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Elon Musk Buys a Bird
Who knows what will happen next, although one thing it likely: when the deal is done, we will see more than one right wing social media site bite the dust. And the first one will be Trump's
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By the end of the day, Elon Musk could own Twitter. This scenario was, of course, how Vladimir Putin imagined he would defeat Ukraine in a matter of days: muster overwhelming force, be relentless, and cow the opposition into submission after launching a few cruise missiles at little children. Or maybe $46.5 billion is impossible to turn down under any circumstances. (I have also seen $43 and $44 billion—I guess it is not over until they have finished kicking the tires.)
It’s a gloomy prospect to many, particularly those who dread the return of Donald Trump to his favorite platform, one that he has been banned from since he sicced the militia movement on democracy in January 2021. On the one hand, Twitter is alive with MAGA glee about Trump’s potential return as a defeat for the “libs,” one that will make them “cry” and “melt down.”
On the other, I am sure that Donald Trump would rather have his own social media company succeed than be a guest on someone else’s. Predictably, news of Musk’s impending success caused what remains of Truth Social’s value to go down the toilet. “As of noon on Monday,” Tom Boggioni writes at RawStory, “the stock had fallen almost 15 percent, with shares trading at $35.18, down $6.15.”
So that’s happy news! And my guess is that Andrew Torba at Gab and John Matze, Jared Thomson, George Farmer, and investor Rebekah Mercer over at Parler are having a mild freak out too. Or maybe they were just holding space until Twitter could be returned to the raw, natural state that is most conducive to conspiracy theories and insurrection. Gab and Parler only have about three million followers between them (half of whom probably live in basements in St. Petersburg) and have been counting on Twitter’s feeble moderation standards to hang onto even that pitiful consumer base.
Musk is also gesturing at solving platform issues that have plagued Twitter for years. “If our Twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying!” he tweeted late last week, following up with: “And authenticate all real humans.”
OK, this is worrisome. Because who among us does not have an alter account to spy on those who have blocked us?
Meanwhile, if not melting down, the libs are in a state of mild shock, with some vowing to leave the platform if Musk takes over. “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter,” Musk tweeted around midday, “because that is what free speech means.”
Of course, it does. But we also all know that many on the libertarian right don’t believe in free speech in the ways that the Supreme Court has defined it over the years, so those of us who think that Twitter may turn into a complete sewer are not entirely speaking from anxiety. As Fox News’s Tomi Lahren tweeted, “Free speech isn’t just saying what you want to say, it’s hearing what you don’t want to hear. It’s about time that was the case on social media.” Neither of those things is true: there is no First Amendment right to say anything you want to say without penalty, nor is there a mandate to listen to, hear, or read that which displeases one.
More likely than a mass exodus from Twitter is that things will go on much as they did before, perhaps with Trump, perhaps without him, and everyone will constantly complain about Elon Musk.
Because the only thing wrong with this sale is not that rich people can buy toys. Remember when Rupert Murdoch purchased the liberal New York Post and turned it into the right-wing cat pan sheet that it is today? The problem is that we now live in a nation, and a world, where someone can buy the biggest megaphone there is—and there is no government brave enough to regulate him.
Emmanuel Macron sailed away with a 16-point victory over Marine Le Pen and will remain president of France: le grand soupir de relief, oui? Peut-être. As Art Goldhammer reports at The New Republic, Le Pen, like her defeated American counterpart, used the opportunity to question the legitimacy of the results because Macron’s supporters should not have been voting in the first place. “It was a classic populist maneuver,” Goldhammer writes, “challenging the verdict of the polls on the grounds that the real people of France were not the democratic majority but the inhabitants of a supposedly more authentic preserve, untainted by the currents of globalization and immigration.” Meanwhile, leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon also delegitimizes the outcome by pointing to many protest ballots cast. (April 24, 2022)
The House GOP has warned Twitter to preserve documents concerning Elon Musk’s proposed takeover. “The request signals the House GOP's plans to launch an investigation if they take the majority as part of a broader crusade against what they say is major tech companies' bias against Republicans,” Andrew Solender reports at Axios. This threat exemplifies the GOP’s ongoing concern about private companies as a site for censorship, even as they continue to pass laws to ban books from public schools and libraries and limit what teachers are permitted to say in the classroom. (April 22, 2022)
The Association of Flight Attendants has twice tried to unionize Delta and failed—will the third time be the charm? “About 24,000 flight attendants work for Delta, a huge group of workers,” Nell McShane Wulfhart writes in Time magazine. “Delta has been fighting the drive with all it’s got—the company makes no secret of its distaste for unions—but for possibly the first time, unionization seems like a real possibility.” Why? Because the pandemic has sparked a new awareness of how important it is to have a voice on the job” and a new generation believes that a union is that voice. (April 21, 2022)
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