Elon Musk can’t have it both ways on free speech
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.
Why can he not call for prosecutions if people have broken the law? There are plenty of us who think Fauci lied to congress. Musk always said that freedom of speech was subject to the laws of the land. Look up the Twitter TOS for goodness sake before just venting on Unherd and passing it off as journalism.
Agenda shilling…….I thought Unherd had some grip on natural reporting, but then I guess the agenda is just too impossible to fight.
The writer mentions someone mentioning the WWII German Fauci, but does anyone today even remember the even bigger:
”The main site of Japan’s experiments into biological warfare was the prisoner of war camp known as Unit 731 located in Pingfan, Manchuria, where Chinese inmates were subjected to gruesome experiments aimed at testing the limits of the human body and the effectiveness of biological and chemical agents.”
This all passed to China after WWII, although USA took a lot of the notes too.
Don’t forget, Sargon tried to pretend there was zero real connection between Twitter and the United States government in her last article. Needless to say, that has been proven false several times over at this point and the revelations keep on coming.
Still having a chuckle about the point that Musk is ‘disgusting people’ off his site. Who talks like that? Children?
We need some adult reporting on Musk now – someone who actually knows his background, knows the subjects at hand and can appreciate the massive task it is to shake things up and actually get some truth into the public domain.
You know who talks like that? Writers like Sargon, “adulting”.
Yes Allison. Huge laughter after a hard day!
As soon as Musk allowed Trump to rejoin Twitter, my left leaning US Sister-in-Law pronounced on Facebook that she is leaving Twitter, although Trump never came back. But this “disgusted her off” as she realised , that Musk was shaking up Twitter’s comfy Left wing bias.
They always do that: “I’m moving to Canada!”. But how can we miss them when they won’t go away? The fact is, no one will miss them, and they know it.
Did you read the Fauci emails? He co-ordinated smear jobs with the media on any scientist who wanted open debate, two examples being the lab leak theory and the great barrington declaration. That goes a bit beyond “recommending things”.
I agree that Musk is a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to China though.
Or the email where he tells his friends that masks don’t work then after that tells America to mask up. I would have to do more investigation on the China thing tbh.
Or his flip flopping on the lab leak hypothesis.
Musk may be some way off perfect, but Fauci is a whole new level of evil.
Jay Battacharya is now back on Twitter together with other top scientists, doctors and thought leaders who were banned…. Many in the last 24 hours. Hallelujah! I’ll take them before those who were ‘disgusted’ off Twitter.
Carl Heneghan was also censored by Twitter and Facebook. Our own U.K. government interfered and colluded with Social Media to suppress different scientific opinions.
Straw man alert! Musk never said Fauci should be prosecuted for his speech. This is incredibly misleading. Fauci was a public official with enormous power – the fact that he could not unilaterally order lockdowns is understood and irrelevant. There are many serious accusations against him that go far beyond simply expressing his opinion. And I’m pretty sure Fauci has not been blocked from Twitter – so there’s no inconsistency here whatsoever. Its really sad to see all the Lilliputians ganging up on Musk.
Right, the “gain-of-function” scandal which benefitted him and a cabal of drug companies, along with deliberate misrepresentation or denial of scientific facts, are serious accusations. Whether or not they are prosecutable is a question, but that doesn’t change the fact that Elon is well within his rights to call for investigations.
Shocker. Musk says some stuff that offends people. Well guess what, we’re allowed to say offensive things. That’s the point of free speech.
Musk is just a person – one who happens to now own Twitter and one who happens to say some disagreeable things. Almost all of us are guilty of this.
He should be free to say that Fauci should be prosecuted, just like everyone else on Twitter. It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean that it’s actually possible to prosecute Fauci. It’s Musk’s opinion – nothing less, nothing more.
I appreciate the author’s opinion. I frequently listen to her podcast and generally support her viewpoint, but this essay distracts from the real issue – govt intervention and collaboration with big tech to crush free speech.
The establishment media and ruling elite will use Musk’s statements to change the conversation. It’s a parlour trick to avert attention from their own authoritarian impulses. Batya Ungar-Sargon should understand this.
Fully agree – trying to conflate criticisms of Musks opinions with a bad attitude towards free speech is either unintelligent or – more likely – intentionally disingenuous.
She understands that perfectly well – she’s on their side. That’s why the tone is so outraged, they spent the last half-decade voting for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party and now, which was never supposed to happen, the leopard wants to eat their faces too.
Articles like this are the “It’s afraid!” scene from Starship Troopers come to life.
I had to stop reading this insanely bad article for a moment and take deep breaths…wow, Talk about Stockholm Syndrome, I think the writer being kept locked in a closet during covid three years has turned her total into a Jonestown Kool-aid drinker.
”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.”
Come on – NO. Musk is 100% correct in pointing out this.
”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?”
Fauci was 100% Corrupt! He was owned by the Bio-Pharma Industrial Complex. His very active suppression of early medical treatment killed Millions! He caused millions of deaths by pushing the vax, and likely was part of creating the virus. He has warped the entire Medical/Pharma industry research for 40 years – killed millions with Aids, and then kept doing it – For the writer to write such a wrong article shows you did no research at all. Could you have not at least read the book with Thousands of documented wrongs?
The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health (Children’s Health Defense) Kindle Edition by Robert F Kennedy Jr. (Author) Format: Kindle Edition
I mean is has been number 1 for months and months!
”#1 on AMAZON, and a NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, USA TODAY and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY NATIONAL BESTSELLER
Over 1,000,000 copies sold despite censorship, boycotts from bookstores and libraries, and hit pieces against the author.”
You can watch the video of it on Rumble
But then what Twitter did was bigger, was Worse! A Crime against the free world and Democracy and the USA Constitution – a crime against Humanity! Because Twitter changed the 2020, and 2022 Election results putting the world on a totally different track! Then Twitter suppressed ALL truth about the vaccine, covid, and how to treat the virus, there by being complicit in killing millions.
Since we are giving Batya her homework… this is another:
What actually happened – not the emerald mine in South Africa stuff, not the Daddy bankrolled him stuff, not the stuff that he has ‘literally never created a thing’.
“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” – Actually that is EXACTLY the spirit of free speech that he holds dear.
Lame article that says more about the writer than it does anything else. Musk Derangement Syndrome
Like Donald Trump, Elon Musk likes to have fun on Twitter. His tweet did not say that Tony Fauci should be prosecuted. It said “My personal pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci”. That’s a joke, not a call for action.
And he later clarified that he thinks Tony Fauci should bear responsibility for funding gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. There’s little doubt in my mind that those experiments caused the pandemic.
Ten years ago Tony Fauci argued that the risk of a pandemic was worth taking to gain knowledge from risky gain-of-function research. Does he still think so now? He may not have broken the law, but he certainly skirted it and arguably caused millions of deaths and trillions of dollars in damages. Shame on him.
The New York Times gave Tony Fauci a huge amount of space for his autohagiography, an odd piece that liberally salts a mixture of good and bad advice with a lot of smarm and self-congratulation. Good for Elon Musk to take the man down a peg or two.
What a stupid article. The individuals that ‘made suggestions’ at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 ended up getting tried and executed. Was that unfair too?
That is a truly extreme and ridiculous analogy. The Wannsee Conference of top Nazis were not ‘making policy suggestions’ but were ideological fanatics, all committed to the rooting out and /or destruction of European Jewry, one way or the other. And no doubt trying to pease Hitler as much as possible.
Read the chapter in Niall Ferguson’s book “Doom” which analyses well in rational terms the chaotic and disastrous western response by both politicians and public institutions to covid. But western governments and officials were not trying to kill off the population, or some such nonsense, though they almost all (on ALL sides of the political spectrum) made a great job of spreading the virus through care homes, so exposing the elderly to undoubted high risk.
It should be difficult, shouldn’t it, to simultaneously believe covid was a ‘scam’, but that Chinese and American scientists bio-engineered it (which actually seems likely, though not as a bioweapon) at the same time. But somehow some people manage to do so.
Why don’t you play the man, not his ideas? Oh, you already have.
The whole point of Free Speech is that debate should not be limited to politically approved subjects and narratives but that other opinions, even daft ones, may be heard. It doesn’t depend on the moral stature of the speakers
It’s impossible to take seriously an article that describes Fauci as “a government official who had no power to do anything but only to recommend things”. I expect a little more rigor from UnHerd editors.
The author is author of “How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy”, and then writes this?? I can’t really figure that out.
Fauci didn’t just advise and use his free speech. He targeted attacks against people like Bhattacharya and perjured himself at Congress around the issue of funding gain-of-function research. I have no issue with him having opinions. It’s his actions that are problematic (and likely illegal).
I find it convenient that politicians can evade responsibility for harmful lockdowns and forced vaccination by saying “we were just doing what public health told us”, and public health dingbats like Fauci can claim “I just advise, I don’t make any decisions”.
I have to say, if you support a countries sovereignty, you can’t go in there telling them how to run stuff. This hasn’t gone well where it has been tried by America recently. In a global economy its pretty legit to set up in China, as all the other American multi nationals have, the mans trying to run a business, you just can’t have the best of everything and be competitive in a global market, pragmatism is required. I think that’s all setting up in China came down to. They are set up to build and man mega factories. You want to run a business in this world, normally means dealing with China at some point in your supply chain.
The chasing people off the platform part, it was up to the advertisers to leave. Chasing people off by disgusting them, lol. That’s up to them isn’t it. No one actually, physically, chased them. Troller in chief. Blimey. Or just plainly spoken maybe? If I’d just spent that much money and had that much hassle doing that deal I’d probably struggle to resist a good obnoxious vent on account of it. I try and get my £4.99 worths on here! 🙂
On the subject I saw this in yesterday’s news, for anyone interested, in the daily mail I’m afraid, but legit enough for this story, seems fauci is linked to this guy:
Yes Peter Daszak and Eco-Alliance. Fauci’s buddy. He had to be removed from an investigatory team that went to China with the WHO if memory serves. Maybe someone can remember all the details. Not that it made any difference, as the WHO was one of the biggest manipulators of the truth and supporters of China’s narrative – all that was left was the narrative, because China destroyed all their records early on.
Daszak did go with the WHO to China.
Checked it out. He had to recuse himself from the recent Lancet commission into the origins of Covid as he was too compromised.
Thank you, all very interesting stuff!
Yes, he has been linked for a long time. Fauci funded Wuhan and lied to Congress. Should be in jail already.
Oh! The irony, good lord!
Yes, not a well written article. In fact, a horribly written article. Here’s another example to add to the others:
“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.”
No, actually it is the article that is “nonsense.”
Musk, in what Sargon quoted, does not refer to the First Amendment, which applies to government manipulation of speech, but to “free speech” in general. “Free speech” can most certainly be destroyed, by individuals, by corporations, by other private groups, and not only by the state.
What Sargon wittingly or, perhaps, half-wittingly, has done is conflate the general notion of free speech with a part of the constitution that restrains the government from interfering with it. It’s like saying that it is impossible for a private person to break into someone’s home because the constitution’s search warrant provisions don’t apply to burglars.
Clown billionaire uses his enormous platform to announce free speech is being destroyed. Some people fail to see the irony in that.
You did not seem to write the same articles or have the same moral quandaries when the left was ru(i)nning the show.
Indeed you have no squeaking as Google pretends to be a “search engine” or an “hosting platform protected by Section 230”.
Dear leftie concern troll, go F yourself. And stop spreading your wormtongue s*** on unherd press.
I’m rather liking the sound of Lara Logan.
“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.”
I don’t agree with this part – well, not the assumptions behind it, I do accept there’s no constitutional right to have paying customers etc. But it is disingenuous to imply that there is no difference between an advertiser leaving a platform for pure commercial reasons, and one that regretfully closed down the same relationship out of fear that activists will do more damage to their sales than would be done by simply dropping the advertising on the platform.
The effect is a political attack on the platform over free speech issues using commercial relationships as a proxy, and it is simply not tenable to imagine that this isn’t relevant to the manner in which Twitter has lost advertising revenue.
*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.*
That is mangled reasoning. You can indeed be a champion of free speech and call for the prosecution of government officials without contradicting yourself. Unherd has had some pretty terrible writing lately. I would prefer less content and more quality.
He’s not interested in freedom of speech and neither are you. Hamas and Hezbollah used to be on twitter, but you seem more upset by the banning of Nazis. Now they’re back.
But the issue isn’t free speech. Twitter is private and the owners can ban who they want, and advertisers and the rest of you can stay or go. The question is whether or not a private company has too much power, and whether or not a platform that promotes or hides posts is less a platform than a publisher. Facebook has a passive audience of billions who read what Facebook’s algorithms tell them to, and along with google has a near monopoly on advertising. Twitter is a smaller player in the same arena, but “freedom” is not having a few billionaires control what people read. You and Bari Weiss are happy as long as billionaires agree with you. There’s nothing new in the “twitter files”, and Taibbi’s anger—Don’t Trust Mainstream Media— is based on a a fantasy of what the mainstream used to be; it’s pure nostalgia. The mainstream is always mostly middling and works to preserve the middling and the powerful, whoever they are. In the US that meant the greatest empire in the history of the planet. But radicals hate the middling. “Why is small talk even legal!?” asked Musk on November 4th, when I think you were still a fan. And Taibbi confirms his “discovery” alongside the founder of this site, the author of “The Strange Death of Europe.” More nostalgia, and reading the title reminds me of every old claim that the Jews were undermining the west. But it’s not the Jews anymore. Every anti-Semitic caricature looks like Arafat, but Zionists—and Zionism now is synonymous with Judaism, yes?—are allied the Austrian Freedom Party, Alternative für Deutschland, and Fidesz. Yair Netanyahu declares that Europe will be “free, democratic and Christian!” Very strange, or not, if you know the history.
All in all you’re making me want to defend the new woke mediocrity over your preferred alternatives.
And my comment is now marked Awaiting for approval.
Four down votes, but no replies? Greenwald on Bari Weiss, in 2018
“Since that article, Weiss has predictably written multiple banal columns for the Times denouncing what she perceives as growing left-wing intolerance for dissent in general, but particularly on college campuses. I’ve watched as Weiss has become celebrated in right-wing circles as some sort of paragon of free expression and academic freedom, and mourned by centrists as the tragic victim of online PC mob silencing campaigns (imagine being a columnist and editor at the New York Times — with full access to the most influential media platform in the world — and seeing yourself as the victim of silencing and censorship), even though her entire career is grounded in precisely the viewpoint suppression, vilification, and censorship campaigns she now depicts herself as loathing.”
Ungar-Sargon: from spurious claims of anti-Semitism
To publishing Nazis
I reply to my own comment, and it this time it wasn’t accepted. One more time, a shorter version:
—Why was Batya Ungar-Sargon, a Jewish journalist, urging her Twitter followers to “always read @metal_gear88”?
The simple explanation is that Ungar-Sargon is an editor at nominally mainstream American current affairs publication Newsweek, where Charles Stallworth, whose Twitter handle is @metal_gear88, had just published an opinion piece.
The dilemma: “88” is a neo-Nazi symbol, code for “Heil Hitler.”—
Made me think… Well Said…
Musk is a clown and a troll and therefore a hero to conservatives.
Donald Trump and his grotesque offspring. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Now Elon Musk. The party of Lincoln is a distant memory.
Perhaps it is better to attack issues rather than people otherwise we risk becoming the troll people we despise.
The issue with US conservative politics is the people they support.
Dr Oz. Herschel Walker. Kanye West. The current crew make Sarah Palin look like FDR!
Seriously dude. Do you even believe this? So the Democrats are on the side of angels? Like there’s not a sitting Democrat in Minnesota that has repeatedly made anti-Semitic remarks.
I know to whom you refer and she has never said anything anti-Semitic.
On the other hand, how about Donald Trump’s dinner companion from a couple of weeks ago?
Graeme, US politicians are pretty much all icky. I don’t like any of them. They are all Donald Trump. Until a few years ago, I couldn’t care less which party was in power believing they were all as bad as each other.
But when one party started to widen racial tensions, change words to suit their meanings, and reduced womanhood to a mere psychology, and then accused those of not going along with this madness as akin to neo-N**is, I felt compelled to vote for the other party.
US politicians are not all buffoonish grifters with zero grasp on any of the issues and the sexual behavior of a chimpanzee. Trump most assuredly is – Barack Obama, for example, is very clearly not.
Well Thank God we have Pelosi and ‘The Squad’ in Congress to bring some sanity to Government.
That’s kinda profound.
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