Typically, you don’t call someone a “kapo” unless you really mean it. For Jews, it is the ultimate insult against another Jew. A kapo was a Nazi concentration camp inmate deputized by camp administrators to keep everyone else in line. Such a system was as cynical as it was insidious, outsourcing guard labor while breaking solidarity among the victims, as kapos had the benefit of preferential treatment by the oppressor.
Today, no one should throw the word around, it doesn’t necessarily apply to a Jew who might simply hold odious political opinions. To truly cross the Rubicon into the territory of ultimate traitor is to actively use your Jewish status as a tool for those promoting supremacy and fascism. Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein stands apart in the Israel lobby as a kapo as the ZOA has feted Steve Bannon and Donald Trump since the 2016 election, even as other Jews protest their blatant antisemitism (Ha’aretz, 11/15/16; 11/14/22). Musician Gilad Atzmon, by virtue of embracing self-hatred to the benefit of Klansman David Duke (DavidDuke.com 12/4/13; Hatewatch, 1/27/15), is a kapo.
Bari Weiss, former New York Times opinion writer and founder of the Free Press, was once merely a feature of the conservative anti-cancel culture brigade, a media solider in a campaign to classify racial and economic justice as some kind censorship against tradition.
Has she crossed the line to become a kapo? Given her brief allegiance with Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, aiding his effort to transform the social media site into a carnival of the far right, some have to wonder if the answer is yes.
Weiss has built a media brand that claims to fight against antisemitism holistically, yet reserves her hottest anger not for right-wing lunatics who attack synagogues but against leftists who voice too much sympathy for Palestinians (New York Times, 9/10/19). Her crusade began in her college days, attacking scholars who were too vocal on Middle Eastern politics (Intercept, 3/8/18).
She now stands out as a celebrity, announcing the birth of her new outlet, the Free Press (Axios,12/13/22)right as she and fellow anti-left pundit Matt Taibbi in, as I said at FAIR (12/14/22), publicizing “internal Twitter documents relating to the company’s handling of possibly hacked information (Above the Law, 12/9/22) about President Joe Biden’s son Hunter,” unloading “these documents in a series of tweets (12/2/22, 12/8/22).”
Let’s be clear about something. Regardless of what one thinks of what Taibbi and Weiss tweeted out, they worked directly with a company boss, Musk, who asked them to release certain information to his benefit through the company channel that he owns. That is not journalism. That’s public relations. And that means they are acting his agents, aiding his profiteering scheme, rather an acting as disinterested vessels of information. That means they are both somewhat responsible for what Musk is engaged in.
The consequences of the “Twitter Files” are unfolding, and one of them is that Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, has had to go into hiding “just days after Musk falsely implied that Roth,” a gay Jew, “had advocated for the sexualization of children” (Daily Beast, 12/12/22). Ben Lorber, senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, put it this way:
Regardless of his personal biases or intent, Musk’s targeting of Roth channeled antisemitic and homophobic ideology prevalent across today’s conservative movement. Conservatives routinely slander LGBTQ people and liberal elites as ‘groomers’ or otherwise insinuate that they are pedophiles, a false and bigoted assertion which taps longstanding antisemitic tropes accusing Jewish elites of sadistically preying on children for nefarious purposes. These tropes also animate the QAnon conspiracy, and Musk’s use of them highlights his willingness to use right-wing conspiracy theories to shape the narrative and bolster his brand.
All this is happening as Musk promotes QAnon (Vice, 12/13/22) and embraces transphobia (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13/22). As I wrote at FAIR (12/14/22), he “reopened far-right accounts, including that of the publisher of the Nazi Daily Stormer (Tech Crunch, 12/2/22); unsurprisingly, hate speech on the site has soared (New York Times, 12/2/22).” Antisemitic material has spiked specifically on Twitter (i24, 11/8/22; Ha’aretz, 12/2/22; Newsweek, 12/14/22).
Taibbi isn’t shy about expressing his affinity for the reactionary side of the culture war (Substack, 6/8/22; Ben Shapiro Show, 12/5/22), but Weiss at least cloaks her project with a stated opposition to antisemitism. As she moves closer to a corporate baron’s actions that has inspired bigotry (including antisemitism), she’s going to have to answer for this.
Further, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (12/13/22) noted that “Weiss’ Twitter activism puts her at odds with a leading U.S. antisemitism watchdog, the Anti-Defamation League, which has long pushed for stricter moderation on Twitter and called for an advertiser boycott after Musk acquired the platform and expressions of hate spiked on it.” The JTA said that Weiss has been close with the ADL in the past, even appearing “at multiple events with the organization,” but is now “a leading voice opposing what the ADL’s leadership says is one of the most pressing issues compromising American Jews’ safety.”
The ADL is not above criticism – Jewish Currents (2/8/21) outlined how Israel advocacy often undermines its other civil rights work. But the issue here is that Weiss is breaking from the ADL from the right, taking issue not with its position within the Israel lobby but because it is part of the “woke mob” or whatever her cohort is calling general opposition to racism these days.
What’s worse is that Weiss can’t simply be motivated by money. Through her Substack newsletter, Axios(12/13/22) said “Weiss made over $800,000 from her newsletter alone, which at the time had 14,000 paid subscribers,” all while reporters at newspapers with many more subscribers doing watchdog and community journalism survive on beans for dinner. That’s in addition to the fact that Weiss married into wealth (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/28/21). Unless Weiss has serious gambling debts we don’t know about, she isn’t using her alliance with a billionaire media mogul to boost her new enterprise just to pay the bills.
I have been outspoken against Weiss’ politics in the past (FAIR.org, 5/20/21; 10/23/20; 11/17/21). But it is another matter to suggest someone is, perhaps unwittingly, actively aiding an existential threat to Jews as well as other racial, religious and sexual minorities. The grand bargain she made with Musk is a departure from the tired genre of anti-woke commentary, and one that was bound to have consequences. That Musk would later lash out at Weiss for disagreeing with his decision to ban several journalists from Twitter (Rolling Stone, 12/16/22) is a reminder that any attempt to gain preferential treatment from the oppressor class isn’t going to be fruitful in the end.
Readers must consider this not necessarily because it should form their opinion about Weiss personally, but because it is a warning about what the “Twitter Files” and the Free Press most likely stand for.