July 11, 2022 - 3:03pm

The real reason as to why Elon Musk backed out of the Twitter deal may never come to light. Certainly the stated reason, that Twitter vastly understated the number of bots on their network, is insultingly weak, highly unlikely to meet the “material adverse impact” standard needed to scuttle the deal in court. Perhaps he wanted to renegotiate a cheaper price or cover his stock option sales. Or maybe he just wanted to do it for the sake of it. Much of Musk’s public persona revolves around giving the impression that he can do whatever he wants, and much of the reaction to him seems geared, alas, to proving him correct.

In that light, maybe the lameness of the bot claim is the point. In a pinch, Musk could well eat the billion-dollar penalty the deal mandates if he walks away. He can easily endure a long legal dispute — far more easily than Twitter can. The company is now stuck in limbo while the deal flounders, demoralising employees and paralyzing the company. Anonymous employees told the Washington Post that Musk is destroying the company and throwing it into total chaos.The real tell, however, is in this leak in the same article:

One of the Twitter employees said there have been discussions within the company about conservatives’ concerns with the platform, which employees are working to address, regardless of the outcome of the sale.
- Washington Post

In other words, the very thing pundits and progressives feared in the case of a Musk purchase — the Right gaining more pull over Twitter’s moderation and algorithms — is already happening. Far from resisting a Musk purchase, Twitter is now bending at the knee both to Musk and to the constituencies he leveraged to support his purchase. Musk has become the recalcitrant bride and Twitter the pleading suitor, a humiliating and hypocritical position for the company to inhabit. And while one might expect anti-Musk factions to be cheering the potential collapse of the deal and encourage Twitter to back away, that does not seem to be happening either.

As an emperor-has-no-clothes moment for Twitter, it’s pretty embarrassing. They’ve put themselves in thrall to Musk, compromised on the principles they claimed to espouse, and embarrassed any backers who thought they were better than Musk, since they’re now carrying water for him even in the absence of being bought.

Musk, on the other hand, must be feeling fairly smug. Time is on his side, Twitter is begging him to buy them, and the social media giant has lost significant prestige and integrity. And the blue-checked elites, linger watching the carnage, aware to varying degrees of being reduced to mere spectators. Every age gets the trickster it deserves: we get Elon Musk.

David Auerbach is an American author and former Microsoft and Google software engineer.