Why it’s so much fun watching Elon Musk Embarrass Twitter
Why it’s so much fun watching
Elon Musk slap Twitter in the face
By Kevin D. Williamson
The New York Post
Sometimes it seems that Elon Musk learned the art of public relations from Tony Montana of “Scarface”:
“Make way for the bad guy.”
The billionaire troublemaker loves a public brawl and doesn’t mind playing the villain, and at the moment he has Twitter all atwitter at the prospect of his taking over the company — a $43 billion lark that Musk seems to have undertaken in a fit of pique at the social-media giant’s seemingly arbitrary approach to free speech and content moderation.
With more than 80 million followers, Musk is a very active user of Twitter — too active at times, in the view of the SEC, which has put him under a partial gag order as the result of ill-considered tweets with the power to move the stock market. Musk doesn’t like the way Twitter runs its business, so he wants to make it his business.
Twitter’s board rebuffed his solo effort to take the company over, but Musk didn’t give up: He’s been knocking on doors on Wall Street looking for big-money partners such as Morgan Stanley or Apollo Global Management to back his hostile takeover. On Thursday, he said he had secured $46.5 billion in financing.
Twitter annoyed the wrong billionaire: A social-media feud that is also an opportunity to make a pile of money is precisely the sort of thing Elon Musk lives for.
Musk isn’t exactly a full-time troll: He did manage to build a major automobile company almost from scratch, taking Tesla from three guys with a big idea to a firm that today has a market value 20 times that of General Motors, jump-starting the electric-vehicle market into existence worldwide. His SpaceX company does important work for NASA and has added some pretty cool stuff to the rocketry repertoire, such as landing a spacecraft vertically on a boat at sea. He has some other projects in the works — from hyperloops that could replace most airline travel to his nonprofit artificial-intelligence work — and he was, at the close of business on Friday, the wealthiest man in the world.
Musk, who calls himself a “free-speech absolutist,” wants to make Twitter a more free and open platform. What has spooked many of his critics — especially those within the company — is not that he plans to make the platform a moderation-free digital Wild West in which Islamic State snuff movies are treated as though they were brownie recipes but rather that he proposes to make public some aspects of the company’s decision-making processes and some of its algorithms, creating real transparency in the operations of what is today a corporate black box.
This is likely to embarrass Twitter, whose employees exploit the arbitrary and opaque character of its operations to pursue private social and political vendettas, e.g. trying to suppress the New York Post’s coverage of Hunter Biden’s shenanigans (which you can now read about, years after the fact, in the New York Times and the Washington Post) before the 2020 election, when they would have embarrassed Joe Biden and possibly helped Donald Trump. I wrote the case against Trump — literally: My book, “The Case Against Trump,” was published in 2016 — but it is very difficult even for me to imagine a plausible rationale for denying Donald Trump a Twitter account while the Taliban has free access to the platform. Twitter’s only reliable free-speech principle is that it shuns anything that causes California progressives to run around shrieking with their dresses over their heads.
What Musk proposes is not taking away Twitter’s ability to regulate content on its platform but rather to disinfect that process by dragging Twitter’s inner workings out of the shadows and into the sunshine.
There is plenty to criticize about Twitter, which is the vast open sewer of our public life. And there is plenty to criticize about Elon Musk, too. I do not think that Musk is likely to make Twitter any worse than it already is, because I do not think that is possible: The basic architecture of Twitter — anonymity, immediacy, the way a following is built — ensures that Twitter brings out the worst in its users. Twitter rewards hysteria, performative outrage, and tribalism, and has very little use for thoughtfulness, nuance, or consensus-building. A good version of Twitter simply would not be Twitter.
Watching Elon Musk take on Twitter is like watching a hockey game or sitting through the Oscars: The beatdown will be the fun part, no matter who wins.
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