I know that it’s relatively easy to be bold, principled and even reckless when you have billions of dollars to play with, but that should not diminish the admiration due to Elon Musk for sinking 40 billion dollars into what might be a quixotic effort to bolster freedom of public discourse and information online by reforming one of the worst partisan offenders in that crucial area.
As with the mainstream media’s abandonment of democratic principles to become a progressive/Democratic Party propaganda tool, the major social media platforms have engaged in outright censorship based on viewpoint discrimination, and, like the mainstream media, have dismissed complaints about bias as “conspiracy theories.” In addition to opening up Twitter to all viewpoints, Musk has also vowed to publish Twitter records demonstrating exactly how biased its previous content vetting process was. Wonderful.
As I’m sure he predicted when he threw down this gauntlet, the attacks on him have come from all angles and directions. The Biden administration darkly warned that it would be “watching” him closely—nah, no intimidation attempt there! Glenn Greewald writes of the media’s attacks,
It is hard to overstate how manic, primal and unhinged is the reaction of corporate media employees to the mere prospect that new Twitter owner Elon Musk may restore a modicum of greater free speech to that platform. It was easy to predict — back when Musk was merely toying with the idea of buying Twitter and loosening some of its censorship restrictions — that there would be an all-out attack from Western power centers if he tried. Online censorship has become one of the most potent propaganda weapons they possess, and there is no way they will allow anyone to dilute it even mildly without attempting to destroy them. Even with that expectation in place of what was to come, the liberal sector of the corporate media (by far the most dominant media sector) really outdid itself when it came to group-think panic, rhetorical excess, and reckless and shrill accusations.
In unison, these media outlets decreed that not only would greater free speech on Twitter usher in the usual parade of horribles they trot out when demanding censorship — disinformation, hate speech, attacks on the “marginalized,” etc. etc. — but this time they severely escalated their rhetorical hysteria by claiming that Musk would literally cause mass murder by permitting a broader range of political opinion to be aired. The Washington Post‘s Taylor Lorenz even warned of supernatural demons that would be unleashed by these new free speech policies, as she talked to a handful of obviously neurotic pro-censorship “experts” and then wrote about these thinly disguised therapy sessions with those neurotics under this headline: “‘Opening the gates of hell’: Musk says he will revive banned accounts.”
But the self-evident absurdity of this laughable meltdown and the ease of mocking it should not obscure that there are lurking within these episodes some genuinely insidious and serious dangers. These preposterous media employees are just the sideshow. But what they are doing, unwittingly or otherwise, is laying the groundwork for far less frivolous and more serious people to use the attacks on Musk to further fortify the regime of censorship they have been constructing: the limitlessly demonizing language heaped on him, the success they have already had in driving away many if not most corporate advertisers from Twitter, the threats to once again abuse the monopoly power of Google and Apple to destroy Twitter or at least cripple it if Musk does not comply with their censorship orders (as they succeeded in doing last year to the free speech site Parler when it became the most-downloaded app in the country and refused to censor on demand).
Do read the rest. Musk may not have known just how hysterical the attacks on him would be, but he had to know he would be painting a giant target on his back, and he did it for the nation, the public, free speech and democracy. Sure, Musk also did it because he’s a narcissist, a compulsive contrarian, and a very strange man, but never mind: those are qualities that often fuel heroism. (They are also qualities, and not the only ones, he shares with Donald Trump).
We owe Musk our support and admiration. Even if all he accomplishes is crippling Twitter so the field is fractured among many competitors, that will be a major victory for freedom of speech.
Runner-Up: The U.S. Supreme Court majority in Dobbs
… for having the guts and principle to overturn Roe, a bad decision that did incalculable harm to the nation, human rights, and jurisprudence. The justices knew they would be demonized, threatened and insulted. They took the ethical and constitutional course anyway.