After a lightning-fast takeover deal, Twitter has accepted billionaire Elon Musk’s $44 billion offer to buy the company. One of Musk’s early goals will likely be restoring the account of former President Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter for his part in promoting the Jan. 6 insurgency. He has referenced the “wake mind virus” in the past and a few days ago promised to authenticate “all real people” on the social media site if his bid is successful. And Musk and Trump have a fairly amicable history, with the former President hailing Musk as a “genius” and Musk publicly agreeing with Number 45 on everything from Covid lockdowns to lunar exploration.
usk has arguably more money than anyone who has ever lived, and he uses his vast fortune to further the political fortunes of an authoritarian demagogue. US democracy is in serious trouble in part because extremely powerful oligarchs dislike democracy and have the resources to help their enemies. It is important that we assess this threat realistically.
Trump was banned from Twitter in early January following the attack on the Capitol by his supporters who tried to overthrow certification of the 2020 election results. The former president tweeted in support of the insurgents, leading Twitter to conclude he was attempting to incite political violence.
Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter. Given the later evidence of Trump’s role in 1/6, they were right about that. And disinformation on Twitter plummeted after Trump was pushed off the platform.
In general, bona fide publications and platforms committed to democracy do not want to spread disinformation or provide material support to insurgency. These are perfectly reasonable and even commendable editorial positions. Twitter lets its users post many controversial opinions. But it has tried to draw a line against inflammatory lies designed to bring about authoritarian rule.
In doing so, she imposed one of the few specific penalties against riots that Trump has been exposed to so far. The Democratic House impeached Trump at 1/6, but Senate Republicans refused to unseat him. The Slow House Inquiry has not held hearings or released findings for more than a year after the incident, and the Justice Department has not gone public with any charges.
Trump’s country and party have done little to punish him for trying to overthrow the Constitution. The only consequence he faced was losing access to his favorite social media platform. It is not much. But facing any consequences made him really, really angry. That’s better than nothing.
Unfortunately, Trump has many powerful friends, and when you have many powerful friends, there should be no penalty for wrongdoing.
Trump offered Musk support in 2020 when the owner of the electric car company Tesla wanted to reopen a California car factory despite a Covid lockdown. Musk’s regular mockery of “awakening” and sharing intentionally controversial content — like a transphobic meme after his former girlfriend, singer Grimes, reportedly began dating a trans woman — places him squarely with right-wing speakers who oppose it scold the same things.
Trump is the current symbolic poster boy for angry, reactionary, wealthy, irresponsible white men everywhere. “Make America Great Again” has always meant keeping the most powerful in power. Trump loves shoveling money with the one percent. His tax cuts enabled billionaires to pay less taxes than the working class for the first time ever. Musk, in particular, became the richest person in the world under Trump’s leadership.
Since Biden has been president, Musk has been a vehement opponent of Democratic proposals to tax billionaires at higher rates. Putting Trump back in office would be an effective means of preventing such proposals for the foreseeable future.
Musk claims he wants to push Twitter to allow more free speech. But really, he’s just changing the editorial stance of a private company to publish more conservative speeches — like Fox taking over the New York Times. Additionally, Musk specifically changes editorial stance in favor of Donald Trump, who has shown a blatant disdain for democracy.
With the rhetoric of freedom, Musk plans to make Twitter’s editorial policy pro-authoritarian. Twitter has found that Trump violated its terms of service. Musk has the resources to step in and state that the Terms of Service should be changed to be more insurgent.
Our institutions, public and private, are struggling to respond robustly to the Republican Party’s escalating slalom toward authoritarianism. That’s because there are many people who would prefer authoritarian minority rule imposed by the GOP. Republican partisans, Christian conservative nationalists, a large proportion of white men — they see America becoming less Republican, less Christian, and less white, and they believe the only way to stay in power is through America’s democratic experiment to give up. If elections go against you, throw out the election. This is Trump’s program and it has a lot of support.
Among these supporters are the very rich. Oligarchs have a vested interest in suppressing democratic processes that could hold them accountable to the public. And they have a great deal of power to advance and normalize these anti-democratic impulses. If anyone can help Trump achieve his dreams of authoritarianism, it’s the richest man in the world.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/elon-musk-will-bring-trump-back-to-twitter-and-thats-just-the-beginning-41586664.html Elon Musk will bring Trump back to Twitter — and that’s just the beginning