"There had better not be a scandal involving Elon Musk," I told Eva a few years ago. "Elongate would be really long and drawn out."
Little did I know.
I had a Twitter account, once. It sat mostly dormant for a year before it died a redundant death. Everything on Twitter is already on Facebook (and Reddit, and Instagram, and TikTok, and Christ only knows how many other places. My understanding is that Twitter no longer limits you to 140 characters, but the interface still feels limiting: often on Facebook I'll find reposted Twitter threads of ten or twenty "pages" that could have fit on two or three screens.
There was a time -- not all that long ago -- when I might have embraced the realtime rush of Twitter. Endless streams and reams of information to digest, endless curiosities to satisfy. I no longer feel this way for two reasons. One: I've already nearly drowned in a septic tank once in my life. Two: Heinlein's Crazy Years are upon us with a vengeance. Even dipping a toe in the crazy gives you toe insanity, and that metastasizes through your bloodstream in a hell of a hurry.
Speaking of Robert A. Heinlein....
I don't agree with everything that man thought, not by a long shot. But he forces you to think to refute him, and I'm very much convinced that was his real goal. Politically, Heinlein is very complicated and misunderstood: in his younger years he embraced social credit ("For Us, The Living" isn't so much a novel as it is a manifesto), but as he aged he became more and more libertarian. Heinlein believed in, and lived, a personal morality that superseded rules and laws where it suited him. Where he very much differed from today's legions of people who do the same thing: Heinlein took every responsibility for his words, his actions, and their outcomes, and he was a fierce advocate for the same in everyone.
I am far from the first to notice the parallels between Elon Musk and D.D. Harriman, "The Man Who Sold The Moon". Like Harriman, Musk believes humanity is "destined" for the stars. Like Harriman, Musk is obscenely wealthy, has dozens of irons in a gross of fires, and comes across as brash, cocky and arrogant. And further, like Harriman, Musk is not just unafraid, but oblivious of how many toes he steps on to achieve his vision. Elon's Moon is Mars, and he said in 2018 that there was a "70% probability" he'd get to live there himself.
Elon Musk considers himself benign. Most people do think of themselves that way. His ideals are...idealistic, extremely so, and not to belabour the point but time is growing mighty short. And in my opinion, everything he is up to is ass-backwards.
Musk is a techno-utopian. He fervently believes in all the sf tropes; uploaded consciousness, cyborgs, virtual reality, and so forth. I, quite frankly, do not. Where Musk is transhumanist, I am simply humanist. I believe technology has a place: I also believe (and much more strongly) that we have allowed technology far too much of a place. Given the choice, I would rather connect to the warmth of a human being than a cold machine. Musk would have us all half-machine.
Twitter is his latest $44 billion plaything.
I read once about an avid videogamer who found a bug in his favourite game. It bothered him so much he got a job with the software developer, fixed the bug on his first day of work, and then immediately quit. I feel like that's more or less what Elon's up to with Twitter, except the bug he's removing is what I would consider not just a feature, but a failsafe.
Twitter was the first company to take action against the former U.S. President. I give it scant credit for that, because that thing's account should have been permanently banned in 2015, not 2020. (Sometime around 2018, a man got an account on Twitter and simply retweeted every one of the President's tweets. The account was banned within 72 hours.) But scant credit is still credit: Twitter did what absolutely had to be done.
Elon Musk doesn't see it that way. He believes all voices should be welcome, "no matter what". I'd suggest he can't be serious: does he mean to turn Twitter into the dark web, a tangle of child exploitation, snuff videos, dens of white supremacy and such? Surely not. But he insists on framing it as "free speech" and I have to tell you, it makes me see red.
Musk once personally cancelled a Tesla order because the orderer had been rude to him. He routinely fires people on the spot for disagreeing, or not agreeing enthusiastically enough. Free speech, my left butt cheek. What he means by "free speech" is the same thing everyone else with his power means: enabling my narrative and cancelling yours.
Let's think about some of the narratives taken as fact by many people around the world. Democrats stole the 2020 election. They are Satanic baby-eaters. (Yes, that is a core QAnon tenet!) Ukraine is full of Nazis busily destroying their own country and blaming Russia for it. So-called "nonbinary" people are mentally ill. Mickey Mouse is teaching your child what "fisting" is. Justin Trudeau is a fascist dictator (!) who, somehow, is also too cowardly to show his face to people who want him dead. The covid vaccine gives you cancer. Climate change is a liberal hoax.
This stuff pours out of millions of bottomless wells already as it is, and now Musk says it should infect the largest social media platform in the Western world?
(I wonder how Musk is going to get around the EU Digital Services Act, which mandates stiff moderation against hate speech as a condition of doing business on the continent. In this as in most things, Europe has it right.)
I used to think, when I was a young and hopeless naïf, that all viewpoints deserved a full airing and through critical thinking and education (snort) the truth would prevail. What can I say, I was full of shit. Critical thinking has gone the way of the dodo and I'm astonished daily by the number of people calmly spouting bullshit they learned the truth about in FUCKING GRADE SCHOOL.
What happens online never stays there. I am very frightened of the future.