(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.
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?