It takes some inconsistency to claim, as Elon Musk did, that activists are “trying to destroy free speech in America” by pressuring corporations to suspend advertising on Twitter, the platform for social media for which he just overpaid. A “free speech absolutist,” as Musk describes himself, would surely understand that activists who tell companies their story are also committed to free speech. Wouldn’t he?
Makers of Cheerios, Centrum Vitamins, or Chevy Silverados have no obligation to advertise where they don’t want to. The same goes for Musk’s car company Tesla, which doesn’t advertise.
But as big companies suspend ads over fears Twitter has turned toxic, the platform is suffering a “massive drop in revenue,” Musk notes martyrdom. He then threatened to “name and humiliate” companies that suspended advertising. Well, get up, Elon. This too is freedom of expression.
Musk’s apparent decision to open the barnyard door to creepy crawlies wallowing in bigotry and misinformation spooked ad buyers. For them, it’s a business decision.
In advertising, as in real estate, it’s location, location, location. A Twitter without moderation is a lousy neighborhood. And it’s not like there aren’t other platforms to hang out with.
Advertising deductions do the smart thing. Yours truly is just one consumer, but typical of many others. There’s a reason she won’t buy a pillow from some traitorous pillow salesman. And when she’s shopping for salted peanuts at Costco, she doesn’t want the tranquility of the moment spoiled by a display of pillows reminding her of the attacks on democracy. That’s why Costco and other chains stopped selling the brand.
Yours truly, however, would like to clarify a few things. First, it does not necessarily adhere to all the visions of activists. Agreeing with them is not the goal. Moreover, she did not erase conservative comments from her field of vision. If it’s fact-based and intelligent, she follows and even pays for some of it.
As a moderate Twitter user, I’ve tolerated some of the anti-social jokes that go by, but as already implied, I draw the line to calls to violently overthrow the US government – promulgated by Donald Trump and others who seek to destabilize the United States. society. I can’t stop them from sending this trash into cyberspace, of course, but I have the right to refuse delivery. The people who ran Twitter understood that.
Another thing that attracted me to Twitter: it’s free. As soon as someone asks me for my credit card number, I leave. What did Musk think he was offering – a town hall with ornate chandeliers that might charge admission?
Musk now wants prominent users to pay him for the privilege of getting that blue check, again his right. If they submit, he won a few dollars. If they don’t, its free content disappears.
There are alternative theories about what Musk is up to. Maybe he made a calculation that setting fire to a $44 billion investment is worth the fun of putting on a grand opera in which he plays the role of diva, tenor and set designer: he does it for the fun of it. to capture the attention of the world.
It could also be a political game to indulge right-wing elements, who have accused Twitter of serving as a clubhouse for the left. Or Musk seeks to please the authoritarians who rule China, where he does considerable business.
As for accusing “activists” of muzzling freedom of expression by speaking out, well, that leads nowhere. It’s hard to believe Musk thinks that, but let’s face it, he’s a self-serving man.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be contacted at [email protected].