Is democracy really the best thing for Twitter?
Social media have been a disaster to the public sphere because they have democratized public opinion, giving a voice to those with nothing novel to add. The idea of democratizing a space assumes that everyone is heard, and the assumption undergirding that is that everyone is worth hearing — everyone is supposed to be "represented." But no one is "supposed to be" anything, and contriving a right to be heard is indicative only of an entitled West that has lost the plot of democracy.
Institutions are democratic only insofar as democracy is a buzzword for "getting what I want." While the right generally understands that unfettered democracy is imprudent for a republic's survival, it advocates for a "marketplace of ideas" because it assumes that the best ideas will win. This is not only false, but shows the fantastical illusion that even the right has found itself in: democratized spaces will give us what we want.
This assumption is untrue, but not because there is something better on the horizon. It remains a silver lining that at the very least, a democratized space will present competing perspectives. In some instances, it exposes corruption. In rarer hopes, it might provide accountability (for what? that depends on whom you fight for). But democracy is not an antithesis to totalitarianism, and that "marketplace of ideas" will eventually be shut down. It already is severely restricted because only select voices are being amplified by a sea of millions. Will there ever be an escape from that fact?
Let's consider this thought:
If platforms like Twitter were to be treated as publications where people write their ideas as authors, then comments from the uninformed public would weed themselves out. This discourages reproduction, plagiarism, and parroting. Effectively, this suggests that a debate can ensue among the few without the mobs of many. It introduces censorship and moderation, or "curation" of the discourse.
This is what the left advocates for and what the right, though less conspicuously, wants, too, but they want this only in negation — with reaction — which is not an unnatural response to something stupid. Politically, this means revoking Section 230 and holding social media platforms liable for what is being published. Now that Twitter has become a "bastion for freedom of speech" with generally acceptable moderation of its content, conservatives are not arguing for revoking Section 230 anymore. And why would they? Who really cares about Instagram and Facebook when Twitter is dominating the political space and the head honcho shows them solidarity? Revoking Section 230 would now do the opposite of what was intended. It would penalize the alleged harbinger of free speech and let the old regime off the hook for its collusion with the federal government.
Elon Musk's acquisition of the platform is a rare example of the free market working in the best interest of everyone because it is supposedly allowing dissent, although not all partisans can be convinced; after all, anything against the regime is "misinformation" so that Twitter is no longer "safe." Nevertheless, the leftists still use it because they are choosing not to make their own platform, though their usage doesn't come without complaints.
So how does this mean that the marketplace is severely restricted?
The nuisance and unintelligibility of the democratized public sphere are not the sole responsibility of the regime in charge or what side it leans on. It is that there is no "marketplace of ideas" that can rid itself of the parrots — e.g., the uninformed public that fawns over DNC poster boy Harry Sisson. Those who receive their information from paid actors of the political parties, or who are subject to the self-tailored algorithms that degenerate their brains, are simultaneously perpetrators and victims. They both vocalize and reproduce the assent of their mob, gain their validation, and then cannot see how greatly suspicious it is that the choice of options comes in only blue or red.
"And yet for the most part the news that you see analyzed on Twitter comes from media organizations that are themselves thinly disguised propaganda outlets. You see it on cable news, you talk about it on Twitter. The result may feel like a debate, but actually, the gatekeepers are still in charge," Tucker Carlson said in his newly released video before avoiding the subtle irony and suggesting that he will launch his new show on Twitter.
But perhaps it is not so ironic, and instead his presence will add to, dismantle, or enflame the alleged debate carefully hosted by propagandistic gatekeepers. What is a definite certainty is that there will be many — those who make their money from clicks included — who will milk every drop of every word he says every night.
The marketplace is secure. Only the ordained get to speak, while the masses operate under the illusion that reproductions of speech contribute positively to the discourse.
Image via Raw Pixel.