Elon Musk gives the Twitter barons another case of the willies
Elon Musk is quite a holy terror to Twitter's self-satisfied barons and satraps.
The kooka-bucks billionaire rocked markets last week and sent Twitter's battered stock sky-high with news that he had bought a 9.2% stake in Twitter worth $2.89 billion, making him the company's largest shareholder. That's chump change for the 287-billion-dollar man, but four times what Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has, and way more than what any of the other current Twitter elite holds.
As Big Tech goes crazy and cuts its own money streams to Get Trump, all we can note is that that's not market behavior. Market behavior is to maximize shareholder value and do all possible to increase profits, something these people aren't bothering to do. They apparently think they're a monopoly, and right now, they apparently are. But the upstart rivals are still coming, and as the late, great Herb Meyer noted, change often comes from a direction you never suspect. Jack may still be focused on lording it over Trump and crushing small rivals, but there's a hell of a bigger billionaire on the horizon, bigger than they are, bigger than Buffett, Soros, or Gates, which is the censorship-hostile, apparently free market–friendly Elon Musk, who just recently dumped California and moved his Tesla car operations to Texas. He recently surpassed all of these Trump-hating petty tyrants in wealth and doesn't seem to be an enemy of conservatives or libertarians.
Jack may lash out against Trump, and be happy to cut his own throat in the process, but there's a zeitgeist out there that suggests that Big Tech might just be starting to be eclipsed. I hear the strains of Götterdämmerung as Jack goes nuts and Musk rises in net worth wealth.
Sure enough, in came Musk, plinking down his billions, and the Twitter elite had to be nervous. They knew he could buy the whole darn thing and throw them all out on their ears if he wanted to. Musk has continued to be an outspoken advocate of free speech while Twitter itself has embraced wokester censorship and even accelerated it — banning Trump, banning serious journalism exposing the extent of Joe Biden's corruption in the New York Post's coverage of Hunter Biden's abandoned laptop, and silencing even major conservative voices such as those of Tucker Carlson, Jack Posobiec, and the satirical Babylon Bee. Just the other day, they took down the account of popular Clinton accuser Juanita Broaddrick, and we know they are not finished. Every one of these shutdowns costs them money and customers.
According to the New York Post:
"Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?" Musk asked users in a Twitter poll on March 28, in which over 70 percent of the 2 million voters responded "yes."
But Musk laid down his money, and the stunned Twitter elites knew he wasn't going to be a passive shareholder collecting his coupons if his past stock purchases were any indication. He'd make waves. He'd kick butts.
To defend themselves, they decided at first to be nicey-nice to him, oozing flattery, in the hopes that kicking him upstairs to become a board member of the social media giant would keep him docile.
I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board.— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) April 5, 2022
Guys like Parag, who's "the Big Guy" now at Twitter as CEO now that @Jack has exited the picture, had hoped to effectively smother Musk and all his free speech ideas by locking him into a room with them, where he could talk all he liked and they could ignore him. Board members, after all, have to be careful about what they say (and tweet) to the public, as whatever they say could rattle share prices. Musk, like Trump (and like Joe Biden in his claims to voters), has 81 million followers on Twitter (with very few fake followers) and is an active participant on the platform, blithely ignoring court advice in another context to get some lawyers to go over his tweets before they go out. Musk has some Trump-like instincts and enjoys getting a rise out of the preening clowns he runs into. Based on his past tweets, those clowns clearly included the Twitter barons, and the barons knew it.
Next thing we know, something happened. Following the gushy tweet from Parag, we got this:
Elon has decided not to join our board. I sent a brief note to the company, sharing with you all here. pic.twitter.com/lfrXACavvk— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) April 11, 2022
Notice that menacing little notation about passing a "background check," followed by an irrelevant point about how Elon "shared" information about not wanting to join the board, and then the odd statement about it all being "for the best." Was Parag, in that undoubtedly well lawyered statement, suggesting that Musk, who's probably not perfect in his private life, having been married a couple of times, shacking up with various "girlfriends" with a string of kids, and being known to smoke pot, was somehow not up to Twitter's tough, positively Baptist moral standards? File under baloney — we all know that whatever Musk would have in his background would be not at all different from what's in theirs. Maybe it was something else — bitcoin or an old lawsuit about racism and sexism at one of his companies? It sounds as though they wanted to suggest they "had something" on him to keep him docile and quiet.
Musk, though, retorted with a giggling emoji, probably this one, which is the standard shareable Twitter giggly emoji with the hand over the round face:
...which he then deleted. The New York Post has that story here.
Two things are likely to be happening with this purchase, this board seat, this non-board seat, and the continuous tweets from Musk.
One, he wants the freedom to keep tweeting, saying anything he likes, and letting the board react to what he says from the public platform. He'd certainly be out of the SEC line of fire regarding the rules that board members must follow.
Two, and probably even more likely, he's disgusted with what he's seen so far of the Twitter elite and all their urges to censor others, and now he plans to buy the whole darn company. We certainly could see that in his recent tweets, one of which noted the large number of "dead" accounts from big-name celebrities like Katy Perry and Barack Obama, which have millions of followers but don't tweet much. The other that leaped out was his tweet that suggested that Twitter convert its huge largely unused headquarters building in downtown San Francisco into a homeless shelter. Obviously, Musk can see signs of decay and an absence of dynamism in the company all over and had no problem telling his 81 million followers, which had to have forced the Twitter barons to choke on their chateaubriand.
Board membership would shut Musk up and restrict Musk's purchases to a 14.9% Twitter stake, but not being on the board at all frees Musk to buy whatever he likes and say whatever he likes. Maybe he plans to take a monster stake in the company and boot the Twitter barons' sorry butts from power. Share prices of Twitter have fallen 5% on the news that Musk won't be taking the board seat, suggesting that investors are recalibrating their expectations. According to this market website, Musk has opened the door to a hostile takeover of the platform.
And of course, he's laughing at them. That giggly emoji tells us mountains about how he plans to toy with them.
Image: Shareable Twitter emoji.