The Elon Musk-Twitter Ethics Roller-Coaster Ride Continues

(I hate roller-coasters.)

The last week has demonstrated clearly, I think we can all agree, that 1) there is an urgent need for Twitter to be de-politicized, stripped of partisan censorship, and become a trustworthy platform for the unfettered distribution of news, information and opinion to the public, and 2) Elon Musk is too much of a loose cannon to be the manager of Twitter’s reform.

Yesterday almost qualified as a meltdown, or a tantrum, or something. Maybe a joke. Who knows with him? He teased his withdrawal from the daily management of the reeling social media giant. He hinted that the company was teetering on bankruptcy. He put his continued tenure as CEO up for a vote, pledging to abide by the results.

Chaos. Musk is quite a bit like Donald Trump, which shouldn’t be surprising: the successful entrepreneur/ CEO/ autocrat/narcissist is a well-understood personality type, and management by chaos is a management style that can be very effective for the short term in a private company (but not the U.S. government). I worked for a chaos manager for seven years, and he was brilliant at it, but I decided then and there that I could never operate that way. It is hard on subordinates, employees and stake-holders; only the chaotic manager enjoys the pressure. It is a non-Golden Rule management style that relies entirely on utilitarianism as its ethical justification. Yes, the methods causes breakdowns, anxiety and constant crisis, but if it “works,” it’s worth the pain. That’s what Musk has been doing.

Let’s hope it works. In the meantime, however, my professional ethics opinion on the saga so far is “Yecchh.”

Musk is contradicting himself constantly; nobody can possibly say they trust him. His decisions have been so impulsive that it often appears that he is just fooling around, being irresponsible. His cavalier attitude is disrespectful and unfair to the millions of people who believe that his efforts to democratize Twitter have wide-ranging implications for the nation. Because he is a genius, much of this is excused by the belief that Musk is playing three-dimensional chess, and his grand plan is just too complex for ordinary mortals to comprehend.

Perhaps.

The latest poll was not an encouraging sign, however. It is incompetent to manage anything by poll; I am a believer in “the wisdom of crowds,” but not in management decision-making. The average Twitter-user has no clue at all about what the job of CEO entails. The voters don’t know Musk, except in the abstract: this is entirely an uninformed electorate, unqualified to decide who should run Twitter or anything else.

Most analysts believe that Musk knows he can’t and shouldn’t be the CEO of Twitter and that he already has a successor lined up. It is also likely that he knew how this poll would turn out: the progressive censors on Twitter want him gone, and a lot of those who are happy that Musk bought the platform and cleaned house also want a more stable hand on the metaphorical throttle. Musk knew he would “lose” this poll. If that theory is correct, then the poll was a sham and a ploy, which is also unethical, exploiting Twitter users as props for his business plan.

The poll results indeed told Musk to step down. Now what?

Did I mention that I hate roller-coasters?

6 thoughts on “The Elon Musk-Twitter Ethics Roller-Coaster Ride Continues

  1. I almost created a Twitter account aft Musk took over but I think I will wait for things to equilibrate before I make that decision. Unless a true free speech advocate takes the helm I have no reason to join.

  2. At this point, I have no idea what to think. I think your comparison between Elon and Trump is at least superficially apt, although there is a significant difference in degree. Still, I get the comparison.

    On the other hand, virtually anything would’ve been an improvement over the Leftist media echo chamber that Musk’s mercurial personality has replaced. Seeing the Left, particularly the Left media, spin up over his every utterance is popcorn-worthy, but from an ethics standpoint, your take is similar to mine. Still, I take perverse joy in the chaos — schadenfreude is definitely a thing.

    I can’t see him staying much longer playing Twitter games, it’s just not productive and his much more successful businesses will suffer. I also suspect he knows that perfectly well. Finding someone to set a proper tone wouldn’t be that hard, but to do that and actually run the business is much more daunting.

    I wish him good luck with that.

  3. Yeah, it’s been mentioned that some portion of Tesla fans/investors would likely want him to step down and pay more attention to Tesla instead of fooling around with Twitter — the theory is that being Chief Twit harms Tesla. I don’t know that I subscribe to this theory — Tesla’s current problems are more likely just tracking the overall economic woes, but it’s a factor.

    I did vote in the poll. I set up a Twitter account years ago when I was delivering newspapers with the idea that I could tweet out status updates (like for snow days). I put that on my yearly newsletter inviting my subscribers to follow me. I don’t recall if I got a follower or not, but I believe I could count them on the hands of one finger. Haven’t sent out a tweet in at least five years, nor do I expect to.

    I do not see a problem with Musk stepping down as CEO — if, if, if he appoints someone who will be have a steady hand at the tiller, and who can be trusted to run a free speech platform. Musk has to know someone that fits the bill. Assuming, of course, that Musk will give this person the needed authority and support him — and monitor his work to ensure Twitter is dedicated to offering free speech. Trust but verify, as someone once said.

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