Twitter Under Elon: from Bad to Putrid

You can learn pretty much everything you need to know about how Twitter has been faring under the stewardship of Elon Musk from the Twitter interactions with a single tweet. The tweet in question came from actress Alyssa Milano, who stated that she had demonstrated her disgust with Muskovite Twitter by getting rid of her Tesla and acquiring a Volkswagen, because she didn’t want to use a product distributed by promoters of white supremacy and hate. To which Elon responded by retweeting a user’s comment that Volkswagen was founded by Nazis. Whereupon right-wing Twitter exploded in guffaws over the stupidity of Milano and the rest of them thar “woke” librulz.

Several things about this are very telling. First, there’s the fact that Musk felt compelled to respond to her and join in the ridicule. Quite a big man, eh? And as someone has commented, when you have an individual running three organizations and yet still spending his days tweeting all day (as Musk does) you get the distinct impression that none of the organizations is being run particularly well — as witness the fact that since his acquisition, Twitter has lost half of its top 100 advertisers.

Then there’s the fact that he’s spreading disinformation and false equivalence; while Volkswagen was a Nazi company in its early days, that changed long ago, and it has been a socially responsible business for decades. This incident showcases a widespread tendency of conservatives to live in the past — not the recent past, but the distant past. For them, the ownership of a company 80 years ago is all you need to know about the company’s policies now; the fact that certain Democrats were friendly with Sen. Robert Byrd, who was part of the KKK in the Forties (and shortly thereafter renounced the organization and became a civil rights champion) proves that Democrats are the real racists — likewise the fact that the old Democratic Party supported slavery and the Confederacy, and it couldn’t possibly have changed any in the 150 years since then. (At the same time, some GOPers are fond of claiming that if JFK were alive today he’d be a Republican because the “Democrat Party” has changed so radically in the past 50 years.)

But perhaps the most telling thing of all is that Musk joined in lockstep with right-wingers. As he always, always does. He claims to be an independent who generally supported Democrats until just recently. There’s no way of knowing if that’s true, but who cares? The thing is, at the moment, he’s camped out really really, deep into Q-Anon territory, and basking in each moment of it. Immediately after insisting that he’d like to see someone “sensible and centrist” elected president in 2024, he admitted that he’d support Ron DeSantis. Just before a crucial election (the Georgia Senate runoff) he performed a data “dump” on Twitter about (yawn) Hunter Biden’s laptop that he built up with much fanfare, promising that it would be full of explosive new revelations. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. But he knew right-wingers would pretend it was anyway, and that’s all that mattered.

He’s reinstated the suspended accounts of droves of fascists and bigots, including Former Guy. This, he claims, is done in the name of “free speech”. Now maybe if you’re a denizen of MAGA Land you really believe that. Maybe you really believe that the First Amendment actually requires privately owned businesses to provide a soapbox to anyone, anywhere, anytime, without restrictions or repercussions. But the right-wing manipulators don’t really believe that; they just want to be able to spread lies and disinformation free of restriction.

How do we know that Musk doesn’t buy his own BS about “censorship”? Because he practices plenty of “censorship” himself. He routinely blocks and bans users who say the “wrong” thing (i.e., anything that wounds his vanity). He’s stated that he’ll permanently suspend any account that impersonates someone else and isn’t clearly labeled as a parody. That’s interesting, because one of the defenses right-wingers offer for claiming to favor totally unmoderated social media (which they don’t) is that it should be left up to the public to figure out what is real and what isn’t.

He’s also pledged to crack down on the pedophiles who reportedly are using Twitter hashtags to peddle their wares. It’s hard to take this resolution seriously for some reason.

Could be because he slashed his anti-pedo task force in half. But at least this will provide him with a convenient cover. He can appear (at least to some people) to be battling pedophilia if he closes the accounts of users he suspects or at least claims to suspect of such offenses. And who might that be? Well, for one thing, members of the LGBTQ community, who are constantly attacked, with zero justification, as “groomers”. And in addition, anyone who shows support for them — which means pretty much anyone to the left of Ted Cruz.

In case you haven’t noticed, one of the bizarre narratives right-wingers have circulated include stories that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and just about all Democrats currently or formerly employed in DC are part of a massive pedophilia ring — that loves to operate out of little pizza parlors, we gather. So scuttling the Twitter account of any Democrat, liberal, or left-leaning figure will offer him an opportunity to pretend he’s being virtuous — while sticking to his professed “free speech” credo. Pretty slick. Meanwhile, he’ll offer a platform to absolutely any Republican — quite a few of whom are actual bona fide pedophiles.

To be fair, he’s also suspended/ banned Kanye West, ostensibly for just being what he’s always been, and saying things that he and other popular wingers have been saying in slightly watered-down terms for years. But the suspension came right after Kanye criticized Elon. Just as Musk suspended Kathy Griffin. Right after she criticized him. And Media Matters reporter Andrew Lawrence (purportedly for nonexistent “spam”) right after he criticized Elon. Sensing a pattern here?

In the short time he’s been at the helm, Musk clearly has demonstrated, over and over again, that his primary objective is championing right-wing talking points, including those that are totally fallacious and delusional. He pushes the “culture wars” nonsense, the supposed threat of “wokeism”, and above all else the myth that social media suppresses “conservatives”.

Evidence? We don’t need no stinking evidence! It’s “objectively the case”. Because “everybody knows it”.

In the universe most of us live in, objective truth is determined by solid fact, not by what “everyone knows”. And the solid facts show that not only is his claim untrue, the exact opposite is true: “conservatives” enjoy an overwhelming advantage on social media. Every study ever done on the topic confirms this — even a study by Twitter itself! But who needs facts when you have “freedom of speech” to promote?

Twitter has never been the best of platforms; in fact it’s always been largely a cesspool, with a few pearls hidden in it. Now, the pearls are becoming fewer and fewer and the cesspool larger and larger. Twitter is already close to being a total waste, and Musk is just getting started. He’s spending, and losing billions, just in an effort to “own the libs” and offer a safe space for fascists.


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