The Twitter CEO cannot own the public square while calling for prosecutions
Over the weekend, two more instalments of the Twitter Files dropped, with another following today, revealing the lengths to which company executives went to censor speech on the platform that they deemed contrary to their political leanings and interests. It’s good to have confirmation of what all of us who don’t cling to the woke orthodoxy have long suspected: that Twitter put its thumb on the scales and systematically censored conservative and Covid regime-sceptical voices.
But the weekend’s instalments of the Twitter Files were overshadowed by site owner Elon Musk’s own tweets leaning into the culture wars. “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Musk tweeted Sunday morning — a tweet that now has over one million likes. He also tweeted a meme of Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Biden with the caption “Just one more lockdown, my king”, and engaged with Lara Logan, who was fired from Fox News for comparing Fauci to Joseph Mengele, and then fired from Newsmax for talking about a “global cabal” of UN officials dining on the blood of children.
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“The Branch Covidians are upset lol,” Musk tweeted about pushback to the Fauci tweet, to the cheers of conservatives. But as is so often the case with Musk, his supporters and detractors are both focused on the wrong thing. The tweet, like so much of what Musk has engaged in since acquiring Twitter, belies his claims to be the avatar of free speech, exposing not just the hypocrisy of the Left but his own as well.
After all, you can’t claim to be a champion of free speech and then seek to prosecute a government official who had no power to do anything but only to recommend things — in other words, to engage in a speech act. The Left is certainly wrong about Fauci: the man is no hero. He got a lot wrong during the pandemic — disastrously so, and the most vulnerable children will be paying for those mistakes for a generation. But what law did he break that would justify prosecution? Investigate him, sure. But prosecute him? For supplying suggestions you didn’t like to politicians who by turns took and disregarded those suggestions?
It’s exactly the opposite of what you’d expect from the kind of free speech maverick Musk paints himself as. And it’s not the first time the Twitter CEO has undercut his claims to represent free speech. When advertisers fled Twitter in response to Musk’s takeover, Musk tweeted that activists were “trying to destroy free speech in America.” This, of course, was nonsense: there is no First Amendment right to have advertisers on your platform.
Perhaps worst of all is Musk’s hypocrisy when it comes to China. For a man unhappy about the kind of lockdowns we had here in the U.S., he sure is quiet on China’s Zero Covid policy, which resulted most recently in the deaths of 19 people in Xinjiang, where Musk built a showroom for his other company, Tesla. Similarly, when asked about the protests those deaths sparked — protests brutally suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party in an actual free speech violation — Musk had nothing to say.
Musk wants to represent the great American debate and to take a side in it. But while he has a right to his opinion, chasing people with whom he disagrees off his platform by disgusting them is hardly in the spirit of free speech that Musk claims to hold so dear. It’s certainly not as bad as shadowbanning them, but supplanting Donald Trump as the Troller in Chief is not how you host a debate.