A very merry and early Christmas for big tech critics!
Santa arrived a month ahead of schedule. But he didn’t come bearing perfectly orthogonal packages wrapped in shiny paper, meticulously bowed on top. Instead, he extirpated a long-time scourge of conservatives: Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey. The NORAD tracker recorded jolly ol’ Saint Nick flying his reindeer-powered sleigh to San Francisco, snatching up a ferhuddled Dorsey, who, having just awoken from a 3-day ayahuasca binge, probably thought he was hallucinating Phaeton crash landing his dad’s chariot in Mid-Market.
Rather than do the right thing and fly Dorsey back to the North Pole and shackle him to the toy-production line for committing attention-sapping crimes against humanity, Santa plopped him down on the closest Myanmar yurt village to live out the rest of his days meditating, ingesting psychoactives, and trying to achieve exomatosis.
So pop the Moët, Twitter haters! Haul out the holly and deck the halls, not because of our Savior’s birth, but the death of that socially toxic bluebird app.
That’s right: Dorsey’s last clock out doubles as Twitter’s death knell.
Unfortunately, Mr. Dorsey wasn’t bagged by the man with the bag and whisked away to a psilocybin-flush retirement. He merely self-sacked. In the typical sprezzatura style of athleisure-wearing Silicon Valley grandees, Dorsey tweeted his resignation letter with the I-don’t-really-care prelude of “not sure anyone has heard but…” The irony was, of course, nobody heard until he broadcast it. The only way the announcement would have been more on-brand is if he prefaced it with “Personal Update:”.
Why is Dorsey’s step-down good news for those who regard Twitter as a pox on society? And why is it even better news for cranky righties still sore about Dorsey and his fellow social media seigneurs’ banishment of President Trump from the digital agora?
Simple: Twitter is about to become more self-righteous and censorious than ever before. Did you think Jack’s underlings overreached in blacklisting that New York Post story about the current President’s son being a bigger access-peddling sleaze than, well, the former President? Well, so did Jack, who conveniently didn’t do jack about the plainly partisan censoring until after the fact, i.e. the 2020 election.
Tech gadfly Mike Solana insists that Dorsey, despite all his muting oopsies, was a free speech champion. And with his departure, Twitter’s squeeze on any voice with a timbre to the right of Bernie Sanders is about to get tighter. Way tighter. Tighter to the point of suffocation.
“[Jack Dorsey] was a misunderstood champion of the open internet,” Solana—what else?—tweeted. “[I] think we’re all about to realize just how much he was doing, quietly, in stewardship over a power he was wise enough to fear, and good enough not to use.”
Good! I’m ready for a hard lesson in how Twitter was once an open range of ideas that was judiciously guarded by a tramp with kale leaves in his goatee. We could all stand a tuition in not taking our modern liberties for granted.
After all, I’m sure it was just a slight oversight on Dorsey’s part that a sitting congressman was censored for tweeting a biological truth. And Donald Trump’s banishment—salve for the American psyche that it was—was just, just that one time, an exception to the free expression rule. And the wanton wiping of all those nameless, unknown, rascally provocateurs who made a hobby of violating every liberal orthodoxy from pronouns to neo-racialism? What was it that Stalin supposedly said about breaking eggs?
Now that the omelet’s been flipped, and Dorsey hit the crash bar, a new sheriff is in town: Parag Agrawal, the firm’s chief technology officer. A technologist in charge of a tech company was apparently a surprise move both inside and outside Twitter. But that’s only because Twitter isn’t really a tech company. Nor does Twitter exert an outsized influence on our politics and journalism—it is our public policy workspace, in the Aristotelian sense. Politicians slap-box on Twitter; news is broken, misinterpreted, and spread on Twitter; talking points originate and policy trial balloons are floated on Twitter; entire newsrooms are run off Twitter; President Biden’s chief of staff is addicted to massaging his ego on Twitter.
Facilitating our grand, lumbering federal administration is Twitter’s ousia.
Congress could be demolished, the New York Times’s headquarters could be refashioned into multi-million dollar condos for Russian oil tycoons, and the entirety of the President’s cabinet could never step within 50 miles of the Potomac and not one iota of federal governance would change, as long as Twitter is operational.
Heavy is Agrawal’s head now that he wears the crown. So how will he wield it? Will he copy the approach of his predecessor and let censor-happy engineers in his employ continue to silence offenders of left-wing sensibility?
The early going of the post-Jack era isn’t auspicious for unbridled speech proponents. Not twenty-four hours after Agrawal’s appointment, Twitter banned posting video and pictures of individuals without their consent—a move that effectively ends citizen journalism.
Conservatives are up in arms about this new policy, rightfully seeing it as a defensive measure to shore up prestige-media narratives. But even independent lefty investigators are getting caught in the dragnet. This is promising. For every exonerating video Twitter scrubs, a video of a liberal busybody trying to ruin someone’s life over a brief lapse in judgment is scotched, if the new policy is more than a shuck. That is admittedly a big if.
Twitter’s self-constricting will only hasten its user exodus. Handicapping its one useful function—breaking news with visual evidence—makes the platform more of a gas box than it already was.
Doubling down on being a forum for smug take workers should transpire enough acrid fumes to send anyone with a sense of decency scampering to the exits.
Even echo chambers need fresh oxygen to survive. And, under Agrawal, Twitter has decided to cater more to its most valuable customers: journalists and social-savvy pols. And who really wants to post their thoughts among laptop guttersnipes who would never hesitate to dox and dispossess you for clicks?
Hell isn’t other people, it’s just those people. Twitter can remain their Abaddon. We not so sickened souls can find salvation away from its endlessly scrolling feed, a spiritual yarading into madness.
Leave the Twitterati to burn themselves off. The way Congress is spending money, self-immolation is inevitable anyway. To paraphrase Lincoln, if destruction be Washington’s lot, Twitter must be its author and finisher.
Can’t say I’d mourn either. Godspeed, Parag Agrawal! Don’t try to make a phoenix out of Larry T. Bird. Let its ashes lay.