According to the media, Elon Musk buying Twitter is the worst thing that has ever happened to public discourse. This crazed madman has taken over the public space! He’s laying off workers! He’s out of control!
Journalists have long used Twitter and its blue check system to display their superiority (Note: I have a blue check but I won’t be emotionally devastated if I lose it). Journalism used to be a profession that brought the elite to the level of the average man by keeping them in check. Now, journalism itself is elitism, and they lord their access and supposed expertise over their audience.
They also see themselves as gatekeepers of information, and Musk’s takeover of Twitter has exposed their fear that they won’t be above their audience and won’t be able to control the information that is allowed to flow.
Memeorandum.com is a site that aggregates breaking and trending news stories, showing you what’s hot at a particular moment. Here’s a look at their front page this morning.
The journalism industry loves talking about how its platform is being taken over. They have long used (and abused) the social media network for their own gain – drawing clicks and outrage from their followers. But it’s also their bubble. They are trapped there, and their audiences are too big for them to just up and quit in protest.
Consider, though, their admission when they lament what’s happening. They are acknowledging that Twitter is a public space and that they can’t control the narrative. If free speech, as Musk has called for, is really at stake, then you should want more voices, not less. But the media is only interested in more of their own voices, not anyone else’s.
It’s a pretty important detail here. Their freakout is indicative of just what is at stake with a platform like Twitter. When a social media company makes censorship and gatekeeping its job, it is working against speech. And, when that social media company winds up in bed with federal agencies, it’s no longer about a private company’s rights to moderate as they wish. They have turned over control to the government, which very much makes it a freedom of speech issue, and the time really had come for there to be a change.
They are very worried about the lack of moderation because their dominance over narratives breaks when there are more voices out there. This isn’t just about people who are toxic and vile and racist and sexist. It isn’t just about misinformation. This ultimately comes down to their ability to determine what speech is right and what speech is wrong. And that’s why they’re freaking out so much.
Speech isn’t something that should be controlled. Yes, there are horrible actors out there, but when it comes to what is and isn’t allowed, more often than not the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. Good voices are lost because they are banned for sometimes having wrong ideas. We shouldn’t allow that, and the hope is that Musk recognizes this and allows for more open dialogue, not less.
But this teary-eyed lament from journalists is just pathetic. They crying while shouting for everyone to look at them and see how miserable they are. That’s just as unhealthy as the crazy people on Twitter who spout off conspiracy theories.