“Be afraid, be actually afraid.” Those words from former Politico Magazine editor Garrett M. Graff captures the hyperventilation in the media this week. No it is not Vladimir Putin’s threat of unleashing a nuclear war or the word that our national debt has reached a staggering $31 trillion. No, it is the news that Elon Musk may go forward with the purchase of Twitter and . . . [trigger warning] . . . free speech protections might be restored on the platform. The pearl-clutching of various media and academic figures shows how engrained the censorship culture has become in the United States.
After Musk indicated that he was going forward, the Twitter stock quickly soared. The news that Musk might bring an end to Twitter’s extensive censorship system had previously drawn people back to the platform. However, the media is in full panic mode that the control over speech could be loosened with Musk. Twitter employees also previously panicked at the thought that they might lose some of their control over the speech of others.
NBC News reporter Ben Collins quickly raised the most immediate concern that the sudden ability to speak freely on Twitter could impact the midterm elections: “For those of you asking: Yes, I do think this site can and will change pretty dramatically if Musk gets full control over it. No, there is no immediate replacement. If it gets done early enough, based on the people he’s aligned with, yes, it could actually affect midterms.”
Consider that for a second: the loss of control over political speech could mean a loss of control over the midterm elections. There is, of course, no concern by Collins that Twitter (and other social media companies) have long been “aligned” with Democrats and the Biden Administration.
NPR editor Neela Banerjee retweeted and echoed his concern about “the broader implications for the rest of us of a Musk takeover of Twitter.” Others joined in on the collective panic that there could be a loss of control over what people say on social media.
BBC journalist Dickens Olewe warned that “Guardrails will be dropped, misinfo & conspiracy theories will thrive. No functional alternatives available, this is it: a complete destruction of the global public square. Been nice y’all.” In other words, free speech protections will lead to the destruction of “the global public square” by losing control of who can speak or what people can say.
PoliticusUSA head Sarah Reese Jones seemed to move from the desperate to the outright delusional: “Before 2020, Facebook deplatformed progressives, then it came for mainstream media and elevated only radicalized conservatives. Cut to 2022, we know Elon Musk plans to do same with Twitter. We know how damaging it will be.Tech giants pose ongoing threat to western democracy.”