The Mediaverse by Dennis Kneale, TruthDAO columnist
Now that Elon Musk has taken over Twitter, he is Public Enemy No. 1 for the media and Democrats.
Little more than a week has passed since Musk took control of Twitter, yet media reports have him firing up to 75% of staff (over the weekend, layoffs went out to 50% of the staff, quite a jolting start), which could unleash “harmful content” on users (Washington Post); and enduring an “exodus of executives and advertisers” (New York Times); and sparking a wave of celebrities to quit the Twit (NBCNews.com); and posing a U.S. security risk (Bloomberg).
Also, Musk is accused of sparking an explosion in hate speech (ABCNews.com); and encouraging the harassment on Twitter of a woman of color whom he fired with three other Twitter execs (NPR.org); and having “contaminated the information environment he now reigns over” (CNN.com); and running Twitter into the ground (Politico.com).
That is a lot of ink and pixels for a ton of supposed evildoings by one man in one week. A lot of it, upon cursory inspection, is overdone bunkum. My question: why are the media so dead set against a new effort to rid Twitter of onerous political censorship, election interference, and secret collusion with government regulators? Shouldn’t the press oppose all of this?
Before we dive into this sturm und drang, let us stipulate a few key points. Twitter has very little to do with anything that happens in real life, and nothing that happens there has to "harm" anyone. People harm people. In my view, "harmful content" is oversold and is a pathway to censorship. Words are incapable of rising off the screen and smacking us in the face; only people can do that.
Second: if we dislike the new Twitter, we are free to change the channel or fly away. And third: Twitter now is a private enterprise owned by Elon Musk and his investors, and they can do whatever they want to it.
Now, to debunk some of the bunkum: the ABCNews.com story on a surge in hate speech was based on a Montclair State University "study"of only the 12-hour period from midnight, Oct. 28, when Musk formally assumed control of Twitter, to noon the next day. It found 4,778 mentions of hate-speech terms, compared with 2,000 per day in the previous week.
The study reflects zero changes made by Musk regarding content monitoring, and it makes zero effort to discount a factor that inflated the data: wags in 4Chan chatrooms urged everyone to post racist words to jack up the “hate speech” count.
Elsewhere, the Post story (by six reporters) on staff cuts’ unleashing “harmful content” was picked up by AP, CBSNews.com, and thousands of websites. Yet Twitter’s 7,500 people never were able to monitor the postings of 240 million people. This is a job for Superman—read: software and AI—and Musk and his team will be better at it.
Plus, the story says Twitter workers’ median pay is $240,000 per year, meaning half of them earn even more than that. At that rate, Elon should fire as many Twits as possible.
Likewise, the Times story (by four reporters) on an “exodus” involves only five execs, who quit before Musk could fire them. As for sponsors, when the story was posted, the only sponsor that made news for pausing ads on Twitter was General Motors. Even then, GM says it merely is following the “normal course of business” when a media platform changes ownership—a point most stories left out. Why let that cut into the clickety-sizzle?
Since then, GM has been joined by Mondelez (Oreos), Volkswagen, and VW's Audi. One reason may be pressure from outside groups.
The Times, down in the 19th paragraph of its story, says 40 civil rights groups sent an open letter to 20 big Twitter advertisers, including Amazon, CBS, Coca-Cola, and Disney, urging them to halt ads “if Mr. Musk throws out the platform’s content moderation safeguards.” If. A contrived possibility in a statement with no impact.
Unmentioned: this was a pre-fab protest to pressure advertisers now, orchestrated by a cabal of social justice warrior groups funded by liberal billionaire George Soros. They include Media Matters, Free Press, and Public Citizen. To learn this, I had to read it on a right-leaning site I hadn’t heard of, the unfortunately named Slaynews.com.
The protest group had mobilized back in May, as a story in the Daily Mail said at the time, when it sent advertisers a letter saying, “Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will further toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety, especially among those already most vulnerable and marginalized.” How so?
Elsewhere, the Bloomberg story (five reporters) on Oct. 31 says Musk’s lining up $1.89 billion from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal raises national security risks, in the view of Sen. Chris Murphy (D- Conn.). The prince, a venture billionaire, was a frequent guest for years on CNBC with anchor Maria Bartiromo, who now is at FoxBiz; where were security concerns then?
Unmentioned: this is part of a harder U.S. line against the Saudis since they rejected a Biden request to delay an OPEC production cut till after the midterm elections, see here.
The media, however, are uninterested in that angle. Nor are they asking: What are Elon Musk’s plans for revealing the unconstitutional requests by the federal government to censor accounts on Twitter? And disclosing all previous private communications regarding reining in conservative content? And releasing all election-related emails? And naming an independent audit panel to examine all of this and report the findings publicly?
One gets the feeling the media want to avoid knowing any of this.