April 20, 2024

Remember when Jeb Bush ran for president? (No one will judge you harshly if you don’t.) The son of a former president, the brother of another, and a successful two-term governor—Jeb was the GOP money’s first choice in 2016. He might not have been the presumptive nominee, but at the start, it was his race to lose.

Then, as the New Hampshire primary approached—and a deranged political novice named Donald Trump was poised to trounce both him and the rest of the field—“low energy” Jeb went viral for sheepishly asking a town hall crowd to “please clap” for the speech they didn’t realize he had just finished.

No one could accuse Elon Musk of being low energy, but over the past few weeks, the Tesla and X boss has channeled Jeb’s desperate need for validation—as the house burned down around him.

Judge Tears Apart Musk’s Lawsuit Over Hate Speech on X

Musk recently posted, “Please forward links to X posts to your friends so they know what’s actually happening… Some people still believe the legacy media!”

This plea to users to tell their friends where the REAL news could be found came a day after NBC News cited data that showed X had lost about 23 percent of its daily active users in the U.S. since Musk bought Twitter in Oct. 2022—and later rebranded it X. (Worldwide, the site’s lost 15 percent of active daily users.)

The report also said Musk had managed to chase away 75 of the top 100 advertisers in the U.S. He put punctuation mark on this dubious achievement in Nov. 2023—after endorsing a tweet pushing a notorious antisemitic conspiracy theory as “the actual truth”—by telling fleeing companies to go fuck themselves.

The anti-woke podcaster Konstantin Kisin tweeted the day after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacres in Israel that “Yesterday demonstrated why turning Twitter into X has changed everything… If you don’t believe me, look at how the media covered yesterday… The worldview shared by most elites no longer has a monopoly over what we see with our own eyes. That alone is worth $44 billion.” (Like a master petting his dog on the head, Musk replied, “Good thread.”)

Among Musk sycophants, this is an article of faith. “The media” only lies to you, and Elon Musk’s barely moderated social-media site has liberated the unvarnished truth for the masses.

But, as anyone with even a passing interest in verifying facts can tell you, Musk’s X is worthless in a breaking news situation. Anonymous, fake, malicious accounts now have the coveted “blue check” of verification, and their posts are prioritized all over their site.

During every major breaking news event since Musk sold verification for $8/month (or just gave the blue checks away for free to political commentators he likes), X is a fetid swamp of misinformation. To cite a recent example, the Baltimore bridge tragedy added copious amounts of unbridled racism to the flood of fake news, as well.

‘Twitter Files’ Hucksters Are Once Again Cosplaying as Free Speech Martyrs

And as someone who works in the opinion journalism field, I’ve found Musk’s X to be almost as inessential when it comes to keeping my pulse on “the discourse.” Whereas Twitter—for all its many faults—was once a place where you could see serious arguments and narrative-shaping happening in real time, the infinite scroll of X’s $8 blue checks in the replies makes it all but impossible to know how widely shared tweets are being received by anyone not in Musk’s ideological tribe.

For all of Musk’s populist talk about making the site a more egalitarian place of robust disagreement, free of ideological gatekeepers, the new X is a cloistered feedback bubble of MAGA, Intellectual Dark Web, and racist edgelords.

It’s worth noting, but is far too voluminous to document in one column, that Musk regularly spreads false conspiracy theories and fake news sites, including a recent propaganda video pushing the Great Replacement Theory and alleging that Democrats nationwide are in on the plan. (Anti-woke billionaire investor Bill Ackman further boosted the video, declaring it “credible.”)

During the chaotic months in 2022 when Musk tried to buy Twitter, then tried to get out of the deal, before ultimately coughing up $44 billion, Musk fan Bari Weiss said of the controversy regarding the imminent management change: “He wants free speech. Those who hate him don’t.”

So how’s that going? Business might be cratering and the site’s completely lost its cachet as a news hub, but surely Musk made X the haven for free speech that he promised, right?

Only if you ignore his arbitrary suspensions of journalists he doesn’t like, his delegation of words like “cisgender” as hate speech, his deplatforming and shadow-banning of links to competitors like Substack, his compliance with foreign governments to do their censorship bidding, his speech-chilling threats to sue organizations that observed how much more bigoted content is on the site since he bought it, and his completely bogus (and recently dismissed) suit against the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

In tossing that case, Judge Charles Bryer said: “Sometimes it is unclear what is driving a litigation, and only by reading between the lines of a complaint can one attempt to surmise a plaintiff’s true purpose. Other times, a complaint is so unabashedly and vociferously about one thing that there can be no mistaking that purpose. This case represents the latter circumstance. This case is about punishing the Defendants for their speech.” (Matt Taibbi, one of his hand-picked Twitter Files stenographers, has even publicly lamented that Musk has failed to live up to his free speech warrior hype.)

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Elon Musk, Joe Rogan, and the Apocalyptic ‘Centrists’

He may readily dole out grandiose, alpha male bravado about saving Western civilization and fearlessly defending free speech—but methinks Musk doth overcompensate too much.

Scratch his tender shell and you’ll find a scared, flailing man who’s probably smart enough to know it’s over.

As far as his X-periment goes, this is Elon Musk’s “Please Clap” era.

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