It is no secret that Twitter users skew leftward. Not as far, though, as Twitter’s senior staff. In the six months leading up to April, 99% of Twitter staffers’ donations went to the Democrats. Westerners used to laugh at this kind of performative unanimity when it appeared in dictatorships. The joke is now on us. The social media companies control the chokepoints of the information economy, but they are demonstrably unfit, technically or ethically, to run it.
For some jobs, however (contributing writer for the Washington Examiner, to choose a random example), you have no choice but to be on Twitter. It is a professional forum, even when your peers are unprofessional. In this sense, Twitter fulfills the dreams of transparency and flatness that fired the early ideologues of the internet. On Twitter, those in the media class compete for each other’s approval and our attention. As they cavort for status and clicks, they expose their class arrogance, political bias, semi-educated ignorance, and contempt for the public. A guild of spoiled children controls the news in America. Every organization is dependent on them, because no one over 40 understands how to operate the website.
The hive of independent minds panicked in the same way when Elon Musk bought Twitter earlier this year. By the fall, Musk’s statements about Twitter’s selective suppression of political speech stirred the Blob into action. The Washington Post suggested that Musk’s use of foreign investment funds in the Twitter purchase would grant them “special privileges to access personal data about Twitter’s users.” The Brookings Institution recommended that Musk be investigated on the grounds of “national security” because Tesla is “increasingly dependent on the Chinese market and the goodwill of the Chinese government.”
Asked if Musk’s investors, particularly a Saudi prince, made him “a threat to national security,” President Joe Biden said that Musk’s “cooperation and/or technical relationship with other countries is worthy of being looked at.” Yet when the same Saudi prince became Twitter’s second-largest investor in 2011, the Democrats had no objections. They are panicking now because Musk threatens to disrupt their messaging and expose how Silicon Valley volunteers to collaborate with the Democrats in shaping public perception.
Last week, Musk released email correspondence between senior Twitter management, the Democratic National Committee, and the “Biden team” in the weeks before the 2020 election. The emails show that the Democrats sent a list of Twitter accounts they disliked and that Twitter shut them down, just as it had silenced President Donald Trump. The emails also show that Twitter had, by its own operating standards, no grounds to suspend the New York Post’s account and block the dissemination of its story about Hunter Biden’s laptop on the grounds of “safety.”
I have no interest in seeing pictures of the pornographer-royal, Hunter Biden, hard at work. The commercial activities of the First Pimp are, however, a matter of national interest — especially if, as seems likely, he offered foreign actors access to then-Vice-President Joe Biden or if Biden was the “big guy” for whom his son would hold 10% of the proceeds. As Richard Nixon said just before he went down the chute, “the people have got to know whether their president is a crook.”
Twitter and Facebook blocked the biggest story of the 2020 elections. The Democrats and the vast majority of U.S. media concurred that this October surprise was “Russian disinformation.” More than 50 former intelligence officials, including five former CIA directors or acting directors, spontaneously manifested to add their professional credentials, and the credibility of the institutions that issued them, to a media campaign that took the Democrats’ line. Was this enough to swing a closely contested election? We cannot know. But we do know that it was a concerted attempt to swing one. As Nixon could attest, liberal media used to investigate this sort of thing. Now, they conspire to cover it up.
The same media outlets, the same Democrats, and the same security establishment voices had already united around the “Russia collusion” story to undermine the result of the 2016 election. It took three years for that story to collapse. The idea that the laptop’s contents were fake lasted only half as long. The New York Times and the Washington Post, which had loudly denounced the laptop as “fake news” upon its discovery, only just quietly announced that, after finally looking at its contents, the emails appeared to be genuine.
In the biz, this is called “getting ahead” of bad news. More is on its way. The House Republicans now have a majority, and Musk promises to release more “Twitter Files.” Perhaps we will find out how Twitter suppressed legitimate speculation about the origins of COVID-19 or about the suppression of experts who queried the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s claims about the protectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccinations. The backlash has been intense. In the first week of December alone, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, the New Yorker, the Guardian, and, of course, NPR all attacked Musk for a faulty understanding of free speech and for fostering a racist environment. The insinuation is that anything other than massive suppression will play into the hands of Trump, Kanye West, and that pervy little Nicholas Fuentes fellow.
Twitter is a private company, but it has become the de facto public square. Its institutional bias has damaged America’s democracy and contributed to the collapse of the public’s trust in intermediary institutions. Instead of attacking Musk, the media should be praising him for taking on the challenge of restoring that trust. His aim (albeit uneven) is guided by the First Amendment, not furtive collaboration against ordinary people. The stakes could not be higher. “This is a battle for the future of civilization,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 28. “If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”