of Power. The question fundamentally is where Power actually lies:
Then these other swordsmen have the true power. Or do they?” Varys smiled. “Some say knowledge is power. Some tell us that all power comes from the gods. Others say it derives from law. Yet that day on the steps of Baelor’s Sept, our godly High Septon and the lawful Queen Regent and your ever-so-knowledgeable servant were as powerless as any cobbler or cooper in the crowd. Who truly killed Eddard Stark, do you think? Joffrey, who gave the command? Ser Ilyn Payne, who swung the sword? Or… another?”
Tyrion cocked his head sideways. “Did you mean to answer your damned riddle, or only to make my head ache worse?”
Varys smiled. “Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.”
“So power is a mummer’s trick?”
“A shadow on the wall,” Varys murmured, “yet shadows can kill. And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
To witness an organization such as the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) outright threaten and engage openly in the financial sabotage of Twitter X is to witness a Power exert itself. The ADL is eminently powerful and massively influential. It can, with a few phone calls, torpedo the bank accounts and lucrative revenue streams of the world’s most famous pop stars and instantly ruin the careers and lives of those unlucky enough to catch their ire. The question though, is why?
The same could be said of any NGO operating within the network of the industrial censorship complex but it is the ADL and Elon Musk that adorn the headlines of the newspapers this week. The initial campaign led by Keith Woods to #BanTheADL has metastasized into Musk himself hinting that he may throw the issue to the public in a poll (Vox Populi, Vox Dei) and also threatening a lawsuit for Twitter’s lost earnings due to ADL-led advertising boycotts that have cost the platform a cool $22 Billion dollars. That’s a lot of ad revenue and ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt is on record that Musk’s acquisition of Twitter had put the platform on ‘‘Death watch’’.
Despite this, the ADL is still allowed to operate freely using the platform they’re attempting to destroy. The question raised by this is an obvious one: Why doesn’t Musk #BanTheADL? The answer is rather complex and touches on the peculiar nature of the ADL’s soft power. Elon Musk is powerful because he’s very rich, and the ADL is powerful because people believe them to be. The ADL’s soft fox-like power leverages Jewish exceptionalism against what they call the far right, but in reality, they’re targeting the mores and rights people take for granted within Liberalism.
To reiterate, the ADL is not the only group undermining Liberalism, they’re just the most powerful, oldest, and arguably, the best at it.
The events of World War II resulted in Jews in the West, and America in particular, being granted degrees of social capital that almost no other group anywhere in history could comprehend and via institutions such as the ADL every ounce of that social capital was put to use.
What’s more, the post-war mythos or meta-narrative which shaped Western thinking since the war, and particularly since the 1970s actually became an all-encompassing moral framework for Europeans to live under. What Academic Agent calls ‘‘Boomer Truth’’ became the successor to Classic Liberalism to such a degree that it acted almost like a new religion complete with its own Satan, Hell, Chosen people, and good vs evil axis. To stabilize itself this new moral code and belief system needed to be able to create exceptions — those outliers who lie outside of its values who could be demonized and jailed to reinforce its own centre of gravity. To create an ‘‘Us and Them’’. The ADL is the tip of the spear in designating who is or is not a friend and enemy, who is within the spectrum of allowable opinion, and who is a heretic — to be cast out and destroyed.
When the CEO of ‘‘Hank’s Beer’’ gets the call off Greenblatt he is essentially being asked to pick a side; either he’s with the bulk of society within the mythos or he is, to quote Mad Max 2 ‘‘Out there, with the garbage’’. Being out there with the garbage puts Hank of Hank’s Beer in the precarious situation of having his business transactions torpedoed and being subject to an avalanche of hit-pieces calling him a Nazi sympathizer or in some way being in cahoots with the heretical non-persons scratching a living out in the badlands. Thus, the social capital that the ADL takes for granted is weaponized against the heretics in order to maintain the wider values system it presides over which benefits itself and (in theory) the group it represents. It is worth highlighting here that while the ADL certainly appreciates any state and governmental assistance the organization does not rely upon it. Instead, it makes use of layer upon layer of manufactured cultural and social capital built up over decades.
A bank, payment processor or a fashionable clothes brand are all keenly aware of how damaging it could be for their brand to be associated with the undesirables and so they too do the bidding of the ADL, thereby increasing the ADL’s overall power.
Thus, the ADL is powerful because people believe it is powerful. Cersei Lannister is but a frail woman, but people believe she is powerful, and so she is.
Needless to say, this profoundly illiberal and somewhat Middle Eastern ethical and moral creation is completely antithetical to the Classic Liberalism of our would-be ‘‘Centrist Caesars’’.
In my essay from November 2022 called ‘‘Centrist Caesarism?’’ I wrote:
Nevertheless, there exists an ideal of what liberalism should be and what we suffer under today most certainly isn’t that ideal. Western Liberalism has, like the Ship of Theseus, been gradually altered over time so thoroughly we need to ask what this political philosophy actually is. A civil right here, a hate speech law there, another book banned, another historical event held beyond questioning. The title of the thing remained the same — in actual fact that’s pretty much all that remained the same.
The revelation that will have settled upon many minds of a Classic Liberal hue is that their Liberalism is completely at odds with an institution such as the ADL. Yet, the ADL’s dwindling social capital represents the post-war moral consensus. If Elon Musk sues the ADL for billions of dollars or merely removes them from his platform, he’d risk running afoul of the imposed values system that forms post-war Liberalism. If he refuses and retreats from the issue he’s jettisoned and betrayed his own Classic Liberalism.
Here we must once more return to the subject of Power residing where men think it resides. If the world’s richest man and owner of the world’s most influential online platform kicks off the ADL — as if it were just another nuisance troll — the social capital of the ADL would be severely diminished. In other words, people would stop believing that Power resided within the ADL as it once did. If Twitter X says to the ADL ‘‘No!’’ then so too might Hank’s Beer and the various corporations currently boycotting the platform. There are of course those who will argue that when prestige and narrative control are lost hard power simply steps into law down the ‘‘law’’. After all, is there really any difference between the ADL and the American Government?
In this scenario Power is simply a metaphorical knife to the throat and a threat. It works, but at that stage, the post-war consensus will have been abandoned entirely and America’s tattered constitutionalism will be rendered even more obsolete. Alternatively, we may see the emergence of a ‘‘Black Swan Event’’ which will vindicate in the eyes of the masses what the ADL have been doing, an anti-Semitic terror attack or the arrival of a new Neo-Nazi group.
Within the wider context of the centrist masses being restless and agitated in the face of extreme managerial overreach and intrusion, the primary tension point is the incompatibility of two strands of Liberalism. The Civil Rights, post-war mythology, and its tangled web of NGOs and ‘‘woke’’ corporate hiring policies, and the older Classic Liberalism of free speech and individualism. As noted before, old school Liberals have often lacked the will to actively ban their enemies in order to not contravene their own principles. The campaign to remove the ADL from Twitter has seen little in the way of soul-searching and foot-shuffling in this regard, they will live with the paradoxes and hypocrisy because it is now the ADL that is the anti-liberal institution to be cast out into the wasteland — not because they’re Jewish, but because they’re antithetical to Liberal values.
For the ADL this loss of prestige would equate to a loss of Power. The fact that many people are comparing the ADL to a Mafia operation is telling. In The Godfather 2 Michael Corleone attempts to muscle in on Moe Green’s casino operation and is rebuffed by Green who claims the Corleones are ‘‘all washed up!’’ having been chased out of New York by the other families. Green (wrongly) feels emboldened to insult the Corleone family publicly because he views their loss of prestige as a loss of Power. However, the cornered Michael Corleone was about to show all of his enemies that, prestige or not, he was quite capable of dealing with his enemies, and Moe Green.
In the ongoing saga of Twitter X, Elon Musk, and The ADL, there will be Michael Corleones and Moe Greens. Time will tell who gets which role…