Matti Friedman at home in Jerusalem. (Maya Levin for The Free Press)

Brazil vs. Elon Musk. ‘Civil War’ Is a Dud. Plus. . .

Why Matti Friedman got a gun. Amnesty’s terrorist love-in. Ten stories we're following. And more.

Welcome to the Morning Edition of The Free Press. All Things Considered, we think it’s a pretty great lineup. 

Today we bring you: Suzy Weiss on Alex Garland’s ‘Civil War,’ Peter Savodnik on the failure of No Labels, Rupa Subramanya on Elon Musk, and more.

But first, Matti Friedman. The Free Press’s man in Jerusalem explains why he bought a Glock. 

Matti Friedman: I Got a Gun 

Israelis have no legal right to bear arms, no fear of government tyranny in the American tradition, and a fraction of the crime fears that Americans accept as normal. (In an ordinary year, Jerusalem, a city of nearly one million residents, tends to see about a dozen violent deaths; in Indianapolis, a slightly smaller city, the homicide number tends to be over 200.) 

For the average Israeli, guns are simply a tool for protection against the Arab violence that has shaped this society over the last century. Like the army, they’re a necessary evil. Most of the armed people you’ll see in an Israeli city are soldiers or police. In the United States, according to a Pew study last year, 32 percent of citizens own guns. In Israel, it was under 2 percent

That was before October 7. 

Since the attacks, more than 300,000 Israelis have requested gun permits—twice the total number of people who owned guns before. In the Tel Aviv area, the number of permit requests rose 800 percent. This may be the most visible symptom of the way our sense of safety has been shattered. For me, the change is manifest in the form of a small Glock—an ugly little monument to a change for the worse in this country and in the lives of its citizens.

Though buying a handgun here has become easier, gun ownership is still tightly restricted and involves paperwork beyond the wildest dreams of gun-control advocates in the United States. If you’re cleared for a permit by the Ministry of Internal Security after a background check of your medical and psychological records, and of your military service, and then pass a test that includes firing 100 bullets, you’re licensed to own and carry a single weapon with a serial number registered with the government under your name. You cannot buy another gun. You’re allowed to buy 100 bullets that must be accounted for each time you renew your license. It’s virtually impossible to buy a rifle. 


Ten Stories We’re Reading 

  1. Is Donald Trump’s latest statement on abortion, in which he said the issue should be left to the states, smart politics or a lie? Maybe it’s both. (Reason/Vox

  2. The Arizona Supreme Court yesterday reinstated a 160-year-old near-total ban on abortion. Make that another battleground state in which abortion will be front of mind come November. (Bloomberg)

  3. Seventy-one percent of Israelis think Netanyahu should resign either immediately or right after the war. A majority of Israelis also want elections in the next year, rather than when they are next due, in October 2026. (Times of Israel

  4. Iran is smuggling arms to the West Bank. “The goal, as described by three Iranian officials, is to foment unrest against Israel by flooding the enclave with as many weapons as it can.” (New York Times)

  5. The View co-host Sunny Hostin tied the eclipse, the New York earthquake, and a coming swarm of cicadas to climate change. Fact check: not a thing. (Daily Beast)

  6. The parents of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley have been sentenced to 10–15 years in jail. Read Joe Nocera’s Free Press article on the case from February. (Wall Street Journal

  7. Elon Musk predicts AI will overtake human intelligence in 2025. My promise to you: this newsletter will always be written by an over-caffeinated, under-slept human. (FT)

  8. The Zoomers have latched onto another annoying mental health fad: “anxious attachment.” (Freya India)

  9. Eighteen million people watched the women’s NCAA title game between South Carolina and Iowa on Sunday. That’s a women’s college game record and the highest figure for any basketball game—men or women, college or NBA—in five years. Thank you, Caitlin Clark. (Axios)

  10. Rihanna posed in a nun’s habit for a racy new photoshoot. Between this cover and the new Sydney Sweeney horror film Immaculate, everyone should begin preparing for Hot Nun Summer. (X)

Elon Musk vs. Brazil 

The owner of X is making a stand for free speech. Rupa Subramanya reports on his showdown with an overmighty Brazilian judge.

The warrior-king of X is fighting against censorship again, this time in the Supreme Court—of Brazil. The free speech absolutist has pitted himself against Judge Alexandre de Moraes, a man who claims to defend Brazilian democracy while throwing people in jail without trial.

It all started when the highest court in the South American country forced X to “block certain popular accounts in Brazil.” (X was prohibited from saying which accounts had been targeted, although de Moraes has a reputation for cracking down on far-right activity on social media.)

On Saturday evening, Elon Musk told the world in a tweet he’d be “lifting all restrictions,” saying the “judge has applied massive fines” and “threatened to arrest our employees.” It’s not clear which X workers are at risk—or what they might be charged with. But it’s since emerged that the “massive fines” equate to $20,000 per day for each reactivated account—not that the billionaire X CEO is bothered; he concluded his post: “Principles matter more than profit.”

On Sunday, de Moraes emerged—along with memes of him looking like Voldemort, in dark flowing robes and a cape. He blasted the X CEO for “obstruction of Brazilian justice,” “incitement of crime,” and waging a “disinformation campaign,” adding that he had opened an investigation into Musk.

Musk quickly bit back, promising to “do a full data dump”—to reveal which accounts the Brazilian government had asked X to ban, once the company gets “employees in Brazil to a safe place.” 

In this standoff, we’re Team Elon. The tech billionaire is shining a light on something few Americans appreciate: that free speech is suffering in Latin America’s largest so-called democracy—and he’s standing up to a man infamous for using authoritarian powers to “protect” it. Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who tracks censorship in Brazil, where he lives, explained last January that de Moraes is known to have “almost unilateral, unchecked power to essentially order anyone to be banned from the internet that he wants.”

De Moraes doesn’t limit his animus to far-right influencers. “He’s ordered ten members of Congress to be completely silenced on the internet,” Greenwald wrote in the post, and “forced Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other one to remove them, even though they don’t judge them to be violating their terms of service.”

Meanwhile, American outlets have made their anti-Musk bias clear, especially Wired, which ran the headline, “Elon Musk Is Platforming Far-Right Activists in Brazil, Defying Court Order,” without mentioning Brazil’s dismal record on free speech.

That’s not to say Elon’s record on free speech is entirely pristine. He caved to pressure from both the Turkish and Indian governments to ban accounts on X. But how many other billionaires ever put principles before profit?

Whatever he is, Musk’s latest post suggests he’s not backing down. He trolled the judge on Monday, topping it with a laughing face emoji: “How did Alexandre de Moraes become the dictator of Brazil?”

What Is the Civil War in Civil War Actually About?

Suzy Weiss watched Alex Garland’s much-hyped new movie and still doesn’t know. Read her review here:  

On Our Radar

→ NPR responds to Uri Berliner’s Free Press essay: Yesterday we published an explosive essay from NPR veteran Uri Berliner. (If you haven’t already read it, stop what you’re doing and click here.) In it, Uri explains how the news organization he has worked at for 25 years has lost its way. We were thrilled to see Uri’s important piece get the large audience it deserved. Among his readers: his boss, NPR editor in chief Edith Chapin, who responded with a message to colleagues. Also former NPR vice president for news and ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin, who tweeted: “I know Uri. He’s not wrong.”

→ Why did No Labels flop?: Last week, the centrist group No Labels announced it would not field a presidential candidate this year. This despite the fact that No Labels raised $60 million in 2023 and that there is overwhelming support, among Republicans, Democrats, and independents, for an alternative to Joe Biden and Donald Trump. A January poll showed that 67 percent of voters did not want a rematch.

I asked Harlan Crow, a major No Labels supporter, why the group didn’t take off. “They created the effort without the candidate, and I think that turned out to be a mistake,” Crow said. “Whether it’s George Wallace or Ross Perot or others, [impactful third-party candidates] have an individual championing the idea, but in this case, the feeling was there was so much interest in this idea—but it was a mistake.”

There’s something to that. The charismatic candidate is often the fulcrum around which parties and movements emerge: Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Ronald Reagan. But the bigger problem here is that No Labels misread the political mood. The conventional wisdom inside the organization seemed to be that Americans wanted a longtime Washingtonian moderate—someone who would provide a kind of steady calm in a sea of partisan furies. Someone who was fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

They had things upside down. There’s a reason that neither major party candidate is running to rein in “big government”: the voters aren’t that interested. 

More to the point, No Labels didn’t grasp the fundamental shift, or “scramble,” transforming our politics, something I reported on for The Free Press in January. The old categories no longer persist. The old alliances no longer matter. Voters don’t want a kindly establishment figure like Mitt Romney to tell them that everything is going to be okay. They want someone to fix a country they think is broken. —Peter Savodnik 

→ Amnesty for terrorists: You know Amnesty International. They’re the good guys. The nice human right-sy types who are on the Right Side of History. They stick up for prisoners of conscience: brave people unjustly imprisoned for standing up for what they believe in. People like Walid Daqqah, whose death from cancer they noted with this tweet yesterday:

RIP, brother. Except, as well as being a “Palestinian writer,” Walid Daqqah was also a Palestinian terrorist. In 1986 he was convicted of ordering members of a terror group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to abduct and murder a 19-year-old Israeli soldier two years earlier. It was an especially gruesome crime. From The Jewish Chronicle: “Tamam’s killers gouged out his eyes, mutilated his body, and castrated him before taking him to an olive grove and shooting him dead.” 

Seems to me that Daqqah deserved his life sentence. It also seems like something has gone very wrong at Amnesty. The organization throws its weight behind the likes of Walid Daqqah but pulled support for the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny because of “concerns relating to discriminatory statements.” Does torture count as discriminatory at Amnesty? 

→ Groceries? In this economy?: Food prices are up. A lot. And it’s a big headache for a White House frustrated that voters aren’t all that cheery about the economy in an election year. But how do the price increases under Biden stack up against other presidents? Here’s a chart showing just that, courtesy of Bloomberg’s John Authers

→ Live and let love: Russian honeytraps don’t work on French spies because their wives are already so used to them sleeping around, claims a new documentary. According to one agent, “Defectors from the Soviet Union used to talk about the ‘French paradox,’ namely if you surprised a Frenchman with a mistress by telling him, we’ve caught you red-handed with a 22-year-old called Tatyana, work for us or we’ll tell your wife, it didn’t work.” Apparently, the go-to response to a blackmail attempt is: “Go ahead, my wife already knows.” 

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman.

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