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Musk, Twitter & free speech

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Having a brain the size of a planet doesn’t in any way guarantee clear thinking or intelligent decision-making.  But large cranial capacity coupled to a high degree of bias towards action, rather depends upon there being sound judgement in tow, if crazy things aren’t to result.  Exhibit A, one E.Musk, who by all accounts is exceptionally clever; is demonstrably ultra-strong in the initiative department; and whose practical ventures include some astonishing achievements.  And yet, his track record with Twitter from the very start has been one of crass ineptitude – a rich man’s folly, ill thought-out.  

Can his primary ventures (Tesla, SpaceX) be so comfortably on autopilot now, that he has spare time to engage properly in this manic, frivolous hobby?  Presumably not: and perhaps that’s why we see such an utter fiasco unravelling.  Is there a sound business plan for Twitter lurking somewhere there, merely being hindered temporarily by some unforeseen teething troubles?  We hear clearly enough the statement that is supposed to sum it up, Twitter supposedly being strategically positioned at “a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street” – but that sounds to me like so many a brilliant plan to exploit some cunningly identified synergy-on-paper (if not merely a post-rationalised excuse).  Might sound great, but where’s the proof it’ll work?  Every VC and PE fund hears twenty glib pitches like this each month.  Zuckerberg got there first, anyway.

Speaker’s Corner at Marble Arch is at just such an intersection, but I don’t see anyone building a business empire on it.  I do, however, see all manner of madmen ranting there of an afternoon with the occasional fist fight breaking out.  Which brings us to another aspect of all this: Free Speech, an issue on which Musk declares himself to be a fundamentalist.

Another failure of judgement, because there are no fundamental positions on Free Speech this side of North Korea (where they simply set the dial at absolute zero).  Everything else is a position on a spectrum – even in the Land of the Free with their hallowed 1st Amendment.  There are all manner of things you’ll be prosecuted for saying or writing, in the USA as elsewhere (including Speakers’ Corner).  The argument that a medium like Twitter is “just a platform” is as vacuous as if the Times declared itself to be just some sheets of paper with black ink on them.  The only pertinent difference is, it’s easier to pin down the Times.  Oh, and perhaps also that the Times isn’t so beloved of da yoof.  It is, however, owned by someone with pretty much the same amount of political clout as the Musks of this world, so it can’t simply be that the tech magnates hold more sway in Washington etc.  Let’s see what the next US election brings – or rather, what happens afterwards, in 2025.  Social media carnage is pretty much guaranteed next year, along with maximal Russian attempts at interference.  

In any event: does anyone see where Musk is going with Twitter – and can a genuinely compelling commercial narrative be framed?  Business case – or nutcase?



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