‘Reckless’ Elon Musk hit with $1m lawsuit for accusing student of being in Proud Boys ‘false flag’ attack

Lawsuit accuses billionaire X owner of ‘astonishingly reckless conduct’

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 02 October 2023 23:22 BST
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Elon Musk Gets Censored On His Own App

Elon Musk was hit with a $1m defamation lawsuit alleging the X owner falsely suggested a 22-year-old recent college grad from California was involved in a street brawl between far-right and neo-Nazi groups in Oregon in June.

Ben Brody, who is Jewish, claims Musk amplified far-right X users falsely claiming he was a neo-Nazi, or perhaps secretly a federal agent, who was unmasked as the Proud Boys and a group called the Rose City Nationalists duked it out during a June event outside of Portland.

“Ben was put through intense terror because of Musk’s recklessness, and now Ben finds himself depressed, freaked out, and mentally distraught right at the crucial personal moment when he exists college and enters his career path,” the suit claims.

The Independent has contacted a lawyer for Mr Musk for comment.

On 24 June, members of the Proud Boys and the Rose City Nationalists, a neo-Nazi group, attempted to disrupt Oregon City’s Pride Night Fest, only to find themselves engaged in a bloody fistfight, where Proud Boys were seen striking neo-Nazis with American flags.

In the chaos, a member of one of the groups lost his face mask, prompting online commenters to speculate about who the unknown right-wing vigilante was.

A series of accounts known for posting right-wing content claimed the man was Mr Brody, even though the political science graduate from the University of California Riverside said he has never been to Oregon City and was in California during the fight.

Responding to one such post claiming to identify the man as Mr Brody, Mr Musk told his millions of followers, “Looks like one is a college student (who wants to join the govt) and another is maybe an Antifa member, but nonetheless a probable false flag situation.”

Responding to another such post, Mr Musk wrote, “Always remove their masks.”

Mr Brody took to social media and the news media at the time to clear his name.

“I am not a part of the Patriot Front or a member and people who are claiming I am, I am being confused with someone who looks similar to me. I’ve never been to Oregon City for any protest whatsoever,” he said in a video on Instagram.

“I’ve been in Riverside only,” he added. “This is just crazy to me. I graduated on June 21 and I’ve just been hanging out with my friends. All these accusations are just crazy and incorrect. My family and I are just being harassed completely.”

Elon Musk allegedly falsely claimed a California student was involved in a neo-Nazi street fight
Elon Musk allegedly falsely claimed a California student was involved in a neo-Nazi street fight (AFP via Getty Images)

"I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I couldn’t sleep. I was like, walking around and just, like, pacing because I was just so nervous about everything,” he said in an interview with VICE News about the experience.

“Obviously Elon Musk has a huge following and it amplifies stuff, so it definitely made the situation much worse," he added. “It was terrifying, I’m starting to sort of feel normal now about what happened, but it was just like it was a lot to take in.”

The mistaken identification, according to the lawsuit, shattered Mr Brody’s life, forcing his family to temporarily leave their home.

“Ben and his family’s experience of seeing him defamed by one of the powerful men on earth warped their entire sense of reality, leaving them stunned, confused, and afraid,” the suit said.

Mr Musk was told of the potential lawsuit in August, the suit claims, but refused to retract his insinuations.

The lawsuit claims the alleged defamation is part of a larger pattern from Musk.

“In addition to fostering and monetizing conspiracy nonsense, Musk’s denial of neo-Nazi violence is particularly troubling given Twitter’s complicated history with white-supremacist extremism on the platform and Musk’s proximity to a series of controversies on this subject, often accompanied by Musk’s frequent interactions with well-known bigots,” the suit writes.

Musk frequently uses his large account to entertain right-wing conspiracies, from suggesting in May a far-right shooting at a mall in Texas was a “psyop” to boosting a conspiracy about the attack on Paul Pelosi to interacting with Richard Hanania, an intellectual who spent years posting on white-supremacist websites and has since become a prominent thought leader among a subset of Silicon Valley leaders.

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