Musk Is Using the Free Market, Not Government Censorship, to Fix Twitter - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Musk Is Using the Free Market, Not Government Censorship, to Fix Twitter
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Elon Musk in conversation with head of TED Chris Anderson on April 14, 2022 (TED/YouTube)

Neo-reactionary pundits recently called for the creation of a 21st-century House Un-American Activities Committee. Jon Schweppe at Newsweek argued, “Republicans in the House should think bigger than simply calling former Twitter executives before the House Oversight Committee. We need a special select committee tasked with an exclusive focus on this issue. Let’s subpoena Google. Let’s call in Zuckerberg. Let’s FOIA outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosis (D-CA) text messages.”

What could possibly go wrong?

Elon Musk has acquired Twitter, building on his eclectic collection of futuristic enterprises that include Tesla, his electric car company; SpaceX, his space exploration corporation; The Boring Company, a tunneling venture; and Neuralink, a project aiming to embed computer chips in our brains. Shades of the Marvel Comics universe!

Meanwhile, a hilarious Gilbert and Sullivan–like operetta within the conservative movement swirls around Twitter. Some former small-government conservatives, confused by all this newfangled tech, have gone rogue.

They confuse content moderation, which every company practices, with “censorship.” Unmoderated channels, such as 4chan and its successors, inevitably turn into cesspools of hate and weirdness.

Anarchy is not conservatism. It’s not even libertarianism.

“Censorship” is by nature something done by a government, not the competitive private sector. Luckily, the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Prohibiting censorship is a foreign concept to neo-reactionaries. But there it is, to their irritation, right there to the fore of the Bill of Rights.

Putting the government in charge of what can be published online would kick the First Amendment to the curb. It would give Big Government a new department, the Ministry of Truth.

Critics of Twitter are not wrong that there was a problem with its moderation. But pushing government control prescribes a cure worse than the disease.

By proposing a legislative or regulatory solution instead of a market-driven one, they are abandoning conservative principles and risking a far worse free-speech disaster.

So, what is the right remedy to Twitter’s problem of ideological bias? And will Musk be able to find it?

In the realm of high-tech finance, venture capitalists look for “product-market fit.” Twitter, a stunted success, has a problem there.

Capitalism measures and rewards success and punishes failure through commercial outcomes. Not, as with politicians, academics and journalists, by politically correct posturing.

The peek inside Twitter that Musk now is giving us strongly suggests that the pre-Musk leadership, staff, and culture were deeply leftist. Per Pew Research Center, only about 6 percent of the American population self-identifies as progressive.

The Hippie-leaning Dorsey-era management and staff of Twitter entered a bubble that rendered them tone-deaf to the potential of a much vaster market than left-leaning Twitter could serve.

Musk, with his sense for a business opportunity, swooped in to buy a company that, he surely believes, can be reconfigured to generate a far better product-market fit. And much greater revenue.

If he achieves that, it will send the value of Twitter’s stock soaring. If, that is, Musk gets it right.

After purchasing Twitter, Musk promised Twitter’s advertisers that, “In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all…. Fundamentally, Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise.”

If this indeed is his goal, surely Musk did the right thing by discharging Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, a group that seems, to my conservative eyes, to be composed of mainly left-wing social justice warriors.

If the moderators had been culturally contaminated by anti-conservative bias, as is quite plausible, Musk also did the right thing in firing thousands of content moderator staff and contractors.

This isn’t a Musk political vendetta. Or political theater. Or a publicity stunt. It’s an effort to right Twitter.

Will Musk overreach, causing Twitter to list to starboard, and possibly capsize, rather than its previous predicament of listing left? It’s possible.

Musk loves the limelight. And he loves to defy conventional wisdom.

He is currently using his new glorious notoriety to make himself the preeminent celebrity of the moment, eclipsing a former real estate magnate/casino mogul/faded “reality” TV star/amateur politician.

That said, from cofounding PayPal to running his many companies today, Elon Musk is first and foremost a businessman. Once the novelty, dazzle, and attendant publicity fade, Musk most likely will be judging his success by Twitter’s revenue and market cap, not the number of his Twitter followers or the Google searches for his name. 

Value, not vanity, is the right metric. Let’s see if Elon Musk has what it takes to bring Twitter into the mainstream, restore credal justice to his digital platform, and, by so doing, have a shot at becoming the world’s first trillionaire.

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