A young man falsely accused of being a federal agent posing as a neo-Nazi by Elon Musk and a bunch of other right-wing trolls has launched a lawsuit against the one-time richest man in the world.Earlier this year, college student Ben Brody, 22, had his life turned upside down when he was accused of being a part of a Pacific Northwest neo-Nazi group. The claims occurred after a neo-Nazi had his mask pulled off when his group had a small brawl with local Proud Boys in Oregon City on June 24. The unmasked neo-Nazi bore a passing resemblance to Brody, who once wrote on a website for his Jewish fraternity that he wanted to work for the government.
This, seemingly, was enough for some of the worst folks online to go to work, and for Musk to jump into the fray.According to the lawsuit, and in an interview with VICE News at the time of the incident, Brody suffered a “severe degree of mental stress, anguish, fear, personal embarrassment, and psychological harm which disrupted his daily life,” and worried that being publicly connected to a neo-Nazi group will impact his future employment.“The reality is that too many powerful people with enormous audiences are being reckless with their accusations against private people,” reads the lawsuit against Musk. “The damage they cause is not easily repaired by apologies or counter-speech, no matter how persuasive. Repair of reputations, compensation for harm, and effective deterrence can only occur in our courts.”The young man is being represented by Mark Bankston, a lawyer who last year successfully sued Alex Jones for $49 million on behalf of the parents of children killed in Sandy Hook. The lawsuit was filed earlier today in Travis County, Texas, where Musk resides.“I am honored to be assisting this brave young man in standing up against yet another one of Elon Musk’s reckless smears,” Bankston told VICE. “We look forward to restoring Ben’s good name and sending a message that Musk’s conduct is unacceptable.”
Musk purchased Twitter in 2022 and since has been roundly criticized for allowing conspiratorial content to flourish and allowing antisemitic and extremist figures back onto the site. Twitter and Musk did not respond to a request for comment.Online shitposters, misinformation peddlers, and the worst internet sleuths you could imagine seized upon the fact Brody had once written for his Jewish college fraternity that he wanted to work for the government. This was enough proof for some that Brody was a federal agent pretending to be a neo-Nazi and the group was a “false flag” orchestrated by the United States government—a favorite conspiracy of the far-right.It wasn’t too long after the false allegations about Brody began swirling on Twitter that Musk, the website’s owner, replied with things like “very odd,” and “always remove their masks” under several tweets falsely accusing Brody and sharing his personal information and photos. These responses, according to the lawsuit, drew much larger audiences to the defamatory tweets because of Musk’s large following.While the storm of misinformation swirled around Brody online, the reality of the impact upon his real life finally made landfall when he was enjoying a Dodgers game with his mother. After initially being confused about why strangers were attacking him on his personal social media page, he slowly began to realize what was happening as they drove home.
"In the car, I was freaking out and very nervous, very anxious, like 'oh my God, I can't believe this happened, you know, my life is over,’" Brody told VICE News in July. "Everything that I tried to work for and all this is just completely gone. And I genuinely felt very anxious, very nervous."Brody said his family didn’t feel safe being at home that evening and fled for the night. To try to calm the situation, Brody made several Instagram posts explaining he wasn’t the man in the video and was hundreds of miles away at the time. To back up his case he posted receipts from purchases he made that day and time-stamped security footage. But facts play a limited role in this particular corner of Twitter and Brody’s response fell on many deaf ears.On June 27, after several days of amplifying other people’s posts, the lawsuit states Musk personally committed defamation against Brody when responding to a news article by Zero Hedge—a far-right news outlet that was banned from using Google Ads in 2020 for its racist content and was integral in aiding the spreading of the Sandy Hook conspiracy—with the headline “Patriot Front ‘White Supremacist’ Unmasked As a Suspected Fed.”“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,” Musk wrote. The lawsuit states this is a clear nod toward Brody. The tweet has been viewed over 1.2 million times since it was posted and while the Zero Hedge post and article were deleted, Musk’s remains up.
“Musk’s personal endorsement of the false accusation against Ben Brody reverberated across the internet, transforming the accusation from anonymous rumor to gospel truth for many individuals, and causing others to use Musk’s endorsement to justify their desire to harass Ben Brody and his family,” reads the lawsuit.Brody “suffered physical manifestations of his emotional distress, including difficulty sleeping, panic attacks, headaches, and fatigue which disrupted his daily life and severely impacted his sense of wellbeing” and his family was doxxed several times as a result of the false accusations, the lawsuit states. Brody spoke to VICE News just weeks after everything occurred in the hopes it would clear things up. It was the only time he spoke on the record about the incident.“Obviously Elon Musk has a huge following and it amplifies stuff, so it definitely made the situation much worse,” he said. “It was terrifying.”"I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I couldn't sleep," Brody told VICE at the time. “I was like, walking around and just, like, pacing because I was just so nervous about everything."One of the biggest worries Brody, a recent college graduate, had was the impact that being tied to a neo-Nazi group publicly would have on his future employment. On top of that, the lawsuit states Brody and his family are worried that as someone accused of being involved in a “false flag” by well-known figures, he’ll be subjected to the same harassment as the Sandy Hook parents and those who ran the restaurant at the heart of “pizzagate” conspiracy.
According to the lawsuit, Brody was told by Musk’s lawyers that if he filed anything they would seek to collect fees against him. The lawsuit does not specify what it is seeking but does state the relief being sought will exceed a million.The lawsuit breaks down Musk’s history of making salacious and dubious claims on social media. The list is a long one. There was the time Musk had to settle with the SEC after making joke tweets about taking Tesla private at $420 a share—the jokes cost him and Tesla $40 million and he was forced to step down as chair. Then there was the time Musk set off a media firestorm after calling a British cave diver who helped rescue a group of children trapped underground for numerous days a “pedo guy” after the man described Musk’s efforts to help as nothing more than a PR stunt.More recently Musk’s postings have strayed from bad jokes that cost him exorbitant amounts of money and petty posts after his feelings were hurt and into the overtly political. Last fall, after Paul Pelosi was attacked by a man with a hammer, Musk shared misinformation from a famously dubious site (the same one he commented on with Brody) claiming the attacker was Pelosi’s gay lover. In May, following a mass shooting in an outlet mall in Texas by a far-right gunman that killed eight people, Musk claimed it was ”a psyop” and that Bellingcat, the outlet that broke the story, “specializes in psychological operations.”“Despite once claiming that ‘Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world’, Musk has been personally using the platform to spread false statements on a consistent basis while propping up and amplifying the most reprehensible elements of conspiracy-addled Twitter,” reads the lawsuit.“Musk’s reckless attitude, his unpunished pattern of false statements, and his flirtation with the most unreliable and extreme elements of his social media platform made it inevitable that he would falsely attack an innocent private citizen, turning their world upside down.”