Saving Free Speech or Sugarcoating Neo-Serfdom? The Elon Musk-Twitter Debate.
Our real-life Tony Stark seeks to "successfully privatize Free Speech." We wish both him and the American people good luck in the Twitter wars to come.
We generally cannot be bothered with the obsessive coverage of celebrity multi-millionaires or billionaires. Nor do we have any desire to contribute to discussions of say the recent Oscar incident or a certain ongoing and high-profile divorce to defamation trial. These maudlin displays of personality disorders en parade receive enough attention and more, while actual stories of vital importance receive less to none. These other stories might concern such matters as the rights (or now lack thereof) of American citizens under law.
Or, say stories about public health in the USA (and elsewhere); or, about plans to dismantle the American national park system; or, about how our open southern border destabilizes Central and South America by funding narco-criminal cartels with billions in US dollars, by encouraging human trafficking and child prostitution, by promoting corruption at all levels of governance in the nations concerned, and by generally destabilizing the rule of law in nations from Mexico down to Argentina.
Again, other and actual stories exist beyond the glamorous turmoils faced by our most wealthy, privileged, protected, and celebrated. Even stories about more ordinary American citizens, and the daily challenges they face just to keep on keeping on.
Yet the raging Elon Musk-Twitter discussion-debate does merit some comment. The Good Citizen offers an outstanding contrarian take: Our Fren Elon, highly recommended. Your trigger warning: the person behind Good Citizen is highly intelligent, obviously well-educated, deeply informed, at times brutally but skillfully satirical, and relentlessly contrarian to the mainstream consensus. (At times, perhaps too relentless?) The perfect Devil’s advocate, but usually on the side of the Angels if say the Bill of Rights or Human Rights matter to you. Still, not everyone’s cuppa. Nope. But for some of us, a must read. In your disagreements with the Good Citizen, you will likely think, learn, and discover more than you would just by rounding up the usual sources and suspects.
Elon Musk Saves Free Speech or Might
Since we are in strong general agreement with the most troublesome Good Citizen on the Elon Musk-Twitter discussion-debate, let us get down to it. On YouTube, you may find alleged non-partisan independent news and analysis sources such as Breaking Points and The Hill, obviously partisan independent content producers, and Fox News sources all sounding a common theme. Here is a sample of titles:
Elon Makes HUGE Twitter Offer, Can He Save Free Speech?
Elon Musk's fight for free speech.
Elon Musk can kick Twitter's free-speech suppressing, left-wing butt.
Good to know.
Elon Musk is fighting against high-tech censorship. Elon Musk is fighting for Free Speech. Elon Musk can save Free Speech. Elon Musk IS saving Free Speech.
From promise to performance to accomplishment. That escalated quickly. But fine. Wonderful.
Well, by buying Twitter out (maybe) and changing the Twitter policies (maybe).
So what is there not to like?
And Elon Musk is our real-life Tony Stark, right? Remember that Tony Stark claimed: “I’ve successfully privatized world peace!” Given his pending (or not) complete take-over of Twitter, some of Elon Musk’s most fervent admirers understand him as successfully privatizing Free Speech.
So perhaps now a possible problem comes into focus?
Inalienable Rights vs. End-User License Agreements
Once upon a time, we the USA were a Constitutional Republic, which is a form of Representative Government, and the people of our nation had a Bill of Rights and other rights under Law.
In fact, some of our rights were considered “inalienable” — meaning, we could not be alienated from them, and so these rights could not be taken from us. The government existed in no small part to secure these rights. The government was justifiable, legitimate to the extent that it did secure these rights. One of these inalienable rights was Freedom of Speech. This is not myth but history, so let us provide a source link.
Our right to Freedom of Speech did NOT depend on the seeming generosity of an enlightened benevolent billionaire or the 18th century version thereof. This to our perhaps paranoid and obviously cynical so-called “Founders” would have seemed an invitation to Tyranny.
Because what our enlightened benevolent billionaire might allow, our enlightened benevolent billionaire could likewise no longer permit. At whim — at will — at EULA.
Furthermore, given that our enlightened benevolent billionaire is not immortal, and that our enlightened benevolent billionaire is actively engaged in business and status (political) competition with other members of the billionaire class, this defense and/or restoration of Freedom of Speech might prove at best both strategic and transient.
No answers to that yet from our intelligentsia, who at least do not seem to suffer from the paranoid cynicism of the so-called “Founders.”
Perhaps another enlightened benevolent billionaire will be waiting to take the place of Elon Musk. Presumably, this is the best we can hope for.
So how did we get here?
On the one hand, the MSM excepting Fox seems vehemently against Elon Musk changing Twitter’s obviously biased censorship policy. On the other hand, Fox and some independent content producers have preemptively awarded Elon Musk demi-god status for acts promised but not yet performed.
Help me please, I am stupid
But nearly all parties agree on this: the billionaire class makes the decisions. Why? Because, duh. Why? Because they own or control the mainstream media and social media, stupid. And? Keep going. Help a stupid out.
Well, even if these core technologies were originally built with tax-payer monies and even if these corporations still use Open Source technologies and even if these corporations are granted privileges and exceptions and public spectrum bandwidths under USA law, these billionaires still own or own significant shares thereof and therefore have complete or near-complete control over the relevant media platforms and technologies. Why? Because of how our government, the investor-donor class, and the corporations work. Together, it must be added. The laws get written to ensure this, perpetuate this: K Street, revolving doors, and regulatory capture.
Duh. Just the way it is. No changes needed. Please understand that. It’s okay to be stupid. It is not okay to be an “insurrectionist.”
Out with the Old
So we cannot fight this. Forget checks and balances. Forget our Constitution. Forget our history and the larger Western tradition of individual rights and of liberty. Did you skip college or something? John Stuart Mill was an imperialist! Racist. All that. No one reads that old shit anymore — just learns about how it was deconstructed. The “Harm Principle,” don’t make us laugh.
Just understand. The government cannot do anything — when it comes to this. (Otherwise, the government is all-powerful). The citizens cannot do anything: mal-, mis-, or dis-information to suggest otherwise. Wait. Sorry! You can do something. You can both plead with and help support the “right” kind of celebrity billionaire.
But how can we show our support for the “right” celebrity billionaire? By investing what we have — however much or little — in whichever companies the “right” celebrity billionaire owns or operates. Or, by donating to whatever causes they support — preferably, to their Foundation. You vote with your dollars — and the more dollars you have, the more votes. See? Incentive. Motivation. Sensibly fair.
There is no fighting the system. But if you recognize your place within it, perhaps a member of our most powerful elite will with magnificent benevolence radiantly allow you to bask in a blessing of freedom. Of course, limited freedom. Provided you do not abuse it. Provided you continue to demonstrate your loyalty.
This does sound considerably less like a Constitutional Republic with a Representative Government and Citizens guaranteed inalienable Rights under Law, and considerably more like an older form of governance re-emerging.
Bifurcated Society: Masters and Peasants
Do we have a new American serfdom?
Let us hear from Victor Davis Hanson, generally considered a conservative (right wing) public intellectual if not ideologue by the MSM. VDH will surely debunk this serfdom nonsense, and set the record straight:
The American middle class has lost economic ground for nearly a half century through mounting household debt, static wages, and record student-loan burdens. Without a middle class, society becomes bifurcated. It splinters into one of modern masters and peasants.
Wait, did he just call most of us “peasants” — merely being rhetorical, right? 21st century, best of all possible worlds, that simply cannot be true.
My gawd, like Britney Spears, oops, he did it again:
The modern use of the word identifies the erosion of the middle class into an indebted and less independent underclass. The current reality is that millions of Americans, through debt, joblessness, and declining wages, are now becoming our own updated urban and suburban versions of the rural European peasantry of the past.
Seriously? Any facts to go with that. No worries, VDH has no data:
Well over half the country depends on some sort of state subsidy or government transfer money, explaining why about 60 percent of Americans collect more payments from the government than they pay out in various federal income taxes, in various health care entitlements, tax credits and exemptions, federally backed student and commercial loans, housing supplementals, food subsidies, disability and unemployment assistance, and legal help.
Well, okay. Some data. So half the nation is on the dole in one form or another, and so increasingly dependent on and subservient to the corporate-state. So what?
This is still the land of the free and the home of the brave! Tell us, VDH you glorious rightwing nut-job according to the MSM:
… the emergence of a new American peasantry, of millions of Americans who own little or no property. The new majority has scant, if any, savings. Fifty-eight percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank. A missed paycheck renders them destitute, completely unable to service sizable debt.
VDH is not cooperating here, not living up to his reputation, but we will give him one more chance:
Such short-term debt is often roughly commensurate with the payments and share-cropping arrangements that premodern peasants once entered into with lords and made it impossible for the serf to exercise political independence or hope for upward mobility.
So in practical terms, many American citizens are losing the ability to exercise political independence. Based on their current and foreseeable future circumstances, many American citizens lack any hope for upward mobility.
Unless Dogecoin goes to the moon. Or, et cetera. No wonder that the cult of Elon Musk has so many followers. They have not given up hope, for which we admire them. But we fear that many of them have given up on our Constitutional Republic.
In truth, they might be right. We effectively no longer have a Bill of Rights, including most relevant to this issue, the First and Fourth Amendments. Both our Freedom of Speech and our Freedom of Privacy — our right to be “secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” — were already becoming whatever various corporate EULAs and the 2001 Patriot Act permitted
In 2005, the Electronic Freedom Foundation quaintly published Dangerous Terms: A User's Guide to EULAs; in 2019, the New York Times ran Kevin Litman-Navarro’s piece, “We Read 150 Privacy Policies. They Were an Incomprehensible Disaster.” Only if you were trying to make sense of them — only if you think you had a choice.’
Add in now the ongoing campaigns against “Mis-, Dis-, and Malinformation” as conducted by our Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (founded in 2018), and you might well find yourself self-censoring to save our corporations the trouble of issuing your various digital lives their various digital death sentences.
Declaration of Dependence — of Worshipful Subservience
So for what it is worth, if anything at all, our take at American Exile. Nothing against Elon Musk personally, or against his mind-boggling success.
But regarding the Musk-Twitter debate, pro or con, the pundits on both sides:
Demand we the American people must accept our current situation as irreversible.
Demand we openly acknowledge by word or deed or both that our Constitutional Republic no longer exists — that we have a newer (or older) form of yet to be defined governance.
Demand we collude with the suspension if not outright negation of the Bill of Rights.
Demand we accept as irredeemable or otherwise irrelevant the checks and balances, legal and institutional, which were once designed to nourish Liberty and safeguard against Tyranny.
Demand we forfeit our right to “petition government for redress of grievances.”
Demand we rely solely on the enlightened benevolence of the billionaire class, of whom we may beg favors but also of whom we have no right to make demands or otherwise hold accountable.
Our new “Declaration of Dependence — of Worshipful Subservience.” If you are fine with it, let it be so. You might be the one facing facts, rather than the one foolishly denying reality.
A small fringe minority, of which this author “Data Humanist” is a member, are not fine with it and will continue to hold unacceptable views. But give this two or three more decades, no dramatic money-wasting drone strikes needed, and nearly all of us will be gone. Dead. Of natural causes. Or, shoved into a nursing home during one of the upcoming pandemics. Blue state natural causes.
At age 81, upon exiting the Constitutional Convention and in response to the question as to what sort of government the Founders had wrought, Benjamin Franklin said: “You have a Republic, if you can keep it.” If we can keep it.
In an earlier comment exchange with Good Citizen (GC) over the Elon Musk-Twitter debate, GC replied:
Exactly. If a system requires a billionaire must restore basic human rights with his money, when he's feeling generous, what kind of system is that and what exactly is there to celebrate.
Well said. Even if Elon Musk proves fully victorious in his take-over of Twitter and his changes to their onerous and one-sided censorship, this being the preferred outcome as American Exile understands it, we should all still temper our celebrations.
Disclaimer, Important: my link to or citation of any source does NOT mean that source or person in anyway endorses my content or shares my view. I credit sources so that readers might do their own research — “their own research” a phrase mocked by the MSM, which I find curious as I have taught scholarly research in higher education.
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