Various people have expressed concern about the Elon Musk buy of Twitter, on grounds that it is dangerous to have such an important platform controlled by one very wealthy individual. I wonder if these people have noticed..
–One of the two most influential newspapers in the country, the Washington Post, is 100% owned by Jeff Bezos, who last I checked is also pretty well-off financially
–The other most-influential newspaper, The New York Times, has been controlled for decades by one wealthy and prominent family. Although The Times is owned by a publicly-traded corporation, the dual-class stock structure means that the control is with the family, not with the other shareholders.
–The largest social media platform, Meta/Facebook, is about 6 times larger than Twitter, based on market capitalization. Although Meta is a public company, it also has a dual-class stock structure, which gives Zuckerberg effective control with 53% of those Class B shares.
–The platform that seems to be getting the most traction among those under 35 or so is TikTok. It is owned by a Chinese company, which means it is required to do the bidding of the government of that country, which means in effect the CCP.
All of those things appear to be just fine with most of those people who are now expressing their upsetness about Musk/Twitter.
See my related post at Ricochet: Strike a blow for free speech.
22 thoughts on “The Fear of Elon Musk”
The only speech you’re going to get on Facebook, Twitter or any other platform is what they see as suiting their purpose, ultimately to make money. The best you can hope for is transparent rules enforced in a viewpoint neutral way. This is pretty much the opposite of what we have and I’m not going to be holding my breath, waiting for it to change. Musk will just have new rules and we’ll have to see what they are. His biggest challenge right now is to avoid going broke and to do that, he’ll have to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. With enough eye balls and the right price, the advertisers “principals” will melt like butter in a hot frying pan.
An advertising supported platform will have to make their customers happy at the end of the day and those customers aren’t you or me. The challenge is to keep the advertisers and their newfound squeamishness happy without becoming so unremittingly bland or blatantly partisan as to drive their audience away. Partisanship is its own sort of blandness but alienates only half the audience while the other basks happily in an echo chamber.
Long ago, when I was both younger and more gullible, I bought into the “don’t be evil” guff from Google. I, naively, assumed that they wouldn’t dare distort their only product, reliable search results, for fear of losing their market. They have been shown, time and time again to be doing exactly that in service of everything from pet hobby horses to intimidation from foreign governments to “requests” from shadowy forces in our own. I no longer use them, yet they seem quite un-phased by the loss of me and a few others that have noticed we are being manipulated.
“Don’t be evil” always struck me as sophomoric…very few people who do bad things start out with the idea “I think I’ll do something evil”
From slave labor user Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl Add.
Dictator Speaking … “Today we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives.
[Apple’s hammer-thrower enters, pursued by storm troopers.]
“…We have created for the first time in all history a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests of any contradictory true thoughts.
Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth.
We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause.
Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion!
[Hammer is thrown at the screen]
We shall prevail!”
“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State” in action.
I’m still waiting for the trains to run time.
Regarding TikTok and manipulation of US elections:
I’m waiting for someone to publish a list of the advertisers who have bailed on Twitter now that Musk is running it. I’d like to see just who is so eager to condemn free speech.
Anyone got a list of the advertisers who bailed on Twitter?
Ichabot…I’m pretty sure I’ve seen such a list, but can’t remember where…hopefully find it today.
OK, here’s a list of companies that have stopped or suspended advertising on Twitter.
I don’t think this is really the complete list.
Musk isn’t even remotely conservative. The extreme left is losing their shit at the thought of Twitter being moderated by the moderate left.
With Musk clearing out the deadwood at Twitter, plus the $8 a month charge, he may make a profit without most of the advertisers. From the limited view I have had of the Twitter overhead, he could probably run the place with 100 engineers.
You need more than engineers, though, Mike…large advertising accounts have human salesmen/account managers…legal department needs to serve multinational needs, as does Finance (transfer pricing, etc). At a minimum, some level of customer service sufficient to deal with tweets that are outright criminal…child pornography, death threats, etc.
Just as a guess, I’d imagine that you could probably run the place and maintain some kind of growth trajectory with around 500 people. But I’m sure Musk is going to introduce a whole bunch of new initiatives, some of which may require significant staffing above that level.
For all intents and purposes the United States is ruled by a collection of billionaires and their pet rubber stamps in Congress who pretty much agree that they like their control and don’t want it to end, regardless of the wishes of the mass of the public.
But to allow that control to continue, they need to keep that mass in the dark about actual events.
Hence, the vast (but puny for billionaires) sums expended to ensure no competing narrative is allowed to become established in the mind of the public. For example, the hysterical shrieking against Trump that still continues, whatever Matt Drudge was paid to turn over his site to the Deep State, the relentless attacks on Alex Jones, the attempt to buy out the operator of a site called the “citizen free press” for $50 million, etc, etc.
Of course, if the payouts don’t work, then come the threats, and then the FBI. Elon Musk, you are here. I know you did not commit suicide, and I will assume any fatal accident was an assassination.
I’m not on twitter, I don’t have the app, and I generally ignore its existence entirely. Hence, I don’t have a good sense of exactly why Musk’s control of twitter has inspired so much panic, despite what I wrote above. After all, the Deep State has done pretty well, even managing to successfully steal a second election in a row.
But I can only assume that what could be emerge is really bad, much worse than what’s on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Shrug. Interesting times…
But I’m sure Musk is going to introduce a whole bunch of new initiatives, some of which may require significant staffing above that level.
Why are all those functions, HR, advertising, legal being maintained in house ? We went through an era of conglomerates in business. My impression is that they did not work well. At one stage Ford was run by accountants. Then, Lee Iacocca revolutionized the company and revived its product line. Boeing is now run by accountants and government relations people. It was a shock to see them move the headquarters to Chicago. Why not engineers, although they seem to rely on H1B visa holders?
First, I am sure most of you are aware of the release of the documents by Twitter concerning the Hunter Biden laptop and that the documents were reviewed by Matt Taibbi on a Twitter thread (https://twitter.com/mtaibbi/status/1598832411025952768)
Nothing too surprising for those who have kept on top of the scandal, if anything a bit understated as there was no explosive revelation along the likes of “e-mail from the FBI asking us to remove…” However Taibbi indicated that this was only the first installment and that I’m sure we see a detailed history of shadow bans, unfollows, and other techniques used to suppress unwelcome stories. Releasing information like this in installments is not only smart from a PR standpoint as it allows individual themes to stand out on their own and builds a sense of drama but is also smart politically as it allows those who would oppose to get too ahead of the story. If I was a Ben Collins or some other Democratic media troll I would be conserving my rhetorical ammo until I get a better sense of what’s coming next – Musk’s use of the leftist Matt Taibbi as a reviewer should be a giant claxon bell warning him to that. Taibbi as a long-time journalist knows how to play a target and the leftist media complex is the target of this operation
Second, the story of suppression that Taibbi appears to be meticulously building is only one piece of a larger narrative. Washington politicians have been openly threatening/intimidating the social media platforms for years, from grilling the various CEO during committee hearings to making announcements of “possible” future action if things don’t change. I say openly because in the world of corporate government relations there is significant back-channel communication between companies and politicians, in many ways the public threats are only the tip of an iceberg of intimidation. If you are a company which knows its activities can fall under government review you know this all too well. Witness the EU’s call for Twitter to resume content moderation, also Democratic senators call for an FTC investigation. Sam Stein gives the game away when after Musk criticized Ed Markey (the senator your mother also prayed that you would never become) Sam Stein from Politico tweeted “Always risky to attack members of congress. Especially risky with Dems assured of Senate power. Curious play by Musk here. He has many interests before Congress” (https://twitter.com/samstein/status/1591849114010279936)
In one sense this has been part of American politics as long as politicians have needed money. Such prid quo pro used to be about government contracts, now it’s about regulation as well. The threat that “nice business you have, shame if anything would happen to it” doesn’t even need to be made explicit, everyone understands how the campaign donation game is played and plus the donors can expect some regulatory sugar on their end. However now we are not talking about the guy with the city garbage contract, but rather companies with stories that might be inconvenient to the powerful. When Joe Biden was recently asked if Twitter, a company that held the key to publicizing his family’s dirty secrets, should be investigated rather than doing a no comment does his best impersonation of Henry II and said “I’m suggesting that it’s worth being looked at. “ (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/white-house/biden-musk-run-twitter-investigated)
You can argue that Twitter is allowed to suppress speech because it’s a private entity, but you cannot (and I don’t think many try to) argue that Twitter doing so under government duress is in compliance with the 1st Amendment and Democrats pretty much admit it (https://twitter.com/mtaibbi/status/1598840927199469569/photo/1) and for those of you don’t think that Tabbi has made that case (as of yet) check out the article in The Intercept (https://theintercept.com/2022/10/31/social-media-disinformation-dhs)
Finally, I came across something of interest the other day that touches both indirectly on the above and some of the more apocalyptic themes that we have all tried to come to grips with in past comment threads. The piece was an article by Glenn Ellmers in American Greatness with a follow-up podcaast in Powerline (https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2022/11/podcast-glenn-ellmers-on-hard-truths-radical-possibilities.php) . Ellmers has always struck me as someone more restrained than other Claremonters like Michael Anton so I find it interesting that Ellmer is no longer willing to even Flight 93 rush the cockpit because as he sees it the constitutional republic is dead and elections no longer matter. The podcast not only recapitulates the article but touches on darker, more consequential themes such as what one can do when both the system is rigged against you and time is running short (so short that we have no time for a Federalist Society solution.)
I bring up Ellmers because while I have noticed a lot of frustration about where the country is going, especially after the midterms, most such people when asked how to respond throw their hands up in exasperation and state that the average American is stupid and lazy and besides the system is rigged. Okay so given all of that what shall we do? Ellmers sketches out an approach involving delegitimzation, in part I believe to fight the impending crisis on more favorable ground. So given all of that and what we are seeing released by Musk and Taibbi I would be curious as to what approaches can be used to resist.
Remember that the commercial airplane business is only one part of Boeing. The other big part is the military aircraft business, now called Boeing Defense, Space, and Security. That piece was initially headquartered in St Louis (because that was where the acquired McDonnell Douglas business was)….so there was no way that a corporate HQ could have been located at *both* the headquarters of the commercial business and of the military business.
Defense & Space moved to Arlington, VA in 2017, which probably makes sense given the government-dependent nature of this business. The Boeing parent has now announced that it will move corporate HQ to Arlington as well…partly, no doubt, for government-relations reasons, but also, according to CEO Dave Calhoun, the region’s “access to world-class engineering and technical talent”….depends what kind of engineering & technical talent he is referring to: there is a lot of software expertise in the DC area, but I don’t think it’s well-known for aeronautic engineers and structural analysts.
I can understand Boeing pursuing government influence by moving to VA. I still wonder why they left Seattle. Maybe the city is getting too dysfunctional. I also think they have diluted their engineering staff with H1B visa holders. The same is true of the tech industry in California but I do not fly on Twitter. An American captain friend of mine used to say “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going.” Now he flies an Airbus.
I also think that the 737MAX fiasco was an example of marketing over engineering. Sort of like Ford’s Edsel. Redesigning the wing to accommodate taller landing gear to make room for those bigger engines was too expensive, at least until the unanticipated result shows up.
“Redesigning the wing to accommodate taller landing gear to make room for those bigger engines was too expensive”
That may have been so — but there reportedly was another factor. Pilots have to get qualified on each airplane type they fly, which is apparently quite expensive with lots of time in costly simulators. And there are lots & lots of pilots.
Some reports have suggested that part of the reason for the 737 MAX design was that it was intended to avoid the need to retrain pilots already qualified to fly earlier versions of the 737. That avoided cost of retraining presented quite a competitive advantage for Boeing over Embraer or Airbus when an airline flying the 737 was evaluating buying new planes. Redesigning the MAX with taller landing gear would have lost that Boeing advantage.
A redesigned wing would certainly have required pilot requalification. It was possible, however, that even the approach that was actually taken with the 737 MAX…the implementation of the MCAS system…could have required such requalification, if it was determined that the procedures required to deal with an MCAS system failure were adjudged to require such training.
I think MCAS would have been a reasonable alternative to a redesigned wing, IF (a) two angle-of-attack sensors were required, and MCAS action was triggered only by agreement between the sensors, (b) there was a mandatory indicator showing AofA sensor disagreement, (c) the system was described in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, which it apparently wasn’t.
Here’s what Boeing has to say about the revised system:
From the discussion above, it’s clear that everyone here believes in free speech except…
There is even wide agreement over at least some of the exceptions such as child pornography. Now, define child porn. Do it clearly and in such a way that no one can misunderstand or mis-classify. Now, program a computer to do it. This program doesn’t have to be perfect, anything questionable can be referred for human decision. It does have to work well enough to keep you both out of jail and out of bankruptcy when you’re having to classify billions of tweets every day. We’ll forget the problem for now of being able to determine if a picture of a three year old without a shirt is of either a boy and thus OK or a girl (classic definition).
Here comes something a little harder. What do you do about somebody like Kanye West? My answer would be nothing at all. He’s busy at the bottom of a hole, digging diligently, why should I interfere? Places like Germany that have tried to suppress Nazi-ism by law actually have a Neonazi problem. Here, we have identified a, new to me, Nazi apologist which may possibly win him a few adherents among those already so inclined, but has mostly resulted in opprobrium and calumny showering down upon both him and West. Why we should assign the roll of social arbiter to someone known for reciting obscene rhymes over a drum track and the dimensions of his ex’s caboose I’ll leave as an exercise for the students of popular culture.
We do know that the state of computer natural language comprehension is such that it can’t tell the difference between praising and condemning Hitler, especially if the writer is being deliberately obscure. Now extend that to somehow accommodating the foibles of a hundred or so other countries. Anyone publicly connected to such a global platform might want consider this when planning their next foreign trip. I can see this keeping 500 lawyers busy without producing a line of code.
We all know what we consider out of bounds, now write the program. Rocket science is child’s play, all you have to contend with is physics.
as we have discovered re the laptop, they configured email to block transmission, so as to prevent discussion so I’m sure they have algorithms, but they want pornography to spread,
we have seen with balenciaga,
it seems technical schematics have gotten just much worse, or implementation therein, the more systems are involved the likelihood of more catastrophic failures,
the squad sharpton have spread more lies in 28 years since freddy’s fashion mart, henry rodgers, aka ibrahim kendi, not only against jews, but other ‘white adjacents’ like asians, and yet they are not proscribed, but prescribed,
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