Some poor Google sentinel is going to think this column is a glitch by how many times I’ve erased the intro in the wake of breaking news.
The trouble was finding a theme amidst the newsy ins and outs. It was like trying to draft a contemporary political drama for an off-off-Broadway 12-seat playhouse. Oh, where to center the gravity of my freshly witty observations?
How about the triumph of neoliberal financialism over provincial patriotism? Or the futility of fighting over digital public squares? Or even how the MAGA boys might be, could be, may potentially be, back in town? (Since Phil Lynot is deceased, maybe that weird frontdude from Everclear could star.)
Ah, here’s the ticket: the right-wing savior complex. Tony statuette, meet my hand!
Elon Musk’s determined takeover of Twitter has been one of the biggest schadenfreude-serotonin-abdominal-tittering rushes since Donald Trump snagged the White House. The Twittersphere, which Musk will soon assume lordship over, was apoplectic in the most stereotypical way possible. So many warnings, threats, lamentations, and condemnations were posted, all transliterated into an onomatopoeic SCREEEEEEEEEEEECCCHHHHHH!
Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Because, while Musk’s prospective Twitter takeover has forced lefties into explicitly condemning free speech, and has induced more Nazi comparisons than an ADL staff retreat, the spectorial joy feels fleeting.
“The takes were all extraordinarily stupid, and yes, I loved every single one of them,” wrote tech feather-russler Mike Solan on the lefties’ mass snit. Ditto. Call me Colonel Pickering, as I doubted the Tesla honcho could pull off the coup, throwing away tens of billions of his dollars in what amounts to a philanthropic troll. But, by George, he (reportedly) did it! Musk is the Henry Higgins of hostile takeovers, doing little to seize control other than plow mountains of greenbacks before Twitter’s board.
And I could have danced all night (sick of the “My Fair Lady” references?) to the liberal hue and cry over his financial commandeering. It’s too bad that owning the libs is a politically equivalent pop song: catchy and short-lived. There’s scant evidence that Musk is capable, ideologically or practically, of altering the seven-thousand-odd censorious employees now in his clasp. It’s not even clear that the wannabe Mars Magellan really believes in free speech despite calling himself an “absolutist.”
His tergiversation was apparent during a TED talk he gave in the middle of negotiations: “If it’s a gray area, I would say, let the tweet exist. But obviously in the case where there’s perhaps a lot of controversy, you would not necessarily want to promote that tweet.”
The “perhaps a lot of controversy” hedging is asymptotic with an actual principled position on speech—it’s when speech is controversial that it needs the most protection. And if there’s anything Twitter is useful for other than inducing coronaries, it’s identifying and blowing up controversy, real or imagined.
Take the infamous New York Post story on the business graft-filled records housed in Hunter Biden’s laptop. The report was ultimately proven true. But not before the October surprise was contained with assiduous social media blackballing—which was, let’s be real, done for the Biden campaign’s benefit. Musk has called that obvious political prohibition “incredibly inappropriate,” which, besides being another hedge, is weightless HR-speak. When rhetorical push comes to slanderous shove, and a bunch of Blob bots invoke the Ruskie boogeyman and start tossing around scare terms like “national security” and “foreign meddling” about any Democratic dirt, we’ll see how wedded Mr. Musk is to his already flimsy convictions.
That reality hasn’t set in for online conservatives desperate for a culture-war win, who continue extending a hearty welcome to Musk. A consortium of rightie viral floggers are wishcasting a scenario where Musk returns a certain president’s Twitter privileges. Conservative publications are posting bullet-point pieces about how Twitter’s boss can put the screws to the platform’s censor rookery. Even the Republican Twitter account for the House Judiciary Committee posted razzing GIFs after Musk’s first financial salvo.
Sorry, Ben Shapiro, but Musk isn’t about to do an Augean-stable job, shoveling out all the progressive programmers in his employ. The guy is trying to plant electric power stations in the Oklahoma panhandle. He doesn’t have time to act as proctor, administering ideology questionnaires to his new charges. Martian uranium begs to be mined!
The right pinning its hopes and dreams to Musk—a capitalist who exploits government subventions to produce li-ion autos—is demonstrative of the hero worship so prevalent on the left. Musk is the Bernie Sanders of free speech: a crowned figurehead who elicits loads of online support, but is shaky about his supposed beliefs. As Matt Labash put it, the right is “newly susceptible to joining strongman cults, having had a lot of recent practice.”
Billionaire CEOs with a history of boosting liberal politicians? No way the right would ever fall for that…
Minimal credit due: Musk’s newly adopted positioning on social media censorship is at least drawing the right enmity from the left, just as Trump’s rhetoric on illegal immigration. But words are hollowest in politics. Trump’s migrant-repelling wall remains unbuilt. Musk’s cathode cars, assembled with slave-extracted neodymium, aren’t actually going to lower ocean levels.
We aren’t in Atlas Shrugged and John Galt isn’t waiting in the wings to rescue Silicon Valley from the left, free thinkers from puritanical busybodies, Washington from Democrats, or us from ourselves.
Matthew Walther pertinently asks: “the question for the New Right is not whether we should be ruled by billionaire capitalists, but which billionaire capitalists should hold sway and what their cultural priorities will be.”
Sounds like a mug’s game to me. Which is exactly the type of hob-playing Musk may be engaging with his foray into social media ownership.
In short: don’t get your hopes up. The most magnanimous moneybags won’t deliver us from Twitter bans. Secession from the digital censor regime is the true path to free expression.
Caveat: I could be mistaken in doubting Musk’s First Amendment bonafides. So let’s make a deal: If Musk assumes the Twitter reins and frees all the banned red-pillers from their gaols, I’ll wear a Tesla t-shirt for a week straight, unwashed.
If Elon does the moral thing and shutters the platform, silencing the blue birdsong forever, I’ll print out this column and eat it on Facebook Live.
Even with Twitter put to coffin, our social media indigestion will continue.