Elon Musk’s talk about free speech will only matter if and when Twitter stops censoring Russian media and people who question the official narrative about Ukraine.
By Caitlin Johnstone
Listen to a reading of this article.
Twitter has done an about-face and sold the company to the richest person in the world for $44 billion.
Rightists are having a merry old time making fun of the melodramatic reactions from high-profile liberals who fear Elon Musk’s purchase will lead to more free speech on the platform for people who don’t align with them politically. Many of the blue-checkmarked commentariat who live on Twitter and who can’t go five minutes without checking their notifications are making a big show of pretending they’re about to leave.
Many critics on the left are responding to the news by ringing alarm bells about a powerful oligarch controlling an influential social media platform, as though Twitter was anything besides oligarch-controlled before today and as though billionaires buying up media is some shocking new development.
Some anti-imperialists have expressed tentative hope that this new development may lead to some rollback of the jarring escalations in censorship we’ve been seeing on the platform in defense of U.S. empire narratives, due to the plutocrat’s comments on the importance of free speech.
???? Yesss!!! ???? pic.twitter.com/0T9HzUHuh6
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
From what I can see, though, the overwhelming majority of excitement on Twitter about Musk’s purchase is coming not from those who challenge power in any meaningful way but from those who want former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account restored and want to be able to say mean things to trans people. And I suspect that says a lot about what we’re looking at here.
This important distinction was summed up by journalist Michael Tracey, who tweeted, “The biggest test for Elon Musk will not be whether he rolls back the most obvious ‘woke’ content policies — that should be a given — but whether he continues to let Twitter be used as a vehicle for the US national security state to ‘counter’ official enemies like Russia and China.”
The biggest test for @elonmusk will not be whether he rolls back the most obvious "woke" content policies — that should be a given — but whether he continues to let Twitter be used as a vehicle for the US national security state to "counter" official enemies like Russia & China
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 25, 2022
Speaking for myself I won’t be surprised if we do see some of the former, but I will be absolutely astonished if we see the latter.
You don’t get to be a billionaire, much less a billionaire with massively influential media ownership, unless you collaborate with existing power. Musk has certainly been collaborating with the oligarchic empire very nicely up until this point, and it’s a safe bet that his purchase would not be happening if the empire felt its narrative control machine was in any way threatened by it.
Believing Elon Musk is going to save Twitter is as naive as believing Joe Biden was going to save America. Arguing over which oligarchs should control the media is as silly and undignified as arguing over which oligarch-owned politicians should run the government.
Billionaires coming to the rescue only happens in movies and comic books. You’re as likely to be saved by Elon Musk as you are by Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark.
How many times are people going to fall for this “a billionaire is about to stick it to the man and save us all” schtick? It’s very sad that we’re at a point where speech is being throttled so severely that people are hoping an eccentric billionaire will swoop in and rescue them from oppression. Real life is like a dumber, more boring version of Gotham City, except Batman is working with the bad guys.
I’ll start paying attention to Musk’s talk about free speech if and when Twitter stops censoring Russian media and unbans people like Scott Ritter who were removed from the platform for questioning official empire narratives about what’s happening in Ukraine.
Until then I’m going to assume he’s at most only interested in protecting speech that doesn’t threaten the powerful, like Republican partisan bullshit and hate speech against marginalized groups.
The billionaires are not coming to save us. The idea that they might is a carefully constructed propaganda narrative that we’ve been sold for generations. The leaders of the capitalist class are not going to overturn the systems of oppression and exploitation which form the very foundation of capitalism. Superhero stories are designed to prevent us from realizing that only we the people have the power to rescue ourselves.
Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either Youtube, soundcloud, Apple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar onPatreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix, Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone andWoke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.
This article is from CaitlinJohnstone.com and re-published with permission.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
An interesting postscript as of May 1, 2022. I read that five Russian oligarchs have committed “suicide” (quotes mine) in the last few weeks. Swimming against the tide, even when done by those with great wealth, is rarely successful.
I simply love your final sentence here, in fact, it is the crux of things. But still I would be a little extra cautious that the presidential spoilt brat who loves “grabing em’ by the pussy” would now be getting an extra Tweety handle courtesy of an eccentric plutocrat who would be better off just aim for Pluto instead !
Great article, thank you Caitlin. I must admit I was a bit thrown when I saw Musk had had a 3some with Amber Heard! Having seen abusive women in full flight, I am inclined to believe Johnny Depp in the main. Now, getting to whether Musk will save us all on the left, and most importantly Scott Ritter, well; it won’t be the first time oligarchs have teamed up with far left revolutionaries; or so I am told, if historical records are accurate and have not been tampered with. They usually act out of self interest in the main, but there is evidence to suggest that those born into wealth like Musk was, are more likely to turn on their own in favour of supporting the masses and their revolutionary goals. Some have a conscience. Some have empathy for suffering humanity. Some just want the less threatening revolutionary side to win. Like Rockefeller financially supporting Leon Trotsky. I sincerely hope my instincts are right about Musk. Perhaps he has seen his chance to use his wealth in some meaningful way. Taking control of social media in the world today, where CIA propaganda has full reign, would seem, on the face of it, a brave thing to do when you espouse the sentiments he has given voice to in regard to the right of all to free speech. I’ll watch and wait and reserve complete judgement yetawhile.
And let’s not forget the censorship on discussion of Israel’s apartheid ethnic cleansing, with its mass murders and land thefts. Every sentient reporter in the corporate media knows they are self-censoring on the topic if Israel’s crimes. If they don’t self-censor they will be quickly fired.
Politicians know that if they don’t self-censor they will be money-bombed in their next primary, and likely smeared in the controlled press as well. Academics and other independents know they can be smeared, harassed, have their careers ruined, and even their lives ruined.
This “stranglehold” (as Chris Hedges has called it) is not coming from a tiny country populated with religious fanatics. It’s coming from the banking empire that financed the establishment of that tiny country, both the political machinations and the military invasion.
These people have a solid track record of war profiteering and need to be held accountable.
Perhaps, but I believe the jury is still out.
The current level of establishment media shrieking isnt indicative of a nonevent. Why discuss making a significant structural change, such as, rolling back Section 230, which protects known, successful government manipulators like Facebook & Youtube? Obama 2008 is the best example of an establishment scam, complete with weepings for joy, this feels quite different than that.
Thanks for not jumping on the bandwagon. Great analysis. I think they are looking to unite the far-right to hate on Russia. I have only noticed from Rumble how they are skeptical of this administration and their lies(lots of Rootin for Pootin), who better to save the day but a ‘self-made'(lmao) rich businessman? They are turning many who were on the fence to fanboy after Musk and I assume to look for more support in their disasterous proxy war. It’s BS that people actually believe it’s about ‘free speech’.
Shades of Little Orphan Annie and the hollow-eyed Daddy Warbucks! Holy Moly and Leapin’ Lizards! Head for the exit, Sandy!
Are billionaires still united?
In a plausibly stable world they were. We’re here to make money and enjoy power.
In a much more fractured and still fracturing world, it’s about to be each billionaire for him/her self – well really, himself.
Some will be trying to define humanity’s future – think the founding fathers (yeah, himselves again).
“We will coup whoever we want. Deal with it.” (Musk’s tweet regarding Bolivia)
Well, it seems Musk agrees with the Mearsheimer Foreign Policy axiom (via Thucydides), “The strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.” Especially when it comes to rare earth elements.
“Believing Elon Musk is going to save Twitter is as naive as believing Joe Biden was going to save America.”
I thought Trump was going to save America. He was an establishment outsider who spent $66 million on his own campaign.
Isn’t one of Musk’s beliefs that AI intelligence will eventually be mainstream, even take over? I doubt Elon has come to save us from Twitter, and why do folks think Twitter is do important?
How Musk accumulated his fortune is a mystery to me. In my opinion he’s probably just a front man for the CIA and the Deep State.
This article is right, the buying of twitter won’t lead to a workers state in USA and in other countries, people should spend more energies reading Marx, Lenin and other socialist texts instead of spending so much time on social networks
The issue is the future of capitalism. It’s management team, the people in political office, will operate as the system dictates.
Now is a better time than ever to check out some of the Twitter alternatives including Mastodon, GNU Social, and Pleroma on the so-called “Fediverse”. Why cross your fingers and hope that some billionaire will keep their word and pinky swear they won’t censor you… While still retaining all the power to do so? Federated systems can resist censorship at a systemic level because people using them aren’t held hostage by the network effect. Any time the moderation on a given instance decides to censor, it’s a trivial matter for people to simply migrate to another instance, without losing all their contacts and connections because the instances are all sending and receiving each others’ feeds as part of a larger system. No billionaire presiding over a monopolistic, centralized system can offer that.
Great article! Great analysis! Too many of whatever political orientation secretly hope Superman or Batman or Mighty Mouse will save the day.
Somehow, people did organize, protest, revolt, before Twitter, etc.
I find it incredible that people actually look for benign, or whom they think are benign, billionaires to control their speech.
The public commons has been privatized to the point where one cannot even find a public toilet to take a dump.
Public phones were jerked out of commission.
This is the private commons, what has vomited up mega monopolies and transnational corporations, along with billionaires and state actors like Musk.
Capitalism is now in its repressive accumulation stage: garnishing profits from repression within the Empire and repression outside.
To think that some mega billionaire would be allowed to own such a utility is mind boggling.
This is the libertarian mind.
Funny thing. I had always thought Elon Musk had a physical resemblance towards Batman. I have hope . . .
Tnx Ms Johnstone, & CN 4 continuing2 publish her works.
Starlink/ SpaceX launched nearly 3000 sats (of planned 10000).
Yet this commenter continues2 be undecided as2 EMusk’s motives.
Make sure backyard mechs Not Self Fixin Teslas?!!!
Thanks2 Mr Lambert’s comment (I’ve No Personal Experience w/ The Man(‘$ Firm)…
Other recent EM Developement: Divorce (or unwed equivalent)
Fear article statement EM “talkin squat”
This indiv Always considered Twit (& Face watever) Data Theft Setups 2 Covertly Grab Personal stuff…
Will await developments to Trust platform…
(& Expect Consortium News 2 Report Mr Ritter’s TestCase!)
Quite right Caitlin. This brings to mind the saying “careful what you wish for”. While it may seem like a step toward less censorship, one must consider things about his claim to being an “absolutist” on free speech. We decided, for example, rightly I guess, that one does not have the right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater because it would cause harm. So theoretical positions on free speech have to, at some point, be checked. Also, the richest man to ever live, perhaps an egomaniac also, gaining this much power could certainly be the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.
Musk has certainly been collaborating
He was right in the thick of the Bolivian Coup for Bolivias Lithium deposits…
What about FDR? Wealthy man from a powerful family who had a sense of fairness, won 4 terms, had to pass an amendment to the constitution to stop that from happening. The gods are fighting now, bezos insinuating that Musk is a Chinese puppet, and Obama coming out of retirement to tell us that we have to accept censorship with a smile and thank the government for protecting ourselves from having an unapproved idea. The dice are rolling and I hope the people will come out okay, but I’m willing to bet if Musk doesn’t comply, he could find himself in jail, prosecuted by our do nothing SEC and we’ll probably have our first ministry of truth after unanimous bipartisan approval from Congress. They’ll probably eliminate the department of education as a bonus.
Franklin Roosevelt acted to save capitalism, not to overthrow it. He remained true to his old money milieu.
Johnstone is likely correct, so keep the expectations low. Challenging “National Security”– the most powerful excuse in Government, is unlikely to happen with Musk or anyone else who could have much impact.
I’m hoping that scientists will be uncensored who were questioning the US covid response (most deaths by far of any country, and in the bottom, worst 10% of Covid Death Rate — 3045 per million). Social media effects spilled over and squashed scientific debate and contributed to an incompetent, politicized response.
Just allowing domestic political discussions on Twitter may even be too much to hope for. The Democrats control the Government and State Media and pushed for the “Cancel Culture”; don’t see them letting go of that control without a fight.
Musk is in bed with the CIA. His support and orchestration of the coup in Bolivia and his laughing about it should show any decent human being what monsters control our lives
The Council on Foreign Relations controls the Democrats AND the Republicans.
In general, it would be roughly 100x as fantastical as Russia-gate itself to think the richest person in the world had any intention at all to preserve whatever free speech remains, then reinstate that lost, on his newly acquired corporate, social media platform.
However, CJ’s narrower conditions, re alternatives to the official Ukraine narrative, might just be achieved (but how much more?) – depending on how much Musk is depending on Russian (pay in rubles, and in-full before delivery) metal ores critical to his battery and other high-tech interests.
Musk is in bed with China, as is Bezos and all the rest of the best. China has a middle class that is larger in population than the entire country of the US.
Capital goes where markets are. And the markets sure ain’t in broke and busted America.
So, twitter could be used by Musk to further his holdings in China while the reichpubs and corporate demos cry about Chinese competition.
Large transnational corporations control the world.
Musk is a geek in a sideshow
“Superhero stories are designed to prevent us from realizing that only we the people have the power to rescue ourselves.”
No, superhero stories are nothing more than one of the characteristics of the seriously flawed, Culturally Determined Human psychology that helps to sustain and perpetuate the sick co-dependent dance between the masses and their rulers. The last thing the people want, is to have the power to rescue themselves, that’s why Elon, with his gospel of saving the planet with electric cars and building the new utopia on Mars, is so filthy rich. And if he doesn’t deliver, he’ll be scapegoated by the very same people that lauded him. (yet another characteristic of the sick dance).
Could the people evolve beyond this pathetic state of affairs? Indeed, but since we cannot solve the problems of our World with the same Culturally Determined psychology that created them, it would take a monumental effort on the part of each and every individual, to change that.
I am reminded of Cervantes and Camus.
Fighting windmills and pushing a rock up a hill each day only to see it falling down each day.
The endless ‘effort’ in’ fighting capitalism is somewhat the same.
In the end, it is the quality of the ‘effort’ that counts.
You are right, i don’t understand how can people follow others so easily. For instance there are many people on Youtube who have channels specifically devoted to being eating food challenges. Like this guy Erik the Eletric who uploads about one video a week in his channel eating like 20 thousand calories in a short time. And he has thousands of followers
Primate nature, Knoxville Marxist. The baboon with the bigest reddest behind always leads the others, gets the most food and the most sex partners.
“The masses have never thirsted after the truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” Gustave Le Bon
Mr. Stretton, your views on psychology are a cause of concern. Thinking too much about Culturally Determined psychology can’t be solved by thinking more. Hope is the opium of the masses and without superhero stories and that “hopium” they do not have enough energy to continue in their 9-5 jobs, to seek out alternative news sources like CN or to send letters to congressmen to get Julian Assange out of prison.
If I met your psychology in bar, I don’t think it could take a compliment. Like ad hominem attacks would roll off you like a Teflon pan but a compliment would be an offense worthy of a coup. It is those moments when something unexpected comes our way that are the true test of our character. Remember that if the barista ever puts too much sugar in your coffee.
I agree, as usual, with Caitlin Johnstone. As George Galloway mentioned, it might be better than the current controlling ownership, but don’t hold your breath that the world’s richest oligarch will do anything positive. IMO, it is deeply perverse to allow single individuals to have such power. It is also perverse to allow the top .01% to have such power over the 99.99%.
The sycophantic, bootlicking, so-called mainstream media shove these oligarchs (and celebrities) in our faces every single day. We are supposed to identify with and worship the oligarchy, not criticize them or the system. We are supposed to have a favorite: “Are you a fan of Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos”? None of the above. What kind of idiotic question is that? (An old friend of mine accused me of “hating rich people”).
I find all oligarchs are sociopaths by definition, and the system that allows this perverse and immoral. What would George Carlin say if he were alive? I can imagine” ” I say F-off to all of those a-holes” or something similar.
All authoritarians must own media. This and the army are the first orders of the day.
We are entering a world where technology in the hands of concentrated wealth is destroying us physically, emotionally and socially.
Private ownership of the means of production, in this case narratives and communication is what we are facing.
Censorship was not a free speech violation, because of private ownership. But now, it we won’t get censorship, then the private ownership that refuses to censor is a “problem.” This has always been a self-serving and selective view of free speech.
So, when will free speech reach all the way to the national security state? She’s right, it won’t.
However, one day sooner than later, we will see revisionism on a large scale. Only then will free speech kick in, when the opinion makers have turned on the war makers.
When will they do that? When disaster strikes, and someone must be blamed.
The only question is what will be the disaster.
Will Ukraine simply lose? Blinken after his quick visit there seems to fear that, yesterday suggesting the US would accept pretty much the same demands that Russia made in December, which were then said to be “off the table.”
Will there be a tactical use of a nuclear weapon, to shock opinion makers into realizing what they’ve been backing? Lavrov just openly threatened that.
Will the Democrats lose the 2022 election so badly that Republicans turn on the War as a Democratic Party Wag the Dog? It is true, but then again the Republicans could find it just as useful and keep doing the same thing. Of course then the out of power Democrats might turn on their own former policy just because it becomes the Republican policy. We can say only that domestic political disasters might well undermine the foreign policy adventures.
Whichever the disaster, when it hits, then suddenly everyone will be from the Resistance, nobody Vichy anymore.
The issue is the future of capitalism. It’s management team, the people in political office, will operate as the system dictates.
The fact that there is so much uproar over a silly soapbox platform for ranting egoists is yet another slip down the abyss for this infantile country. Had he purchased The New York Times or supported an outfit like this one and others like it, I would have been impressed. The way out of Big Tech is print, real life community and buying in beautiful stores. We create these oligarchs through laziness.
Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. Another oligarch controlling media.
Caitlin is definitely right about everything she said in her commentary.
BTW, the Tesla automobile plant in Fremont, California, used to be the unionized NUMI plant, a collaboration between General Motors and Toyota, and when it was shut down, Musk took over and it became Tesla, which is non-union.
I used to deliver to that facility, at NUMI and Tesla,and at Tesla, I’d ask the receiving clerks “How come there are hardly any Teslas in the employee parking lot?” The workers said, “Because we can’t afford them!”
The super-rich don’t want to share the profits with the people who actually do the work which makes the employer wealthy.
Good point. Yes, I remember – I live not far from the plant. To make it even worse: Musk also got 100s of millions in Fed. subsidies and further tax breaks. Union-busting is subsidized. (Not to mention the billions of subsidies and tax breaks The Oligarchy receive regularly.) We can consider them parasites as well.
Good point about the federal subsidies and tax breaks. Yes, union-busting is subsidized.
Even the right-wing Henry Ford paid his workers enough money to buy Ford cars.
It’s the same with political reform. No one in power is going to reform the system that keeps him in power and no billionaire is going to change the system that keeps him rolling in money.
Do you think that Las Vegas would loosen the slot machines so that people could win most of the time?
Of course not.
Nor will the Casino economy.
You will know less,not more through twitter.
That’s why reformism doesn’t work, has never worked. For real change, the system must be overthrown and replaced by a better system. In the present instance, that means overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with socialism. Reforms are only granted as long as they don’t cost the establishment too much money or present governments in a good light in relation to their competitors. Social programs for the working class started to vanish with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Up until that time, the capitalists felt obliged to throw some crumbs of social reform to the workers to prove that capitalism was more worker-friendly than Soviet communism. As soon as the USSR was dissolved, the crumbs disappeared.
And she’s right about this one too.
I can only imagine – and I can imagine quite a lot – what good Musk could have done with all that money he has spent on Twitter. Billionaire and world’s richest man buys social media company. Good grief.
“This hunger crisis is urgent, unprecedented, AND avoidable,” Beasley wrote in a separate tweet, tagging Musk, who is the world’s wealthiest person with a net worth of approximately $288 billion. “You asked for a clear plan & open books. Here it is! We’re ready to talk with you – and anyone else – who is serious about saving lives.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Musk had not responded.
That was from a CNN article back in November titled, “UN to Elon Musk: Here’s that $6 billion plan to fight world hunger”
She’s usually right, you know.