Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

Who’s afraid of Elon Musk?

(Getty images)

The meltdown over Elon Musk’s acquirement of Twitter is my favourite world event of 2022 so far. It is delicious. I could sustain myself for years on the sight of commentators and activists wringing their hands to the bone over the possibility that – wait for it – there might be a smidgen more freedom of speech on Twitter once Musk takes over. Probably unwittingly, these raging right-thinkers, these terrified Musk-fearers, have confirmed before the eyes of the world that there is nothing they dread more than free speech, and I cannot get enough of it.

It really has become hysterical. The minute Musk hinted, last month, that he wanted to take over Twitter, the Twitterati went bananas. When he secured a 9.2 per cent stake in Twitter a couple of weeks ago, people were fearing for the future of humanity itself. ‘I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter’, said Max Boot of the Washington Post.

Others foresaw even darker things if Musk were to liberate Twitter from some of its stiffer forms of content moderation. ‘Today on Twitter feels like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub at the twilight of Weimar Germany’, said Jeff Jarvis of New York University. Yeah, right, because the Nazis were well known for their love of freedom of speech and letting folk say what they want.

The Musk-haters have revealed their true selves

Now that Musk’s takeover is a done deal, the meltdown has intensified. George Monbiot says Musk and his ‘free speech absolutism’ will prove ‘lethal’. That’s lethal as in ‘sufficient to cause death’. Musk the murderer, with his deadly weapon of unregulated chatter!

And of course it’s all about racism, too, as is everything these days. American activist Shaun King said Musk’s purchase of Twitter is really a ruse to promote ‘white power’.

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