Apr 22 • 22M

The Richest Non-compliant Man in the World

Who's Trying to Buy Twitter

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The podcast version of Sasha Stone's Substack essays.
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[Update: Since writing this, Elon Musk has actually bought Twitter!]

The American dream says that the best and the brightest can rise as fast and as far as their talent and perseverance will allow. The Democrats say - that isn’t true; only white men have that advantage because this is a sexist, racist country built on and supported by patriarchal white supremacy. Regardless of that disconnect, Elon Musk made his fortune the American way and is now the richest man in the world.

Musk’s “great man” image is undercut somewhat, I think, by his willingness to use chimps to develop Neuralink. But with Tesla and SpaceX, he has built a fortune any person on the Left should be proud of. Now, they see him as the enemy. Musk has committed the mortal sin of being ideologically non-compliant. That translates into “he says whatever he wants to say.”

Twitter was, at first, the great status leveler. Anyone could grow a following. But with the invention of the “blue checks” and Twitter’s strange way of deciding who should get one, they ended up forcing a hierarchy that was just one of the things that ruined Twitter.

For Musk, though, it all started with the Babylon Bee. He was a fan of the Conservative-leaning humor site already since he’d no doubt noticed, as anyone would notice, that the Left’s strident policing of thought had led to a stifling of humor. The Babylon Bee had no rules. They mocked anyone for any reason, not shying away from taboo or off-limit targets. The list of what is verboten on the left or even blasphemous grows longer by the day. Musk noticed the Bee was not afraid to go there and for that, they earned his admiration. When they made a joke about Rachel Levine, however, that got them suspended from Twitter until they deleted that tweet. But they refused.

I personally didn’t think the joke was funny. I felt bad for Rachel Levine. It must be a difficult position to be in. But I also don’t think Twitter should be in the business of declaring a joke “hate speech” or “hateful conduct.” That comes a little too close to the kind of retribution for parody and humor fundamentalist religions have. You know, like death threats for a joke.

Musk had already been swarmed for his views on transgender ideology, specifically the use of pronouns. Already he realized that declaring your pronouns was being demanded of him and everyone else. There was simply no way to not comply without being punished. But clearly, he is not someone who feels it necessary to follow those kinds of rules. He’s a Gen-Xer, like me, and we came of age questioning authority. It isn’t that I won’t use pronouns anyone asks me to but I don’t feel like I need to declare my own just to protect myself from the thought police. Now, activists routinely refer to Musk as “transphobic.”

Even before trying to buy Twitter, Musk interviewed with the Babylon Bee and talked about the rise of censorship and the “woke mind virus”:

Musk: I think the onion has done some extremely funny stuff over time. It just seems to be in recent years and when infected by the “woke mind virus,” so that just makes everything less funny. It's worldwide viruses, a world without humor.

BB: Why do you think wokeness is so destructive?

Musk: It is a prevalent mind virus and arguably one of the biggest threats to human civilization, I mean, generally, I think we should be aiming for like a positive society and that it should be okay to be humorous. Wokeness basically wants to make comedy illegal. Which is not cool at all. Wokeness is divisive, exclusionary and hateful, it basically gives mean people a shield to be to be mean and cruel armored in false virtue.

BB: The left is almost this religion now, where they're so serious and they believe what they believe with such intensity that for us to make fun of them, you know, for them it's like you're making fun of God or salvation. They're almost the new religious right in our view.

If you’re putting it all together you’ll see two colliding ideologies using Twitter as their battleground. Musk buying Twitter would be a big win not just for free speech advocates, but for free-thinking advocates.

Musk presents the biggest and most powerful oppositional force next to Trump that is rising up to challenge the vice grip on Twitter and, thus, all American culture. His tweets make news. If Saturday Night Live makes a dumb joke about him he can clap back with a Tweet that people pay attention to. When you have Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton urging Big Tech to become more censorious they aren’t trying to counter “misinformation,” they are really trying to silence voices like Musk’s that have “gone rogue” and do not parrot the party line. We can see the two Americas dividing, speciating, becoming two separate countries between the moneyed class and the working class, just as Orwell foretold in 1984.

If you think it’s going to stop you have another think coming.

So why would there be such a strong objection to Elon Musk buying Twitter not just by the shareholders of Twitter, not just by the blue-checks and their mainstream media family, but likely reaching up to the highest levels of power?

He’s right. It comes down to the need to control the narrative.

What is the narrative? Whatever they decide it is, whatever the Biden administration says it is. Whatever Jen Psaki repeats that it is, and whatever the blue-check army mandates it is. Everything that contradicts it is called “misinformation” or “disinformation.”

I didn’t realize that there was such a concerted effort to control the narrative until I watched Twitter throw a fit when Tom Cotton posted an op-ed about the protests over the summer of 2020. He was responding not just to a poll that said most Americans supported military intervention, but he was also representing half of the country’s views, the half that voted for Trump.

To Twitter, though, this meant a loss in an election year, and that meant editors and writers would have to be fired; the op-ed gave an exhausting, pathetic intro to “apologize” for publishing it. Eventually, the whole bizarre incident would lead to Bari Weiss’ infamous resignation letter and the rise of alternative platforms and voices for those desperate to escape the controlled narrative.

When Weiss left the Times, she made sure to mention how oppressive Twitter had become in shaping the news and policing its journalists:

Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.

Whether it’s Google or Wikipedia, the New York Times or the American Medical Association, the CDC, PBS, NPR or NBC News - they are all part of the same organism that lives in fear of and relies upon Twitter. For its part, the Times has finally decided to urge its reporters to stay off of the platform.

How it Started

Twitter wasn’t always an authoritarian force in American life. In the beginning, it was a fun platform that operated like one big chat room. Obama used it to grow his coalition starting in 2008 as an early adopter and influencer. He was credited with being a leader with his finger on the pulse of the fast-moving modern age.

Trump followed suit, gaining 88 million followers before Twitter permanently banned him from the platform. The Right would say Trump used it to counter the media narrative that lied to the people about him and Conservatives overall. The left would say he used it to spread “disinformation” and to incite violence in the wake of January 6th. The truth is that Trump’s presence on Twitter was a big enough counter to the ecosystem to make a difference. Now Musk has arisen as the next apex predator the site will want to remove. Eventually.

For Musk, it is less about money or power than deciding who gets control over the narrative. And thus, who gets to control what is true.

Like most corporations in America, Twitter didn’t become fully authoritarian until 2020. When the “Cabal” was formed to remove Trump, who was a one-term president with a strong economy, thus nearly impossible to bring down, they amassed an unusual amount of power to create a foolproof action plan that would ensure Trump lost way before Election Day. Nothing would be left up to chance. This would involve not just changing laws, hiring operatives to collect ballots but it would also involve manipulating the news narrative to be the story they wanted, NEEDED, to be true.

That is why Americans felt like they were being gaslit all throughout 2020 - because they were. The Democrats did not mention the police once during their convention because the police, we were told, were all racists killing Black people every day. The protests weren’t angry or violent. No one was dying. Nothing bad was happening. They were all peaceful. Finally, the riot on January 6th was treated like something on the level of Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Americans, having lived through the Summer of 2020, could see the blatant hypocrisy in a government that encouraged one kind of violence but discouraged another.

After Biden took power, January 6th created another convenient crisis for the “cabal.” Now they would work together to police all of what they considered inciting violence, domestic terrorism, or “misinformation.” Between that and the ongoing COVID pandemic, it was clear well into 2021, and especially now, the “cabal” was never giving up their power. Suddenly, in a country that once felt free, everyone is afraid of saying the wrong thing, offending someone, making a mistake that will get them called out or fired or worse.

With Twitter, they have a powerful weapon to silence dissent, boss around journalists to keep them in line and make or break someone who might need Twitter as a platform to attract readers or make a living. But really, this Twitter fight is about holding onto the power to control the media narrative.

Silencing dissent is not just bad for this country or for young people who count on adults to protect them, it’s also bad for the Democrats. They just have no clue how unpopular they have become because they are forcing compliance across the board.

Regardless of how you feel about the issue of transgender rights, there is no doubt that the demands for compliance on the Left are becoming more militant in their efforts to silence dissent. Just questioning it can get you banned off of Twitter if enough people report it.

Batya Ungar-Sargon takes on the issue of the Twitter account Libs of TikTok which was recently doxxed in the Washington Post (owned by the second richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos) as a class divide, which it is. She writes:

Putting aside the shoddy ethics of doxxing a private citizen for curating already public content, the Washington Post story rather disingenuously whitewashed the actual content of the videos that @libsoftiktok posts. For example, instead of stating what was in a video featuring a woman explaining how she teaches toddlers to touch their private parts, the article only notes that @libsoftiktok called the woman in it a “predator” and that the video went on to be featured on Fox News.

There’s a tell in that obfuscation: The Washington Post probably doesn’t want to defend the “sexy summer camp” counselor teaching toddlers to masturbate, a view that few trans people would defend, so instead it resorts to calling anyone who opposes such education anti-gay. The article characterizes @libsoftiktok as “a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage.” Instead of telling you what’s in the videos, it tells you what @libsoftiktok says about them.

And continues:

A tiny elite that benefits politically and economically from portraying its opponents as bigots is using every tool at its disposal – social media, liberal legacy media, and executive action – to obfuscate the vast distance between their views and the vast majority of middle- and working-class Americans with normal views. Like the view that strangers shouldn’t teach toddlers how to masturbate.

“Environmental Social Governance”

Corporate authority in this country has now found a way to bypass the Constitution regarding access and use of their platforms. The divide between elite and working-class America is evident every time I turn on the television and compare the kinds of ads they show on the barely watched SAG awards versus the ads they show on the much more popular Fox News. But corporations care more about their image than anything in 2022, especially those who see themselves as among the “chosen” people, the utopians, the Barack Obamaians.

Twitter and other corporations are following various mandates to satisfy what we used to call in the 1980s “quotas.” But they are also pushing a new dystopian corporate ideology called ESG.

ESG means that investors can pull funds or choose to advertise only with companies they believe are acceptable or compliant. For instance, the Babylon Bee’s joke is defined as “hate speech,” meaning that, theoretically, advertisers would not want to invest in or advertise with Twitter. And that gives Twitter the right and justification to suspend the account.

Since the Democrats and the mainstream media have control of Twitter, and thus, the narrative, they don’t really care that Big Tech has become an authoritarian force in American life. What they want is their utopia back, the one they believe Trump and his supporters destroyed. They don’t realize it is never coming back. Not the way it was.

For his part, Musk is smart enough and brave enough to stare down this massive alliance of power and authoritarianism. He knows that buying Twitter means there is a new Sheriff in town, a winner in our Capitalist system knocking out other Capitalists, or modern-day “Robber Barons” in our new Gilded Age.

Says David Sacks from the All In podcast:

If you were to zoom out 30,000-foot view, the big struggle of our time politically and culturally is populist versus elitist. Elon is one of the rare billionaires who is sort of anti-elitist, he pokes fun at their pieties all the time. This is why they call him a troll. He wants to restore free speech. Somehow the elites are now on the site of censorship. They believe that in order to protect democracy, they need more censorship. What they really mean is to protect their control over democracy. They need censorship. Why? Because they're greatly outnumbered, there are more populists than elitists. So the more democratic this country becomes the more they are going to lose power and be kicked out, that is why they are so fiercely resisting the restoration of Twitter as a free speech platform. It means the end of their power.

In the end, the forces that control this country, Wall Street and Big Tech, will never allow Elon Musk to buy Twitter. But in trying to purchase it, Musk is challenging that power like sunlight blasting into a moldy dark shed. Even if he’ll never get away with it I’m glad he’s trying.