Free The Bird! (Seriously)
Elon Musk once sold us dreams that we weren't capable of dreaming. Now he is unable to tell the difference between free speech and hate speech.
Going to Mars has been a dream for astronauts, physicists, cosmology tutors, and of course, dreamers. And Elon Musk, the Technoking of the revolutionary electric car company Tesla, with the help of his billion-dollar startup SpaceX, made everyone believe that such a leap for humanity is possible in our lifetimes. But the man, the richest on the planet, with an incomprehensible vision such as this, has been quite busy with sociological issues that humanity is urgently facing; or at least he wants everyone to think so.
Musk’s fascination towards buying Twitter; lovingly called the ‘Bird App’ in the troll section, grew earlier this year with a string of tweets where he conveyed an interest in protecting free speech and democracy. He was right. But only for a day or two. The day he announced his bid of $44B (£36B) to buy the social media giant, concerns over the hierarchical power and his intentions behind the purchase swirled across the web and news.
To bring things into a mathematical perspective, Twitter has approximately 229M daily users (disputed now after bots controversy), and that is less than 3% of the world population. While equating this enormous disparity with Musk’s premise of the purchase, it certainly doesn’t add up that free speech will be protected in the cocoon that excludes 97% of the world.
Musk’s premise is fundamentally flawed. He wants to privatise the control over an app so that he could let people exercise free speech. Dramatic irony. It is as bizarre as Biden tweeting that billionaires should pay their fair share of taxes, but the only problem is that now he is not in the opposition and constitutionally has the power to enact such laws.
Twitter, under the founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, has done an exceptional job in keeping the bird free. Twitter has since flagged misinformation, threatening speech, and even deleted accounts that seemed to spread hate and eventual violence. The biggest step for the company was after the 2020 US Presidential Elections when the ousted President Donald Trump was permanently banned from the platform after his constant denial of the results that weren’t in his favour and several videos which propelled and motivated his supporters to barge in the Capitol on 6th January 2021. The attack was the biggest security concern in the states after 9/11.
As the events progressed during this heavy payout, Musk’s tweets became murkier by the day. He seemed to blame everything on the left politics and actively sided with the extreme right. In one of his many recent controversial tweets, he pledged to bring Donald Trump back on Twitter, stating one of the steps towards protecting ‘free speech’. By the 101 definitions, freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction by the government. And hate speech is abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially based on race, religion, or sexual orientation, often leading to violence in real life. Donald Trump had violated Twitter’s policies, but surprisingly he did not breach the US law as the country doesn’t have any laws against hate speech.
It is heartbreaking to see a brilliant technical mind constantly siding with the far-right, wanting to unban Trump for his hate speech, and riding an entire wave of left criticism. He once sold us dreams that we weren’t capable of dreaming. Now he is unable to tell the difference between free speech and hate speech. The person behind normalising electric cars and making space missions affordable, is involving himself in a position of neutralising and in many cases favouring hate speech on the internet.
Musk then dropped all his masks and came out as a staunch supporter of the Republican Party, blaming the Democrats for ‘hate and divide’. In the entire discourse, he has made some fundamentally wrong statements as Republicans were behind the Capitol attack, behind all anti-LGBTQ+ campaigns, behind the recent abortion laws that univocally attack the rights of women, and so much more. But the real story lies in the last tweet before he falsely blamed Democrats, that said, ‘Political attacks on me will escalate dramatically in coming months.’
On 19th May 2022, a day after Musk’s ‘prophecy’ another twist came to the Musk-Twitter saga, but a bit far away in the timeline and almost jeopardising the reputation he had built in all these years. An ex-flight attendant at SpaceX blamed Musk for sexual misconduct in 2016. The fanboys were quick to discharge the sensational story by making parallels to his Republican support and blaming the left again. The Insider journalist who broke the story assured that the investigative piece was in production for some months and that he contacted Musk and SpaceX management for a bite 3 hours before his ‘prophetic tweet’.
It is quite evident that Musk was aware that the story could be broken in the coming days, hence he used twitter’s most valuable tool for his benefit: propaganda. And it worked for the cult following he has acquired through his enormous wealth and eccentric behaviour over the years. There have been more cases of cyberbullying, sexist trolling, and misogynistic tweets by his cult than ever before. Right and far-right thrive on idol worship. They need someone to rely on, pray on and blame. Elon’s cult is just an example of the replacement of Trump’s cult from the public discourse. His critics are constantly being silenced by the means of mindless trolling. Being silenced = Elon’s idea of free speech?
What Musk is doing with his tweets is exactly how social media is used for propaganda. He is the problem that he was trying to solve with the $44B bid. His constant and baseless attacks on the left have no surface value. They are just plain attacks without proof and details. His tweets: leftist agenda, left hates themselves, left is bad, etc. These tweets have no backing, no details as to why he believes the left is against climate change or is more prone to divisiveness. It is a misuse of the power he has in the social hierarchy.
The last few months have been a rollercoaster for Twitter and surely for Musk. But amidst all his shitposting on Twitter and his right-wing ties, he didn’t bother to condemn the recent Buffalo mass shooting last week. The attack was carried out by a white supremacist, killing 10 innocent black people in the supermarket. In the times when it is becoming extremely difficult for a person of colour to walk out of their house and not be racially discriminated against or killed, Elon Musk, the richest man on the planet (strong press on his wealth is necessary for the discourse), is openly siding with a party that has a history of enabling racism.
It is time to free the bird! But not from its current democratic stand on misinformation and threatening speech, but from the rich and powerful hands of the closeted authoritarians who portray themselves as the saviours of democracy. Because when a call to violence becomes ‘free’ in society, the bird is caged forever.