Elon Musk and Donald Trump have been compared before and generally not in the most favorable terms, although granted, Musk has actually been a captain of industry, helming some fascinating projects and Trump has merely figured out how to keep grifting and bankrupting in ever widening circles. From the front page of the New York tabloids to the Oval Office is one hell of a journey, you have to admit that.
Likewise, Elon Musk, who has been called the Discount Howard Hughes, has become involved in everything from cutting edge automotive technology to space travel. He’s the world’s richest man and now he is the owner — and sole member of the board — of Twitter, the third largest social media platform on the planet.
This is where it starts to go into dystopian sci fi. Owning and more importantly managing Twitter gives Musk an incredibly oversized voice, as we unfortunately saw over the weekend when he tweeted a vulgar conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi and then thought better of it and deleted the tweet.
But the damage was done. The tweet got retweeted something like 110 million times and it became its own news story.
Let us pause and analyze that tweet for a few moments, because one thing Musk did was prove how very much like Trump he is, and especially in his tweeting style. And you know where Trump’s tweeting style got us. Here’s Jonathan Last’s take on it.
“There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”
So. Many. Modifiers.
Who knows what Musk was actually saying! He didn’t say that Paul Pelosi was attacked by a crazed, gay Antifa socialist.
He merely pointed out that there was a mathematical chance of one event (“there is a tiny possibility”) in which there is another mathematical chance of a second event (“there might be”) in which exists some alternate explanation for the available set of facts.
Musk is so distanced from making an actual accusation that he’s barely even Just Asking Questions.
You know who else talks like this?
Some time ago Keri Mangis wrote a detailed explanation of Trump’s literary style, which breaks down the shitpost as a mode of communication. The key elements are the use of:
- Passive voice
- Metaphor instead of literal language
- Superlative modifiers
- Opt-out clauses (such as “maybe” or “I don’t know” or “some people say”)
Trump does them all. And Musk is now working the same corner.
I find that sobering. I also find it sobering that the old Twitter board is gone and Musk is apparently winging it. This also happened earlier.
- Twitter employees have until Nov. 7 to launch the new subscription feature, or they will be fired, Musk reportedly told the staff on Sunday.
- Users who are already verified will have 90 days to subscribe or lose their blue checkmarks.
Musk tweeted on Sunday that “the whole verification process is being revamped right now.”
The reported move to charge for blue checkmarks drew widespread criticism among users.
Two major concerns keep getting articulated and nobody has any answers to either. The first is that Musk’s online Twitter persona has been described as that of a shitposting teenager. Secondly, next to Musk the Saudis are the largest shareholders.
Both are true and what those facts might mean, your guess is as good as mine.
It’s been said, and rightfully so, that most people who say they want free speech actually just want to be the one in charge of deciding which speech is free.
In the past few days Stew Peters and Nick Fuentes tried to get back on Twitter and were denied. But maybe they will be allowed back on eventually. And of course the burning question is will Trump be allowed back on? Nobody knows.
The worse case scenario as I see it is that Twitter will become a safe space for insurrectionists, bigots, fascists, misogynists and religious lunatics to gather together and ferment their heady brews of conspiracy theories, election denying and let’s face it, assassination plots.
An even worse case scenario which I never envisioned occurred this weekend when a failed assassination plot instead became a vulgar right-wing media fueled conspiracy theory. And that was caused by the owner of Twitter himself, Elon Musk.
If this isn’t dystopia, it will do until the real thing comes along. Twitter may well become the modern day Tower of Babel. It may already be there.