It’s an odd thing to write this column, knowing that it’s going to be tweeted out on Twitter because Twitter has become such a normal, arguably integral, part of the journalistic landscape. It remains one of the key social media tools—“seeding” stories by getting them out there on social media and tagging relevant parties is genuinely part of the gig.
So it feels weird to know that while writing a column about the fact that new Twitter owner Elon Musk, already a problematic individual, is transforming Twitter into a fascistic hellscape and then marching across his scorched cyber-earth like a less-cool Mad Max, complete with Mel Gibson’s vile politics.
The writing had been on the wall for a while, with Musk hinting around that he might buy Twitter, then making a deal, then trying to pull out of the deal, then being forced to go ahead with the deal. It was irritating and puerile. But now he has his sweaty little hand on it and he’s being as tyrannical as one would have expected. It’s enough to make you wonder: Why did the people behind Saturday Night Live want him to host? But then you remember they had Trump on too — in the not-so-distant past.
Pretty much right away, Musk started axing staff with an internal letter begging them not to go public (a barely veiled threat of legal action thrown in for good measure was the cherry on his shitty cake).
The Guardian reported, “He is a self-proclaimed ‘free speech absolutist’ who has raised concerns about the platform downplaying certain posts with its algorithms that curate what a user sees. In an interview before he agreed to buy the business, he raised concerns about ‘having tweets mysteriously be promoted and demoted with no insight into what’s going on.’ An open-source algorithm could address this, he suggested.”
What that appears to mean, by “free speech absolutist,” is that Musk isn’t in favor of “absolute free speech” at all but rather speech that he agrees with. Since taking control of Twitter he’s been all but threatening to reinstate Donald Trump despite the undeniable hate speech that the former president vomited into cyberspace on a regular basis, even while he was actually president.
This week alone, Musk “permanently suspended” comedian Kathy Griffin for the crime of impersonating him. This was nonsensically referred to as “identity theft.” Yeah, sure. We all remember that time Alec Baldwin committed identity theft against Donald Trump on SNL.
Dear god, the man is an insufferable buffoon and no amount of money changes that. For the record, Griffin took to Twitter using her deceased mom’s account to accurately call Musk an asshole.
As ever, you can use musicians as a gauge. R&B singer Toni Braxton was one of many to leave Twitter since the Musk-rat became Twit Lord. She posted, “I’m shocked and appalled at some of the ‘free speech’ I’ve seen on this platform since its acquisition. Hate speech under the veil of ‘free speech’ is unacceptable; therefore I am choosing to stay off Twitter as it is no longer a safe space for myself, my sons and other POC.”
Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles agreed, posting, “Welp. It’s been fun Twitter. I’m out. See you on other platforms, peeps. Sorry, this one’s just not for me.”
Not a musician, but Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner wrote, “Just hours after taking control of this platform, its owner spread crackpot conspiracy theories about the attempted murder of Speaker Pelosi. Now is not the time to leave. Now is the time to fight for our Democracy. Vote blue. Hold the Congress. Then explore options.”
But hey, don’t worry because guess who’s back? KANYE’S BACK! That fact alone speaks volumes.
Anti-semitism, the sort of thing that Ye revels in, is apparently cool on Twitter. Musk himself posted a photo of a nazi soldier with three pigeons, trying to make a topical techy joke about how people used to “tweet.” The fact that the meme was shit shouldn’t distract from the fact that HE POSTED A PHOTO OF A NAZI TO MAKE HIS POINT. What’s happening?
The Anti-Defamation League understandably wasn’t happy, and they encouraged advertisers to hit Musk in the pocket of his somehow ill-fitting pants. (Surely he can afford pants that fit).
“We met with Elon Musk earlier this week to express our profound concerns about some of his plans and the spike in toxic content after his acquisition,” the Stop Hate For Profit coalition, which included the ADL, said in a statement. “Since that time, hate and disinformation have proliferated, and he has taken actions that make us fear that the worst is yet to come.”
They’re right. Twitter was always something of a gathering place for the toxic but there were at least rules. Now, it’s a hellscape of far-right “values” including racism and just about every bigoted phobia. Meanwhile, Musk just taunts those who complain with jokes about masturbation (to paraphrase, “if you don’t like Twitter anymore, there are other things you can do.”)
So that’s where we’re at. Unfortunately, like we said right at the top of this column, many people view Twitter as an essential tool in the modern world. But is it? Most people still have a Facebook account, even if it is often joked about as “old people internet.” Instagram and TikTok exist and it’s not hard to get points across on those either.
This writer is still mulling it over. How important is it? How many extra eyes reach stories because they’ve been shared on Twitter, over other social media tools? And even if it’s significant, is it worth selling our souls to a horrific human being?
It’s a sad state of affairs, particularly considering the fact that we’re writing this on election night and Musk has encouraged people to vote republican. Because. duh, of course he did.