The world according to Elon Musk’s grandfather

by MMC
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This month, Elon Musk threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League, alleging that its denunciation of Musk a fortune in advertising revenue. The Anti-Defamation League, in turn, said Musk’s threat was “dangerous and deeply irresponsible.” This week, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to California to meet Musk and discuss artificial intelligence, but their other highly anticipated topic was anti-Semitism. Netanyahu asked Musk to “end anti-Semitism as best he can.” Musk, referring to SpaceX and its hope for a mission to Mars, responded that he was in favor of anything that “ultimately leads us to become a space civilization” and, since hatred hinders that mission, “obviously, I am against anti-Semitism.”

All this took place around the time Walter Isaacson’s film was released. new biography by Musk. Musk’s family history bears on the dispute, but, in the book, as I pointed out in a magazine, Isaacson only briefly discusses Musk’s grandfather, JN Haldeman, whom he portrays as a risk-taking adventurer and whose politics he calls “bizarre.” In fact, Haldeman was a pro-apartheid and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who blamed much of what bothered him in the world on Jewish financiers.

Elon Musk is not responsible for the political views of his grandfather, who died when Musk was three years old. But Haldeman’s legacy shines a light on what social media does: The reason most people aren’t familiar with Musk’s grandfather’s political writings is because when he was alive, social media didn’t exist, and the writings of people like him were therefore not amplified by him. Indeed, it was very unlikely that they would circulate widely and today they are quite rare. Yet they are not difficult to find, which makes it regrettable that Isaacson does not cite or mention them.

Musk said he bought Twitter to stop the progression of a “woke mind virus” spreading online. His grandfather wrote his pamphlets to sound the alarm about what he called “mind control,” on radio and television, where “an unconditional propaganda war is being waged against the white man.”

Haldeman was born in Minnesota in 1902 but grew up primarily in Saskatchewan, Canada. A daredevil aviator and sometime cowboy, he also trained and worked as a chiropractor. In the 1930s he joined the quasi-fascist movement Technocratic movement, whose supporters believed that scientists and engineers, rather than the people, should govern. He became a leader of the movement in Canada and, when it was briefly banned, he was imprisoned, after which he became national president of what was then a notoriously anti-Semitic party called Social Credit. In the 1940s he ran for office under that banner and lost. In 1950, two years after South Africa instituted apartheid, he moved his family to Pretoria, where he became a passionate defender of the regime.

Before the Internet age, the writings of political extremists tended to be published privately, in very small numbers. An angry man typing memos about an invisible world government might make a few mimeographs or carbon copies, but the likelihood of any of them ending up in a library, cataloged and preserved, is low. Presumably, most of Haldeman’s papers remain in the hands of the family, if not destroyed. But some of his writings survive, notably in the extraordinary library of Michigan State University. Radicalism Collection.

In 2017, the collection acquired two of Haldeman’s tracts, as part of a trove from an anonymous donor that now numbers nineteen thousand pieces of right-wing propaganda and conspiracy literature. One of Haldeman’s treatises, “The International Conspiracy to Establish a World Dictatorship and the Threat to South Africa”, is dated May 1960. The timing is significant. In February 1960, Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, delivered his famous “Winds of Change” speech to the South African Parliament, rejecting apartheid and calling for acceptance of independence movements: “The Winds of Change is blowing across this continent and, whether we like it or not, this growth in national consciousness is a political fact. In March, South African police opened fire on a crowd of thousands of black South Africans protesting outside Sharpeville police station, killing sixty-nine people, including children, and injuring nearly two hundred. The murders were filmed on television and covered around the world. During the protests and the state of emergency that followed, Nelson Mandela was one of eighteen thousand people arrested and imprisoned. Haldeman’s tracts defended white rule against an “international conspiracy” that opposed it.

“Every day the brainwashers repeat and emphasize the things they want us to believe,” Haldeman warned in his forty-two page tract of May 1960. “As examples, “the natives are mistreated,” “underpaid”, “disadvantaged”, “separate development is wrong”, “apartheid is not Christian”. Every day, newspapers, magazines, commercial radio news broadcasters, biographies broadcast this into the conscious and subconscious minds of the public. » (“Bioscopes” here means films.) “People who know it is 99% false repeat these lies with insistence and emotion,” Haldeman wrote.

Haldeman denounced many dark forces that he believed were propagating these ideas: Jewish bankers, Jewish intellectuals, Jewish-led philanthropic foundations, communists, black leaders, and all those who supported the overthrow of colonial rule in Africa . “The facts of history show that the white man has always developed the country he inhabits for the benefit of all,” he wrote, peddling apartheid propaganda, and “the black people of ‘Africa has been in close contact with civilization from the beginning.’ but, by themselves, they built nothing and discovered nothing, not even the wheel.

In the second treatise held by MSU, “The International Health Conspiracy,” Haldeman blamed the “collectivist-internationalist” conspiracy – “from Kennedy to Kenyatta” – for “centralized health systems” that include national health insurance and various pharmaceuticals (including fluoride). in the water, another conspiracy), which he considers to be “anti-Christian attacks on human freedoms”. The reason some people weren’t alarmed by all this, he writes, was because of mind control. “When a Christian subscribes to this, it is the result of concentrated and intentional brainwashing by the International Conspiracy. » Submission to the national health care system was a way for the conspirators to allow “black or colored political puppets” to take “control of the white people in charge.” The Conspiracy, he warned, controls universities, medical schools and even textbooks. “The Conspiracy believes that any medical intervention, as long as it is massive, is a desirable procedure.” Above all, “the promoters of world government have always been at the origin of mass vaccination programs”.

In addition to these two leaflets, a rare book dealer sold issue 5 of a newsletter entitled Survival (“For Adults Only”) which he attributes to Haldeman. (The author’s name, the dealer reports, appears on the last page.) In the issue, published shortly after January 1962, the author presented the growing independence movements in African countries as a “A WORLD GONE CRAZY.” “Everywhere in the so-called independent states of Africa, there is total chaos,” he wrote. “The population is reduced to starvation and cannibalism, approaching what it was before the arrival of the white man. ” He described the Mau Mau as engaging in a rite that required an initiate to “suck the dismembered penis of another unfortunate Mau Mau victim.” He denounced Israel for having “systematically voted against South Africa at the United Nations”. Either way, he explains, the UN is infested with communist spies.

Haldeman typed his tracts, probably on his own typewriter. He may have made dozens, maybe hundreds, but probably not many more. He could have mailed them or handed them out at political rallies, religious meetings, or men’s groups. They were in any case read by a handful of South Africans in and around Pretoria, and perhaps also by like-minded people further afield. And then they almost disappeared. But if Haldeman were writing today, he’d probably spread his ideas across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, 4chan, and more. The algorithms would transmit them to thousands, if not millions, of people. He would find an audience. He would become bolder. He would find a wider audience. He would become even bolder. Elon Musk’s grandfather’s political views are not Musk’s responsibility. But what would happen to these diatribes, if they were published on X today, really lies at his doorstep. ♦

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