• Elon, Time to Kill Twitter

    October 19, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    Nothing would be better than for Elon Musk to buy Twitter and then kill it. Take it off line. Delete it. Make it go away.

    What is the point anymore? Like some aged European monarchy, the service has become too inbred to say anything useful. It consists now as a giant push survey, claiming the appearance of action equals action. Even the poltergeist of Twitter, cancelation of people, is like a magic spell that you have to believe in for it to work. Live outside the Twitter demographic and it does not matter. Listening to people talk, you’d think Twitter had the power to raise the dead, or more often, the opposite. Twitter is the physical embodiment of what Glenn Greenwald describes as Democrats criminalizing opposition to their party and ideology. Dissenting ideas are “disinformation” and must be censored. Trump voters are inherently criminal (“insurrectionists”) and should be imprisoned or at least banished for thought crimes.

    Recently rewatching Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, it is obvious the 2018 film is mainly a screed about all the bad things Trump was going to do as president. Time is a cold witch of a mistress: basically nothing Moore predicted four years ago about what was going to happen actually happened. Moore was wrong about Trump’s ties to Russia, Moore was wrong about Trump being the last elected president because he would seize total power, and Moore was wrong about the lasting impact of the progressive Twitter heroes of the year, the Parkland High School survivors.

    You do remember the mass shooting in a Parkland, Florida high school, right? A handful of “survivors” were insta-made into social media sensations by presenting their views on gun control unopposed and uncommented on. In his film Moore portrayed the kids were examples of an anti-Trump force sent by the universe to Tweet as a balancing mechanism, and that the power of their online activism was America’s only chance to remain a democracy free of daily massacres. You can’t do justice to the hyperbole of Moore’s narration in print; you would think by listening these kids had the power to change something simply by amassing RTs on Twitter. A good chunk of the movie is just Moore staring at the kids changing everything fascistic in the world by being online, the filmmaker’s expression somewhere between pedophile on the playground fence and a proud dad.

    One can imagine Moore’s reaction if he was still relevant enough to quote to Musk’s impending takeover of Twitter as a twist on the absurd: Musk will have too much power to make Twitter into anything he wants, even a full-on bastion of unfettered speech. Instead of relaying on the Terms of Service to ensure people like the Parkland Kids face no opposition online, Moore might worry just the opposite, that the opposition, left to its own point making, might overwhelm the dumbass ideas that tend to come from 16-year-olds handed a very big microphone with no supervision. For those new here, that is the point, to allow better ideas to overwhelm poor ideas.

    Have a look at what Twitter had done in the name of “free speech” and ending “misinformation,” the rallying cries now of so-called progressives. Twitter took an entire subject of critical interest, Hunter Biden, off the media menu and thus out of public viewing just prior to the last presidential election. Twitter silenced the loudest voices of opposition to the Democrats, people like Donald Trump himself and others like Alex Jones and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Call them what you want to, the idea in a free country is you’d have the opportunity to hear what they had to say if you wished to or maybe encounter speech that made you rethink your own views by accident (protip: that’s a cornerstone of Jeffersonian democracy, oh wait, Jefferson is on the outs now, too, sorry.)

    Twitter also found cause to black out the satire site Babylon Bee and Libs of TikTok. The Bee’s violation? Naming transperson Rachel Levine its “Man of the Year.” Libs of TikTok only reposted clips from left-wing users on social media, including from drag queens and gay and transgender activists but that too was too much. Things got so stupid that Trump Derangement Post Child Robert Reich in his role as the Rob Reiner of faux-intellectuals tweeted, “When multi-billionaires take control of our most vital platforms for communication, it’s not a win for free speech. It’s a win for oligarchy.”

    “We are calling for careful content moderation that balances the important ideals of democracy, free expression, and public health and safety,” said Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press, a media advocacy organization. Imagine that,  a group which says its supports a free press demanding censorship. But why pull punches — Politico wonders “If Musk sticks with his word and removes most of the content moderation rules in place, which could include those that ban hate speech, extremism and vaccine and election misinformation — it may turn into a platform that poses a threat to democracy.”

    Irony aside, look what they are afraid of: unfettered free speech brought to you by one of the few men rich enough to pay for it for us.

    And that’s why Musk should instead kill off Twitter, and any other social media he can acquire. His legacy would not be to be the oligarch who gave us a smatter of free speech but the oligarch that helped break the grip oligarchs, whether progressive or otherwise, now have on our speech. Burn Twitter to the ground to save it, er, us, from any attempts to adjudicate further what we can read and listen to. If a social media outlet can’t present a democratic platform in a democratic way (i.e., without a rich guy paying our way to freedom like an abolitionists buying slaves only to set them loose) then we should not want it. We’ve gone too far in turning “content moderation” into crude censorship and viewpoint discrimination.

    Public forums need to just that, public. You do not achieve free speech via censorship no matter who wields the red pencil. Musk can’t change that we’ve reached a point in democracy’s evolution where some half of us fear free speech, but there it is. His contribution is to kill the beast that Twitter has become, and hope something more democratic rises in its place.

    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Other Ideas

    Dear Elon Musk:

    May 7, 2022 // Comments Off on Dear Elon Musk:

    Dear Elon:

    Big fan. I cheered to finally see an African-American like yourself rising to the top, owning one of America’s largest media companies, Twitter. I’m also a big fan of free speech, which is why I am writing to you to ask that my lifetime ban on Twitter be rescinded.

    See in August 2018, Twitter banned me for life for a tweet which “harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence someone else’s voice.” I was on Twitter telling some journalists they had allowed the government to lie to them about the Iraq war. I said I once worked for the U.S. State Department, and I was one of the ones who lied to them. It was actually part of my job to lie to them, to give them the false impression our reconstruction programs in Iraq were coming along just nicely. I could name several journalists I lied to directly but what’s the point in that? They all still have jobs and Twitter accounts and it’s not exactly a secret what they wrote about the reconstruction programs was false and wrong. I told the truth on Twitter and lost my account.

    The truth is one night on Twitter I was explaining about my lies, a kind of atonement, and several journalists ganged up on me to begin criticizing my writing and the work that I have done as a journalist since leaving the government. It was all kind of rude (one said I was a “garbage human being” and another claimed I was a Russian stooge) but within the schoolyard boundaries of the scrappier side of Twitter.

    It never occurred to me to report them for harassment or bullying. I happened to have the television on with the Walking Dead playing in the background and I cranked off a tweet, as many of us do, that I’m not particularly proud of. I said to one of the pack “I hope a MAGA zombie eats your face.” You can read all my offending tweets hereWithin about five minutes of posting I was given a lifetime ban on Twitter. It says on my Wikipedia page by someone who continually hacks it, that I was removed from Twitter for threatening someone or something along those lines.

    Anyway I can’t help but thinking my real lifetime ban had something to do with the fact that I had previously promoted free-speech without boundaries on Twitter and other social media. Yes, yes, I’m aware the First Amendment does not cover social media, that these are private companies, but like you I believe they play such an enormous role in the tapestry of our speech that they deserve the protections of the 1A. I understand Jefferson and Madison wrote the Bill of Rights long before the Internet, and think they would be on board with expanding the 1A to companies that have grown to be more powerful censors than the government ever could be. BTW, that’s U now, LOL.

    I hasten to add that there is no such thing as MAGA zombies and so my tweeted threat to have one of them eat someone’s face was actually a bit of a jest. You see since there are no zombies the threat was not real, sarcasm at worst, and so I’m hoping that you can forgive me where are your predecessor @jack was unable to do so. He never even answered my inquiries.

    To be fully honest, what bothers me is not the scolding per se, or (most of the time) the inability to tweet. Yeah, I know, it can be a big time sink. I think the thing that bugs me is I feel I was rounded up and sent off because I wrote true things, albeit critical things, about the media on what they consider their turf, your new acquisition, Twitter. I obviously meant no one harm with the silly zombie remark, but it was used as a very thin excuse to send me down the Memory Hole (you remember, from Orwell’s 1984, a place where facts and ideas could be disappeared in service to the powers that be.)

    My cancellation took place late on a Friday night, which leads me to wonder how the journalist I was engaging got through to Twitter’s censoring staff so quickly. I certainly don’t have that access. It felt kind of more like a set up than a gatekeeper protecting someone against whatever hate speech is (and you know there is no such crime as hate speech, and whatever people insist on calling “hate speech,” including things like the N-word, is fully protected by the First Amendment.) So what’s up with the lifetime ban for one tweet? It seems pretty heavy. That’s the kind of thing I have in mind when I say it did not feel fair.

    I don’t think anyone needs protecting from my ideas, but I guess I can figure out why they’d be frightening to charlatans, pols, and grifters. That’s why I guess a journalist whose livelihood depends on the 1A wrote to you “for democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”  Robert Reich, veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations, argued you’re putting us on a fast track to fascism. He thinks an uncontrolled Internet is “​​the dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue and modern-day robber baron.” On of your other critics nearly exceeded Twitter’s character limit writing “Today on Twitter feels like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub at the twilight of Weimar Germany.”  While I am not fully comfortable with billionaires deciding the fate of free speech, they’re downright terrified of you, Elon. If you want to scare them more, reinstating me (and yeah, Trump, too) would be excellent for that purpose.

    It’s funny/not funny because I have experienced their version of the Internet. When I was in Iran, the government there blocked Twitter and many other sites, effectively deciding for an entire nation what they cannot read. In America, Twitter decides for an entire nation what they cannot read. It matters little whose hand is on the switch: government or corporate, the end result is the same. This is the America I always feared I’d see, where Americans not just tolerate, but demand censorship.

    Now if you really want to shake things up (you’re that kinda guy, right?) just flat-out acknowledge the interplay between the First Amendment and corporations like your Twitter is the most significant challenge to free speech in our lifetimes. Pretending a corporation with the reach to influence elections is just another place that sells stuff is to pretend the role of debate in a free society is outdated. The arrival of global technology controlled by mega-corporations brought first the ability the control speech and soon after the willingness. The rules are their, er, your rules, and so we see the permanent banning of a president for whom some 70 million Americans voted from tweeting to his 88 million followers (ironically the courts earlier claimed it was unconstitutional for the president to block those who wanted to follow him.) Then there was that game-changing ban on news about Hunter Biden just ahead of the election. Let someone take Twitter to the Supreme Court and see if they’ll extend the 1A in some form to the new public square. The ability of a handful of people nobody voted for to control the mass of public discourse has never been clearer. It represents a stunning centralization of power.

    Speech in America is an inalienable right, and runs as deep into our free society as any idea can. Thomas Jefferson wrote it flowed directly from his idea of a Creator, which we understand today as less that free speech is heaven-sent so much as it is something that exists above government. And so the argument the First Amendment applies only to the government and not to private platforms like Twitter is both true and irrelevant—and the latter is more important.

    So Elon, thank you very much for your consideration. I realize as a billionaire super villain you have many things on your mind but I hope you find time to at least delegate this to someone in hopes that they could reinstate me to Twitter to prove a point. The old Twitter sold censorship as a product, a dissent-free zone for libs. You can do something important freeing ideas, and I’d like to be a part of that.

    Love, Peter

    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Other Ideas