Prof. Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway: "When it comes to hate against Jews, freedom of speech is absolute"

NYU professor Scott Galloway is a successful entrepreneur, business guru, branding expert, best-selling author, and podcast host - but in recent months he is one of the sharpest and most influential voices in the fight against anti-Semitism. In an in-depth interview with Calcalist he talks about the reasons for standing at the front of the struggle, the despair of America's youth, and where it’s all heading

Scott Galloway is many things: serial entrepreneur, business guru, lecturer in brand strategy and digital marketing at New York University Stern School of Business, author of five bestsellers and a star podcaster, not necessarily in that order. Among other things, he is a partner of the world's most influential technology journalist, Kara Swisher, in hosting the mega-popular technology and business podcast Pivot, and his new book, "The Algebra of Wealth", became a bestseller as soon as it was released last month and has already been translated into 12 languages. It is hard to exaggerate the extent of his influence and success, which translates into revenues of hundreds of millions of dollars. But in recent months Galloway is mostly "Jewish". Since coming out as such - the son of a Jewish mother who bears his father's Scottish surname - he has become one of the most prominent and vocal speakers against the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campuses and the attitude of the American public regarding the war in Gaza.
According to his opponents, "Prof G", as he calls himself, has completed the transformation into "Professor Genocide". But for him it's fine. Galloway's words, always provocative, colorful and charismatic, are no less sharp than theirs. It is evident that he even enjoys it. "If I went down to the plaza of any of these universities with a white hood on and a sign that says, ‘Lynch the blacks’ or ‘Burn the gays,’ my ID would be shut off by the end of business, I would never work in academia again, and there wouldn’t be a lot of people saying ‘we need context’ or ‘there’s nuance here’,” he told Calcalist.
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מוסף שבועי 16.5.24 סקוט גלוואי
מוסף שבועי 16.5.24 סקוט גלוואי
Prof. Scott Galloway
(Photo: Mary Beth Koeth)
"Being a campus administrator today is the second worst job in the world, just behind being Donald Trump's defense attorney. Campus Administrators are trying to thread a needle between honoring a long tradition of protests on campuses while cutting a wide berth for a 19-year-old who is testing boundaries and really exploring the limits of freedom of speech, and that is perfectly fine. What is troubling - and here is the mistake of the administrators of universities in the United States and in the West in general - is the double standard: under the principles of freedom of speech, they allow statements against Jews that fall under the definition of hate speech. When it comes to expressions of hate against Jews, the freedom of speech is absolute. The double standard and anti-Semitism here is simply amazing to me."
Why do you call it antisemitism and not anti-Israeli sentiment?
"There is a common argument that is used in response to my words. The first part of it is, 'Scott, you have to distinguish between someone who is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.' That is a fair statement, many Jews who live in Israel are anti-Israel in the sense that they are anti-Netanyahu. I accept that although you won't find these people at the demonstrations calling for Netanyahu's resignation. They are there with Palestinian flags.
"But the second part of the argument, and that's where it falls flat, is when they say: 'You can be pro-Palestine and not pro-Hamas.' This is not true. Hamas was elected to power in Gaza in 2006 by a large majority, and has spent the 18 years since then educating Palestinians for one thing: killing Jews. To my understanding, most of the houses that the IDF entered in the Gaza Strip have either access to a tunnel, weapons, or pictures of Hamas leaders. This is a generation of people who murdered women and babies and called their parents with the glee of someone who’s recently been admitted to college, bragging about it. 70% of Palestinians support Hamas' decision to launch an attack on Israel on October 7 (according to a survey from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research from March). So these protesters are not anti-Israeli, they are pro-Hamas, because being pro-Palestinian at this point in time is being pro-Hamas. Therefore, I believe it is fair to claim that when you demonstrate and express support for Palestine, it has a strong inherent connection to anti-Semitism."
Does the anti-Semitism you claim also exist in the Palestinian context?
"If you had asked me on October 6 what the state of anti-Semitism is in the United States, I would have told you that it does not exist. But on October 7, I found out that anti-Semitism in the United States is like an iceberg - they say that two thirds of the iceberg mass is under the water - what I’ve learned here is that 99% of it is below the water line. October 7 revealed to me and to everyone who has critical thinking and historical understanding that there is an absolute and unsurprising level of anti-Semitism in the US and in the West."
Explain what you mean by historical understanding.
"Any objective analysis of the war shows that there are just different criteria when it’s Jews fighting a war versus anyone else fighting a war. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and killed almost 2,500 American soldiers and civilians, we killed 3.5 million Japanese in response. When 2,977 Americans died on September 11, We killed 400,000 people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even now there are more people dying in countries around the world (than in Gaza), and somehow it doesn't evoke the same outrage and empathy.
"Imagine a situation where a fundamentalist cartel was elected to power in Mexico and told the Americans, 'You treated the immigrants from Mexico badly,' penetrated Texas through underground tunnels, murdered 35,000 people, kidnapped another 5,000 and hid them in tunnels under Mexico City. The United States would turn Mexico into a radioactive parking lot. You can call it 'genocide', but the reality is that any western country that has suffered such a brutal attack and has a superior military infrastructure has exacted a much higher price from its enemy than what Israel is doing in Gaza. In my opinion, it is scandalous and ridiculous that people use the term ‘genocide; without understanding it. Israel has nuclear weapons and heavy artillery, it could commit genocide in Gaza within seven days, but it didn’t do it. Hamas would do it if it had the capabilities. A country does not distribute leaflets and leave voicemails and provide 200 trucks of humanitarian aid to those on whom it commits genocide."
These are not simple statements, how are they received by the public?
"In the week after I started expressing my views, I lost about a million dollars in sponsorships and speaking gigs. But I don't think it was necessarily anti-Semitism. It seems to me that because the topic is so hot and controversial, they simply preferred not to take someone as outspoken as me. As far as the public itself, I get a lot of emails from people who feel grateful and are very supportive, and also emails from people who call me 'Professor Genocide'. These are less pleasant emails to receive, but I don't want to exaggerate them. My life continues as usual, I'm used to being criticized online. It's not fun to be called that, but if you have a financial safety net and people who love you, then you have an obligation to speak up."
Unlike you, most American Jews in positions of influence avoid such political expressions like fire.
"I am not so connected to Judaism and Israel, and I stand up and speak for the United States, not for Jews. This issue is of crucial importance to the long American history of protecting persecuted minorities. If America does not have a clear conscience, if it does not continue to stand on the right side in the face of hatred, it will lose itself."
"The young people are nervous, and rightly so"
Perhaps the reason Galloway (59) does what he does for the United States lies in his personal biography. Galloway, who currently lives on the New York-London line, personifies the American dream. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the only son of a couple of immigrants from Scotland and London who separated in childhood. His mother, who was a secretary, raised him alone in poverty and hardship. Galloway completed a bachelor's degree in economics at the University of California in 1987 and immediately after that began working as an analyst at Morgan Stanley for two years - a period of time that made it clear to him that his future was not in the field of investments.
He completed an MBA at Berkeley in 1992, and that year founded his first brand strategy consultancy, Prophet. The company grew faster than he was able to recruit employees to meet the demand, and even in this case his thinking outside the box proved itself. "Experienced consultants did not need to come work for a 26-year-old fresh out of business school," he writes in the book. Our (unplanned) solution was to hire new mothers who wanted back into the workforce… These sharp, experienced consultants worked for us because I told them they could leave early or even work from home (gasp!) a couple days per week. They were some of our most productive and valuable employees. Their colleagues who missed deadlines didn’t have nearly as much going on, but that turned into a liability, as they believed they could take a long lunch, manage their fantasy football team from their desk, and then just stay late to get their work done. It proved the saying, 'If you want something done, give it to a busy person'."
Galloway continued to work hard, founded eight more companies, six of which were closed, but one of them, the digital intelligence company L2, was sold for $155 million. In between, he was selected in 1999 for the World Economic Forum's "Global Leaders of Tomorrow" list and served on many boards, including those of the New York Times, Urban Outfitters and the Berkeley Business School.
At some point, his self-searching became a rocky road. "For the first 20 years of my career, I rented my brain to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies who asked for advice on branding and strategy," he wrote two years ago in his newsletter ("No Mercy, No Malice"). ...I spent most of my time on the road without being able to make or maintain relationships, and it was exhausting... At the end of five or six years like that all I could think about was selling the companies I founded... The money I made from selling Prophet and L2 provided me with financial security and blessed me with a new mission - to be great, really great... So I turned to teaching, and in 2002 I joined the faculty (of the school of business) of New York University."
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Columbia Protest הפגנה פרו פלסטינית באוניברסיטת קולומביה
Columbia Protest הפגנה פרו פלסטינית באוניברסיטת קולומביה
Pro Palestinian protest at Columbia
(Photo:: Shutterstock)
Despite the success in academia, even there Galloway did not completely find himself. Then, after in 2016 he began writing a newsletter to promote L2, and in 2017 he was invited by Swisher to co-host the Pivot podcast, Galloway realized that his destiny was to become "the most influential thought leader in the history of business," as he told the New York Times two years ago. Since then he's been pretty much everywhere: a panelist adept at producing catchy prime-time "soundbites," host of another popular career podcast, "Prof G," and author of a best-selling book every 18 months.
There were also failures along the way. He jokes and says that "if you want to know which network will go bankrupt, look for my face". His latest TED talk opens with a confession according to which "in the past four years I have hosted four television shows, two of which were shelved before they even aired, and two were canceled within six weeks." In the first week of its airing, the lecture gained 4 million views.
The topic of the lecture, by the way, is entitled, “How the US is destroying young people's future”. In it, Galloway points to several trends that have led to their dismal economic and social situation, and to the fact that, for the first time in American history, the younger generation earns less than their parents and has less access to housing and higher education. According to him, these trends have a great impact on the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campuses. "The reason why the protests are happening now is a multidimensional issue," he says. "The first is that young people are justifiably upset and angry, and thus every issue is a potential tinderbox for them because they see prosperity everywhere they look, especially among their elders, and they are not part of it. Meanwhile, the two things that are needed to move forward in life, housing and education, have become very expensive, and not only that, but they also earn less.
"In addition, 210 times a day they get a push on their phone saying that unless they're rich and dating someone extraordinarily hot, then they're a failure. There's more rage, anxiety and depression among our youth today than ever before, making any minor scratch or injury a life-threatening illness. When there is a trigger, they are angry at the ‘incumbants’ and the status quo. And so disturbances around certain issues erupt into a kind of rage.
"The next layer is that on campuses there is a tradition of oppressors and the oppressed, and this is our fault, the fault of the academic institutions, because more or less we said that everyone, without exception, is either an oppressor or the oppressed. In the eyes of young people, the easiest way to identify an oppressor is by how rich and how white you are. Israeli Jews, whether it is fair or not, are seen as 'ground zero' of wealth and whiteness, and therefore as the physical embodiment of institutionalized oppression.”
What else?
“One last thing, and it may sound paranoid, but it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong, is that the framework through which many of these youngsters get their information is TikTok, where there are maybe 50 pro-Hamas clips for every pro-Israeli clip. I estimate that the Chinese ruling party (that is involved in the control of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company) would be foolish if it wasn’t promoting the things that divide America and tear it apart from the inside. Youngsters that hear this argument think that it is insulting and conspiratory, but I think that the evidence speaks for itself. When you look at things like the Ughurs’ oppression or the Chinese takeover of Tibet, there are 600 times more clips on these topics in Instagram than TikTok. Clearly something is happening here.”
You are a marketing expert. Is there anything Israel can do now to restore its image?
"The immediate step to repair its image globally is to call for new elections immediately. After that, Israel will have to do a better job of recruiting Jews with big platforms, to come to its defense. It surprises and disappoints me personally to find out that there are not more American Jews who are speaking out. 90 years ago we were too quiet, and today we need to be more active and tell the world what is happening here. In the long run, Israel should invest in subsidized tourism, which will encourage more young people from around the world to come and visit it. Tel Aviv is a fantastic city. And when I spend time in Miami, for example, I immediately have more empathy for Latin Americans.
"But the most important thing to aim for in the medium term, and I believe that it will be realized, is normalization with Saudi Arabia. Such normalization will not only be a huge step forward, but will also raise the question, 'What does Saudi Arabia know that the demonstrators on campus don't?'. After all, when Iran attacked you, Jordan and Saudi Arabia stood by your side. It is so ironic that some of Israel's historical enemies work in coordination with it to intercept missiles, but the extreme left in the universities and in the government do not have the same empathy for Israel."
"Defeat by creating polarization"
TikTok disturbs Galloway's rest even on days when he is not busy advocating for Israel. "It is the wet dream of the Mossad, the CIA and Russian intelligence to have a neural jack plugged into the webmatter of the youth of a nation. What is currently happening with TikTok in the United States is parallel to the situation where, in the sixties during the Cold War with Russia, the Kremlin would have owned the three main American broadcast networks, because the main source of information for 25-year-olds today is TikTok and YouTube. And TikTok is heavily influenced, if not controlled, by the Chinese regime. The United States has never been so strong compared to its rivals, so the way to defeat us is to make us hate one another and create polarization."
TikTok is not the only social network that worries Galloway, a father of two teenage sons from his wife, Beata. In recent years, and even more so since he began to investigate the causes of the desperate situation of the young generation in the United States, he often criticizes Meta, which operates Facebook and Instagram, and does not miss an opportunity to attack its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. "As of today, and I stand by this, no one has made more money from causing so much harm to teenagers than Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg," he states. "When social media arrived on mobile phones in 2012, we started to see a rise in self-harm and suicide rates, especially among girls. In the UK, one in eight girls who had suicidal thoughts pointed to Instagram as the source. When children reach puberty, it's at a point where they are particularly vulnerable to their social capital. We put in their hands a tool that keeps them in the high school cafeteria 24 hours a day. Instagram is ultimately a platform where the algorithm rewards girls for a series of provocative sexual poses, on which they receive marks from their peer group and foreign men from all over the world. This is institutionalized deviation.
"So we talk about artificial intelligence, we talk about GDP growth, about innovation, but none of that matters if your daughter locks herself in her room in depression because she's being bullied at school, and then the algorithm notices this and starts sending her content that normalizes self-harm and suicide. And this is exactly what Meta, and to a certain extent all other big tech companies, including TikTok, are doing. In the entire history of mankind, we have never had any product that caused such emotional and mental damage to young people like this."
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קידום פילטר אבטיח באפליקציית טיקטוק כתרומה עבור חמאס
קידום פילטר אבטיח באפליקציית טיקטוק כתרומה עבור חמאס
Promoting a watermelon filter on TikTok as a donation for Hamas
(Screenshot: TikTok)
"The millionaire across the street washes cars"
The seeds of concern for the younger generation were already planted in Galloway’s childhood. In his new book, he describes how he first became an investor at the age of 13, thanks to two adults who believed in him: "At the time, I thought I was invisible, socially and intellectually... At the time, my mother was dating a man who was generous with me, and once I asked him about stocks... He opened his wallet and withdrew two crisp 100$ bills. 'Go buy some stock at one of those fancy brokers in the village.' I asked how I would do it. 'You're bright enough to figure it out, and if you don't by the time I’m back next weekend next week, I want my money back.'"
The next day, Galloway went to one of the brokers to invest the money and found there a mentor named Cy Cordner who accompanied him for two years of feverish discussions about his "portfolio". "I retained a couple of things. The first was confidence, knowing adults could see me, that I could walk into a downtown financial office and be seen. The second was the demystification of markets." Perhaps this is why large sections of his book are devoted to career advice for young people in the capitalist jungle.
One of the main pieces of advice in the new book is that when choosing a career you should follow the talent, not the passion. Do you know many ten-year-olds whose talent is plumbing or accounting?
"No, but at the age of ten they still don't have to decide. At that age let them want to be an astronaut or a football player or a DJ. My advice is a consequence of the capitalist society we live in. In such a society you have to think in terms of return on investment, and when you are a young man, your only capital is your human capital, that is, your time. The return on this investment will be inversely proportional to how sexy a certain industry is."
In other words?
"Young people often confuse a passion with a hobby. When I was young, I wanted to be a quarterback for the New York Jets. The problem is that so many people want to be professional athletes, there is a 99.9% unemployment rate in this field, unless you are in the top 0.01%, you have no chance of earning a living from playing. There is another example: 160,000 people are currently registered in the American Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which represents the most talented actors in the world and is not easy to get into. Last year, 87% of its members did not qualify for health insurance because they didn’t earn $26,000 a year. When you have too much human capital invested in one industry, any industry, the returns inevitably decrease, because the film companies or sports teams don't have to pay you to work for them. They have a long line."
So we returned to the original problem: people don't dream of owning a car washing business.
"True, but the millionaire next door has a car wash business. People don't grow up believing they have to buy three trucks and clean carpets, but the guy who dropped out of high school and did it makes $200,000 a year. If you're in the top decile of basketball players, then maybe you'll play basketball in high school, but you'll never make a dollar from it. But if you're in the top decile of tax attorneys—another profession no one dreams of—there's a good chance you'll be flying private jets and getting more pampering than you deserve.
"So I don't want to crush anyone's dream, but if you want to be a model or a chef or a basketball player - that's great, it's just desirable that you get clear and early signals that you're in the top percentile. If you're not, I suggest that you find an industry or something that you're really good at, which will pay you a lot of money if you are in the top 50%."
You write in the book about expertise as a means.
"True. I promise that with expertise comes passion. If you become an expert in installing curtains in luxury homes and develop a reputation for yourself as the best professional, with the best fabrics, who knows how to curate and hang them, your passion will be directed to the fact that you can provide for your children, support your parents and go on vacations In the south of France. As you get older, your passion turns to the benefits of expertise, so my advice is to find something you can be an expert in, and expertise is a function of the number of people in the field. That's why it's almost impossible to make a living in the desired industries."
It took you a while to find your talent.
"In my twenties, I wanted to be a pediatrician because of the prestige, but the first chemistry class at UCLA convinced me to drop it. I wanted to be an athlete, but I realized what real athletic talent was. I wanted to be an investment banker, and after two years at Morgan Stanley I realized that I would never be great at it. That's when I found out that I'm really good at looking at data and translating it into insights. It made me passionate about data analytics because it allows me an amazing life. So my tip is to use talent to find the passion that will arise in you through expertise and financial security."
Today, Galloway’s lecture rates, according to him, are around $250,000. He justifies them with fun trash talk about tech industry executives and accurate predictions. In 2017, for example, he predicted that Amazon would acquire Whole Foods, and in contrast, he called the WeWork IPO "extremely crazy" ahead of time.
I liked that in the book you talk about the skill of enduring rejection. As someone who grew up in a home with little means, I think about the things I got from it: work ethic, ability to appreciate things, and also not to be so moved by rejection. I try to instill these in my children, even though they are growing up in affluence. As someone who grew up in a home without money, is this something you sometimes think about regarding your children?
"This is a question I often get from other parents: How do you instill grit in children who grow up privileged? The honest answer is that I don't know. The reality is - and I say this all the time - if I had what my children have, I wouldn't have what I have today. If I had been born into my children's life of privilege, the only two things I know I would have in my young adult life are a Range Rover and a cocaine habit . As a child I felt the humiliation of the inability to care for my sick mother, which awakened in me the determination, willingness to break through and especially the ability to take rejections. That is my secret of success, and my only real talent is the ability to endure rejections. It means that I will ask strangers for money, ask people more talented than me to come work for me, and fearlessly approach more attractive women than me. Being rich is extremely fun, but do you know what is even more fun? Getting rich. It's just great fun to bring in such sums and build capital and be lucky and enjoy these fruits that I never had in my childhood."
So what do you do about the kids?
"Exactly what I'm sure you're doing too: trying to link money to effort through chores, pocket money, etc. But the bottom line is, I don't know and I struggle with this question every day. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but some days my kids don't make their beds. This is a huge question for me as well, but I haven't cracked the answer yet."