Millions of people are riveted by the latest headlines involving the world’s richest person, Elon Musk, and his offer to purchase the social media platform Twitter. Once again, the issue has been politicized, dividing people into opinions about his motives and whether they’re for the move or against it. But this is most certainly not a political issue – it is an American issue.
Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or none of the above, the threat to one of the founding principles of our country is at stake. Politics aside, each and every American citizen should be extremely concerned about this. The United States Constitution is a masterfully crafted document that was written in order to create a free country – something that had never been successfully done before. Our founding fathers were incredibly brave and intelligent men of honor, and they were comprehensive and thorough in its language. The very First Amendment is the freedom of speech.
This is a sensitive topic, but one that I believe people need to know the truth about, from a reliable and unbiased source. Personally, I do not subscribe to a specific political party. I try to choose candidates according to ability, merit, integrity, and virtue. Politicized issues are not necessarily political, to me – they’re either right, wrong, or indifferent, but I will never force my opinion on others. I believe everyone has the right to their own opinion and should have the right to express it, if they so choose. When I report on anything – regardless of what it is – my motive is always the same: find out the TRUTH and report it. I pride myself on my objectivity, fairness, and the ability to see both (or all) sides of an issue. I call it like I see it. I can admit it when I’m wrong. But these should all be essential job qualifications, for a professional journalist – and I take that job very seriously.
If you want to know Elon Musk’s motives for his attempt to acquire Twitter, here’s a direct quote: “my strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization. I don’t care about the economics [of it], at all.” Musk is not a Democrat. He is not a Republican. He, also, does not “identify” with either political party, though his views align more with the ‘right’ than the ‘left’. Musk is a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” – in other words, he believes in the importance of upholding the Constitution – even though he was born in another country. Musk has also said that having a platform for free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. This motive seems pretty straightforward and simple. Yet still, critics have continued to question it, with endless speculation on the many “nasty hidden agendas” he may have in store for us.
Twitter is a very ‘culturally different’ environment than what Musk is accustomed to. The board has many people in leadership who oppose Musk’s “unsolicited” offer to buy and take over the company. There have been various theoretical reasons cited for this, but one thing has become abundantly clear: the views of Chairman Bret Taylor and CEO Parag Agrawal don’t ‘mesh well’ with Musk’s, and these current leaders are in great fear of change. In truth, the only people this move should be troublesome for, are the ones doing the censoring! This couldn’t be more obvious. In fact, the more it’s resisted, the more alarming it becomes. Therefore, the motive on Twitter’s end appears to be to control speech. And before you say anything, this is not an ‘opinion’ – as you will soon find out.
The one thing I found that is absolutely factual, is a direct quote from their current CEO, Parag Agrawal. It is nothing short of revelatory: “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy conversation, and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier conversation. The kinds of things that we do about this are, we focus less on thinking about free speech, and more on thinking about how the times have changed.”
Wow. I don’t know about you, but I find this statement to be both stunningly shocking and deeply offensive. It has now become abundantly and irrefutably clear: Twitter’s CEO has exactly zero interest in protecting free speech. In fact, quite the contrary. It is now 100% safe to say, they instead want to control our speech.
I’m clueless as to when it occurred, but somehow Twitter’s board of directors has superseded even the U.S. Constitution.
Nevertheless, their perspective is that they believe they can best control the type of conversations we are permitted to have within a public forum – and not Musk – free speech be damned. Times have changed, after all.
The fact is, Elon Musk sees that this would be extremely problematic, which is the reason he’s doing this. Whether you love him or hate him, here’s his perspective in a quote: “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.” Musk freely admits he doesn’t have all the answers, says he’s open to suggestions and says the platform won’t be perfect. A quote from Adam Sharp, Twitter’s former head of news, government, and elections, says: “But what happens after he opens the town square? Then, he doesn’t have to listen to anyone, and he can stand in the middle and do what he wants.” Heaven forbid!
One of the biggest changes Musk wants to make is opening up Twitter’s algorithm for public scrutiny, to make completely transparent any “behind the scenes meddling” done to any Tweets, as well as to make suggestions for improving it. He described in his TED interview the way to determine if free speech is functioning, is if someone you don’t like can say something you don’t agree with, then free speech is indeed functioning the way it’s supposed to.
In America, the kind of narrative control we’re discussing is called censorship and is almost always accompanied by propaganda. This is not what living in a ‘free’ country looks like. Instead, this is very similar to the view the Communist party has adopted in China, and Putin in Russia. Is this what we have to look forward to in our future – coming much sooner than we could have imagined? This is most definitely not some “right-wing conspiracy” statement – this is the reality.
There has been plenty of speculation from both sides, with people who are against the move, saying, “the price is too low” or “where will he get the financing?” and even, “the price [$54.20/share] is a reference to weed,” because of the 4-20 part. (Really?!?) Others are frightened by Musk’s unpredictability and fear that Twitter will just be a distraction from “more important business matters” – namely, Tesla’s shareholders. Still, others are contemplating what else Musk could do with that $43 billion dollars – as if it’s anyone else’s business what he does with his money. What else could we be doing with our time?
As a journalist working for an independent news source, this particular issue deeply concerns me. The reason it’s so important is if we allow this Constitutional right to be effectively taken away, life as we know it will drastically change in an unequivocally negative way. This, I cannot overstate. It is already happening everywhere, especially among the tech giants that we continue to flock to. Mainstream media has been proven to have an obviously biased agenda time and time again, yet we still listen.
It’s not about whether Musk is successful in his Twitter acquisition; even I could care less about that. It is just the latest public example of what is really happening behind the scenes. Also, for the record, I want to be clear: this is not a ‘pro-Musk’ piece – this is a ‘pro-free speech’ piece. Musk just happens to be on the side of freedom, in this story.
For my final question, I would ask, what could be more important than our freedom of expression – indeed, the freedom of speech in America? Have we all truly forgotten the importance of this FIRST Amendment right? To best sum up my point here, I leave you with a final quote: “We’re about to find out how deep the corruption goes.” David Sacks, venture capital firm Craft Ventures co-founder, via Twitter. “Indeed,” Musk replied. Indeed.
Rochelle Harris is a passionate writer originally from Phoenix, AZ. who credits her success to integrity and determination. She has a great sense of humor, loves music and her family, and writes fiction and poetry in her spare time. She is excited about the New York experience and lifestyle! Follow Rochelle on Twitter at @LinguisticAnRky or get in touch at [email protected]