Opinion: Elon Musk and the chaos of a nebulous billionaire


Grace Metz

Several screenshots of Tweets made by Elon Musk, including a poll to reinstate former President Trump on the app and statements questioning Twitter’s adherence to the First Amendment.

Grace Metz, Editor-In-Chief

It’s official: Twitter has been raptured.
The social media platform, since the tail end of October 2022, now faces the end-of-times as repeated outages, a hailstorm of corporate firings and a slew of controversies grip its uneasy user base.
One man finds himself on the throne of a crumbling empire: nebulous billionaire and supposed free speech activist Elon Musk.

The end of an era

The polarization of online discourse is not a new phenomenon, but a slow process following the globalization of the internet, which opened up the free market of ideas to anyone with $60 and a cell plan.
Twitter was the most prominent example of this—allowing for an easily accessible public forum. Anyone could take to their handheld soapbox, sometimes with negative intentions, to answer the question of “What’s happening?”
But today, the future of a post-Musk Twitter haunts investors and users alike. Wrapping the app’s only method of verification into a coveted $8 subscription package and reciting mantras of “free speech in America” while banning opposition to his regime, Elon seems to be playing the role of a cat with a god complex chasing a shiny new chew toy.
Except this toy cost about $44 billion, and Musk is presumably not tuna-motivated.
Some users once banned under Twitter’s former leadership were exonerated under Musk, a group mostly consisting of right-wing talking heads that used the platform to espouse ideas considered too murky for cable, including some who used their rabid fanbase to straight-up spew hate speech.
The indomitable hell that was the 2020 presidential election caused many of these figures to violate Twitter’s staunch anti-violence and anti-misinformation clauses, like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who rallied support for former President Trump’s election fraud claims, and ex-Trump campaign advisor Steve Bannon, who advocated for the beheadings of government officials.
Trump himself was also banned following the events of the January 6 riots at the Capitol building in DC.
Although many, including Trump himself, refuse to return to the platform that they believe had wronged them, some, like neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, have been graciously welcomed back by the Musk administration. Anglin created the “Daily Stormer,” an online publication named in honor of German newspaper Der Stürmer, which features columns like “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.” It is considered the most influential neo-Nazi website.
However, this is not Musk’s first blush with antisemitic rhetoric since he’s imposed himself as Twitter’s de facto monarch.

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

After Musk’s instatement, empowered inhabitants of the anonymous forum website 4Chan sparked a 1,200-tweet campaign against the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish users.
This included transphobic, homophobic and generally hateful, ignorant comments meant to make one point clear: marginalized groups are no longer welcome on Twitter, as First Amendment purist Musk demonstrated by extending the definition of free speech on the app to protect hate. He did so by dubbing it “free speech absolutism,” claiming that restrictions on any speech would be an attack on the Founding Fathers themselves.
The fandom that has coagulated around Musk seems to have adopted this doctrine, gathering at his feet and worshiping the very ground he walks on in the Twitter replies. These fanboys include people who pour thousands into cryptocurrency pyramid schemes and believe that Rick and Morty is the pinnacle of satire.
Musk’s reputation as a self-interested zealot precedes his acquisition of Twitter, rubbing elbows with tech executives in hopes of being considered one himself.
Yet, his only experience in the tech industry has been marked by deception and countless lawsuits, stealing companies from behind the backs of their founders, and covering up discrimination against Black employees in his factories.
Tesla, arguably Musk’s most famous venture, could have been something truly great in the absence of his leadership.
So far, Musk has marketed Tesla’s electric cars as top-of-the-line with futuristic, sleek and memeable technology.
This could not be more wrong.
Tesla has been accused of fraud by drivers after advertising a new autopilot feature with a $5,000 price tag. In reality, this feature did not yet exist and allegedly was the result of a faked demonstration video, in which the car had significant assistance from software not available to consumers, and even ran into a fence.
In response to these allegations, Musk raised the price of the autopilot feature.

If anything can be gleaned from Musk’s failed ventures, mismanagements and repeated accounts of discrimination, it’s this: don’t give a man-child billions of dollars, because he’ll burn your company to the ground, and then jump in the fire himself.
Vox populi, vox dei: the voice of the people is the voice of God—and the people don’t want Elon Musk.