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Elon Musk’s policy, like Trump’s, is clear

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When you just take a step or two back, the picture isn’t that complicated. A billionaire businessman who has donated to Democratic and Republican candidates is starting to make it clear that his personal politics leans more heavily to the right. This seems partly to be a function of the media environment in which he evolves. It is also clearly exacerbated by frustration with critical reporting by mainstream news outlets.

The next thing you know is that he openly shares right-wing content and locks himself into a universe of allies, even at the expense of his own credibility. Once just a wealthy celebrity, suddenly the guy is central to a political movement. And bent over it.

This is how Donald Trump became president.

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Oh, you thought I was talking about Elon Musk? Well, yes, I was. This carefully articulated pattern of behavior applies to both men by design. But that doesn’t mean the parallels are contrived. Elon Musk’s willful step into the limelight left no doubt about his current political inclinations, just as Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign made it clear – albeit more explicitly – where he stood.

This is worth mentioning due to a column published by The New York Times over the weekend. In it, Jeremy Peters notes that Musk’s politics can be difficult to categorize, largely because his discussions of politics tend to take place in the context of Twitter, the social media site he owns, and in part because of Musk’s political history. Is it safe to say that a guy who has given to Democratic candidates and insists he voted Democrat in the past and still might in the future is antithetical to the Democratic Party?

The answer is yes, for several reasons.

The first is that the contribution patterns of wealthy corporate leaders should probably not be treated as clear indicators of their own ideologies. Giving the maximum allowable contribution to each candidate in each House and Senate race will cost you less than $3 million, money that for a multi-billionaire is a chicken scratch. Business leaders routinely admit that they give to both parties to advance their interests; it was actually a central part of Trump’s 2016 shtick!

Then, of course, there is the difference between Politics and party spirit. In 2004, Trump said he identified more as a Democrat than a Republican. Until 2008, in fact, he was registered as a Democrat – after having gone to the independent party, after having been a Republican. This partisan history did not end up being a good guide for his politics.

In the months since Musk took over Twitter, he has been more open about his partisanship and politics. He said he would support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) in a potential 2024 presidential bid and encouraged Twitter users to vote Republican in the midterm elections as a supposed counterweight to the left.

But that’s fundamentally less important than the political rhetoric he adopted and amplified. His purchase of Twitter – a commitment, let us recall, that he has worked hard to shed – has allowed him to occupy a much larger part of the public (and “elite”) conversation than before. And in doing so, he aligns himself both directly and indirectly with right-wing voices and arguments.

Peters goes through this at length, a recitation that alone largely answers any questions about Musk’s political stance. That he repeatedly engaged with fringe actors like Mike Cernovich and “Cat Turd” and sought to weaken the status of mainstream journalists are indirect manifestations of this. His repeated insistences that the left is becoming toxic are straightforward.

Then there are comments like these, posted after Peters’ article.

He went to Explain why he chose the two targets of this tweet: that “forcing your pronouns on others” is wrong and that Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, was complicit in the spread of the coronavirus – unproven claims which are common as right-wing points of attack against the epidemiologist reviled by Trump.

Musk presented his purchase of Twitter himself as an effort to fight in the name of free speech against the “Waking Mind Virus”, a rationale for the reluctant purchase that deviates from his stated reason when launched his offer to buy the company: spam from automated accounts.

Here too, politics interferes. The right has long argued that it is being unfairly targeted by social media platforms, Twitter in particular, for ideological reasons. Musk embraced that argument, using his new handling of the platform to hand internal documents to sympathetic writers to make the case that Twitter had acted unfairly against the right. They obliged, putting together multi-part Twitter threads meant to show how the platform has taken on right-wing actors, Trump included.

The reality that emerged from the “Twitter Files” posts, as Musk framed them, is no different from the reality that preceded their publication: the platform had a subjective, glitched process for evaluating high-profile accounts. , but there is no evidence of efforts to reduce the scope of certain accounts has been stimulated by political ideology. Musk and his allies have insisted that this ideological bias has been proven by the statements, which themselves mirror the behavior of Trump and his supporters: if you push hard enough, the facts become whatever you want them to be. be.

There is an understated point here. Consider why Musk posted that “Pursue/Fauci” thing. He wants to engage by stirring up controversy, certainly, as well as presenting views that contrast with the left’s “mind virus.” But he does it by trolling, intentionally trying to irritate people.

This is, at its heart, what Twitter began to suppress following the 2016 election and what made the right feel unfairly targeted. Twitter implemented new public policies that limited the reach of people whose accounts had been repeatedly flagged as abusive. This affected many users whose preferred style of using the service was to try to irritate the real or perceived left. Trolling and “library ownership” had become central tactics of online law. Twitter didn’t crack down on right-wing accounts because they were right-wing, in other words, but partly because right-wing accounts often engaged in activities that increased the toxicity that Twitter was trying to eradicate. It was not the policy but the practices.

In the case of Musk’s Fauci tweet, the support was also the message.

His promise to reinstate those whose accounts had been frozen by Twitter in the Before Times simply promised to inject that toxicity back into the platform. Outsiders making objective observations of the platform’s operation — the same group that accurately predicted how Musk’s verification system would collapse — suggested that many of those reinstated would simply violate the platform’s terms again. -shape and would test Musk’s tolerance for abuse. (See: Yes.) We’ll see.

For Musk, however, this in itself is a political statement. This group, according to him, was mostly right-wing and he welcomes them back. He believes their voices have been unfairly silenced and demand to be heard, which he incorrectly describes as First Amendment derivative. He’s likeable here because he largely agrees with what they said and how they said it.

Elon Musk is on the right. He tried to make it very clear.



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