Friday 8 December 2023

Musk, Twitter & free speech

Having a brain the size of a planet doesn't in any way guarantee clear thinking or intelligent decision-making.  But large cranial capacity coupled to a high degree of bias towards action, rather depends upon there being sound judgement in tow, if crazy things aren't to result.  Exhibit A, one E.Musk, who by all accounts is exceptionally clever; is demonstrably ultra-strong in the initiative department; and whose practical ventures include some astonishing achievements.  And yet, his track record with Twitter from the very start has been one of crass ineptitude - a rich man's folly, ill thought-out.  

Can his primary ventures (Tesla, SpaceX) be so comfortably on autopilot now, that he has spare time to engage properly in this manic, frivolous hobby?  Presumably not: and perhaps that's why we see such an utter fiasco unravelling.  Is there a sound business plan for Twitter lurking somewhere there, merely being hindered temporarily by some unforeseen teething troubles?  We hear clearly enough the statement that is supposed to sum it up, Twitter supposedly being strategically positioned at "a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street" - but that sounds to me like so many a brilliant plan to exploit some cunningly identified synergy-on-paper (if not merely a post-rationalised excuse).  Might sound great, but where's the proof it'll work?  Every VC and PE fund hears twenty glib pitches like this each month.  Zuckerberg got there first, anyway.

Speaker's Corner at Marble Arch is at just such an intersection, but I don't see anyone building a business empire on it.  I do, however, see all manner of madmen ranting there of an afternoon with the occasional fist fight breaking out.  Which brings us to another aspect of all this: Free Speech, an issue on which Musk declares himself to be a fundamentalist.

Another failure of judgement, because there are no fundamental positions on Free Speech this side of North Korea (where they simply set the dial at absolute zero).  Everything else is a position on a spectrum - even in the Land of the Free with their hallowed 1st Amendment.  There are all manner of things you'll be prosecuted for saying or writing, in the USA as elsewhere (including Speakers' Corner).  The argument that a medium like Twitter is "just a platform" is as vacuous as if the Times declared itself to be just some sheets of paper with black ink on them.  The only pertinent difference is, it's easier to pin down the Times.  Oh, and perhaps also that the Times isn't so beloved of da yoof.  It is, however, owned by someone with pretty much the same amount of political clout as the Musks of this world, so it can't simply be that the tech magnates hold more sway in Washington etc.  Let's see what the next US election brings - or rather, what happens afterwards, in 2025.  Social media carnage is pretty much guaranteed next year, along with maximal Russian attempts at interference.  

In any event: does anyone see where Musk is going with Twitter - and can a genuinely compelling commercial narrative be framed?  Business case - or nutcase?



Anonymous said...

"along with maximal Russian attempts at interference"

Any evidence to back up that assertion? Or does it belong in the same category as Trumps 'pee tape' and sundry allegations.

Sackerson said...

I understand Musk aims to make Twitter a payment platform. If he succeeds he won't need adertisers - he's already literally said F You to Disney - and so he'll be able to maintain a free speech facility without woke interference.

Nick Drew said...

Anon - errr, it's a prediction. What has evidence (facts) to do with predictions (speculation)?


djm said...

Elon has a cunning plan for Twatter/ X

So cunning, you could put a tail on it & call it a fox.

*taps nose*

Anonymous said...

Russia is interfering with US elections by bombing Ukraine, just as the US/UK interfered with Russian elections by bombing Serbia.

It's not unlikely that making Twitter payment-only will moderate the free speech issues of itself, after all if your handle is attached to a bank account you're giving a hostage to fortune these days.

Think about the UK blogger, Graham Phillips, whose UK bank accounts are frozen by our government because he blogs from Donbass and is generally supportive of the pro-Russian rebels. He may in every sense be a brave man, but how many of us with wives and kids wish to be subject to such punishment despite breaking no law?

jim said...

A fool and his money are soon parted. But Musk is not obviously a fool, maybe he thought Twitter was some sort of engineering project, it's not. One should not shine too much light on magic or it just vanishes.

A few moments on Google tells us how Facebook, Youtube, Whatsapp etc make their money - it is from you and I but via more or less circuitous routes. The trick is not to let it be too obvious.

Making money on subscriptions, advertising, selling the user's info, propaganda, blackmail, planting compute bots. I can't see what other money making use social media has.

BTW, a mate of mine got the wing mirror sideswiped off his Prius by a truck recently, got the number etc on dashcam. Belled up transport company - get it fixed - send the bill. Off to local body shop - £550 just for a wing mirror, no other work. Makes HS2 look a bargain.

Diogenes said...

Everyone needs a hobby but it's a pity so there are so many hobbyist MP's. I'd have Musk over this lot any time as at least he gets something done.

I read on the BBC that defenestrated MP's will get career advice. Wonder that the advisers will say to them?

jim said...

In other news, why would an underdog pick up a stick and a few mates and then go and prod hard a hornet's nest. Knowing there was no plan B - no armoured divisions or helpful allies or a few nukes in his back pocket. Either a fool or suckered into it. A wider plan or a useful opportunity maybe.

Anonymous said...

653 days ago Mr P began his plan of a two week assault to steal Ukraine.

A fool and his thieved billions are soon parted.

Caeser Hēméra said...

On Musk, his history is a bit more potted than his mythos would have us believe.

His exit from PayPal spoke volumes. His Boring company has achieved nothing like what he said it was, and was mainly famed for trying to claim the bus shelter as a novel technology.

It's clear he didn't really want Twitter, the number he quoted was a weed joke, and his legal team tried warning him he'd be on the hook for it, which when he tried getting out of it, he quickly discovered if you pay lawyers, *listen* to them.

SpaceX does well by controlling just what he has power over (he is most assuredly not the brains behind it), and it remains to be seen if Tesla is more than just marketing.

Musk isn't as smart as fanbois think he is, he's not stupid, but his intelligence is constrined by his pettiness, as his tweaks to X algo for his own ego show.

With X/Twitter - he wants it to be WeChat, which if successfully done, would be worth a mint. Just the small matter of it surviving Musk. Ironically Twitter had finally started to become profitable just as Musk bought it, and promptly alienated most of its sources of income.

There's also the matter of trust, Musk makes lots of claims, the majority of which turn out to be aspirational, incorrect, or inflated.

So, if/when he hets that banking licence he seeks, he just needs the kind of people who'd consider Boris Johnson a worthwhile financial advisor.

You know. Suckers.

Anonymous said...

This "three days/two weeks to conquer Ukraine" meme seems as ubiquitous as the compulsory use of "full-scale invasion" in all respectable media outlets.

Did at any time any Russian minister or responsible official ever use it? Or is it there along with the Ghost of Kiev, Hamas murdering babies and the Huns spitting Belgian infants on bayonets?

A week or two back I read stories in the Sun and Mail on how brave Ukrainian special forces had destroyed two vital railway tunnels thousands of miles inside Russia, the main routes for weaponry from China and Korea. Not reported anywhere else.

"Truth is the first casualty of war" said Henry Ponsonby MP.

His study of WW1 propaganda is relevant today

Anonymous said...

Falsehood is a recognized and extremely useful weapon in warfare, and every country uses it quite deliberately to deceive its own people, to attract neutrals, and to mislead the enemy. The ignorant and innocent masses in each country are unaware at the time that they are being misled, and when it is all over only here and there are the falsehoods discovered and exposed. As it is all past history and the desired effect has been produced by the stories and statements, no one troubles to investigate the facts and establish the truth...

A useful purpose can therefore be served in the interval of so-called peace by a warning which people can examine with dispassionate calm, that the authorities in each country do, and indeed must, resort to this practice in order, first, to justify themselves by depicting the enemy as an undiluted criminal; and secondly, to inflame popular passion sufficiently to secure recruits for the continuance of the struggle. They cannot afford to tell the truth. In some cases it must be admitted that at the moment they do not know what the truth is.

The psychological factor in war is just as important as the military factor. The morale of civilians, as well as of soldiers, must be kept up to the mark. The War Offices, Admiralties, and Air Ministries look after the military side. Departments have to be created to see to the psychological side. People must never be allowed to become despondent; so victories must be exaggerated and defeats, if not concealed, at any rate minimized, and the stimulus of indignation, horror, and hatred must be assiduously and continuously pumped into the public mind by means of "propaganda."

Anonymous said...

So this war ..sorry ..not’s illegal to call a 655 day invasion of a border nation a war.
So..this ..special military floperation, is all going to plan?

That must be huge relief for Mr P. And the Russian people. To know that the complete lack of any preparation for a long wa…. Erm..special military floperation, was all along planned to be such a massive clusterfluff.

The military genius of the Kremlin knows that NATO will soon realise the cost of destroying Russian vehicles with NATO’s obsolete and outdated nato equipment is too difficult to sustain. They will run out of bullets trying to keep the convict armies human wave assaults at bay.
If there’s one thing a Russian knows, its blood is cheaper than copper.

Anyway, so glad it’s all going so brilliantly. The rate of advance at the present timescale means Kiev has only a matter of a few dozen decades left before complete near encirclement.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.12

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Or as my old maths teacher used to say Quite Easily Done.