It’s hard to believe a billionaire, let alone the most wealthy billionaire in the world, could be a pirate. But it sure feels that way with Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter and take it private. Musk’s $54.20 per share price, including a marijuana joke, kicked a veritable hornet’s nest online.
Like all things these days, the mere idea of Elon Musk buying Twitter is called a threat to democracy. Washington Post columnist Max Boot stepped up to the plate and declared, “I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter. He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”
David Harsanyi wrote of Boot, “democracy’s future is always hanging in the balance; it depends on shutting down dissent, or holding on to unilateral one-party rule, or ensuring an ideological monopoly over major cultural institutions. For democracy to survive, Democrats must federalize elections, Democrats are the only ones allowed to gerrymander, and elected Republicans must be stopped from implementing curricula in schools. For democracy to survive, we must squash any deviation from the dominant view.”
All of this meltdown is due to a bid to buy Twitter. It’s the height of lunacy.
Musk wants to expand free speech.
Musk laid out his reasoning for buying Twitter in his disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Musk wrote:
I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.
However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.
Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.
That note went to the Twitter board. It’s hardly the stuff of tyranny or the end of democracy. Declaring that you want a platform of free speech and ending Twitter’s moderation policies is not the stuff of a tin-pot dictator.
After Musk made his offer public, the frenzy continued on Twitter. One of Twitter’s shareholders, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud declared he opposed the deal from Musk to purchase Twitter. Musk responded, “Interesting. Just two questions, if I may. How much of Twitter does the Kingdom own, directly & indirectly? What are the Kingdom’s views on journalistic freedom of speech?”
Musk’s trolling of the Saudis is funny and highlights how his detractors are willing to side with tyrants.
Twitter’s ownership matters.
For better or worse, it does matter who owns Twitter. As a news and opinion platform, Twitter does more to drive narratives around news and events than any other platform. On Twitter, information first gets reported, and journalists start forming narratives in real-time.
It’s also the closest thing to a nationwide salon to borrow the French usage. Twitter has become the place where all the world’s ideas land and meshes in one place. When Twitter began moderating and filtering what people saw based on ideology instead of focusing on ads or money, it introduced a new filter.
Since then, we’ve experienced the banishment of Donald Trump, the shutdown of the Hunter Biden story during an election, and more. The leadership of Twitter and how they decide to shape reality matters.
That, in turn, makes who owns Twitter important in our day and age. Some day, Twitter won’t exist or have any importance. But we do not live in that moment, and there are no killer next-gen social media platforms lurking to replace Twitter.
Whatever happens, Elon wins.
Elon Musk’s bid to purchase Twitter puts the company on the market. Twitter’s board may try to reject the offer or jump to a poison pill. But the irony of any action is that Elon Musk is in a win-win situation. When it bottomed out, he bought the stock, and it’s already running higher with his name recognition attached.
Either Musk ends up making money on this investment, he owns Twitter at the end, or a third party appears to out-bid Musk for Twitter and gives Musk even more money for his shares. Musk is the one with leverage, and the Twitter board, while they have the right to refuse, is in a tight spot.
The realization that Twitter is in a bind has triggered a response from liberal elites. It is telling that they’ve circled the wagons to protect Twitter’s censorship and narrative control of news at it happens. Elon Musk is a threat to democracy, while Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post is not.
Elon Musk jumped on Twitter like a pirate raiding a ship. And now he has them where he walks away with a victory in any situation. If they reject him and no third buyer appears, Musk dumps his more lucrative stock and watches Twitter plunge without him. If he owns Twitter, he gets to do what he wants. And if a third party appears, they have to pay a premium to make him go away.