Chief Twit Elon Musk is under fire for an off-color joke using an image of a Nazi soldier.
The world’s richest man shared a meme on Monday based on a photo of a World War II soldier with a crate with three carrier pigeons on his back and the caption: “3 unread messages.”
“How times have changed,” the Tesla mogul told his 115 million followers, comparing the pigeons in the image to Twitter’s own blue bird.
While the wording was innocent enough, the image quickly — which did not feature any obvious insignia — sparked a flutter of outrage after users picked up that it was of a Wehrmacht soldier from Nazi Germany.
Many directly asked if Musk had nefarious intent — while one user, who described themself as a “descendant of a survivor of the Holocaust” called the Wehrmacht post “unacceptable beyond belief.”
“It actually sickens me … there must be consequences for using such images. Advertisers should withdraw their spend on Twitter,” wrote the user, who kept tweeting after saying they were “done” with the site.
An archival listing on Getty Images says the pic is of “a German Wehrmacht soldier” — part of the unified Nazi armed forces — carrying messenger pigeons “on the Western front during the German invasion of France, known as the Battle of France, in WWII, circa May 1940.”
It carries a warning that “images depicting historical events may contain themes, or have descriptions, that do not reflect current understanding.”
“‘Hey, let’s use the carrier pigeons of the German Wehrmacht from World War II to illustrate technology development in an awesome way?’” another Twitter user quipped.
“‘But isn’t there a better example, Elon? Right now, in the ongoing debate around development here on Twitter?’ ‘No, Wehrmacht imagery is best,’” the pundit continued.
Another added: “Yeah, for a while it used to be bad to post nazi stuff, amirite?”
Meanwhile, other commenters shot back at Musk’s critics for ripping such a clear joke, with a flurry noting that the image carried no clear insignia nor referenced Nazism and was clearly just a joke comparing carrier pigeons to modern-day messaging on Twitter.
Still, many stressed that — no matter Musk’s intent — it still carried a dangerous message.
“Hi Elon, not sure if you did so intentionally, but that picture is of a Nazi soldier,” tweeted human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky.
“Given the relentless hate already directed at Jews on this platform, and this week marking 84 years since Kristallnacht, may I respectfully ask you to please withdraw this image,” he asked.
Others noted that the joke could have easily been made without such a controversial image.
“Carrier pigeons were extensively used by the Allies in both world wars. There are innumerable pictures of them. Instead, Musk posts one of a Wermacht soldier from the Battle of France,” noted writer and QAnon expert Mike Rothschild.
“So is it a dog whistle? Or just laziness?” he asked.
“I will say that if you’re trying to assuage the fears of the advertisers fleeing the platform you just [spent] billions on, you might want to have someone on your payroll spend five seconds looking at whether a meme you’re about to post has any link to the Nazis,” he added. “But that’s just me.”
Either way, the image remained online, clearly deemed appropriate by the Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator: Musk himself.