Will Elon Musk erase Twitter's censorious ideological slant?
On Monday, news broke that Elon Musk, the world's richest man, in one fell swoop also became the single largest stakeholder in Twitter, for he now owns 9.2% of its shares. The big question now is whether he intends to use his position to push for change in a platform that has become a toxic echo chamber for "woke" ideas and cancel culture, even as it relentlessly silences opposing views.
If I had to describe Musk, I'd call him an eccentric libertarian who is, nevertheless, just a little suspect in that role, given his commitment to alternative energy and climate change principles. He's also an outspoken visionary and genius.
Perhaps most importantly, unlike so many other billionaires whom the mob can still silence, Musk speaks his mind. He outraged the woke mob when he supported hydroxychloroquine treatments for COVID (almost certainly helpful), stated that children are not vulnerable to COVID (true), was suspicious of government COVID death statistics (which the CDC has since revised), and criticized lockdowns (which the government concedes made no difference). He's also criticized the push in Western countries to lower the birth rate below replacement level; attacked public transportation; and, most recently, when Biden's policies drove up fuel prices, called for more drilling.
Like President Trump, Musk is a billionaire who's enjoyed using Twitter as a platform for his opinions. That's why it was stunning when, a week ago, Musk made it clear that he believes that Twitter, as the modern town square, rather than shutting down free speech, must be a free speech platform — or be overtaken by competing technology:
Is a new platform needed?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2022
To show that the question in the poll should be taken seriously, Musk added, "The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully."
As for that embedded poll, Musk got 2,035,924 votes (as of last count) with 70.4% voting that, "no," Twitter does not rigorously adhere to the principle that "free speech is essential to a functioning democracy."
Just a few days later after that important (albeit non-scientific) poll, Musk purchased 9.2% of Twitter's publicly available shares. While that's a far cry from a majority of shares, it's still left Musk as Twitter's biggest stakeholder, a powerful position. That's why Musk's latest (April 4) tweet hints that he has the power to bring about change, even if it's only an edit button for tweets (something Obama's consigliere, Valerie Jarrett, wants):
Do you want an edit button?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 5, 2022
The big question is whether Musk really intends to use his Twitter shares to push for genuine change, not just with little edits, but to allow free speech. With him in the lead, will people be able to state, accurately, that Will (AKA Lia) Thomas is a man, as is Richard (AKA Rachel) Levine? Will they be able to publish dirt about Biden's extraordinarily corrupt family without being silenced? Will Donald Trump have the same right to tweet as Iran's mullahs and Vladimir Putin? Will speech limitations in this cyberspace town square extend only to illegal speech, and no farther?
The one thing we do know is that Musk's ownership interest is already working to send at least one Twitter in-house censor running:
And one person — Tucker Carlson — is certain that Musk's purchase will signal a new dawn for free speech in America:
Tucker: Censorship now defines America's public conversation | https://t.co/r2F0R4Q7nc— Bookwormroom (@Bookwormroom) April 5, 2022
Scott Adams, who is also an iconoclastic thinker, sees interesting things ahead as well:
Because I suspect that Elon Musk has a puckish sense of humor, I'm not getting my hopes up here. (In that, I differ from investors, who sent Twitter stocks soaring upon hearing about Musk's purchase.) I'll be delighted if Musk is able to turn Twitter into a true marketplace of ideas. I'll be unsurprised if he is unable to do so.
Image: Elon Musk (edited). Tucker Carlson Tonight screen grab.