Magneto, Soros, and Musk

Magneto is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics universe. Magneto first appeared in X-Men #1 in 1963. He was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. Magneto is the leader of the mutant supremacist group the Brotherhood of Mutants. Magneto’s name is Max Eisenhardt, aka Erik Magnus Lehnsherr. He is a Holocaust survivor, an experience that (somehow) shaped his belief that mutants are the next step in human evolution and that they should assert their dominance over humanity. He is a villain in the comics, albeit his cause is righteous.

Magneto is revealed as Jewish in X-Men #150 written by Chris Claremont.

However, Magneto’s Jewish heritage was not a part of his original backstory. In the beginning, and for many years after, he was pretty much a stock supervillain. The “revelation” of his Jewish identity and his experiences during the Holocaust were added to his character’s history in 1981 in X-Men #150. Writer Chris Claremont, whose mother was Jewish, provided Magneto with his Jewish ethnicity because he wanted more Jewish characters in Marvel Comics and to give Magneto a compelling backstory. The idea was to help readers understand Magneto’s intense determination to protect mutants from the same kind of persecution he experienced as a child. In the years following, Magneto’s Jewish heritage became an ever more significant aspect of his character. The transition from Erik Lehnsherr to Max Eisenhardt as Magneto’s actual name occurred in 1991, in a story also written by Claremont.

On May 15, Elon Musk of Tesla, Twitter, and other business endeavors, tweeted this:

Musk was immediately attacked by the corporate media as an “antisemite.” CNN: “Elon Musk claims George Soros ‘hates humanity.’ The ADL says Musk’s attacks ‘will embolden extremists’” In his Atlantic essay Elon Musk Among the Anti-Semites, Yair Rosenberg writes, “Criticizing George Soros is not inherently anti-Semitic. But casting him as an avatar of evil is.” The Washington Post: “Musk says George Soros ‘hates humanity,’ compares him to Jewish supervillain.” The story’s subtitle: “The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League condemned Elon Musk’s comparison of Soros to Magneto—a Marvel villain who opposes humanity.” The New Republic: “Elon Musk Goes Full Antisemite After George Soros Dumps Tesla Shares.” The Daily Beast: “ADL CEO Says Musk’s Soros Tweet ‘Will Embolden Extremists.’” Forbes: “Musk Fans Conspiracies About George Soros After Billionaire’s Fund Dumps All Tesla Holdings.” The Jerusalem Post: “Elon Musk says Soros ‘hates humanity’ and likens him to a comic book villain Holocaust survivor.”

Did Elon Musk know Magneto was Jewish? More importantly, does it matter? What is the logic that gets us from a tweet comparing two villains to “Elon Musk is antisemitic”? I can’t find the logic in these (and many other) accounts of the scandal. I have written about this before (see See George Soros and the Cudgel of Antisemitism; George Soros, Philanthrocapitalism, and the Coming Era of Global Neo-Feudalism) and I have not yet found a compelling explanation for how one Jew can signify an entire ethnicity such that to compare him to another man (in this case, a fictional man) makes one guilty of disparaging an entire ethnicity. I asked a form of this question in previous blogs, but would it be Teutophobia to compare Klaus Schwab to Red Skull? Does Red Skull represent all ethic Germans? Does the Magneto character represent a Jewish stereotype? Or does the character represent a champion of the downtrodden and dispossessed? Isn’t that what Claremont was after in reconstructing the villain’s biography? Isn’t that how progressives see Soros?

In November 2021, I wrote this about claims that criticizing Soros were antisemitic: “To gain some perspective, compare the characterization of criticisms of Soros with progressive complaints about the Koch brothers, Charles and the late David Koch, two billionaires who fund conservative political causes. Their father, Fred Koch, was the son of a Dutch immigrant. You might ask what that has to do with anything. Good question. What does George Soros’ ethnicity have to do with anything? George Soros is no more the personification of world Jewry than Fred Koch was the leader of a Dutch cabal to change American attitudes towards the fossil fuel industry. Moreover, if you know anything about Jewish politics and opinion, you’d know that Soros doesn’t speak for world Jewry. Indeed, a great many Jews do not like George Soros.” In April of this year I wrote this: “Alan Dershowitz is a high-profile critic of Soros. Dershowitz is a Jew. Does Dershowitz advance anti-semitic conspiracy theories? Or is he a ‘self-hating’ Jew?”

Antisemitism refers to discrimination, hostility, or prejudice specifically directed against Jewish individuals as a religious, ethnic, or cultural group. It involves the perpetuation of stereotypes, conspiracy theories, and hatred towards Jews based solely on their Jewish identity, rather than their actions or behaviors. If criticisms of a Jewish individual’s financial activities are based on evidence, facts, and specific actions, without invoking negative stereotypes or generalizations about Jewish people as a whole, then it can be seen as a critique of an individual’s conduct rather than an expression of antisemitism.

George Soros, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, has been involved in various political activities and initiatives over the last several decades. Soros is well known for his support of progressive causes and outsized capability of moving the transnational project forward. Soros established the Open Society Foundations, which is a network of organizations that operate in over 120 countries providing grants and supporting various groups in advancing woke progressivism. Soros has made substantial political contributions to support candidates and causes aligned with his progressive values, his donations primarily focused on Democrat Party candidates and initiatives related to criminal justice reform, immigration, and social justice issues. Soros has funded media organizations and journalism initiatives that promote these issues. Certainly Soros has the right to donate money to those causes he supports where not restricted by law, but others also have the right to criticize his activities and their consequences. And while there is a free speech right to mischaracterize the sentiments of those who oppose Soros and his activities, those who know these to be misrepresentations must step and call it out.

What I argue in those blogs I argue here: the power elite are reinforcing the notion that one must not criticize a man who funds progressive causes if he is also Jewish or else one is a special kind of racist. Magneto is not a Jewish stereotype. Marvel Comics did not reimagine Magneto to entrench antisemitism. This is a necessary and false assumption. Elon Musk’s tweet is being used to put a chill in the air—to frighten the public into silence about a billionaire aggressively influencing progressive causes. But it’s more than this. It’s yet another opportunity for elites to delegitimize the owner of a powerful social media platform who allows speech that disrupts the progressive narrative. Musk is being labeled a racist because elites want to drive away his business and break him so they can assume greater control over the propaganda apparatus they have used for decades to disrupt political consciousness.

It is crucial that in the days to come that Elon Musk refuses to apologize for this tweet. For to do so would obscure the fallacy that criticizing George Soros is antisemitic. Soros is a powerful force in the world of progressive politics. People must be free to criticize those with power. Musk is not criticizing Jews. He is criticizing George Soros.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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