In typical fashion, Tesla CEO and iconoclastic meme lord Elon Musk blew up the internet Thursday morning by announcing that he has put in an offer to buy Twitter. Yes, all of it.
I made an offer https://t.co/VvreuPMeLu
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2022
He has openly criticized the company for its heavy-handed approach to censorship, which has gone far beyond reasonable “content moderation” such as removing terrorist content, calls to violence, direct harassment, child pornography, etc. Presumably, Musk would seek to change things on the social media platform significantly if in charge. However, it remains to be seen whether Musk’s offer will actually go through. (I’m skeptical).
But either way, the elite class’ response to Musk’s bid is quite revealing. Here are the 4 most unhinged responses that blew up online after the news broke.
1) Washington Post Columnist Max Boot
I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter. He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.
— Max Boot 🇺🇦 (@MaxBoot) April 14, 2022
The Orwellian doublespeak is strong in this one. Boot is saying that in order for democracy to survive we need less speech and open debate. Huh?
(Side note: It’s funny that Boot has such a strong objection to a billionaire owning one of the many major social media platforms, but evidently no objection to another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, owning the major newspaper that employs him as a columnist).
Anyway, if your ideas can’t win in an open debate, then the problem is with your ideas, not with free expression. And there’s no reason to believe that Musk would eliminate all content moderation from Twitter. There’s universal agreement that things like child pornography, terrorist group propaganda, doxxing, and calls for violence ought to be removed.
All they’re really scared of is that Twitter might stop throttling, banning, or otherwise restricting right-wing viewpoints and figures.
2) Trans Activist Lilah Sturges
I don’t want to leave Twitter but it seems a given that if Musk buys it it will become completely uninhabitable for trans people (and lots of other people).
— Lilah Sturges (@LilahSturges) April 14, 2022
This is a particularly weird take. Transgender activists should, of all Americans, understand the value in allowing the expression of ideas others find absurd or offensive—just a few years ago, transgender activism would’ve been uniformly considered similarly radical.
There’s no reason to believe Musk would in any way harm transgender people or make the platform worse for them if he took over Twitter. In fact, their free speech would probably prosper just like anyone else’s.
There’s also something fundamentally condescending in thinking that the expression of mean words could make a platform “inhabitable” for transgender people. It’s as if Sturges believes transgender people are more emotionally frail and less capable of hearing or seeing things they disagree with than the rest of us. That’s not exactly believing in equality…
3) Leftist Economist and Progressive Social Media Star Robert Reich
Call me a radical Lefty, but I don’t want any oligarch to control the internet.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) April 14, 2022
This take doesn’t make much sense from the get-go… because Twitter is not the entire internet. It’s actually a tiny fraction of it used by only 1 in 5 Americans. This is an especially odd take given that Reich often advocates for government control of major US industries—like healthcare—so he clearly has no actual objection to centralized control. And in this case, there are many alternatives to Twitter, whereas in Reich’s ideal world the government would have a monopoly on things like health insurance.
In truth, Reich just doesn’t like Musk very much, and that personal disdain has clouded his ability to think clearly. Consider the following:
When I criticized Musk for worker violations at Tesla, he blocked me.
When a college student started a Twitter account to track Musk’s private plane, Musk tried to buy him off, before blocking him.
Does that sound like a "free speech absolutist" to you? https://t.co/5BU3sGv7oq
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) April 12, 2022
Contra Reich’s indignant tweet, blocking someone is in no way an infringement of “free speech” principles. Your right to speak does not mean anyone else has an obligation to listen to you! It never has. So, this silly argument doesn’t in any way cut against Musk’s stated support for free expression.
4) Journalist and MSNBC Analyst Anand Giridharadas
Elon Musk is why to abolish billionaires.
Asking them to chip in their fair share isn’t enough. Regulating them isn’t enough.
When people are allowed to acquire this much concentrated influence, they will inevitably manspread economic power into every other form of power.
— Anand Giridharadas @ The.Ink (@AnandWrites) April 14, 2022
Kudos to Anand for the weirdest use of the woke term “manspread” I have ever seen.
To give Anand his due, he does at least hold this belief consistently, unlike others on this list, and has similarly criticized Zuckerberg of Facebook and other major tech billionaires.
But he is still, unfortunately, pushing economic illiteracy.
When their wealth is acquired through success in a free market, billionaires are unironically good—for everyone, not just the wealthy. While there are some aspects of Musk’s rise that do involve cronyism rather than free-market success, it’s hardly his fault that the government has overreached into the market in so many ways. He simply navigated reality as he found it. And it’s undeniable that his innovation, from Tesla to SpaceX and more, has created thousands of jobs and endless utility for consumers.
If a billionaire spending his money to unselfishly protect the free speech of others is Anand’s best example of why billionaires are bad, his argument isn’t very strong.
The truth is, these left-wing critics are telling on themselves with their reaction to Musk’s offer. The only reason someone would get so irate over a billionaire trying to promote free speech online is if they know their ideas can’t win out in an open debate.