by David Auerbach
Monday, 31
October 2022
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17:00

What will happen to Elon Musk’s Twitter? Look to Fox News

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp could serve as a model
by David Auerbach
A new world order. Credit: Fox

He did it after all. Following a double turnaround to purchase Twitter at a huge premium to its value, Elon Musk now owns the platform. After firing the company’s top brass, Musk wasted no time in tweeting a dubious conspiracy theory and then deleting it (but not before it was retweeted 20,000 times). His detractors wasted no time in trumpeting an increase in racism and trolling immediately after the purchase. All this is bread and circuses, however, compared to the possible (if unlikely) chance of Musk becoming an online media baron.

Musk’s own statements and plans reveal the closest thing to his real intent with the purchase: the celebrification (and hopeful monetisation) of Twitter, turning it into a subscription-driven moneymaker closer to TikTok, YouTube or even OnlyFans. This would downplay Twitter’s role as a public forum in favour of a more anonymous site, with a small tier of popular content creators towering over the hoi polloi. And above them all is Musk himself, who could influence the content and draw attention to it as he sees fit.

Musk’s model here seems to be Rupert Murdoch and Fox News, catering to its owner’s agenda while simultaneously appealing to the lowest common denominator. Musk has already been publicly outspoken, and playing the Great and Powerful Oz is one plank in his strategy to attract and retain people on Twitter. If his most vocal detractors leave the platform, so much the better. 

Such a strategy might “save” Twitter at the cost of removing the only real virtue it’s ever had, that of a comparatively unfiltered online agora in which urgent information can spread faster than almost anywhere else. This virtue is inextricably tied to Twitter’s longstanding dilemma of letting that information rise while trying to stamp out “undesirable” opinion and hostility, all while lacking the tools and resources to make those decisions in real time. If Musk changes the structure of Twitter to be closer to Facebook, where racism festers quietly within like-minded social silos, he can claim himself as a defender of free speech even as his platform keeps people away from content that’s likely to offend them. His promise of a “content moderation council,” in contrast, seems more of a fig leaf designed to take the heat off of Musk for high-profile decisions he doesn’t actually care so much about: reinstating Trump’s account, for example.

But building this kind of platform is a lot harder and more expensive than Musk seems to think. After firing the top executives, Musk bemoaned what he saw as managerial bloat at the company. There’s surely a need for creative destruction at Twitter, but it’s much easier to fire indiscriminately than to actually figure out what needs doing and put responsible people in the positions to do it. Musk presumably will delegate that complex drudgery to underlings, but there’s no sign he’s found the right underlings. 

Musk is, if nothing else, a skilful developer of his own personal legend, more concerned with building the myth than controlling the details of it. He is already very happy to take credit for cascading effects that he actually had very little to do with. For all of Rupert Murdoch’s Machiavellianism, it was Page Three of the Sun and Page Six of the Post that drew people in the first place, not any underlying political content. What people want on the internet is far more dynamic and unpredictable, however, and so Musk’s agenda will likely remain amorphous, frequently subordinated to the chaos that he has no hesitation in fomenting. Twitter is the centre of that chaos. If Twitter holds up (which will require more money than he currently seems willing to spend), Musk could find himself at the centre of a very influential online network that he purports to rule over and that everyone will blame him for ruling over. Really, though, Twitter will be beyond Musk’s, and anyone else’s, control.

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R Wright
R Wright
27 days ago

“Such a strategy might “save” Twitter at the cost of removing the only real virtue it’s ever had, that of a comparatively unfiltered online agora in which urgent information can spread faster than almost anywhere else”
Did you wander out of 2009? Twitter stopped being an online agora a decade ago when it became dominated by corporations, bots and social liberals. By 2016 it was a shadow of its former self, entirely co-opted by (usually mentally ill) activists, journalists and its own ideologically-captured staff. There is not a single thing Musk could do that could make the site worse, and a bit of creative destruction can only be a good thing for a website that has become a victim of its own spaghetti code ‘deradicalisation’ algorithms.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
27 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

Not to mention arbitrarily (and almost immediately) blocking The New York Post from using the “agora” to disseminate its scoop on Hunter Biden and “the Big Guy,” which we now know to be 100% accurate, (based on “Conspiracy Theories” about it being Russia propaganda) – throwing Trump off for life based on “conspiracy theories” that Trump’s use of Twitter led to Jan. 6 (we now know it was the USE of FACEBOOK that fomented part of it).

So the author promotes his own “conspiracy theory” about Musk’s evil intent to destroy the “agora” while simultaneously bashing all of Fox News. Fox News has headliner conservative opinion show Hosts with clear Republican bias (unlike MSNBC and CNN and ABC etc, which, of course, show heavy left-wing bias), – but the strictly News hours do not show bias (except in the eyes of people like the author – wonder what HE watches ).

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
18 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

The phrase jumped out at me, too, and made me wonder if the writer lives in a cave, with no internet access. Twitter is where information goes to die, unless it’s official and/or algorithmically approved. If Musk has an “agenda,” it’s to level the playing field so that “the lowest common denominator” (a snob’s classist phrase if ever there was one) gains some democratic input into what information qualifies as “urgent” and worth attention, along with an opportunity to independently assess its truth value, without the ideological guidance of gatekeepers for whom the concept of an unfiltered agora is clearly a nightmare. .

Last edited 18 days ago by Mark Kennedy
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
26 days ago

Wow, someone call the waaambulance, because this article sounds like the whining of a sore loser. Twitter has been a willing arm of government and establishment propaganda for at least half a decade, but that never bothered them before. That it was blatantly one sided and openly political never troubled them because it was their side and their politics. Now that they’ve lost control of it, it’s suddenly a greedy machine that sells lies for the sake of profit, caters to the lowest common denominator, and undermines truth and justice in our society. Musk isn’t exactly an arch conservative, either. Comparing him to Murdoch is an incredible stretch. It isn’t even that Musk is going to ban the woke leftist types or favor conservatives. He isn’t and has never said he would. He just won’t ban them entirely. I’ll say it again, they’re upset because he won’t ban the people they disagree with. They’re upset that he WON’T have his employees play truth police, toe the establishment line, ban the people they don’t like, or bow to the demands of the woke mob. What’s funny is that many of the outraged woke mob have left Twitter over this, basically banning themselves. Good riddance. They’re basically saying that anyone who doesn’t agree with their positions isn’t intelligent enough to warrant conversation. They don’t even want to talk to ‘those people’. So, who’s really driving polarization in America?

Last edited 26 days ago by Steve Jolly
Aaron James
Aaron James
26 days ago

What is it with the hyperwoke writers? They have this cult like fixation on –

”Twitter to be closer to Facebook, where racism festers quietly within like-minded social silos,

– racism. Look if that is what people want to say – is it your right to shut them up?

For the 5000 years people have used the written word – ‘Racism’, as the wokearatti like this writer mean it, – has been ubiquitous. Always there were judgements on everything, this has been the way of the world. Nationalism, Sexism, Religious-ism, Clan-ism, tribe-ism, Race-ism, sex-ism, gender-ism, culture-ism, class-ism and on and on

Through all man’s history, all the amazing progress from the first scribe writing on wet clay, to the incredible intellectual minds of the ‘Classic Liberals’ who gave us the modern, free, world – the Intellectual, Political, Scientific, Cultural amazing things – they all were Racist by today’s Woke idiots.

People who’s entire focus is on altering civilization, like this writer is on ‘Racism’, have expunged all the truth from Text Books, re-written history, pulled down statures, shouted down brilliant speakers – they are book burners with the religious zeal of Savonarola and his ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ and made the agora of ideas like the ‘Cultural Revolution – where all free thinkers are made to have their ‘Struggle Session’ and admit their racial original sin. and STFU.

If the people like the heads of Twitter had always been in charge we would still be living in huts, grubbing turnips out of the ground with digging sticks, and shivering in winter, sweating in summer as intellectual thought would be crushed, less it offend…

Look – you censoring lot need to get out of the intellectual way – give up your endless ‘Witch Hunt’ for the Racists – just figure people do not need you to protect them from anything you think wrong. You have shut down the entire education, MSM, and social media system – F-OFF

you are the problem.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
26 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Well said !

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
26 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Here here. I feel like this shouldn’t have to be said, but racism is not a crime, nor should it be. Government has no more right to impose anti-racism (whatever that is), diversity, and tolerance than it has to impose Shariya law. Twitter is a private company, and Musk is free to open Twitter up to all viewpoints and the government has no legitimate right to stop him. Doesn’t stop snowflakes from whining, but let’s face it, they’d find something to whine about regardless. They’re basically toddlers in adult bodies.

Last edited 26 days ago by Steve Jolly
Jim Jam
Jim Jam
27 days ago

The howls of indignation and outrage at this news – and the near complete uniformity in political leaning of those expressing them – should leave no honest, thinking observer in any doubt as to just why this buyout was deemed neccasary in the first place. One can almost hear the pain of the blow that’s been delivered to the designs of that tiny elite – supported of course by the legions of authoritarian-minded folk sympathetic to their political opinions and objectives – to control the discourse operating within the 21st century’s public square.

In the runup, those commentators wise enough to avoid addressing the issue of growing censorship and supression of ‘unacceptable’ views & information, instead invited us to believe that having the reins of Twitter in the hands of Musk, and not in those of eleven openly censorious board members, represented a dire threat to democracy. Whilst demonising Musk – always with scornful reference to his wealth, and often dismissing out of hand (or simply not mentioning) his clear intention to dedicate the platform to transparency and open discussion, they implied that a favourable state of affairs was to have the company ran by these eleven carefully vetted & selected people, owned by and obviously to an extent beholden to even wealthier and more powerful corporations: Blackrock & Vanguard to name but two. With such flagrant doublethink on display, it became clear, as is so often the case, that the earnestly set-out ‘imperilment of democracy’ was (and still remains) merely a well practised, cynical tactic to buttress through the use of fear, support for a system that suppresses opinions they don’t agree with and bans information not conducive to their goals.

For anybody truly in support of open democracy – and able to recognise the essential need for all sides of a discussion to be heard before a society decides which path to take – this should be at the very least cautiously welcome news. I not only thank Musk for helping to acheive the above, but also for exposing through their reactions to this development, the true motivations and outlook of the many people merely paying (scant) lip service to these principles.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
26 days ago

Another article in Unherd that could have come from the Atlantic or the New York Times. Musk didn’t tweet a ‘conspiracy theory’ – he linked to an article that asked some pretty basic questions about the narrative being pitched by Hillary Clinton and others about Paul Pelosi. Like – how exactly did a random person break into the house of the third in line to the US Presidency? Don’t they have good security systems and staff? Why was he in his underwear? Where were the rest of his clothes? How did Paul Pelosi know his name? What is really upsetting Hillary Clinton and her cohort is that they can no longer peddle outrageous whoppers safe in the knowledge that no one will question them online. I am sure she was genuinely shocked when someone with 100 million followers called her on her BS. She just isn’t used to it. Now the online article was – I am sure – in a ‘newspaper’ of dubious quality. To which I say 1) the article raised many legitimate questions which don’t rely on disputed facts and 2) these online spaces are the only places you can find opinions that go against The Narrative. We all know that the police video is going to be ‘lost’ – along with the tape of the 911 call. But fewer and fewer people are going to believe the cover ups going forward. So the MSM can try to discredit Musk and his motivations – – and be willingly blind and incurious – but they are getting scared – and frankly sound a little shrill and anxious.

Last edited 26 days ago by Gunner Myrtle
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
26 days ago

Not true. Elon Musk is very much into the details. He runs companies the way he wants them run. He’s not into building myths but building businesses.
And more importantly, Twitter is a platform not a publisher. Elon Musk does not want to control what people say, nor will he be able to do.
Having missed those important points, this article misses the mark badly.

Brett H
Brett H
26 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Actually, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but Musk could transform Twitter into something of a media outlet, but not as we’ve known it, with different layers of interaction and levels, and varied forms of conversation and reporting. Who knows what the future holds? Musk makes living in the present just a little more interesting.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
26 days ago

I’m gratified to see UnHerders so roundly rejecting this piffle which is rooted in a complete misreading of Musk’s methods & intentions.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
26 days ago

Such a strategy might “save” Twitter at the cost of removing the only real virtue it’s ever had, that of a comparatively unfiltered online agora in which urgent information can spread “
That’s the most ridiculous thing I read in a while. The leader of outsourced state censorship, the main vehicle for suppressing information, the inventor of shadow bans, was an “unfiltered agora”.
“Musk is, if nothing else, a skillful developer of his own personal legend” That comes from the guy with visibly 10% of Elon Musk IQ. What the heck is garbage like this doing on uHerd?

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
26 days ago

Godfrey Daniels. Mother of Pearl. I don’t think the commenters like the writer very much.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
26 days ago

With nu britn’s National Socialist Gestaplod out to use Boris’ hate crime Orwellian laws, why would anyone risk being on Twitter? …