The Cocktail Party Contrarian: The Difficulties of Supporting Both Free Speech and the ADL

Ordinary people have had enough of institutions collaborating with tech companies to censor the disfavored for the ‘public good.’

AP/Andrew Harnik
Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League speaks at the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, August 26, 2023. AP/Andrew Harnik

Shortly after the Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, met with his counterpart at X, Linda Yaccarino, to discuss how to best manage “hate speech” online, #BanTheADL began trending on the platform. 

Those familiar with Mr. Greenblatt’s career knew that he regularly leveraged his organization’s history as a civil rights institution to silence opponents of his partisan political interests by labeling them as “hateful,” “racist,” or “antisemitic.”

They didn’t want him anywhere near one of the last bastions of free speech in the public square. Feeds began filling up with examples of the ADL’s record, and caught the attention of millions of X users, including its owner, Elon Musk.

Ironically, the early beneficiaries of the campaign were the real antisemites the ADL is supposed to be fighting, as well as Mr. Greenblatt himself. The haters opportunistically pointed to the ADL’s bad behavior.

Predictably such haters used it to advance their narrative that all Jews are nefarious actors engaged in an international plot to control the press. Mr. Greenblatt then pointed to these antisemites’ threads and suggested that the world needed more ADL-style speech monitoring to defeat all forms of “hate.”

Yet as the campaign grew, it became clear that most of the posts were not authored by antisemites. They were written by ordinary people who have had enough of institutions collaborating with tech companies to censor the disfavored for the “public good,” while only concerning themselves with one half of the public.

These honest observers plainly saw the dishonesty behind the ADL’s speech-policing approach, and they refused to be cowed by threats of cancellation for the crime of pointing it out. Perhaps, they suggested via the hashtag, it was time to ban the banners.

As millions around the country are now paying attention, American Jews have a chance to treat this X moment as an opportunity. They can make clear that the foundational principle of free speech does more to stave off antisemitism than anything Mr. Greenblatt has ever done.

Jews did not elect him to be their speech tsar, and they do not endorse his assumption of the role in their name. The ADL’s war on the weaponized fiction called “hate speech” is not a Jewish one.

This is precisely why Jews cannot participate in the call for X to ban the ADL. Mr. Greenblatt is free to co-opt a legacy Jewish organization and destroy its credibility through partisan pronouncements. He can mislead, misdirect, and manipulate. He shouldn’t do it, but in this country he can.

Just not in the name of the Jewish people. The right response for American Jews is just to refrain from supporting the ADL. Mr. Greenblatt is aligning one of the most public-facing Jewish communal institutions in the country with a ruinous anti-free-speech ideology that has cruelly and unfairly treated millions of Americans, Jews among them.

We are all compromised by Mr. Greenblatt’s tactics, and we are all endangered by his deployment of them. For the Jews it is much safer for  Nick Fuentes to have  an X account than for the ADL to protect us from it. Ultimately, it is much better to allow the ADL to corrupt itself than to ban it from doing so. Our job is to remove Mr. Greenblatt’s Jewish seal of approval.

The New York Sun

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