Elon Musk got on his own website on Saturday and started dog-whistle posting.
In a series of reply tweets, he highlighted for his millions of followers thinly veiled racist tweets about Black people doing crime against white people, thereby boosting them in Twitter’s algorithm.
Then on Sunday, Axios reported that Musk had spoken with the recently fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson about potentially taking his act to Twitter. On Tuesday, Carlson confirmed that he would soon launch a version of his show on Musk’s platform. One could reasonably wonder whether these things are related. Let’s discuss:
First, consider the tweets in question. In replying to a tweet sharing a misleading graphic suggesting the media focuses nearly exclusively on white-on-Black crime, Musk wrote: “Odd, why would the media misrepresent the real situation to such an extreme degree?” (The graphic gives a supposed, and much higher, number for Black-on-white crime.) But the image has serious problems, and elides the truth. For more on that, here is Judd Legum writing in his Popular Information newsletter:
One major issue with the chart, which has been circulated online for years by racists since it first appeared in The Blaze in 2019, is that it excludes “White on White” and “Black on Black” crime. Crimes by whites against other whites are by far the most common type of crime in the United States.
Knack, a Belgian media site, debunked the image in 2020. The outlet also created its own version of the chart, which includes crimes where the perpetrator and victim are the same race. It paints a far different picture.
Musk also responded with “interesting” to a tweet that reads, “Blacks kill each other. Whites kill themselves.” He also replied to several tweets about cases of Black people killing white people that supposedly went ignored, but which were actually reported by local and national media.
White people harping on Black crime has long been the loudest of dog whistles. A Nixon campaign aide admitted in a 22-year-old interview, which Harper’s published in 2016, that the War on Drugs was designed to harness anti-black racial animus without doing so directly. George H.W. Bush infamously tried a similar ploy with his ads about Willie Horton, a Black prisoner released on a furlough program who raped a white woman and stabbed her boyfriend. More recently, who can forget that Breitbart News had a tab for “Black Crime”? While baldly deploying the message of “look at who is doing all of this crime” has gotten dicier, it’s still a favored tactic of contemporary white nationalists like Nick Fuentes and his friends, so Musk is in superb company.
Musk, who has tweeted out a series of increasingly far-right, regressive things, doesn’t normally broach white nationalist territory. Which raises the question: Was his doing so related to wooing Carlson to set up shop on his struggling platform? It might not have been a bad strategy. After all, Carlson is notorious for, among other things, being a hero to white supremacists and the far right—and serving as their bridge to the mainstream. (He talks like this too: As recently as 2022, he blamed “African American males” for the spike in crime rates.) Carlson was reportedly fired after Fox board members grew alarmed about a text diatribe in which Carlson cited a video of Trump supporters beating up “an Antifa kid” and wrote: “It’s not how white men fight.”
Maybe Musk’s misrepresentation of the race-and-crime statistics was a ham-fisted overture to Tucker to say, “I’ve got your back.” Or maybe Musk is simply racist.