- Thursday, April 28, 2022

To watch the corporate media react to Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is to understand that they live in a different world than the rest of us. It’s been astonishing to witness media figures suddenly discover the idea of fairness in the exchange of ideas. 

For years, conservatives have groused that Twitter discriminates against their viewpoints, suspends accounts unjustly and squelches or “shadowbans” voices on the right. All that time, the left dismissed those complaints with an airy admonition to “go start your own platform.”

When some enterprising conservatives did just that, including with GETTR, where I serve as a consultant, the left mocked the efforts and treated them as the products of conspiracy theories. But when Mr. Musk made his move, many in the media shifted into high outrage, even forecasting the end of democracy.

MSNBC’s Ari Melber probably wins the Alternate Universe prize for his soliloquy on how he envisions the new social media landscape.

“You could secretly ban one party’s candidate or all of its candidates, all of its nominees,” he fretted. “Or you could just secretly turn down the reach of their stuff and turn up the reach of something else. And the rest of us might not even find out about it until after the election.”

It will come as a shock to Mr. Melber that this is exactly what conservatives have been saying about most social media platforms for a long time.

Mr. Melber’s remarks are particularly jarring to anyone who can recall the 2020 election and Twitter’s decision to suspend the account of the New York Post for sharing its own story about the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. Just weeks before Election Day, Twitter not only shuttered the account of the nation’s oldest daily newspaper, it also banned any other users from sharing a link to their reporting.

Only the story proved to be true — and guess what? — it wasn’t until well after the election that the media relented, and voters were informed that Hunter Biden’s laptop was indeed authentic.

With several polls showing that a decisive percentage of voters in key states would have changed their minds if they had known about the story, this was indeed election interference by Twitter. And it’s precisely the sort of threat to democracy that Mr. Melber is now fantasizing about.

Just wait until someone tells him that Twitter also permanently banned the sitting president of the United States. Then he’ll really have a fit.

But Mr. Melber wasn’t alone.

Fellow MSNBC talker Joy Reid imagined that Mr. Musk, who was born in South Africa, bought Twitter so he could restore the racist policy of apartheid formerly enforced by his native country.

“I guess he misses the old South Africa in the 80s,” she said. “He wants that back.”

On ABC’s “The View,” Sunny Hostin echoed Ms. Reid, declaring that “when Elon Musk says, ‘Wow, this is about free speech,’ it seems to me that it’s about free speech of straight white men.”

Over at NBC, Jo Ling Kent sounded a similar theme: “Some critics are concerned that Musk’s pursuit of free speech will collide with growing safety problems on Twitter, especially for women and minorities.”

In some corners, the very people whose profession is specifically mentioned in the First Amendment don’t seem to want to extend the freedom of expression to everyone else. 

Making that point, CNN’s Brian Stelter uncovered a very dangerous concept emerging in the conversation about social media.

“If you get invited to something where there are no rules, where there is total freedom for everybody, do you actually want to go to that party?” he asked.

A chorus of Washington Post columnists weighed in, with Perry Bacon Jr. writing under a headline that worried, “Twitter is good. I hope Elon Musk doesn’t ruin it.”

The Post’s Jennifer Rubin differed slightly, revealing that she always believed that Twitter was bad, but now thinks it’s only going to go further downhill, tweeting, “Musk is [the] answer to the Jeopardy question: What is the one way to make Twitter worse?”

Max Boot, another Post columnist, managed only a one-word tweet: “Gulp.”

But if the reactions from inside Twitter are any indication, it may be true that Mr. Musk will find it impossible to change the culture inside the company. 

Politico reported that Twitter’s top lawyer broke down in tears during a virtual meeting with employees this week, while a wide range of rank-and-file staff took to the platform to express their inability to bear life under the company’s new owner.

The inescapable conclusion is that when so many confirmed leftists are this upset about the upheaval, it’s a sure sign that conservatives have been right about Twitter all along. And it’s also true that even with Elon Musk at the controls, it may well be beyond repair.

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and the founder and principal of Line Drive Public Affairs, a communication consulting firm.

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