The liberal assault on Elon Musk after he threatened to actually restore free speech on Twitter continues apace this week. One of the latest examples is an offering from Bloomberg from yesterday which basically amounts to the elementary school playground equivalent of, ‘I know you are but what am I?’ Dana Hull has done some digging into Musk’s history and crafted what appears to be an attempt to claim that while Musk is calling for free speech, he doesn’t practice what he preaches. She does admit that Elon Musk is one of the largest donors to the American Civil Liberties Union, but then goes on to suggest that he has “little tolerance for speech that’s unflattering to him.” Unfortunately for Bloomberg, nearly every example she cites is essentially the opposite of what she’s claiming.
If Elon Musk is able to take over Twitter Inc., his biggest promise is to transform it into a platform for free speech with few restrictions — something he calls “essential to a functioning democracy.” But Musk, who is famously sensitive to criticism, has a mixed record on championing the cause.
The 50-year-old billionaire has donated over $6 million to the American Civil Liberties Union in the last five years, making him one of its most substantial donors, and he’s discussed free speech on numerous occasions with the organization’s executive director. But in his tweets, public remarks and policies at the businesses he runs, Musk shows little tolerance for speech that’s unflattering to him or his companies, or reflects employee criticism of the workplace.
At Tesla Inc. and SpaceX, Musk has a long track record of silencing or punishing anyone who goes public with criticism of a project or practice. Workers must sign nondisclosure agreements and arbitration clauses that prevent them from taking their employer to court.
Let’s see what some of the alleged charges against Musk are. Hull notes that he uses his own Twitter account “to publicly mock others.” He definitely does that. Musk’s sense of humor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But that’s simply another example of Musk using his own right to free speech. It doesn’t “silence” anyone else. And if you don’t want to hear what he has to say you can always unfollow or mute him while remaining free to say whatever you like. (Unless it’s something liberals disagree with, in which case Twitter, not Musk, will probably silence you.)
Hull next accuses Musk of “publicly trashing” the reputation of a British cave diver who got into a public spat with the Tesla CEO in 2018 during the efforts to rescue 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand. Again, this was a case of the diver “speaking out” against Musk (calling his efforts to help “a PR stunt”) and Musk speaking in response. Nobody was silenced.
Also included in the list of charges is the case of Jack Sweeney, the teenager who had been running an account that tracked the movements of Musk’s private Jet. Musk offered the boy $5,000 to shut the account down. Seeney asked for $50,000. Elon refused. That was a failed business negotiation, not an example of anyone being silenced. And the account is still online today, though I don’t see any new posts since January.
Bloomberg veers away from social media in some examples, citing an employee who was fired for posting a YouTube video of his Tesla hitting a traffic cone while using some new autopilot software. You are free to disagree with Tesla’s management policies regarding posting corporate information on social media all you like. But the former employee was still free to complain about Musk to anyone who would listen and his YouTube account was not suspended. Again… nobody was silenced.
For a while, I found all of the desperate thrashing on the left to be entertaining, as liberals panicked over the idea of Musk taking over Twitter. But now it’s simply getting to be tedious. If Musk succeeds in his bid (which is still far from assured) and the result is that people see opinions that make them uncomfortable, don’t follow those people. Or find the mute function. I use it all the time. It’s really not that complicated. But if you or I or Elon Musk or anyone else mutes another user, we are not stopping them from speaking to whoever chooses to follow them. We’re simply electing to filter what we ourselves hear. When Twitter bans you, you fall completely silent in the social media world. There’s a huge difference between those two scenarios and it’s a difference that’s critical to this conversation.