Elon Musk and The Enduring Appeal of “Criticism is Censorship”
“A personality disorder Boer” will go down in the history of spleen with Spy’s description of Trump as a “short fingered vulgarian.”
Come for the cogent explanation of the First Amendment, stay for the Quinn Emmanuel shade.
Oh, and that Harper's letter? Bari Weiss is herself among the biggest practitioners of cancel culture that exist.
I like how Elon got Ken to come back to Twitter
Elmo, everybody's favorite unreconsructed Afrikaner apartheid enthusiast, needs to be removed from his companies for the same reason Henry Ford was removed from his in 1941 - national security. (Ford, the Elmo of the 20th Century, didn't want to produce the tools to defeat the failed artist and former paperhanger who had called him "the American I admire the most for clarifying my understanding of important issues" in a 1932 interview, was removed by the board of directors at Ford - with the government breathing down their necks - which led to producing B-24s and jeeps and tanks and other things that led to Herr Paperhanger unfortunately taking his own life. Ford Jr. - on becoming CEO - discovered dad's accounting practices were as dodgy as his socio-religious views). Get Elmo away from Space-X and Starlink and such, and let him keep Xitter (that's pronounced "shitter") and the Tinny Toy Car Company.
I’m sorry Ken but I think you’re being too kind to Elon here, I mean I don’t know that he even knows what he thinks he thinks here
Advertiser’s choosing not to advertise his ‘oppression’ is such a stupid thing to say I don’t think he even knows what he is teeing say, it’s just an eruption of spite using words and concepts he doesn’t even try to understand
You’ve given way more thought to what he thinks he means in this piece than he himself has ever done in his life
A little framing here. Elon thinks that X itself embodies the right to free speech. As usual, Elon believes he imbibes and personifies the goals of his companies, like Rogue in X-Men comics. An attack on X or its ability to attract ad revenue is therefore an attack on “free speech.” It’s a ridiculous assertion but so is the one where Bill Gates shorting Tesla is attacking the goal of clean energy, or Jeff Bezos building a rocket is attacking the goal of going to Mars. Elon is not a capitalist. He’s a corporatist fascist, with him the embodiment of the state as god-king. If you frame everything that way, “free speech” makes more sense since it’s him who grants it as an indulgence not a right.
Ken White is a national treasure.
There are circumstances where "my free speech means you have to shut up" is accurate, but they have to do with literally trying to drown out the speaker by chanting/storming the stage/blowing airhorns/whistling (an HLS favorite). Once somebody has stopped speaking, it is perfectly consistent with "First Amendment values" to criticize someone or their argument.
Here is an example of how counterspeech can work, even during the offensive speech. In 1993, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell was invited to give the graduation address at Harvard, over the objections of many alumni. The objection to Gen. Powell's speech was his endorsement of "don't ask/don't tell", which barred LGBT citizens from openly serving in this US military. So, a group of industrious activists handed out helium-filled pink balloons reading "Lift The Ban" to graduating students. Thousands of students flew those balloons during Powell's speech, providing a visual counterpoint.
And, Musk is a big fat hypocrite anyway. On Friday, he threatened to suspend any account that used "from the river to the sea," without any effort to understand exactly how it's used. That's after another round of advertisers deserted him and AIPAC scolded him.
Seems like a precise spelled-out definition of the "cancel culture" threat to free speech would count the rescinding of law student Ryna Workman's job offer (because of criticisms of Israel) as a paradigm example of "real" cancel culture.
But then what's the difference between that and advertisers cutting ties with Musk, except that Musk is rich?
(Of course I agree that Musk's stuff about criticism being cancellation is stupid.)
There is free speech as a cultural construct and free speech as a legal principle in the US. They are obviously not the same. The latter is irrelevant here, except to point out that it is irrelevant (no state action).
As a cultural construct, I think there are ways of dealing with disagreement that foster free expression and ways that hinder it. So, thick skin fosters it, and thin skin hinders it. Ad hominem hinders and focusing on content fosters. "Canceling" by calling for firing or career destruction hinders, while keeping disagreement verbal fosters.
As a cultural construct, free speech is going to hell in much of the West because of thin skins, ad hominem ("transphobe" anyone?), and calls for career destruction that are spinelessly heeded. Mere verbal criticism--even if harsh and by large numbers of people on social media (no, they are not mobs), is a free speech virtue that is being unjustifiably undermined by a culture of victimhood (thin skin).
Advertisers pull on media is necessary to that business model--Elon is a fool for thinking that should not be the case. But it is also a powerful argument for spaces like Substack. When it comes to media types, let a thousand flowers bloom. That's where the First Amendment comes in--the govt has no right to be the gardener.
You see, “freedom of speech” is bestowed by god. That the constitution forbids the government from abridging it, is merely an extension of the common law that no one can abridge what god has bestowed, as adjudicated by anyone with a Twitter account.
Musk certainly knows about "hordes of minorities," in as much as he's descended from members of one such horde that was foisted upon present day South Africa...
If your point was only that Musk is an inconsistent thin-skin brat, well yah. But since you didn't need an article to make that point I presume you mean to critisize the many people who share many of his concerns but probably don't care about journalists being mean to him. However, most people aren't professionally trained as lawyers, mathematicians or philosophers so engaging with their arguments in a precisce way requires charitably reconstructing the best argument they could make and I don't think you've done that here.
Specifically, I think the argument would go something like this:
While it's true that a legally requiring advertisers to display their ads next to viewpoints they disagree with would violate their legal free speech rights when it's the case that people who have socially disapproved of views face a systemic barrier to expressing those views because of the economics of social media that risks societal harm in a manner that's analagous to the harm that results when the government can decide who can speak.
True, no one gets put in prison in this case but, the reason it's so important that we protect free speech is to avoid losing the social value of potentially true but unpopular speech and/or to provide a kind of systemic safety valve that ensures a large fraction of the populace doesn't feel they are being prevented from expressing themselves potentially leading to unrest or (my personal view) voting in someone like Trump as an expression of frustration.
I think that's a very reasonable argument we should take seriously and suggests that having ad supported social media companies lacking in strong norms that favor allowing unpopular speech (not necessarily literally all...but a window wider than most people would intuitively feel comfortable with) is socially harmful.
Obviously, that doesn't mean the government can intervene and demand all social media have viewpoint nuetral speech norms or the like but it might be a decent moral argument to start paying for your social media and it does have public policy implications for, eg, whether interoperability standards should be mandated for social media firms. You can't mandate Twitter display tweets they dislike but you could mandate that competitors like mastadon or truth social be given access to the feed so they can display tweets natively on their platforms (reducing network effects).