The Twitter Fiasco

As some of you may already know, Elon Musk finally accomplished his goal and is now the owner of Twitter. Robert Reich offers his perspective on this in his Substack article.

Personally, I think he’s pretty much spot-on.

Years ago, pundits assumed the internet would open a new era of democracy, giving everyone access to the truth. But dictators like Putin and demagogues like Trump have demonstrated how naive that assumption was.

Trump had 88 million Twitter followers before Twitter took him off its platform, just two days after the attack on the Capitol, which he provoked, in part, with his tweets. (Trump’s social media accounts were also suspended on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch and TikTok.)

These moves were necessary to protect American democracy.

But Elon Musk – the richest man in the world, with 80 million Twitter followers – wasn’t pleased. Musk tweeted that US tech companies shouldn’t be acting “as the de facto arbiter of free speech”.

Elon now owns Twitter. Presumably, he’ll let Trump back on.

Musk is now accountable to no one — not even Twitter shareholders, because he’s taken the company private.

Elon has long advocated a libertarian vision of an “uncontrolled” internet. That vision is dangerous rubbish. There’s no such animal, and there never will be.

Someone has to decide on the algorithms in every platform – how they’re designed, how they evolve, what they reveal and what they hide. Musk has now given himself this sort of control over Twitter.

Elon has never believed that power comes with responsibility. He’s been unperturbed when his tweets cause real suffering. During his long and storied history with Twitter he has threatened journalists and tweeted reckless things.

In March 2020 he tweeted that children were “essentially immune” to Covid. He has pushed cryptocurrencies that he’s invested in. When a college student started a Twitter account to track Elon’s private plane, Musk tried and failed to buy him off, before blocking him.

The Securities and Exchange Commission went after Elon after he tweeted that he had funding to take Tesla private, a clear violation of the law. Elon paid a fine and agreed to let lawyers vet future sensitive tweets, but he has tried to reverse this requirement.

He has also been openly contemptuous of the SEC, tweeting at one point that the “E” stands for “Elon’s”. (You can guess what the “S” and “C” stand for.) By the way, how does the SEC go after Elon’s ability to tweet now that he owns Twitter?

Billionaires like Musk have shown time and again they consider themselves above the law. And to a large extent, they are.

Elon has enough wealth that legal penalties are no more than slaps on his wrist, and enough power to control one of the most important ways the public now receives news.

Think about it: after years of posting tweets that skirt the law, Elon now owns the platform.

Musk says he wants to “free” the internet. But what he really aims to do is make it even less accountable than it is now, when it’s often impossible to discover who is making the decisions about how algorithms are designed, who is filling social media with lies, who’s poisoning our minds with pseudo-science and propaganda, and who’s deciding which versions of events go viral and which stay under wraps.

Make no mistake: this is not about freedom. It’s about power.

In Musk’s vision of Twitter and the internet, he’s the wizard behind the curtain – projecting on the world’s screen a fake image of a brave new world empowering everyone.

In reality, that world is coming to be dominated by the richest and most powerful people on the globe, who aren’t accountable to anyone for anything — for facts, truth, science or the common good. (Emphasis mine.)

That’s Elon’s dream. And Trump’s. And Putin’s. And the dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue and modern-day robber baron on Earth.

For the rest of us, it’s a brave new nightmare.

Fortunately, I rarely use Twitter … !

42 thoughts on “The Twitter Fiasco

  1. Re “Years ago, pundits assumed the internet would open a new era of democracy, giving everyone access to the truth.” (Robert Reich)

    Sure . . . and you weren’t suspicious of a messaging app that originally limited messages to 140 characters (not words, characters). What democratic statement can be made in 140 characters? This “service” wasn’t designed for democratic discourse, it was designed for snark and sneers. Would the world be a better place or worse if Twitter were to disappear?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I am often surprised at how obtuse so many people are, especially when it comes to Musk. That obtuseness is based on 1) politicizing motivations, 2) imagining what they are based on imported assumptions, 3) dropping and ignoring whatever data doesn’t fit the politicized assumptions, 4) railing against some global danger such motivations cause when acted upon, a danger that justifies the assumptions, and 5) warning everyone not be fooled by others who say differently.

    The colloquial phrase is a circle jerk and such people try to make it as large as possible. If enough people are talking about it, surely such smoke indicates the fire the clever person has perceived.

    As a long time investor and follower of all things Musk, there is ample evidence that Twitter offers him access to untold billions of data points applicable to his AI development. And we’re not just talking self-driving but an integrated robotic workforce (Optimus). That might explain why he talked so much about termites when it came to buying Twitter, saying buying a house with 5% termites (bots on Twitter) means the house still has value as a house (data points about its users) but one with 95% termites has very little value as a house. That might explain why he immediately had his software engineering team arrive at Twitter HQ. In other words, buying Twitter isn’t all about pissing off social justice warriors/trolls; I have no doubt Musk believes he’s doing something for everyone who has been censored by taking control of the public square and reopening it from the Reich-approved authoritarian censors he champions.

    Notice the Reich says nothing about this because in Reich’s world everything is partisan politics and everyone not in full agreement with him is a terrible enemy of both the State and what Reich determines is worthy of his stamp of what is true. Forget that TESLA has set the blueprint for how to deal with climate change by creating an alternate energy supply system that works (to the point P&E is adapting it wholesale in California), applied visibly by increasing numbers of TESLA’s on the road, by funding ongoing neural connectivity research, building more manufacturing for the Boring Company and the urban loops that will soon be operational in some southern cities. We haven’t even mentioned his dominance in space. Notice that the Transportation Safety Board has spent more resources going after TESLA than all other auto manufacturers combined. Notice that Biden doesn’t even invite Musk to Washington when coming up with an EV implementation tax-payer funded plan, tax-payer funded charging network. Forget that Musk has been there, done that. It IS a political vendetta By Reich & Co. against all things Musk when the man personifies the America Success Story. That’s why we get such one-sided anti-Musk messaging from Mr. Reich. After all, we can’t have such individual success that doesn’t toe the Reich Party Line when he insists that all must kowtow to the dwindling union leaders of a dying legacy industry no matter what that industry may be. GM, Ford, and Chrysler combined cannot reach a significant portion of the driving population in ten years if all goes well that TESLA reaches each year. Reich is so far out of touch with reality and Musk’s role in it (yes, he makes lots of mistakes and may explain why he has crowned himself the Head Twit, but he honestly believes a setback is an opportunity for a comeback. We can’t possibly tolerate or celebrate in the obvious successes such longitudinal positive thinking these days brings into being. No, no, no… we must all be afraid, be very afraid or one of Reich’s ‘enemies’ just might do something good. And we can’t have that. They’re ALL bad, you see.


    • OK. So you support Musk and his purchase. That’s your prerogative, but BRIEF reasons why you feel this way (perhaps numbered?) would have been sufficient. And your snide criticism of Reich was also unnecessary.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I read the FREE versions of both his and Heather’s substack columns. Due to my lack of discretionary income, I don’t PAY to read others’ opinions.

          BTW, speaking of Heather … here’s a quote from her latest:

          “Today, racist and antisemitic content rose sharply as users appeared to be testing the limits of the platform under Musk. The Network Contagion Research Institute, which studies disinformation on social media, noted that posters on the anonymous website 4chan have been encouraging users to spread racist and derogatory slurs on Twitter. ”
          “In the first 12 hours after Musk acquired the site, the use of the n-word increased nearly 500%.”

          These are the concerns of most people related to Musk and Twitter … not his “AI development.”

          Liked by 3 people

        • No, these are the issues being promoted by such sources. My point about purchasing Twitter to collect source data is to reveal that the promotion being sold to the gullible does not include what I think is real business reason for the purchase. The promotion is not accurate, not fair, not insightful, not useful, and PROBABLY not true. The promotion serves another master than any of these reasons. So maybe – just maybe – you don’t have to swallow it all and believe it is a nutritious source of truth when it’s more than likely not. That’s why I suggest offering a grace period to see what actually emerges from Twitter rather than go with the belief of those supposed ‘experts’ who presume to already know better now.


      • ok. He is coming out of the shadows now. tildeb is obviously nothing, and I mean nothing, but a right wing concern troll. Even his favorite ideology, “liberalism” is nothing but a code word for right wing anarchocapitalism. come on tildeb, start sprinkling quotes from Mies and Rothbard and the Paypal goon in your sermons to us sinful libs.

        Liked by 2 people

        • and anyone who thinks EVs are a solution to global warming have drank some serious koolaid. the embedded carbon, along with the toxicity of lithium mining, are epic

          Liked by 2 people

        • Climate change is caused by human activity burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are burned to create energy that can be harnessed. The deluded think the problem is using energy. The engineers understand the problem is the fuel. Change the fuel to, say, a cheaper and safer renewable source that does not need to be purchased and the energy system will switch. Climate change will stop being fueled by the human part of the equation of burning greenhouse gases for said energy.

          Will EVs solve this change? No. But it will be part of the solution for a laundry list of reasons, not least of which is creating a mobile electrical energy storage grid that P&E admits has been highly useful. ERCOTT is looking at duplicating TESLA’s system P&E now uses.

          None of this is bad. But because transportation is only about 30% of the issue, EVs alone were never going to solve the problem. But it does use a fraction of the mining needed for fossil fuel transportation, a fraction of the carbon used for transportation, a fraction of pollution created by transportation, and so on. It is a necessary step away from fossil fuels and a huge economic benefit to those who switch and those who wish to be part of this energy system solution.


      • Support? I understand why he purchased it. And it has to do with gaining accurate data on real people. (Maybe you are unaware that TESLA owns and operates one of the largest and fastest super computers in the world dedicated to improving artificial intelligence through real world data). Reich misses this understanding by a country mile and goes straight down the rabbit hole of conspiracy. And his readership generally speaking has swallowed Reich’s bizarre version wholesale. Now why is that?

        Give the Twitter purchase, say, three months ands see what changes happen, see if it becomes a better or worse platform than before, rather than jump on the anti-all-things-Musk bandwagon so popular amongst the Democrats who seem determined to hate all things white and wealthy by definition. The guy I think deserves a chance not because I’m a believer-in-all-things-Musk but because Musk has a history, an earned track record, available to anyone who cares to look of building something better than what was. And in every case I can think of, there were lots of problems, setbacks, new challenges, and difficult issues along the way… all of which I think helped create a better solution. Why should Twitter be any different?


  3. I mostly agree with Reich on this. I would consider closing my twitter account, except that I don’t have such an account. If Musk thinks that social media were trying to control speech, he is mistaken. They were merely attempting to keep their media platforms hospitable enough to be able to sell advertising. Musk is going to run into that issue, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • To anyone who follows, say, transactivism, the censorship is unbelievable even against those who state biological facts. And the twitter mob is in for a rude awakening, I suspect. Musk has hinted at having to use a verifiable identity. That will send fear into the mob who no doubt will cry foul and try to portray Musk as the Great Satan. Never mind he opens up Ukraine and is going to be covering Iran from overlord censors. Shh…. be afraid what the loss of woke content moderators might mean.


  4. My entire social media content consists of WP.

    The hell with the rest of it. And I ain’t sure how much longer I can do WP.

    If any of the many social media platforms are anything like FB, they can all burn in the proverbial hell for all I care. Do I care what happens to Twitter now that Musk has it? Nope. I hope it blows up in his face though. I hope it goes down like a helium loaded zeppelin in a lightning storm. The rest of social media can follow suit as well.

    If there was anything in social media that was positive for society, that is beyond keeping in touch with family (which can still be done with a telephone/email btw,) I might feel differently. But all I see is nothing but bullshit, lies, and hateful small minded bigots all running their mouths and loading their guns. All the while the spybot algorithms make the social media sites millions by riding the backs of stupid people.

    No thanks. I want nothing to do with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I don’t use Twitter (or other social media except Word Press, if WP is considered social media) so I truly have no idea of what the fuss is about, BUT IF internet freedom means allowing the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories, racism and other forms of hatred, it needs to be controlled. Just as do any other platforms that allows those things. Right now humanity needs to come together to find a real solution to climate disasters, and the unmitigated use of fossil fuels, particularly in the production of non-biodegrable plastics. Our oceans and other waterways will never be cleaned of microplastics, but instead of stopping plastic production it is growing bigger and bigger.
    When most planes were grounded during Covid, the air started to clear up. But now that planes are flying again in pre-Covid numbers the air is being overpolluted all over again. Where is the sense in allowing airplanes to fly?
    It is all interconnected, whether the connections are visible or not. If we wish to survive as a species, if we want life to survive on this earth, we must start being responsible for our stupidity!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Unfortunately, the people that have the power to change things tend to have a vested interest in the status-quo.

      Canada has made a good start (and a very small one) with the introduction of a carbon tax. We need other countries to get on board, but conservatives will fight to the bitter end to preserve petroleum jobs, no matter the cost to the environment and future generations. I worry that we, as a species, don’t have the collective wisdom to do what is right for the long term, and that it may already be too late to make enough change to not doom humanities future.


      • Canada may have made a good start, but Alberta is trying to end it post-haste! Danielle Smith is as stupid as Jason Kenney was but overall she is even worse. Kenney at least pretended to love all Albertans. Steel only loves the anti-vax convoy crowd who think they can dictate to the rest of Canada. Electing Smith in Medicine Hat next week will be equivalent to Georgia elected Herschel Walker to the Amerixan Senate!
        But I’m sure the fix is in. Dead people will be voting again. Conservatives cannot stand to lose!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I just reread this comment, and damned if I didn’t call Smith Danielle Steele yet again, even minus the last e. Can you blame me getting Danielle Smith and Danielle Steele mixed up, they both write fantasy. But at least Steele’s fantasies are fun, if you are into romance novels. Smith’s fantasies, on the other hand, are dangerous to life.


  6. I want to know how he’s going to pay for it. Twitter isn’t exactly a cash cow. As often as not it runs at a loss. Last quarter it lost $270 million. Meanwhile Musk is putting up about $20+ billion in cash and the rest in loans, so he’s looking at about $20 – $24 billion in debt that has to be paid off. And Twitter doesn’t generate enough income in some quarters to even pay the interest, much less pay off the principal. The ROI on this is so bad that any financial advisor worthy of the name would have bailed out on this long ago after telling Musk he needed to get his head examined. While it’s true Musk isn’t exactly emotionally mature, he isn’t stupid. He’ll play with his new toy for a while until all the attention begins to dwindle, then he’s going to be sitting there stuck with a service that is slowly sucking him dry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It looks like his main plan is to cut costs with layoffs, then bring back the racists and conspiracy theorists.

      Whether that results in a profitable enterprise we’ll have to see.

      My guess is it won’t entirely but it might put enough shine on the platform that he can take it public again and eventually unload it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Now that I think of it you’re probably right, James. He’ll play with his new toy for a while and fiddle with it to try to increase revenue and eventually he’ll become tired of it and try to dump it. But by that time no one knows what Twitter will be like.

        He announced last week that he was going to lay off 75% of the workforce as soon as he took over, a comment he walked back later after just a few days because it was his usual bluster and need to be the center of attention that was speaking. Also because if he really did that would have pretty much been the end of Twitter completely.

        Twitter has always had problems trying to make itself profitable and I doubt very much if Musk is going to help that situation much. And I’m sure that behind the scenes his lawyers are telling him to keep his big mouth shut because he’s already under scrutiny from the SEC, FTC and other government agencies over a variety of issues. Tesla is involved with a nasty scandal involving racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

        The next few months are going to be interesting. Musk reminds me of a little kid who wants a puppy and hasn’t yet realized he has to clean up its crap, keep it fed and watered, take it to the vet and take it out to pee every two hours even in the middle of winter.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Personally I’m hoping Musk will fail with Twitter. Perhaps it will instill in him a modicum of humility. I’m also not optimistic about SpaceX being able to do anything significant with Mars. But SpaceX does make great rockets probably despite Musk more than because of him.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I may not like it but unfettered free speech is necessary to let some air out of the balloon. Suppressing certain sides has only made tension worse, not better. The pc friendly Mayberry versions of social media are faked into existence and does not portray reality, no matter how terrible that is. Apparently we are overall a horrible bunch of entitled brats.
    I would say, let’s see how this goes—it’s goi g to make an interesting show!
    I wonder; if you had the choice to choose twitter real or twitter filtered which one would you choose? I suspect you’d openly choose twitter filtered but read twitter real under the covers. It’s much more interesting.


    • Like you, jimoeba, I am curious about what will emerge. I have no doubt there will be limits and constraints to comply with various laws but I wonder how much will change when people can no longer simply hide behind complete anonymity on this platform but know that at the end of the day they are going to have to be responsible for what they say. That one change may have a profound impact dismantling the mob. But it will require a bit of time to tailor and then apply a completely new algorithm to serve Musk’s vision rather than increase advertising revenue. I think people badly misunderstand Musk’s goal here and presume it’s about the platform as a stand alone entity making money. Musk doesn’t need the money. I would think this would be evident knowing that Twitter is not a cash cow yet cost him 44 billion. It amazes me so many people presume Musk is a financial idiot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I only use twitter to follow a handful of scientists so I’m unaware first hand of the vitriol.
        One nice thing about allowing people to speak openly is you can learn who they really are. I don’t believe suppressing it has made anything better. It may appear better by the numbers but that would be deceiving now wouldn’t it?


        • It’s the call for suppression of basic liberal values like free speech and due process coming from Democrats – not just regarding Twitter but across the culture – that is driving many moderates into the waiting arms of many local Republican candidates. One might think liberal Democrats would appreciate the central role free speech has played for many marginalized communities in gaining eventual mainstream acceptance (in about 20 years, public opinion literally reversed from about 90% against to 90% for when it came to interracial marriage). It is a bedrock principle now displaced by those who want to sacrifice it in the name of something else, like ‘safety’. But the problem is that the champions of such bedrock principles has ALSO flipped; it is the Democrats who apply ever more pressure to institutions and organizations to put aside these principles and just obey to remain a member of the Correct Tribe or be cast out as a Deplorable one of Them. Moderate voters in growing numbers from marginalized groups respond by voting for those who do not condemn and harm their reputations this way. To date that has been the growing role of Twitter. So the Democrats just keep doubling down. It’s so stupid and so anti-liberal to the core.



    We once had six local newspapers. Now we have two with little circulation. I don’t know how they can buy ink. They started thinning out before the electronic media started, but it helped put them under. That is not restricted to our little podunk area; it has been nationwide: papers are bought up just to be closed down. It is a global occurrence.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean all this is driven by some nefarious reason. It is not all some great conspiracy, but enough of it is that we need to look at it seriously.

    Ask any self-respecting despot for the best way to control the masses, and the top of his/her list will be ‘knowledge.’ See how it is working in Russia? Keep them in the dark, poor, and scared.

    Someone suggested we just wait and see what Elon Musk does with his new toy. The trouble with that is the amount of damage that can be done while we wait. Some folks simply don’t have the ability to separate news from propaganda, which is the result hoped for by those who control communication among the people. Governments, media moguls, corporations, and religions. We cannot afford to leave our language and our communication in the hands of those who ban and burn books and other art.

    Are we unable to control the enterprise that our democracy has enabled us to build when it is turned to destroy the very system that brought us here?

    So far, Putin has not found a place to stop, yet we watch to see what he will do. Next. Xi is rising. The watchmen have stopped looking out over the wall and turned to watch the citizens. Whose interests do they share?

    The purpose of the Department of Defense is to ensure our safety from enemies. We should be able to protect ourselves from missives as well as missiles.

    “Perhaps it is the disruptive intervention of telecommunication technology, which so alters our sense of time, that encourages a longing for days gone by when the tempo was less discontinuous, closer to our own heartbeat. When time was anything but money. Perhaps centuries of imperialist appropriations of the future of other countries and continents have exhausted our faith in our own. Perhaps the future that H. G. Wells saw -a stagnant body of never rippled water- have overwhelmed us and precipitated a flight into eternity that has already taken place.”
    Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-regard
    The Future of Time: Literature and Diminished Expectations


    • Just wanted to mention that my Anti-Virus program (BitDefender) would NOT let me access the link you included unless I ignored all safety cautions … which I did not do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry. The article simply points out who is in control of communications, and I’m not sure anyone has been surprised by that.

        The finger on the pulse of American society is also on the switch that can disable a large chunk of our media.

        WAPO: “Democracy Dies in Darkness”
        If Twitter becomes just another cesspool, we will survive. I read a lot of my favorite commentary there.
        You may want to check out Steven Beschloss’ commentary for yesterday. Even if the GOP, capitalism, and/or religion take over the government in the next election or two, I think that having had a taste of democracy, we won’t give up so easily.


    • Nan, you reference for our delectation,

      “I have long had my doubts about Elon Musk’s character and judgment. He has repeatedly shown himself to be impetuous, unreliable, self-serving, and loony. But his latest foray suggests I may have overestimated him.

      No one in a decent, civil society should have the unchecked power Elon Musk has accumulated. He must relinquish Twitter. If he does not, the rest of us should jump off his stinking ship.”

      And you feel I’m the one you need to chide for snide criticism.


        • Obviously not in either case.

          My point was that the Twitter purchase by Musk had a specific aim that Reich completely and utterly and absolutely failed (and continues to fail) to either grasp or consider in his rush to blanket condemnation and fear mongering. Why anyone would then suggest the lens through which such a person was recommending was somehow worthy of insight when it was filled with snide commentary and obtuseness to reality I think is helpfully revealing to one’s imported biases. None of us are particularly aware of these biases – nor how they affect, tailor, and screen the processing of new information – until and unless something or someone points it out. But, again, it’s the length and tone doing so elicits criticism from you. This only protects the source from legitimate criticism, and Reich needs legitimate criticism for his over-the-top deeply partisan and grossly unfair assessment of his betters. And Musk by his accomplishments is Reich’s better. Reich divides, Musk builds. Which I hold in higher esteem is the builder because that is what’s really hard to do when faced by so many like Reich.


        • None of us are particularly aware of these biases — and that includes you, yes?

          Further, it is quite obvious you see Musk from a totally different perspective … more as a superman in the technology field, based on your prior comments … and so it follows you see this purchase through those same lens.

          However, from a social networking POV, Twitter is well-known for posts that exude conspiracy theories … and then, as Reich points out, Musk adds one of his own! The fact that he deleted it doesn’t take away from his original action.

          One other thing — you criticize Reich for his “deeply partisan and grossly unfair assessment.” So I ask you, in the political world of today … what else is new?


        • Most certainly me. That’s why when I have a belief or opinion corrected with compelling evidence from reality, I THANK the person and change that opinion or belief. I don’t condemn their tone or the length to which they went to help me.

          Look, again and again I point out how and why Reich gets it wrong regarding Musk and Twitter. Not a single commentator has responded to this insight. But most line up like lemmings to condemn Musk wholesale and, like you, mistakenly believe I think Musk is some kind of superman. No. I see what he BUILDS. I understand and appreciate that because it’s so rare. What builds speaks volumes to me. But we can’t have anything positive to say about the guy (because he’s white and rich?) because he MUST be the worst of the worst. Reich says so. So that grants these commentators free rein on tone and length. That’s the bias I’m talking about.


  10. Steve Schmidt offers this “advice” to Musk in his newsletter of 11/1/22:

    Shut the f#@k up. Sit the f#@k down. Stop talking. Because you are a genius in one thing does not make you an expert in anything else. Being rich doesn’t make you an expert in everything.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wouldn’t even call Musk an expert at anything. He made his money thanks largely to corporate socialism and being in the right place at the right time. He’s lucky, as are most of the very rich.

      As is often the case with the super rich, they fail to recognize that 99% of what got them where they are is simply luck, whether it be being born to a well off family, or having the right political connections. Very little of what made them rich is their own ability (and this is why I think the rich should pay massive taxes on their incomes.)

      Liked by 1 person

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