Last weekend was the final straw. It's time for a #TwitterStrike.
This article from Tablet Magazine perfectly describes the awful consequences of the collusion between the United States Government and social media companies, especially old Twitter.
Elon Musk has fixed this.
Twitter Strike strikes out. A BBC interview with Elon Musk aired on Twitter Spaces and garnered 3 million viewers. The only show on the Cable News channels that is regularly viewed by that many people is Tucker Carlson though “The Five” occasionally reaches that many viewers. Not another show comes close. Remarkably the evening shows on CNN don’t get 3 million viewers even if you aggregate their ratings.
While Substack authors are understandably annoyed with Musk’s shenanigans, the public seems to be entranced by Twitter and more committed to the site than ever before.
It’s not hard to understand why; like Substack, Twitter represents disintermediation at its finest. Why were so many viewers mesmerized by the interview on Twitter spaces? I think it’s because viewers got to see the whole discussion unedited and without interruption.
Twitter is continuing the process of solidifying it’s role as the “go-to” source. for news. Many of its broadcast and print competitors are failing.
There’s no question that Musk is impetuous. He had a temper tantrum when he thought Substack was rolling out a competing product. How long will it be before the shoe is on the other foot? There’s no question that Musk plans to buy or create a platform designed to compete with Substack and attach it to Twitter. Once, Musk offers Substack authors a marginally better financial deal, watch many of them abandon their principles and come running to Musk’s new platform.
It’s hard to believe that Musk accomplished all this while cutting Twitter’s headcount from 8,000 down to 1,500. Hopefully all of those laid off Twitter brats will make better baristas than they performed as censors.
Let me respond to what is perhaps a minor point. How long have Google and other search engines been controlling and selling our data? Nobody apparently cared enough to make a serious try at changing it. So it's utterly unsurprising to me that social media companies when they came along have all continued to do the same thing. Why wouldn't they? Everyone else does, it's how things work. I don't like it, but the time to do something effective was 20 years ago.
Also, do we really want to live in a society where people, powerful or not, feel like they have to be circumspect about insulting the government? I sure don't.
As for Elon's lack of commitment to free speech, I have been disappointed that some of his actions haven't matched the good talk he talked early on. However, we have one important platform controlled by whatever Elon Musk is, an independent is probably the best descriptor politically. Every other major platform is controlled by the Left to a greater or lesser degree. Every single one. Twitter is far from perfect, as is Musk, but in the grand scheme of things I'd rather not have 100% of the important platforms our lives depend on be ideologically aligned. With him in charge, at least there's one outlier.
If your objective is to foment a strike against Twitter in the hope that the 'hurt' to Musk's wallet will make him reconsider his wacky decisions and actions, Claire, then you might as well give up now. Whatever net income Twitter generates - really, a loss, even for his violating employment contracts and stiffing vendors - it (the fictional income) is insufficient to fill his pantry with food or pay his mortgage. More hurtful would be to cause Tesla/TSLA shares to breach $100/share, in which event his financial house of cards would implode. (Remember, the banks so eager to loan him $13 Billion for his Twitter purchase were immediately underwater on the loans they made to him, a hard $ hit of $5-6 Billion dollars the syndicate banks had to shelve and hope for better days. Gee, talk about the banking industry's mismatch between assets and liabilities, a topic of some currency the past several weeks.
Twitter today increasingly is a forum for nut-jobs who previously hid under the rock known as the "Dark Web." now they rush to Twitter, as the site becomes very similar to MySpace, a previous social media star that flamed out and, in the end, became the hangout for two cohorts: musicians who still believed MySpace was their one outlet to reach their fans and new possible listeners... and pedophiles. And guess who the pedophiles preyed on? (This sad episode is history so doubters need only search Google for the full story.)
I am not on Twitter, nor Facebook, nor any social media ever so I cannot speak knowledgeably about the issues you face. However, the time is nigh to find an alternative to Twitter, most of which are known and all have considerable drawbacks. Most notably, they lack the network effect that Twitter offers. But there is a new kid on the block, still in invitation-only beta, Bluesky...
... that promises to cure many of the ills present in many social media iterations, past and present. Its drawback is its founder: one Jack Dorsey.
Thanks for another brilliant piece, Claire. How frustrating & terrifying for you to contemplate that this wonderful publication you've built--one of the best things to come out of the 2020s, I think---might be smashed to bits in a few days by a stroppy over-sized toddler. If Twitter does fail to serve its users well, though, there's a real possibility that something else more suitable will take its place. Yes, network effects are powerful, but the rise of TikTok shows that, if there's a gap in the social media space, new entrants can quite capably step in to fill it.
I understand your anger, but I believe it is misdirected.
The real problem is our technology has concentrated power over communication in the hands of a few hundred people, Musk being only one of them. The people with the decision power are the weak link on all these platforms. Getting rid of Musk doesn’t solve the problem, it just changes it with the next set of “people in charge” being just as vulnerable to government manipulation as the people before Musk. The Cosmopolitan Globalist will be no less vulnerable.
The Twitter Files has revealed that the people before Musk at Twitter were just as arbitrary, and agenda driven as he is. They were being “managed” by US government agencies and politicians all behind a veil of secrecy. This evil arrangement negatively affected the livelihoods of many people in much the same way as you believe Musk could affect yours. Everyone with a business involving any form of communication is vulnerable in the current situation. No career is safe from arbitrary damage.
When a few very bright people create and control the algorithms, these people are the weak link. It is the people that can be corrupted and controlled by governments and the wealthy. Twitter Files showed us how the US government had gained de facto control over Twitter’s decisions through implied personal and business threats. They used this power to censor ideas or knowledge they wanted to suppress. Even things they knew were true were suppressed if the information was inconvenient (Hunters laptop for example) There are several other examples in the Twitter files of twitter employees knowing something was true, but then giving into the government pressure and suppressed the information anyway.
Other governments do the same to all the platforms and I’m sure many of their threats are not so implied. Governments have the power to use physical harm, legal harassment, and incarceration against individuals arbitrarily. The threat is serious because most can follow through with impunity. This is why crypto currency will fail. The computer geeks are the weak link.
Your anger should be directed at governments and powerful people that have leveraged the people controlling the algorithms to their own advantage. They will continue to be the real threat long after Musk is gone.
As long as the nature of the technology drives control to a few, the powerful will find ways to gain and maintain control of the systems through manipulation of those few people.
I am so thankful that I am retired and do not have to navigate this brave new world.
Had Musk bought Substack first then Twitter would this have been written?
Claire, take a deep breath, count to ten, and move your publicity apparatus to MySpace. Sorry, not to be so glib, but I’m one of the 20% who’ve followed you since Ricochet (which is now a Teahadist/Trumpist cesspool) without ever setting foot on Twitter (besides a brief foray with a parody account). Look at the silver lining, and take this opportunity to diversify publicity. Maybe SubStack Notes will replace Twitter. Something like 70% of Twitter is left-leaning, and another 20% is hard right. Elon Musk, of whom I’m ambivalent, will probably end up with a rump Truth Social or Parler or name your failed fascist message board if he doesn’t wise up. Twitter was on the ropes financially under Jack Dorsey pandering to his progressive paladins. It’s even more threatened under Musk and his Alt Right fanbois.
And a small correction. Google and Facebook are (and Dorsey’s Twitter was) begging for stiff congressional regulations. You know why? To raise the barriers to entry so SubStack, SubStack Notes, and by extension the Cosmopolitan Globalists couldn’t break into the media space. Don’t go full WigWag trustbusting neo-progressive in a fit of pique. It’ll turn around and bite you. Now go have a nice tipple or three of Armagnac or Calvados and relax.
Elon Musk Must Go. I completely agree. I hate him. I think too many informed people still underestimate the scope of the threat he poses to the liberal order. I’m glad you clearly don’t. However, I think I take the libertarian side of the argument as to whether we should regulate social media. I think it would be very dangerous for our government to get involved policing the internet, but private companies should have the utmost discretion to moderate their platforms, and they should do so wisely depending on their shareholders and user-base, assuming they don’t want to lose that capital. Although I agree tech is egregiously monopolistic and uncompetitive, this I think more has to do with over-excessive patent law. We should make intellectual property reforms, because it’s out of control like occupational licensing. And to deal with the data issue, I see no problem with legislation for the purpose of securing our privacy on the internet.
But what I do not like is the government intruding on the search engines to protect us from certain content deemed sensitive for “national security” reasons. That’s just a violation of our first amendment rights. If we don’t have wide latitude to look up whatever information we want to, even if it’s Russian propaganda, then what would national security even matter without free access to information and impersonal algorithms recommending to us what interests us, essential to the liberties of market actors with first amendment rights. Look up the recent proposed RESTRICT bill to see how terrible the idea of using government to intervene in social media would be.
Even a trigger warning telling me x has disturbing images annoys me. For example, in the season of the crown featuring Princess diana a warning comes on the screen warning me of images depicting eating disorders. No one needs to be warned of an eating disorder. I can handle it. Netflix will even warn you of people taking drugs or smoking. I can handle that too. i’m just waiting for the trigger warning regarding obesity, if that’s not already out there.
Let’s not have this shit on the internet too. If I were even to read articles about suicide on google, i can’t read an article without getting asked if i need help. Or depression. Try reading about depression and you get bombarded with mental health help.
Social media, it gratifies me, is one of the last sectors of American society that the government does not have some kind of control over, and it has just gotten more and more extreme, with financial regulations, health regulations, environmental regulations. To start regulating social media would involve the prospect of the government socially conditioning the mind of the body politic. Especially with today’s politicians like Josh Hawley who are the most adamant about regulating big tech, I would be petrified to hand social media over to congress. It’s unfortunate but we cannot rely on government to protect us from wanna-be accelerationist demagogic barbarians like musk.
Like you suggest musks’s authoritarianism could incite a whole movement of professionals to go to substack as an alternative. It would be better if social media were more competitive, but still it’s better that consumers make their choices as to what unregulated platform to use, rather than people like Josh Hawley or Elizabeth Warren
I dumped Twitter when Elon switched off api access - the client i used stopped working, and the official Twitter client is useless for my purposes.
Maybe it's just an amplification effect of the greater scrutiny, but Musk looks increasingly desperate to me. As other commenters have pointed out, his money tree at Tesla is in danger of withering, and most of his other businesses have not been anywhere near as successful (putting it mildly). Twitter will never make near enough money on its own, so its only real use to him is as a medium of leverage and propaganda. His publicly stated moral position is that pretty much anything goes in the service of his vision of getting humanity off this planet, so i don't expect him to balk at much to (try and) dig himself out of his current hole so that he may continue in his self appointed role as saviour.
As far as Twitter alternatives go, It would be good to see the alternative platforms embrace platform neutrality. It would be trivially easy, for example, for Substack to implement the ActivityPub protocol and give their authors access to the whole Fediverse audience. Ditto for Post. That would go some way to insulating people who rely on these systems for a livelihood from the ups and downs of a specific platform or the whims of a specific owner. Which would be better for all of us.
Let’s see. New Twitter temporarily inconvenienced the marketing efforts of a tiny percentage of Americans who make their living on Substack. How many Americans are we talking about? It’s a rounding error of a rounding error.
Old Twitter was a co-conspirator with venal academic institutions and United States intelligence agencies in suppressing true information and censoring the opinions of ordinary Americans (people who don’t know what Substack is let alone post there).
Personally, I’ll take new Twitter over old Twitter every day of the week.
Elon Musk may not exactly be a hero, but he’s pretty close.
¨Musk’s acquisition of Twitter should have been stopped on multiple grounds, foremost among them that in Musk’s hands, Twitter is a national security threat. (As far as we know, he’s already turned over all of Twitter’s user data to the CCP. If Beijing asked for it, does anyone doubt he’d do it, especially if they offered him a good price for it?)¨
Oh, there should be no doubt that he is a willing pawn of the neo-Axis - he obviously thinks he´s the one calling the shots, but Beijing has him by the balls because his Tesla plant is there, and my suspicion is that they´re pumping his in-China sales - and have made it clear they´ll cut him off if he gets out of line.
(The earnings calls he´s made since September have been wild, and it´s pretty obvious he´s inflating his numbers. The problem here is that, without Tesla, he´s the owner of three or four money losers, and has no profit centers. In the instance that his Tesla shares go in the toilet or the company implodes he would be very much worth negative dollars. A lot of negative dollars - absent subsidies, I am pretty sure SpaceX would go under, the Boring Company is a joke, and obviously, he paid 44 billion for Twitter and it is now worth maybe 4, if he were lucky and could find a buyer. That would pay as much as 4 billion. (For reference, Yahoo bought Tumblr, a going enterprise with buzz for a billion, and Yahoo wound up selling it off for 3 million. This is a comparable case, I believe.) The businessman con artist managing to just stay one step ahead of bankruptcy is a well-known figure: see one Donald John Trump for example.)
At any rate, I said they should conduct a national security investigation back in October, and that they should just park the acquisition, but the Blob´s ability to turn around the direction of their thought is about as quick as the Ever Given. (That DC is *right* *now* having a freakout about the CCP, 10 to 15 years after it should have been clear they needed to do so is an indication about how far behind the curve they are running.)
¨And he’s such a repellent specimen, too: a puerile, stammering creature who resembles some kind of pale, hairless mole and who is, despite all the riches in the world, unable to land a joke. (This is not strictly relevant to my argument, but it adds to my aggravation.)¨
I think it´s entirely relevant - the fact that he is such a disgusting specimen is why he fits in so well with the far right, which is all in on being pro-dictatorship. At any rate, it was clear to me (because they SAID SO) that the reason to target Twitter with an acquisition was to gain power over the lefto-communist elites, like, oh, I dunno, Claire Berlinski. That is obviously an entirely ridiculous thought, but they do think it and they do believe it. To go along with being puerile little men who are terrified of the ladies, they are also entirely clueless - WAY more money than brains.
So. Here we are. I´m not sure there´s much that the USG can do at this moment, and the GOP is practically ecstatic to back puerile little men, so they´re not going to sign on to anything aimed at Musk. All of this points to just watching Twitter burn and get on with finding alternatives.
that´s not a satisfactory direction, but the situation is what it is
Apparently EM tried to back out of his Twitter purchase offer on somewhat specious grounds, to the extent that it took a lawsuit to force him to go through with it. I suppose wouldn’t have been legally valid to let him back out, and legally enforceable contracts are a keystone of US commerce, but I do sigh a bit and wonder if, maybe, they could have given him a financial slap on the wrist and let him out of it. That could still more more money than ever made by me, everyone I know, and all our ancestors back to the invention of money, enough to make Twitter shareholders happy and Musk hurt enough to not make important business offers on a whim, while still not affecting his other ventures.
As for Medvedev- letting him run his mouth is probably more effective anti-Russian propaganda than anything Ukraine could produce. You can’t buy that kind of negative publicity. Being able to ignore terrible people makes them more tolerable; if their most aggressive words are thrown in your face daily it becomes harder not to actively dislike them.
I tried Twitter for a bit, but it just got to be annoying after awhile. On Substack, you can read and try to get a real sense of other people's beliefs/perspective; Twitter, on the other hand, is like a big exclamation point all the time.
The frustration you're describing about government not working for the people is, I think, partly what got Trump into office. Enough of that, though. It's certainly not good for any society when there are wide-spread levels of dissatisfaction and frustration. It does not bode well.
I never really paid much attention to Substack but EM's behavior and the release of Notes got me here...I'm re-engaging with writing and just moved my podcast to the platform. Wouldn't have happened without him, so there's that!
I may be one amongst a small subset but I find Twitter increasingly a cesspool of the very worst impulses humans possess. Alternatives must be developed and constant challenges of this sort will, insha’allah (☺️) lead to them! Keep the faith Claire as ultimately, reason and compassion will win out if we are to survive. I’m a child of Holocaust surviving Polish Jews so optimism runs in my blood..