Last updated on June 2, 2022
In the midst of everything else happening in the world right now (which is a shit-ton), I gather we’re meant to be mightily impressed that Elon Musk just bought Twitter. Mainstream media is in a tizzy because they’re afraid Twitter will allow right-leaning voices to be heard, in the worst case maybe even Trump’s. Alternative media is jumping for joy because they think Musk is a Libertarian hero, a champion of free speech.
As usual, the media is missing the point entirely. Musk wants Twitter for a reason, and that reason has very little to do with creating a free and open ‘digital town hall.’
Why Does Twitter Matter?
A few years back, when we discussed Facebook on the TPD podcast, Twitter was just a little blip on the emerging social media landscape. I myself brushed it aside as a rather benign online presence. For years, Twitter was simply home to, well, a bunch of tweets – a pile of meaningless chatter. But all that changed when Donald J. Trump got “elected” to the office of President of the United States.
One of my favorite Twitter feeds from the Golden Age of Twitter was @nihilist_arbys. They’re still around today, producing funny – but ultimately pointless and harmless – content like this:
Pre-Trump, it seemed to yours truly that Twitter’s character-limited micro-blog format could never amount to a hill of beans in the eyes of serious data miners like the CIA, who provide the behind-the-scenes funding for most “social media” outlets. I mean who really gives a rip about quirky little blurbs posted primarily to get a few cheap laughs? Boy, was I wrong.
It did take a while for Twitter to take flight, sure. But once it did, the spooks got really, really interested. Because Trump* was an avid tweeter, and because the leftist mainstream media was obsessed with Trump, all of a sudden Twitter started to matter – a lot – especially in the area of political discourse. And so it remains. Surprise, surprise. Tweets have come to be viewed by many as relevant and meaningful.
*When I say “Trump” in this context, please know that I mean Trump’s handlers and PR team. I don’t hold any illusions that DJT’s Twitter feeds were not carefully scripted and managed.
Tucker Carlson summed up the current “mattering” of Twitter pretty well on the April 14th 2022 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight:
“So Elon Musk understands something about Twitter that many people in our country don’t understand, which is that it is the single most important forum for speech – possibly in the world – not because it’s the biggest, but because it’s where elite opinion is incubated.”
So far, so good, Tucker. (Tucker went of the rails later in the same episode, as will be shown below.) “Where elite opinion is incubated” is the most accurate and concise Twitter description I’ve heard. Politicians are tweeting all the time. And news broadcasts are talking about what they say in their tweets. And those who tweet nonconforming political views are silenced and/or banned from the platform.
Is all this tweeting and reporting and censoring highly scripted and curated? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Twitter is now perceived to matter, to somehow be a window into what people are really thinking – especially people in influential positions.
Enter Elon Musk.
Why Would Musk Buy Twitter?
On the surface, no matter what Tucker Carlson might think, Musk’s acquisition of Twitter has the feel of a modern-day William Randolph Hearst move, i.e., buying Twitter is like buying one’s own political news outlet.
For those unfamiliar with Hearst: He was best known for creating the U.S.’s largest newspaper chain and media company, Hearst Communications, back in the early 1900s. At its peak Hearst Communications controlled more than 30 newspapers in major cities across America. Hearst himself controlled the editorial positions and coverage of political news in all his papers and magazines, thereby often publishing his personal views. Hearst was a leftist/progressive who claimed to speak on behalf of the working class. Sound familiar? He sold his papers by printing giant headlines over lurid stories featuring crime, corruption, sex, and innuendo. He was twice “elected” to the U.S. House of Representatives, and ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States in 1904. Some things never change, eh? The celebrated film, Citizen Kane, was supposedly based on his life story.
Drawing the obvious parallel, I’d imagine that scooping up Twitter probably has some gut-level, power-grab appeal for Musk. This would line up well with the warped ambitions and potentially psychopathic patterns of his that I detailed in a previous blog article. But I suspect there’s a little more to it.
First, let’s see what we can glean from Musk’s own words on the acquisition. Then, let’s look at what others have said. And finally, let’s explore how this seemingly random purchase actually fits quite well into Musk’s current asset portfolio.
Here’s a little of what Musk himself has said about buying Twitter, along with my comments.
Just before the purchase Musk said his offer to buy Twitter was not “a way to make money,” but rather part of an effort to try to change the platform because “I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech.”
These statements are deceitful. First off, you can bet the farm that Musk’s purchase of Twitter is totally about making money – for himself and his investors. Lots and lots of money. Below I present how I think he’s going to do so.
And yes, you read it right, Musk isn’t flying solo on this deal. He has investors, among them some well-known big banks. Here’s the financial breakdown, as reported by Reuters: The acquisition of Twitter was reported to be $44 billion. In the end, this was made up of $13 billion in bank loans secured against Twitter, $12.5 billion in margin loans tied to Tesla stock, and another $18.5 billion of Musk’s own money (consisting of asset swaps and private equity financing, not some real wad of cash from a shoe box stashed under Musk’s bed).
Think about this for a minute: In order to secure this debt and equity financing, Musk had to convince banks and investors that Twitter can produce enough cash flow to service the debts. He also must have made a handshake agreement with them that he is going to lie to the public and say that he’s doing this for altruistic reasons – otherwise his investor group would probably be a little disturbed about his glib remarks about not being in it to make money. How does Twitter, an ostensibly free service for its users, generate enough cash to pay back such massive loans, you might ask? Very good question. I take a swing at answering this down below. Another interesting note: The $13 billion in bank loans, in and of itself, is equivalent to seven times (7x) Twitter’s entire 2022 projected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization! This begs the question: What exactly has Musk promised in order to convince banks to issue loans on this house of cards?
I also think Musk’s comment about having “an inclusive arena for free speech” is really telling. But that’s better addressed in my comments on the next Musk quote, which is this:
This reads to me like classic spell-casting. Yes, I’m referring to the dark arts. The evil-doers of the world are compelled by their spooky rituals and belief systems to tell everyone exactly what they’re doing using clever, double-edged language like this. Here’s a blow-by-blow reckoning of what I think is really being said here (note, by the way, that Musk is simply agreeing with this attributed quote, not actually originating it):
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy” = sounds about right, but saying this is just making a statement, which is different than saying that you believe in free speech or democracy
“Twitter is the digital town square…” = catch phrase / new mission statement
“…where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” = epic swagger; I think we all understand that brain farts of 280 characters or less (Twitter’s 2022 limit) are hardly vital to the future of humanity.
“I also want to make Twitter better than ever…” = there will be some changes
“…by enhancing the product with new features,…” = computer programmers are already hard at work, coding more crap than you can imagine
“…making the algorithms open source to increase trust,…” = win back the trust that’s been lost due to the wave of cancelled accounts and silenced voices – but this is less likely “an inclusive arena for free speech” and more likely a honey trap (meaning, if everyone feels free to speak their truth on Twitter, it will be much easier to identify dissidents).
“…defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” = related the above notion of tagging dissidents; authentication schemes will, no doubt, be biometric and ultra-future-creepy.
“Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and community of users to unlock it.” = use of the word “unlock” is a strong hint that there is already some dormant Twitter capability that’s about to be uncorked – hmmm, I wonder what genie might pop out when Musk rubs the lamp, and I wonder what he’ll wish for; the phrase “community of users” is unusual – it sounds like a bunch of drug addicts living in tents beneath an overpass – which is likely how Musk views the general population.
Here’s what a few others on both the left and the right are saying about Elon Musk buying Twitter, along with my comments.
Max Boot – Washington Post columnist (and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations…puke) – speaks to a common view held by leftists in his April 14th 2022 tweet:
“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.”
Can you believe that someone would actually say this out loud? Ol’ Boot is either a not-so-secret agent, or he’s had his head so far up his own ass for so long that he’s become allergic to sunlight. Do you think Boot would be equally afraid of the impact on society and politics if some other billionaire, say Jeff Bezos, acquired his employer, the Washington Post newspaper? Oh wait – that actually already happened. Note to self: Issue memo to Max Boot, ask for comment.
Ari Melber – MSNBC chief legal correspondent – had this to say on the April 27th 2022 episode of The Beat with Ari Melber:
“If you own all of Twitter, or Facebook or what have you, you don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t even have to be transparent. You could secretly ban one party’s candidate or all of its candidates…the rest of us might not even find out about till after the election.”
Ummm…Did Melber just fall off the turnip truck? Or is he caught in some sort of space-time warp where he thinks things that have already occurred can be served up as crystal ball glimpses of the future? I wonder if he has other interesting predictions that he’ll share. “I predict that one day there will be carriages that will move by themselves, requiring no horses, and that men will take to the sky like birds.” Is anyone curious about how and why a guy like this is positioned as a TV news show host?
Joe Rogan – podcaster, sportscaster, and comedian – had this to say on the April 25th 2022 episode of The Joe Rogan Experience (he was recording his podcast when the press release announcing Musk’s purchase was issued):
“Oh shit! Elon Musk just bought Twitter. We got a movie star cut type of a super-hero. It’s like a movie. Like if you had a movie and there was a guy who was like a, like a, hero in the movie, who happened to be a billionaire, does wild shit like makes his own rockets, and drills under the city, and cars that are fuckin’ electric buys Twitter.”
Rogan’s gushing is sad. He’s applauding his own destroyer, likening him to a super-hero who’s arrived on the scene to save the day. Rogan doesn’t seem like someone who could be easily bamboozled, so I guess he must be under a spell. Maybe it’s a personal spell: Rogan interviewed Elon Musk back in 2018, and there was plenty of mutual adulation – they even smoked a giant spliff together. Or maybe the comic book character idea of an eccentric billionaire that uses his wealth and resources to fight Bad Guys holds a special place in our collective psyche. It’s a common enough theme that’s been repeated to us, that’s for sure. Think of Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Anthony Stark (Iron Man). Rogan’s childish spouting seems to be tapping directly into this level of consciousness. At least it’s a genuine reaction that can help us see what’s happening.
Tucker Carlson – Fox News conservative political commentator – had this to say on the April 14th 2022 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight:
“So censorship and propaganda are at the very heart of neo-liberalism, and Elon Musk is challenging all of that directly. He’s the richest man in the world. He’s not trying to make more money. He’s not donating to a foreign charity or creating a tax shelter for himself – at least in this case. He’s using his money to allow, at least potentially, Americans to speak freely.”
“By challenging the monopoly on speech – not just in the United States, but globally, on Twitter, on this central platform for ideas – Elon Musk is risking everything that he has. His many businesses intersect with governments around the world. They’re not for this. They could crush him for even suggesting it. So he’s all in.”
It appears that poor Tucker has fallen off the Libertarian Fantasy Cruise ship, and is now splashing around in the sea where he’s either going to drown or get gobbled up by a shark. Musk is no champion of free speech, and he most certainly is trying to make more money. Just follow the pattern, Tuck-Tuck: If Musk wasn’t interested in amassing more and more wealth, he’d be living on an island right now, still living off the millions he earned from selling Zip2 and/or Paypal and/or whatever, way back when.
Carlson is, however, totally correct in pointing out that Musk’s businesses “intersect with governments around the world,” but he’s looking at this fact through a distorted lens. Carlson imagines this to be something that places Musk at risk in this Twitter deal – as in if Musk becomes too much of a champion of the people, Big Brother will start putting the screws to his other businesses. What Carlson doesn’t realize is this: Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is not an exception to the rule. It’s not a deal that stands in opposition to the powers that be; it’s yet another deal following an established pattern, a deal that also intersects with government and elite interests.
I could go on and on with quoting media personalities and Musk himself, but I think we can already see the big picture emerging, right? What we have is a collection of rather naïve commentary from both the left and right that, remarkably, is somehow unable to see the forest for the trees. The right thinks Musk is an altruistic hero, when he’s actually a greedy lunatic with disturbed, dystopian fantasies. The left is suspicious, but for all the wrong reasons – rich white guys always get the left’s fur up, but the government is always above suspicion for some odd reason.
So, for the benefit of both sides, and perhaps even those in the middle, I offer the following pattern-matching exercise, in an attempt to make sense of Musk’s Twitter acquisition.
The success of Tesla, Musk’s electric car company, is due to a clever business-government entanglement. Back in 2008, the U.S. auto industry received massive bailouts from the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (GM got $9.4 billion, Chrysler got $4 billion, etc. – by the way: compare these numbers to the $44 billion Twitter deal! Gulp.) Tesla received a sweet deal from the government as well, but it was more subtle – Musk negotiated a special federal tax exemption/credit for plug-in electric vehicles that became a boon for Tesla. In fact, it’s the primary reason that Tesla, as a business, didn’t tank. In a nutshell, here was the deal: Tesla, as a company, was rescued with federal (tax) dollars. In exchange, Musk promised to re-brand electric cars and make them popular in the cool kid marketplace which benefited the federal government’s near-term vision of electrifying cars in order to restrict personal mobility (see my previous blog, titled Electric Cars are a Scam where I prove that there’s nothing “green” about electric cars except for the money changing hands).
The success of Space X, Musk’s rocket ship company, is due to a clever business-government entanglement. In 2018, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission gave Space X the “space-based broadband” contract to deploy over 4,400 satellites into low-Earth orbit in order to enable “full-time internet coverage to virtually the entire planet.” I detailed this in a previous blog article. In a nutshell, here’s the deal: Space X, as a company, has been the recipient of lucrative contracts and federal (tax) dollars. In exchange, Musk promised to make re-usable rockets and other technologies that can better serve mass satellite deployments than the bloated NASA could ever hope to achieve. The federal government wants all those satellites to support the emerging 5G surveillance state, a long-time wet dream of theirs that’s finally coming true. Musk is more than happy to oblige.
The success of Neuralink, Musk’s let’s-plant-microchips-into-human-brains company, is due to a clever business-government entanglement. Last year, the Biden administration began to flesh out its brand new $6.5 billion darling agency that’s openly modeled on the military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – don’t worry, there’s nothing spooky about DARPA!! – that will seek to “speed the development of medical treatments” and fund “risky, innovative projects.” Guess who gets their fair share of lucrative research contracts and federal (tax) dollars? In exchange, Musk promises to develop technologies that enable the implanting of chips inside all our skulls, thereby merging human cognition with artificial intelligence (AI). This is nasty business, some serious Island of Dr. Moreau insanity, that I also detailed in a previous blog article. Executive summary: (1) No thanks. (2) The fact that Elon Musk is an advocate of this technology is, in my opinion, strong evidence that he’s completely cracked.
The above three cases follow the same recipe, the same pattern: Musk makes a cozy deal with the government to develop a technology that furthers The Man’s agenda. Musk’s company gets paid handsomely, and the government benefits from the deployment of the technology.
So…Why would we think that Musk’s Twitter would be any different from these tried and true business models?
$44 billion is a ton of dough. What has Musk promised to deliver with “Twitter Tech” that would be of interest to The Man? In order to secure the whopper loans to cover the Twitter acquisition, I imagine a conversation similar to the following took place:
Musk: I want $44 billion to buy Twitter.
The Man: That’s a lot of dough, Elon. What will we get out of it?
Musk: I’m going to give you more user data than you’ve ever imagined. You see, the guys in charge at Twitter have been going about it all wrong – They’ve disenfranchised the very people that we want to collect the most data on. They’ve lost sight of the plebes who might oppose The Agenda and speak out against it. I’m going to invite everyone back in and make them feel like they’re inside a free and safe public forum where they can express their true thoughts. And I’ll develop new ways of gathering those thoughts and delivering them to you.
The Man: We’re listening.
Musk: For example, I can fuse Twitter with some of the tech coming out of Neuralink and the other project. What would you say if I told you I could set up a direct feed that transcribes users’ thoughts into tweets?
The Man: You mean like the mind-reading tech from Project ____? Sounds interesting. But how do you propose to convince people to voluntarily broadcast their inner thoughts? Won’t that scare them away?
Musk: Nah. I’ll actually sell it to them as a convenience upgrade, and people will buy it. Who wants to type anymore? It’ll give them the choice to save or delete any Thought-Tweet. But even if they delete it, we’ll still grab the data for you. We’ll also be collecting and delivering physiological response data for written and visual material. So we’ll be getting highly accurate, real-world reaction information for any new propagan…err…content…that you put out there. We’ll have a really accurate read on uptake, and we’ll be able to make practical recommendations about whether key messaging needs softening or hardening.
The Man: You say you can develop and deliver this tech, Elon?
Musk: Sure. I mean, yes.
The Man: OK, let’s do it. We’ll get the funds to you before noon tomorrow. Is there anything else you’ll need right now?
Musk: I think we could enhance the perception of trustworthiness if some publicly-announced government regulations are put into place. Regulations of the usual variety, I mean. It’ll be important for our users to imagine that social media space is being watch-dogged.
The Man: Already in the works, Elon. Already in the works.
Phil’s two cents
I’ll be the first to admit that the above might sound a little far-fetched. Heck, maybe I have it all wrong. But I do think it’s worth speculating how a $44 billion Twitter price tag could possibly be justified. And I also think it’s worth calling out Elon Musk as an unusual guy who dabbles in unusual things on the taxpayers’ dime.
One thing I will say to justify my suspicions: The people buying into Musk’s proposed technologies probably do not understand whether or not they are even possible, technically speaking. And perhaps Musk doesn’t even understand himself. Musk’s publicly voiced ambitions about the human colonization of Mars are a good example. It’s impossible for humans to survive outside the Earth’s magnetosphere without unfeasible-to-transport radiation protection. Musk might know this, or he might not. And the same goes for those who might fund such ambitions. But all of this is really beside the point: What The Man is deeply interested in is investing in speculative technology that has the potential to advance their Agenda – which is mostly to do with human enslavement and energy harvesting. After all, The Man’s not spending His own money. And He trusts that Musk can put together technical teams to do His bidding.
As for me, well I’m going to go ahead and maintain social distancing from anything being pitched as a ‘digital town square.’ But that’s just me. If you’re into that kind of thing and you trust Elon Musk’s intentions, then have at it. I wish you all the best.