A year after being named Time magazine’s person of the year, Elon Musk is attempting to acquire Twitter.
To listen to Musk’s critics, you’d believe it’s an act almost on par with Hitler invading Poland not long after being named Time’s man of the year in 1938.
A writer for the left-wing website Salon worried that a Musk takeover of Twitter would enable fascism in America. A New York University journalism professor lamented that posting on Twitter with the threat of Musk looming feels like partying at a Berlin nightclub “at the twilight of Weimar Germany.” Former Labor secretary Robert Reich warned, “This is what oligarchy looks like.” And so on.
A report for the news site Axios compared Musk to “a movie super-villain,” and related — accurately — that journalists who break news and opine on Twitter “really don’t want to be working in Elon Musk’s private playpen.”
No, they much prefer to be working in a playpen whose ever-shifting rules — constantly changing to keep up with the latest progressive priorities — are written by the kind of people who thought the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop should have been suppressed.
In their eyes, Elon Musk is guilty of a thought crime — namely, believing that thought should be free, and should be freely expressed on a social media platform with outsize influence on the nation’s public life.
Not too long ago, this would have been considered a core American belief, especially welcome to journalists whose work depends on the First Amendment. That was before content moderation, weaponized against one side of the political spectrum, supposedly became the thin line protecting American democracy from the onset of misinformation-driven dictatorship.
Who knew that so much could depend on policing what pronouns apply to trans people or cracking down on users who believed in the lab-leak theory early in the pandemic?
Musk presents a clear and present danger to the use of Twitter as a one-sided instrument to impose progressive rules on the public debate.
From one point of view, Twitter should be beneath him. In contrast to many other Silicon Valley giants, Musk has focused on creating revolutionary physical products in the real world, whether electric cars or rockets. Transforming the American space program makes figuring out a better way for people to share their opinions 280 characters at time seem quite puny in comparison.
Musk is firmly in the tradition of great American entrepreneurs whose audacious vision, business acumen, and showmanship have made them larger-than-life celebrities. Think Thomas Edison.
They have usually been willing to think for themselves, a quality now in short supply.
In today’s America, world famous entrepreneurs and the companies that they’ve created, which are supposed to be all about innovation and disruption, happily let themselves get pulled along in the slipstream of progressive group think.
Companies built on great risks are deathly afraid that they might have to weather a critical hashtag or a tantrum by their woke millennial employees.
People who would presumably object to the government telling them what to say and think are too willing to let free-floating social media mobs effectively dictate to them.
Musk, a kind of libertarian who has a puckish sense of humor and willingness to defy authority (just ask the SEC), rejects this thoughtless and often cowardly conformity.
Like podcaster Joe Rogan, another recent target of progressive ire, his fundamental offense is being uncategorizable and willing to question conventional wisdom. Like Dave Chapelle and J.K. Rowling, he is too rich and famous to be canceled or cowed — to be more precise, he’s the richest man in the world who enjoys a public fight and genuinely disdains the censors and scolds.
All of this makes him a very dangerous man indeed, and perhaps just the guy to make the statement against intimidation and in favor of free speech that this moment so desperately needs.
Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.