AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
In a series of audacious and unprecedented moves this week, Tesla CEO, SpaceX Chief Engineer, PayPal cofounder, and self-avowed social media troll Elon Musk thrust the debate over online censorship to the fore of the national conversation, shaking many of the country’s most powerful people to their core. Whether Musk’s bid to buy Twitter is successful or not, his courage, at risk of both his own public image and business success, has exposed the rank hypocrisy and authoritarian mindset that defines America’s cultural Left.
On April 4, Musk, a longtime critic of Twitter policies like permanent bans on users and perceived targeting of politically disfavored content, revealed that he had purchased a 9.2% stake in the company, making him the largest individual shareholder. Shortly thereafter, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced that Musk had been offered a seat on the platform’s Board of Directors. But just hours later, Parag posted a message to Twitter saying that Musk had declined the Board position, leading many to speculate that the world’s richest man had decided that perhaps the platform was beyond saving.
But then, on Thursday, Musk offered to buy Twitter outright for $54.20 a share (considerably higher than the current stock price of around $45, which itself was artificially high due to speculation following Musk’s investment). In his offer, Musk stated that the site needed to be “transformed as a private company” – a move that was celebrated by conservatives and free-speech advocates. Notably, Musk added that if his offer was not accepted, he would need to “reconsider” his position as a shareholder.
The response of other major players at Twitter to Musk’s attempt at a hostile takeover of the company was a clear sign of just how terrified of him the Left is and how desperate they are to maintain their stranglehold over online speech. First, Vanguard Capital, which previously held an 8.8% stake in the company, announced Thursday that it had purchased additional shares to knock Musk off his perch as the largest individual shareholder. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Vanguard “isn’t making a directional bet on Twitter,” and the company’s purchase was apparently intended to prevent Musk from trying to force through major changes to the company’s content policies.
Then, on Friday, the Twitter Board of Directors moved to block Musk’s attempt at a takeover of the company by adopting a so-called “poison pill” plan. The plan entailed offering additional shares of the company to investors at a discount, making it difficult for Musk or any individual investor to increase their ownership of the company beyond about 15% – but also diluting the value of existing shares.
Vanguard and Twitter’s board of directors hid behind vague references to “the best interests of shareholders” to justify their maneuvers, but that reasoning doesn’t stand up to even light scrutiny. As one user put it, “You have a shareholder [Musk] offering a now 20% premium on the share price & instead of forming an independent committee to diligence the offer you offer the stock at a discount to everyone but your biggest shareholder? How does that maximize shareholder value?”
To get a better sense of the real reason the higher-ups at Twitter are so vociferously opposing Musk’s involvement in the company, one need only look at the hysterical response of the army of leftist “blue checks” (users which the site deems notable enough to verify so as to distinguish them from parody or imposter accounts; essentially, the Twitter aristocracy).
David Leavitt, a journalist with more than 300,000 followers, posted that “If Elon Musk successfully purchases Twitter, it could result in World War 3 and the destruction of our planet.” Another journalist said, “Today on Twitter feels like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub at the twilight of Weimar Germany,” insinuating that Musk restoring free speech rights on Twitter would be akin to the Nazi rise to power. The Washington Post’s Max Boot called a would-be Musk Twitter takeover a “threat to democracy” and called for more “content moderation” – the Left’s buzzword for censorship. Another Post op-ed called it “highly disconcerting” that a billionaire could simply purchase a controlling stake in a media company – the author apparently forgetting that Jeff Bezos, the world’s second richest person, bought the paper she was writing for back in 2013.
The possibility of former President Donald Trump returning to Twitter is also a common concern for the blue check crowd, with Matthew Rozsa, a writer for Salon, tweeting that “if Elon Musk allows Trump back on Twitter, it will be a death blow to the free world,” while another blue check argued that Musk was only buying Twitter “to get Trump elected again.” Of note – Musk has never expressed a particular affinity for Trump, and has never spoken publicly about a desire to restore the former President’s account.
What Musk laid bare – and why he is viewed as so dangerous by the left – is that these users, the mainstream media, the Twitter board, and the c-suites of the investment firms with a stake in the company all worship at the same altar of leftism – they all adhere to the same ideological orthodoxy.
While Twitter has a relatively small user base compared to the general population, its power lies in its status as the preferred platform for cultural elites. Actors, journalists, and politicians all gather on Twitter to share opinions and ideas. Those ideas then naturally flow into the broader culture, affecting the way we all think, speak, and interact. What the Left realized soon after the advent of social media is that by shutting out one half of the ideological spectrum, they can make a real attempt at gaining a monopoly over the culture – advancing their own power, wealth, and influence in the process.
The Left intuitively understands, though, that in order for this to work, they must control the dissemination of information. If their narrative is challenged, it will quickly crumple, and along with it their hold on power. Censorship and cancel culture thus become survival mechanisms, in part explaining the assertions from the Left in recent years that speech which runs counter to the leftist worldview is tantamount to physical violence and grounds for expulsion from every public platform. By promising to return some modicum of free and open debate to the platform, Musk has threatened to bring the whole thing crashing down.
Conservatives should nonetheless be careful to not construe Musk as a warrior for their own principles who is aiming to defeat Leftism. Musk is at his core an entrepreneur and innovator, a visionary whose life’s mission has been to push the boundaries of human exploration and understanding. Musk understands that the absence of free speech will lead to social, economic, and moral decline and therefore threaten the progress of civilization. His concerns about free speech online should be viewed through this lens, not through a narrowly partisan one.
Even if Musk does execute a successful takeover of Twitter, the reality is that free speech and open debate will still be under dire threat in this country. Though Twitter may roll back some of its most egregious “content moderation” policies, the Left will still maintain its grip over nearly every other media outlet and cultural institution. Musk is one man, and even with his vast fortune can only do so much – after all, the great thing about democracy is that one very wealthy or powerful person alone typically cannot change the entire direction of the country.
But by risking his reputation and facing down a barrage of insults and criticism, Musk has, more effectively than any conservative pundit or politician (with the possible exception of Donald Trump), forced the Left into revealing the corrupt game they are playing. Moreover, his courage may inspire others to follow his lead in the months and years ahead. At the very least, Musk is standing up for what he believes when so many others are silent. It’s a profile in courage that may cement his place in American history as one of the greatest figures of our times.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.
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