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When it comes to influencing the national conversation, increasing media coverage, and letting people compete against each other, Twitter punches well above its weight.
I used to say Twitter was the new AP, but that’s way too narrow a description. The loudest voices on the social media network may be liberal elites and other activists, but this is, as a certain richest man in the world puts it, the new public square.
And that’s why the ideologically charged debate over Twitter’s obvious shortcomings is so crucial. The stakes are enormous.
My own feelings about the addictive app – it’s vital, it’s fun and too often a toxic sewer – pale in comparison to the conservative anger at the Big Tech outlet. And many on the right are downright thrilled that Elon Musk just bought himself a seat on the board.
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By becoming Twitter’s largest shareholder by buying 9% of its shares, for less than $3 billion, Musk even got the CEO to praise him as an “intense critic” of the company. What management hopes, of course, is that he doesn’t make a takeover bid.
Former chief executive Jack Dorsey admitted the staff lean left, and it’s not hard to decipher why the Tories feel dissenting and cast out of the shadows.
Exhibit A, above all, is Donald Trump’s permanent ban. Congressional Republicans such as Lauren Boebert are already urging Musk to reinstate Trump, although he does not have the power to do so at this time.
And then there’s the outrageous decision in 2020 to ban all sharing of the New York Post’s report on Hunter Biden’s laptop — which Dorsey admitted was a mistake. The story has now been belatedly confirmed by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Now it is deemed kosher for public discussion.
Conservatives and others also admire Musk as an entrepreneur who founded both Tesla and SpaceX.
Politico’s Jack Shafer calls Musk “the anti-media mogul of the media. Most vain press moguls praise the media. Musk mostly damns.” Indeed, he loves to wage war online, but he also has a Trumpian knack for tweeting all sorts of thoughts, like comparing Justin Trudeau to a certain 1930s German dictator, then adding, “Evolutionary asymmetry useful for surviving, but counterproductive when survival is not at stake.”
The other night, acting like he was already in charge, Musk posted a poll asking users if Twitter should allow them to edit their posts, which is now prohibited.
Musk, who has 80 million followers, is promising big changes, and last week he said Twitter “does not adhere to the principles of free speech” which “undermines democracy”. He also asked, “Why is the ‘mainstream’ media such a relentless stream of hate?”
This brings us to the key of about 280 characters. The liberal view, as evidenced by an article in the Washington Post, is that “some inside Twitter are concerned that Musk is pushing Twitter in a libertarian direction, away from blocking or restricting accounts that cause social harm. “.
The conundrum, which Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg also regularly faces, is that many on the left want more active content moderation to block lies, harassment and bullying. But many others – and not just leftists – fear it will lead to censorship and blatant bias based on amorphous standards.
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For my money, Musk is the most interesting CEO — and possibly the most interesting guy — on the planet. Who else talks about living on Mars, challenging Vladimir Putin to a physical fight over Ukraine, smoking drugs with Joe Rogan, announcing on ‘SNL’ that he has Asperger’s Syndrome , and is the richest person in the world in addition? Not to mention his girlfriend is Grimes, who has come under fire for telling Vanity Fair that he “sometimes lives below the poverty line” and wouldn’t buy her a new mattress.
There could also be a personal motive in the Twitter movement. Four years ago, Musk settled fraud charges with the SEC after he tweeted he was considering taking Tesla private – he claimed it was a joke – and had to resign as chairman and get an endorsement prerequisite for tweets. Last month, he went to court to overturn the settlement.
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If you want to get an idea of Musk’s political leanings, try this, from a (real) interview with Babylon Bee:
“At its core, awakening is divisive, exclusionary, and hateful. It essentially gives wicked people a shield to be wicked and cruel, armored with false virtue.”
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No wonder anti-wokesters back the mercurial Musk.