OPINION: Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter to save democracy, and make it a bastion of freedom. If he takes hold, I’ll be reclaiming my freedom and ditching Twitter for good.
In some perverse way, I hope Elon Musk does buy Twitter. It’ll be the excuse I need to get off the platform. It brings me no joy, I stay there out of pure habit, and I want out. But that’s why they call it a habit, right? It’s hard to break. Musk taking over would be the perfect incentive to cut ties with this abusive partner.
In an interview at TED on Thursday, Musk signalled his intentions – he’ll turn the misery-inducing hell-site into the Wild West of the World Wide Web, with few serious parameters placed on anything.
Musk pitched his vision for Twitter as a democracy-enhancing tool for free speech, which is what Twitter already can be at its best. The trouble is, Musk’s vision also involves enhancing what Twitter has been at its very worst… a place where you can get away with anything, if you don’t break any laws.
“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” he said today.
“Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it,” he added, brimming with Trump-like I’m-the-only-one-who-can-fix-it energy.
Me? I’m just rolling my eyes at the idea that one of the richest men in the world buying a publicly owned company and taking it private is somehow *more* democratic. File that one in the same pile as Musk’s billionaire buddy Jeff Bezos owning The Washington Post.
Have you seen that episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Dennis, Mac and Frank give people “too much freedom” at the bar? You end up with various groups playing actual Russian roulette, making out with their blood relatives, and shooting up heroin in the bar. That’s my vision of what Twitter looks like under Elon Musk’s leadership.
Wrestling fans might also remember when storyline Vince “Mr” McMahon brought in the nWo to inject poison and kill his own creation. Perhaps this is what Twitter leadership is pondering right now?
Unblock ’em all
Musk taking over the social network would be like Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man thawing out all of the worst baddies and putting them back into circulation to wreak havoc on the world.
Donald Trump – who Musk is increasingly starting to resemble these days with his strange insults, inane outbursts, and money-can-buy-anything attitude – would be back on Twitter causing havoc in a heartbeat, free to incite hate to millions of followers and beyond. The worst most could expect is a slap on the wrist. A brief spell in timeout, like a toddler.
“I do think that we want to be just very reluctant to delete things and be very cautious with permanent bans,” Musk said on Thursday. “You know, timeouts I think are better than sort of permanent bans. I think we would want to err on the side of, if in doubt, let the speech exist. I’m not saying that I have all the answers here.”
Perhaps you should have all the answers, or at least most of them, if you’re weighing-up buying this company, mate? Musk spitballs in real time for the world to see. We see it all the time. Twitter is his ‘stream of consciousness’ even when he’s pondering spending $43 billion on it. At TED, he told told a practically orgasmic interviewer and audience: “I’m like, literally, on the toilet like, ‘oh, this is funny,’ and then tweet that out, you know?”
He’s doing it for the lulz, folks.
Sure, let’s just open source the Twitter code and put it on GitHub, as Musk suggested on Thursday. What could possibly go wrong with that? This is the same guy whose car company made it possible for people to play Sonic while driving, and created an “Assertive” autonomous driving mode that doesn’t stop at stop signs and follows other cars more closely.
Musk says he wouldn’t buy Twitter “as a way to make money.” He’s acting like it’s a grand benevolent scheme to product humanity. It’s part of that strange hero complex that sees him constantly making huge promises like:
- He’ll take us to Mars well before 2030.
- He’ll have a punch-up with Putin for control of Ukraine.
- He’ll build a submarine to save the Thai children stuck in the cave, eventually rescued by a guy Musk falsely derided as a ‘pedo’
- He’ll sell his Tesla stock to end world hunger.
- He’ll make/acquire ventilators to save us from Covid.
Look, full disclosure here. I’m not a paid-up member of the Elon Musk fan club. I wouldn’t choose to consume a product he would directly benefit from. My next car will be electric, but I’d buy the biggest, most obnoxious diesel guzzling pick-up truck in existence before I’d be caught dead in a Tesla.
The long and the short of this is I’m pretty much done with Twitter anyway, this would be the final nudge. I spent half the day yesterday sad at a tweet from my local paper about a dog found alone in a field with a giant tumour that had to be put down.
I’m a news reporter at heart, and have chased some pretty grim stories in my time, and still can’t figure out why that’s newsworthy and needed to be put out there.
But that’s Twitter isn’t it? Just random misery popping up to damage your mental health, thrown in with some memes and quips to make you laugh at the tragic absurdity of it all.
I also resent my own propensity to mouth off on Twitter. It has done me no favours and can’t be undone. I have a measly following, few of whom need to read my tweets. Musk buying Twitter is just the excuse I’m waiting for to pull the plug. But the wider consequences could be disastrous.