🐦 Well, Shit...
There's a lot of ink spilled--and yet to be spilled--about Elon Musk's sensational and highly publicized attempt to purchase Twitter and what that means. He wants to bring it back to its roots as a platform for free speech, etc, meanwhile Leftist Twitter has been shitting its collective pants and threatening to move to Canada. A number of new social media platforms have sprung up to collect Twitter's refugees, and a few that previously existed are getting a bunch of new acolytes and their servers are crashing. (Bee-Tee-Dubs, you can friend me on counter.social at @kurtpankau)
Amidst a lot of this are a few points that are getting lost that I want to call attention to. So, in no particular order, here's why I'm pissed about this mess and, oh yeah, shit's going to get political and sweary in this post, so with that in mind...
"Free Speech" is a Dogwhistle
Y'all know that, right? Speech is roughly as free as it has ever been. We're still allowed to say dumb things in public--like how much we liked Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice--but if we were to go into a crowded theater showing that movie and yell "Fire!" we could get arrested. Speech has never been, will never be, and should never be 100% free. Speech is free insofar as you don't use it to harm or jeopardize others. At the same time, Free Speech is not under attack at the moment, no matter how many people bitch and moan about political correctness. And sure, there's been a lot of criticism about speech that is harmful to others that we didn't used to necessarily realize was harmful to others, and as the world has gotten more "global", the net cast by the word "others" has broadened considerably. There have been attempts to be more inclusive with speech with regards to marginalized populations. But that's not the same thing as speech coming under attack. In fact, the only speech that has come under attack recently is hate speech.
And there's the rub.
So when Elon Musk says that he wants to open Twitter up to Free Speech, what he really means is allowing back people who have been booted because they were inciting violence and harassing people. Those people--including The Great Orange One--deserved to be de-platformed in the name of the greater social good because...
De-platforming Populists is Good, Actually
Populism is a stain on our world and is really the biggest weak spot of Democracy. It's far too easy for charming assholes to get traction by attacking minorities. (This is probably a larger post, but the great sin of "majority rule" is that it incentivizes leaders to create and disenfranchise minority voting blocks--be they minorities of race, religion, orientation, or even just political bent.) And when Populists take control, they generally make things worse, sacrificing public services for their own personal gain and doing real harm to marginalized populations, who, despite everything the Dear Leader will tell you, are in fact human beings deserving of dignity. Populists are the worst.
And it turns out there's a really good way to deal with Populists. De-platform them. Take away their megaphone and they shrivel like cold testicles. Because capital-P Populism is powered almost entirely by hateful rhetoric, and once the audience is disconnected from that, they lose their fervor and start to realize that their neighbors are actually human again.
So when Muskrat starts giving these people back their megaphone, they're going to be able to do real harm again. And that is terrible. But he's going to do it because it aligns with his Libertarian ethos, which brings me to my next point...
Libertarians are Shitbags
Want to hear a joke? What do you call a middle aged white man who thinks he's got a ton of charisma even though he has no friends? A Libertarian! Want another one? Here's a nice meme for you.
Populists may be the worst, but Libertarians are easily the second worst. If it weren't obvious, I have a great deal of contempt for Libertarians as a voting block and Libertarianism as a political philosophy. (And don't even get me started on doomsday preppers--I once wrote a short story about how much I hate them and sold it to a science journal.)
The thing about Libertarianism is that it's not actually about personal freedom, and it never has been. It has always, always, been about abdication of civic responsibility. These people are uniformly straight white males--so you know they're coming from a place of privilege--who were raised by and benefited greatly from society, and upon coming of age have decided that they don't owe society anything because they resent having to pay taxes even though they use public libraries and drive on publicly-maintained roads and rely on police and firefighters to protect their property just like everyone else in their cohort.
Well, fuck that. We are all to a greater or lesser extent in this together. We are part of a community, and that means we look out for and help our neighbors even if they don't deserve it because that's the social contract. Because some day they'll do the same for you when you need help that you don't deserve. Because we're greater than the sum of our parts. Because having a safety net allows people to take risks. Because we didn't get to the top of the food chain by being stronger or faster or having sharper teeth than the rest of the animals!
And when you eschew community, you end up with a bunch of blowhards shouting obscenities into the void, which brings me to my next point...
Twitter is Going to Get Real Bad
Getting Twitter away from the Nazis and tech bros is one of the best things that happened to it. Trump being banned and Jack Dorsey leaving both resulted in the site getting notably better, more humane, less racist. If Musk's plan is to undo that, expect blowback. It'll be a shit show. More hate. More harassment. More echo chamber. And it will all be amped up to 11 because the shitbags will be making up for lost time. Real harm will be done.
And I don't have a good segue here, which brings me to my final point...
Leftist Twitter Was Never Actually Going To Move To Canada, And You Know It
Just like no one moved away when Trump was elected. Performative outrage is just that, performative. People talk about it and maybe even consider it, but at the end of the day most people will choose a lesser version of the devil they know. But certain spheres of Right-Wing Twitter love to rant about how people are being performatively outraged. And the fact that these are the same people who loudly defecate themselves whenever someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" would be hilarious if it weren't so fucking sad.
All of this is to say that many of the Leftists will stay on Twitter, even if they also start Mastadon accounts. And many on the Right are going to poo-poo this because the neanderthals that follow them think it's clever.
I'm pissed. Like the rest of the American Left, I've spent the last five years--but really, the last forty--watching my country slide into fascism and depravity, watching public services be dismantled so a few obscenely rich men can pay a little bit less in taxes. And it's not like Twitter owes me anything. Elon Musk is free to do whatever the fuck he wants.
But I don't have to like it.