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Elon Musk Buys Twitter: A Positive Change?
On April 24th Elon Musk's bid to buy Twitter was accepted by Twitter's board, effectively handing the social media platform over to, reportedly, the richest man in the world.
Leading up to the purchase there has been a flurry of interpretations about what Musk's intentions are in buying Twitter - including how it may affect social media platforms as a whole. In this piece I want to explore the various perspectives and inspire thought into a deeper question about the nature of change and how it unfolds in our culture.
Elon Musk's Stated Intentions
As you might imagine, owning a newspaper, media outlet or even a social media platform can be quite beneficial for ones business dealings, swaying public choice, and shaping mass perception. But are Musk's intentions to use Twitter for these purposes?
Weeks before closing the purchase of Twitter Musk stated in a letter to the Twitter Board:
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,
I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy, [...] However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
Of course, blindly believing the words of powerful and influential people is not something I think anyone should do, but casting them aside with certainty is also not something I'd suggest.
The sentiment Musk shares above with regards to free speech is one I agree with and have had much personal experience with. Having a multi million dollar media business (Collective Evolution) crumble at the hands of social media / Big Tech giants like Facebook, Google, and YouTube, it's easy to see how powerful the companies truly are in squashing dissenting voices.
The power that crushing hand has had on politics, the exchange of information, and important dialogue around important topics has been massive to say the least. After all, look at the degree of censorship and narrative control that existed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It's been nothing short of astonishing and incredibly damaging.
Is Musk here to right the ship? Perhaps, but the truth is, we can't know for sure until time passes. Nonetheless, many are speculating what his true intentions are or what damage they may cause.
Not Everyone Believes Musk & Some Think He's Nuts
Robert Reich, an academic who writes for the Guardian believes that Musk’s desire for a freer Internet would ultimately make him less accountable for his decisions and words. Ultimately, if moderation and speech control was not in play, Reich argues the world would be filled with people who could say whatever they want and never have to face consequences of any damage they cause.
He writes in his piece in the Guardian:
"In reality, that world would be dominated by the richest and most powerful people in the world, who wouldn’t be accountable to anyone for facts, truth, science or the common good.
That’s Musk’s dream. And Trump’s. And Putin’s. And the dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue and modern-day robber baron on Earth. For the rest of us, it would be a brave new nightmare."
Further, Washington Post contributor Max Boot feels similarly, that ultimately Musk can't be trusted with 'opening up' the internet and it may have a hugely negative impact on society and politics.
“He [Musk] seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”
What I personally find fascinating about perspectives like this, is that they often don't acknowledge the massive and negative impact these Big Tech giants already have on public discourse and politics. It's as if any "alternative narrative" about worldly events is false and damaging, and only the mainstream gets it right. Therefore, if we don't shut down all alternative ideas, we'll cause damage.
Imagine, would these two writers acknowledge the lack of real journalism that has occurred during the pandemic? Would they align with the evidence ridden truth that any dissenting voices were systematically squashed out by powerful people during the pandemic? That disinformation one day was proven to be fact months later, and the vast majority of mainstream voices had it wrong the entire time?
Remember when the COVID lab leak theory was a conspiracy theory? Remember when Fauci looked for "a swift takedown" of the scientists who suggested lockdowns would be more damaging than helpful? Fauci had them censored, and it turns out they were right about lockdowns.
That said, those on the Left and those on the Right can drum up piles of evidence showing that their side has had it worse when it comes to censorship, adding complexity to the conversation. And herein lies the problem with algorithms and bots that seek to control content moderation and speech. They can get things wrong, A LOT.
This is a problem that Musk is claiming he wants to fix. Of course this is a tall task when you begin to understand the massive challenge that is attempting to regulate or moderate content on a highly populated platform.
But this still doesn't explain the calculated and manual take downs of dissenting voices that Big Tech is very well known for doing. But perhaps Musk can start a new trend of ending that nonsense with Twitter. After all, what alternatives do we have? Go to alt platforms like Parler, GAB etc? In my opinion, mass dialogue isn't there. Diversity isn't there. And typically they are conservative or ultra conspiratorial strongholds.
One could say do as Buckminster Fuller said "and create a solution that makes the old one obsolete." But that has been done via creating many different alternative social media platforms - and it hasn't really worked. We need a town square, not echo chambers.
I feel what is needed now in the grander scheme of things is a growing of public consciousness and discourse into one based around respect, patience, curiosity and expansion. As opposed to protecting ideologies and uncomfortable emotions, while simply running away to another echo chamber platform.
Yes, I'm saying in THIS case, we need to impact the existing culture at its core to be more mindful and aware about how we think, feel and communicate - and perhaps use the existing systems to create change we need today.
Why Should We Trust Another 'Billionaire?'
There are also those who see Musk as just another billionaire like "all of the other evil ones out there." They might believe Musk is a person who can't understand the plight of the common folk and is using their money and power to control yet another public utility. Why will he be any better than any other billionaires?
Perhaps some mixed within that crowd might also believe that Musk buying Twitter is yet another 'distraction' the masses are buying into. Something we might all get excited about only to be let down. After all, billionaire = evil, right? If powerful people have control once, they always have it, right?
I don't entirely agree, but I will get to this in a moment.
Admittedly the nature of public discourse on topics like this is complex. We've become polarized, untrusting, ideological, fearful or even hopeless at times when it comes to so many things happening that affect us but feel out of our control. These feelings and states of being are where our narratives are built these days.
Thus, regardless of complexity, chaotic emotion and binary thinking rules public discourse for the most part. "This will be bad for Liberals." "This will be bad for Republicans." "This will be bad for politics." "Elon Musk is rich so he is bad." "We can't ever expect change can happen." "Don't be fooled by the billionaire."
In these simplistic viewpoints we close out the space for our gut instincts to provide a thought or feeling. We don't allow ourselves to hear other perspectives as easily. And perhaps worse, we don't actively seek out other perspectives - and you can bet the vast majority of social media algorithms are going to keep feeding us more of what re-enforces our ideologies.
That said, I often do feel that powerful factions of people are always battling for power. Musk may be just part of a new era of powerful people looking to gain control. At the same time, what if there is an evolution in those seeking to gain control, one that may slowly trend towards more freedom and a better world? We can't entirely know, but is it possible? Can it be felt?
There are also those that believe Musk is pushing forth the agenda of the World Economic Forum (WEF). He is after all creating Neuralink and driverless trucks, all ideas that fit into the WEF technocratic vision. But again this gets back into the binary concept of "technology is bad" or “a technology can be used in a bad way therefore it's bad.” Yes, of course this can be true, but technology can also be used in a good way and often is. The key is: what culture or way of thinking and being is driving that technology?
Cell phones free us up from so many inconveniences, but they can also dristract us and feed into our trauma. Does that mean we should get rid of them entirely? Or should we build a population with the capacity and resilience to not let the technology control their lives? It's like asking: do we as people have free will and power? Or are we just drones that get sucked into anything rich people do?
Interestingly, it's often the same people who hate Musk for driverless trucks are the same people who love and own many guns. Guns can be used to control, oppress and kill humans, but also for other useful tasks. But think, just because a land owner owns a gun does not protect them against a country using its powerful military to take out that one land owner. The sentiment I’m sharing here is, there are already a ton of technologies on this planet that if used with destruction and control in mind, they could make life a living hell for the masses.
What we perhaps want to do is not obsess so much over the fact that new and potentially helpful technologies are coming, but instead raise awareness about the culture and consciousness that drives the use of these technologies.
Toward A Solution?
Given the complexity of Musk's move to buy Twitter, and given we cannot know what will happen nor control what happens inside Twitter for the moment, what is the best way forward? All we can do is continually engage in quality and balanced inquiry, with a sense of playfulness and curiosity as we navigate current events. I know it sounds like a platitude, but before anyone becomes jaded and cynical about their views, they are light hearted and playful about exploration into ideas. Has that feeling gone for you? Perhaps it's not, continue to cultivate it.
The perspective I hope to impact the most with this piece are those who appear to be "black pilled." This of course is a reference the term "red pilled" which means to have taken a path towards uncovering deep truths hidden from public conjecture and mainstream influence. Over 15 years ago I myself chose to explore new ideas and narratives contrary to mainstream "facts" and see the world very differently as a result. Some would say I took the red pill.
But does red pill also mean the earth is flat? That all billionaires are all evil? Or that everything on TV is automatically false? No, again this is leading back to binary and ideological thinking.
This is also where being black pilled comes into play. Many who claim to have taken the red pill are often seeking truth and a better world where corruption and elitism aren't the rule of society. Yet at the same time anything that happens that appears like it could be a positive step MUST be a distraction or MUST somehow be bad. This is being black pilled. It's essentially the idea that one has become so cynical and so untrusting in their lens that nothing can ever be a good or positive change. It must always be bad and a trick against the people.
Even just reading this may cause black pilled people to suggest I just don't understand, I don't see things clearly enough, I just don't get it. I haven't done quite enough research. I'm not awake enough. While some of these things can be true in some situations, a black pilled person applies those ideas to anyone who doesn't get the 'ultimate truths they believe.'
The difference is also that, I can see Musk's purchase may not improve free speech, but I also see how it can. That flexibility in showing up to each case and assessing it for what it is what gives us the opportunity to respond to situations vs simply reacting to them from ideology.
Simply, black pilled people don't believe anything can change, but don't seem to see they are stuck in that position.
Change Can Happen In Different Ways
So often people have this idea of an ideal change. Something that appears to be perfect, shiny and bright right from the start. A change that is so obviously pure that everyone would see it. But does change always show up that way? How can you know?
Perhaps Musk's purchase of Twitter is the shift towards pulling power out of authoritarian hands and putting it into the hands of people to share and say what they feel. After all this would be a change that trends in a better direction than the elitist authoritarian world-views that typically exist at the helm of companies like Twitter, Facebook or even Amazon.
Then again, perhaps Musk doesn't change anything like he says. I just don't see any benefit in not seeing the possibility or holding an ultra cynical mindset... a black pilled mindset.
Perhaps change doesn't happen how we all might view it as what I'm saying, and that we miss the way things are changing in fear of looking like "we fell for something that we should not have trusted because things always turn out bad."
I can get that world-view, that feeling that we have been deceived or lied to or taken advantage of as a general citizenry for so long. But does that mean things cannot change? Can we hold a bright attitude towards the world, open to possibilities? Why are we fighting for a better world if we don't think one can happen?
Finally, I'm not asking us to have spiral eyed, hypnotized hope for the future and adopt a toxic positivity mindset. I'm simply asking us to question whether we've become cynical, hopeless and worn down to the point where we cannot have the energy for possibility and to where our lens becomes so clouded that we can no longer see clearly.