Free Speech and Elon Musk

 

I have long argued that we should focus more on ideas than on the people who endorse them. I still believe that. Ideas are enduring; people too often are not. But when a man or woman makes a significant stand for an idea that’s praiseworthy, that in itself is praiseworthy. Without losing sight of what matters — of the idea — it’s appropriate to praise those who champion it.

Elon Musk claims to be championing an idea that I hold dear, one that is, as I’ve written many times, of paramount importance today, the idea of free and unfettered speech. Indeed, I think it is the single most important challenge faced by those of us who would preserve our country and its values.

Nothing in Musk’s history or conduct has led me to doubt his sincerity, and so I am optimistic that he will follow through on his promise to open Twitter to a diversity of viewpoints, and in doing so will restore an essential balance to America’s cultural and political landscape.

I’m very pleased.


You can now find me on Twitter as @HankRacette. Assuming the deal goes through and Musk keeps his word, I’ll remain there.

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  1. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    The whole idea of free speech has been and is continuing to be under heavy attack.  See for example the whole string of negative responses to Marc Andreessen’s perfectly reasonable question.

    The Elon Musk takeover of twitter is great, for sure.  But the question of what can be done to address this widespread hostility toward free speech remains.

    • #1
  2. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    • #2
  3. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    What will those who are besmirching themselves say when they find that they now have an open platform? 

    • #3
  4. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    The line drawing will not, and arguably should not, stop.  It seems highly unlikely to me that Twitter will be an absolute free speech platform.  Since it’s presently rather extreme in its censorship, particularly against conservatives, it’s not hard to applaud Musk for committing to leveling the field.

    Still, the fact that a large number of ninnies play fast and loose with the term “hate speech” does not mean that genuine hate speech does not exist.  And, as always, there will be a lack of agreement on where to draw the line.  Let’s see.

     

    • #4
  5. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    • #5
  6. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    Maybe, but it will be somewhat difficult for them to win if Twitter’s employment is “at will,” as most large companies are these days. It should be relatively easy to fire someone for cause under the scenario I’ve outlined, while difficult to prove one is fired for discrimination, etc. And it’s not unheard of for new corporate owners, especially when a firm is take private, to close departments, fire/layoff staff, and so forth.

    Of course, the process is the punishment, so we will just have to see how this plays out.

    • #6
  7. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    Maybe, but it will be somewhat difficult for them to win if Twitter’s employment is “at will,” as most large companies are these days. It should be relatively easy to fire someone for cause under the scenario I’ve outlined, while difficult to prove one is fired for discrimination, etc. And it’s not unheard of for new corporate owners, especially when a firm is take private, to close departments, fire/layoff staff, and so forth.

    Of course, the process is the punishment, so we will just have to see how this plays out.

    Maybe.  But it seems like most of Twitter employees are probably in the People’s Republic of California, which I expect would have a largely favorable view of claims that someone was fired “Because Racism” or something, no matter what the actual truth and facts are.

    • #7
  8. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    Maybe, but it will be somewhat difficult for them to win if Twitter’s employment is “at will,” as most large companies are these days. It should be relatively easy to fire someone for cause under the scenario I’ve outlined, while difficult to prove one is fired for discrimination, etc. And it’s not unheard of for new corporate owners, especially when a firm is take private, to close departments, fire/layoff staff, and so forth.

    Of course, the process is the punishment, so we will just have to see how this plays out.

    Maybe. But it seems like most of Twitter employees are probably in the People’s Republic of California, which I expect would have a largely favorable view of claims that someone was fired “Because Racism” or something, no matter what the actual truth and facts are.

    He can do what he did for Tesla, his car company, move it to Texas. That alone should be a first good shake of the tree to remove the rotten apples.

    • #8
  9. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    Maybe, but it will be somewhat difficult for them to win if Twitter’s employment is “at will,” as most large companies are these days. It should be relatively easy to fire someone for cause under the scenario I’ve outlined, while difficult to prove one is fired for discrimination, etc. And it’s not unheard of for new corporate owners, especially when a firm is take private, to close departments, fire/layoff staff, and so forth.

    Of course, the process is the punishment, so we will just have to see how this plays out.

    Maybe. But it seems like most of Twitter employees are probably in the People’s Republic of California, which I expect would have a largely favorable view of claims that someone was fired “Because Racism” or something, no matter what the actual truth and facts are.

    He can do what he did for Tesla, his car company, move it to Texas. That alone should be a first good shake of the tree to remove the rotten apples.

    Just don’t offer to pay for current Twitter employees to move!

    • #9
  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    I doubt he’ll have to fire anyone. They’ll self-select themselves outta there!

    • #10
  11. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    kedavis (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    Maybe, but it will be somewhat difficult for them to win if Twitter’s employment is “at will,” as most large companies are these days. It should be relatively easy to fire someone for cause under the scenario I’ve outlined, while difficult to prove one is fired for discrimination, etc. And it’s not unheard of for new corporate owners, especially when a firm is take private, to close departments, fire/layoff staff, and so forth.

    Of course, the process is the punishment, so we will just have to see how this plays out.

    Maybe. But it seems like most of Twitter employees are probably in the People’s Republic of California, which I expect would have a largely favorable view of claims that someone was fired “Because Racism” or something, no matter what the actual truth and facts are.

    He can do what he did for Tesla, his car company, move it to Texas. That alone should be a first good shake of the tree to remove the rotten apples.

    Just don’t offer to pay for current Twitter employees to move!

    Hear! Hear!  We already have more than enough California transplants in Texas.

    • #11
  12. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    I doubt he’ll have to fire anyone. They’ll self-select themselves outta there!

    What a mess!  But at least it will be all sparkly pretty Woke stuff, not actual blood and stuff.

     

    • #12
  13. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Terry Mott (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MWD B612 "Dawg" (View Comment):

    Henry, I think Elon Musk is sincere in his desire to make Twitter more neutral in terms of the speech allowed. I wish him well in this effort. What remains to be seen is how much internal resistance the communists on staff at TWTR will put up. I can see something like what happened to Trump: directives are handed down, policy set, and it’s all ignored by the folks in the cubicles.

    Now, Musk will have one advantage that DJT did not: he can pretty much fire employees when they go against the company’s stated policy. But the question remains as to how much the folks several levels below him and his executive team will fall in line. He may have to clean house top to bottom.

    And probably everyone he fires, will sue.

    Maybe, but it will be somewhat difficult for them to win if Twitter’s employment is “at will,” as most large companies are these days. It should be relatively easy to fire someone for cause under the scenario I’ve outlined, while difficult to prove one is fired for discrimination, etc. And it’s not unheard of for new corporate owners, especially when a firm is take private, to close departments, fire/layoff staff, and so forth.

    Of course, the process is the punishment, so we will just have to see how this plays out.

    Maybe. But it seems like most of Twitter employees are probably in the People’s Republic of California, which I expect would have a largely favorable view of claims that someone was fired “Because Racism” or something, no matter what the actual truth and facts are.

    He can do what he did for Tesla, his car company, move it to Texas. That alone should be a first good shake of the tree to remove the rotten apples.

    Just don’t offer to pay for current Twitter employees to move!

    Hear! Hear! We already have more than enough California transplants in Texas.

    An old standby:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    And, of course:

     

    • #13
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The line drawing will not, and arguably should not, stop. It seems highly unlikely to me that Twitter will be an absolute free speech platform. Since it’s presently rather extreme in its censorship, particularly against conservatives, it’s not hard to applaud Musk for committing to leveling the field.

    Still, the fact that a large number of ninnies play fast and loose with the term “hate speech” does not mean that genuine hate speech does not exist. And, as always, there will be a lack of agreement on where to draw the line. Let’s see.

     

    Ricochet could do a lot to help by announcing that hate speech is welcome here, but illegal speech is not, nor is racial bigotry and a few other specific et ceteras.  

    • #14
  15. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    • #15
  16. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Django (View Comment):

    “The president… has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause.” – Psaki

    Such as helping get Brandon elected?

    • #16
  17. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Django (View Comment):

    Putin’s state security police also have those concerns. As did the KGB. 

    • #17
  18. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I see tonight that Jack Dorsey has endorsed Musk’s purchase. That’s good.

    The bad will happen soon. I predict that someone inside the company will sabotage the software and take the whole thing down rather than turn over the platform as is to Musk. Otherwise we may finally get some transparency into the algorithms, the shadow banning and the periodic purges. 

    For the time being the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth have been spectacularly entertaining. That and replying with, “Well, you know Twitter is a private company and can do what it wants and if you don’t like it you can start your own social media platform!” 

     

    • #18
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The line drawing will not, and arguably should not, stop. It seems highly unlikely to me that Twitter will be an absolute free speech platform. Since it’s presently rather extreme in its censorship, particularly against conservatives, it’s not hard to applaud Musk for committing to leveling the field.

    Still, the fact that a large number of ninnies play fast and loose with the term “hate speech” does not mean that genuine hate speech does not exist. And, as always, there will be a lack of agreement on where to draw the line. Let’s see.

     

    Ricochet could do a lot to help by announcing that hate speech is welcome here, but illegal speech is not, nor is racial bigotry and a few other specific et ceteras.

    Why limit any legal speech (with the CoC dinner party constraint, of course)?

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The line drawing will not, and arguably should not, stop. It seems highly unlikely to me that Twitter will be an absolute free speech platform. Since it’s presently rather extreme in its censorship, particularly against conservatives, it’s not hard to applaud Musk for committing to leveling the field.

    Still, the fact that a large number of ninnies play fast and loose with the term “hate speech” does not mean that genuine hate speech does not exist. And, as always, there will be a lack of agreement on where to draw the line. Let’s see.

     

    Ricochet could do a lot to help by announcing that hate speech is welcome here, but illegal speech is not, nor is racial bigotry and a few other specific et ceteras.

    Why limit any legal speech (with the CoC dinner party constraint, of course)?

    Because we feel like it.  But banning hate speech is a spectacularly bad idea.  Other types of bans on legal speech could eventually become just as bad, but it took a few decades to do it with hate speech, and maybe next time such problems could be nipped in the bud.  Eternal vigilance, etc. 

    • #20
  21. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The line drawing will not, and arguably should not, stop. It seems highly unlikely to me that Twitter will be an absolute free speech platform. Since it’s presently rather extreme in its censorship, particularly against conservatives, it’s not hard to applaud Musk for committing to leveling the field.

    Still, the fact that a large number of ninnies play fast and loose with the term “hate speech” does not mean that genuine hate speech does not exist. And, as always, there will be a lack of agreement on where to draw the line. Let’s see.

     

    Ricochet could do a lot to help by announcing that hate speech is welcome here, but illegal speech is not, nor is racial bigotry and a few other specific et ceteras.

    Why limit any legal speech (with the CoC dinner party constraint, of course)?

    Because we feel like it. But banning hate speech is a spectacularly bad idea. Other types of bans on legal speech could eventually become just as bad, but it took a few decades to do it with hate speech, and maybe next time such problems could be nipped in the bud. Eternal vigilance, etc.

    You know what would help a lot, and reduce pressure for “from-the-top” control?

    An Ignore feature.

    • #21
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    We already have an ignore feature. It’s called self control. 

    • #22
  23. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Zafar (View Comment):

    We already have an ignore feature. It’s called self control.

    We haven’t yet had to deal with any kind of onslaught.

    • #23
  24. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Zafar (View Comment):

    We already have an ignore feature. It’s called self control.

    Or “scroll bar”. 

    • #24
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    My self control is terrible, of course, so it’s a hypothetical argument from me. 

    • #25
  26. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Thanks for the comments, folks. A few observations of my own.

    I predicted a few days ago, here, that Musk would succeed in his takeover attempt. Barring regulatory hurdles and sudden offers from censorious hard-left billionaire consortia, it appears that he has.

    I believe he is sincere in his goal of making Twitter a more open, perhaps even radically open, platform.

    And I believe that he will succeed, and without much trouble.

    Someone earlier commented that Musk has an advantage Trump did not, in that Musk can actually fire people. That’s true, but it isn’t the greatest advantage Musk has. His greatest advantage is that he sets priorities and is then dogged in his pursuit of them.

    I said I thought he’d succeed in his takeover attempt because he willed SpaceX to land rockets on their tails. That’s what I mean by dogged.

    But what really gives me hope that he will succeed in his efforts to transform Twitter is the fact that SpaceX makes readily available videos of all of their failures. I think Musk sees failure as an evaluation point on a path to a goal, recalibrates accordingly, and continues toward that goal. Relentlessly.

    So long as his goal is an open Twitter, I think we will eventually reach an open Twitter. And I think it will be transformative.


    If I had my druthers, I’d opt for a simple standard: no pornography, and no illegal content. And I’d be willing to compromise on the no pornography part, perhaps adopting a simple user-selectable content filter a la Google, Bing, etc.: Safe/Moderate/No Filter.

    What I think essential is a complete absence of viewpoint discrimination.

    I reject the category of “hate speech” as meaningful. I think “trans” is stupid and Islam is a doctrinally toxic faith. I want to be free to say that, even at the cost of allowing someone who thinks, for example, that all whites are racist to express that thought as well.


    I was talking to my kid brother John about Twitter earlier today, and he brought up the point that liberals are always threatening to flee to Canada if something big doesn’t go their way here in the U.S. So he asked me, “What’s the social media equivalent of Canada?” So I told him.

    Social media is the social media equivalent of Canada. But we may be about to see that change: we may be about to see Twitter become the social media equivalent of America.

    And, just possibly, 2022 won’t be like 2020.

    • #26
  27. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    The progressive’s fear of free speech is entirely focused on the malevolent ignorance of the credulous right. They read a piece about people who were RADICALIZED by social media, and started to believe that contrails brought down the World Trade Center to give JFK Jr. a cover to escape through the tunnels to save the documents proving the Epstein Endochome Harvesting Ring was using Jewish Weather Lasers to increase the cloud cover over Mena, Arkansas, so Bill Clinton could meet with Bill Gates without the satellites detecting them, whereupon they would discuss their plans for nanotech bots administered by vaccination to make everyone predisposed to like the combination of Blue and Yellow, this paving the way for the Masonic takeover of Russia in the guise of the Ukrainians fighting a “defensive” war.

    Or, people reading a tweet about a lab leak as the reason for the COVID outbreak. Same diff.

    What I hope Musk will do is banish some pieties and shibboleths. Before: You cannot discuss a lab origin for COVID, because it will lead to Sinophobia that immediately results in someone punching an old lady in Brooklyn. You cannot, in any way, be critical of the new unassailable convictions about gender, because exposure to contrary assertions leads directly to suicide. Now: this way to the mosh pit, ladies and gentlemen; mute, block, and curate as you please. No revenge porn or threats. No “Truth and Safety Committee” because that’s like Orwell by way of East Germany. Have fun. Be good. See you all on Mars. 

    • #27
  28. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I reject the category of “hate speech” as meaningful.

    Preach it, Brother Henry!

    • #28
  29. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    I can’t know whether Musk’s purchase, if it’s real, is good or bad.  What we can know is that the government in a country of over 300 million of the most diverse, richest folks on earth and its history  can’t know or care about the 100’s of millions of folks in thousands of cities towns and countryside in which they live.  So if his goal is to take over and manage matters using the government, it’s not good.  If his goal is to take power away from the government and manage it as a business, its good.

    • #29
  30. Keith Lowery Coolidge
    Keith Lowery
    @keithlowery

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I think Musk sees failure as an evaluation point on a path to a goal, recalibrates accordingly, and continues toward that goal.

    Failure is just data. Anyone who doesn’t see it that way is wasting a huge opportunity.

    And also, this made me laugh.

    Finally, I’m happy that Musk has done what he’s done, but I remain skeptical of Twitter and all of its imitators. In the back of my mind I have this niggling thought that converting a censored Twitter into a free speech Twitter is a little like trading pancreatic cancer for prostate cancer. It’s a big improvement to be sure, but you still have cancer.

    “The medium is the message”, as Marshall McLuhan once said, and I am harassed by doubts about Twitter’s ability to ever contribute to the good, even under new management.  I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

    • #30
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