Based purely on what Elon Musk has said in public, his intention upon taking ownership of Twitter is to free it from the little tech totalitarians who see it as their moral obligation to shut down any expression they disagree with. That understandably frightens a lot of people in the national media who rightfully sense a threat to their control over what information voters get to have.
While it’s true that a Musk-owned Twitter will, in theory, greatly diminish the influence of pro-censorship journalists, there are ways they can prepare themselves to mitigate the coming trauma. Here are some:
1. When confronted with information you can’t suppress, say to yourself, “This too shall pass.” To Musk’s repeated vows to steer Twitter in a freer direction — that is to say, to the way it was pre-Hunter Biden laptop story, pre-“fact checkers” — Mike Allen at Axios declared that his personal “15 years of experience with online social networks tell us that such an approach is wildly impractical.” He said less censorship on Twitter would “unleash floods of spam, bullying, fraud and disinformation.” Like the word “racist,” each of those things no longer has its original meaning when used by someone in the Washington press. By “spam,” Allen doesn’t mean unwanted solicitation. He means “things I don’t want to see, including perspectives that contradict my preference.” By “bullying,” he doesn’t mean the harassment of a weaker person by a more powerful one. He means an average person’s right to counter-argue with, or even, dare I say, mock elitists in Washington and New York. And by “disinformation,” Allen doesn’t mean claims and rumors that are demonstrably false. He means competing information, arguments, and alternative opinions. People like Allen surely consider it an assault to be exposed to ideas or statements that they don’t believe or support, but that may just be something they have to accept moving forward.
2. Spend less time monitoring Twitter content that you don’t like for the purpose of reporting it to would-be censors, and more time perhaps utilizing the “unfollow” and “block” features. A more open Twitter would inevitably mean some users publish sophomoric or even ugly content, either for their own amusement or because they’re inherently bad people. Scott Rosenberg, also of Axios, fretted that a Muskified Twitter would become another one of the “free-fire zones enjoyed chiefly by extremists and trolls.” Rosenberg is presumably referring to certain forums and chatrooms that become most frequented by weirdos, recluses, and all-around socially awkward young men. These have existed since the creation of email. The problem with warning that such a thing might occur at Twitter is that it’s based on a lack of understanding of the platform. (Ironically, Rosenberg is Axios’s technology editor.) The way Twitter works is by users finding publications and content creators that they enjoy. The only material a user sees is that which he has voluntarily sought. There is no risk of following a journalist who reports on politics, only to then get buried under a deluge of black separatist views or kinky pornography (especially if you avoid Kurt Eichenwald). There is, however, the possibility that a user is exposed to such content if a person sent it to him directly. And that’s what Twitter’s “unfollow,” “mute,” and “block” features are for. Isolated incidents like that don’t need to be calls to action for journalists who suffer from control issues.
3. If you truly cannot handle the idea of anyone and everyone having equal access to what has become the default platform for national political discourse, log out. NBC’s Ben Collins looked like a nervous wreck when he tweeted Tuesday, “Yes, I do think this site can and will change pretty dramatically if Musk gets full control over it.” He said the new ownership “could actually affect midterms,” meaning the elections in November. Ah, so journalists do understand. They do recognize that more information available to the public isn’t always good for the corrupted media’s political preferences. More expression and unrestricted flow of it is good for democracy. But so many journalists want less speech and more restrictions. Hmm…
I hope these tips help calm some anxiety.