Elon Musk Is a Far-Right Activist – Trending News Buzz
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If you only read one tweet about Elon Musk, it should be this one:
My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 11, 2022
Musk makes fun of transgender and nonbinary people, shows his disdain for public health officials, and sends a signal to shitposters and trolls on the far right, all in five words. The tweet is a cruel and pointless play on pronouns that also brings up the right’s anger at Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, for what they think is a government overreach in public-health policy during the pandemic and for hiding the origins of the coronavirus. Fauci, for his part, has said that he would help with any possible investigations and has nothing to hide.
Besides being very cruel, this tweet is also very thirsty. As far as right-wing troll memes go, it’s Dad-level, 4chan–Clark Griswold stuff, which means it’s desperate engagement bait to get praise from right-wing shock jocks, the only people who still pay attention to Musk. But Musk should work for that company because, whether he wants to admit it or not, he is actively helping the political project of the far right. He works for the right side.
At the moment, the press talks about Musk’s political views. On Saturday, Jeremy W. Peters of The New York Times tried to give a more nuanced picture of Elon Musk’s political views by saying that Musk “continues to defy easy political categorization.” But Peters’ long list of Musk’s recent lib-trolling and “woke” scolding, like when Musk told his millions of followers in November to vote Republican, takes away from the article’s main point. Peters is looking for a grey area, but there isn’t one. Musk’s actions and friends show that he is a right-wing reactionary.
Musk, on the other hand, has said that he is a moderate, that his politics haven’t changed, and that the Democratic Party has moved a lot to the left. (Musk and Twitter didn’t answer our request for comment right away.) Far-right activists often use the same argument as Musk, which is that a lifelong moderate liberal has no choice but to support right-wing causes because the left has gone too far. Many people on the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web” and influential people like Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Glenn Greenwald, and others have used it. This fight has been going on for a long time in American politics. In the United States, the neoconservative movement was started by liberals who were unhappy with the Democratic Party, especially because of the left’s protests against the war in Vietnam.
Aside from Musk’s political affiliations, a different conversation needs to be had about his actual political convictions. By this, I mean the core set of values, ideologies, and organising principles through which he sees the world and wants it to be structured. In this case, I tend to agree with Liz Lopatto of The Verge, who recently wrote that Musk doesn’t really have political beliefs, just personal interests. But you can be a political activist even if you don’t have any political beliefs or if they aren’t very strong. Activism in politics is about doing things. Here’s how those steps work in real life:
I’m glad that my Twitter account was turned back on, and I’m thankful to @ElonMusk for his commitment to fairness and freedom of speech.
God Bless America and thank you, Jesus.
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) December 7, 2022
I affirm your pronouns Elon.
— Marjorie Taylor Greene, U.S. Representative (@RepMTG), December 11, 2022
From the outside, Musk seems very committed to the right’s “culture war” against most forms of progressivism. His purchase of Twitter was a clear political move that was framed as a way to protect free speech. But Musk’s idea of free speech is a big course correction that involves making the voices of right-wing reactionaries louder and more important while trolling the left. Musk might say that this is bringing the system back into balance, but if we only look at actions and results, it is hard to see his time at Twitter as anything other than a set of policies meant to help a certain ideology.
Musk also loves to hang out on Twitter with influential people on the far right. Scrolling through his Twitter replies is a pretty interesting look at a man who has (or at least has had) more money than anyone else in the history of the world, a fair amount of power, and an infinite number of ways to spend his time, but chooses to spend it as a reply guy for prominent MAGA voices like @catturd2 and Charlie Kirk of Turning Points USA.
In a similar way, Musk’s “Twitter Files” project, in which he gives independent journalists old internal Twitter documents about controversial content-moderation decisions, is an attention-getting stunt dressed up as investigative journalism to please Musk’s Twitter friends. As I wrote on Friday, some of the internal conversations and screenshots from Musk’s company are fascinating documents that shed light on the impossible problem of content moderation at scale. But they are presented in a way that is clearly biassed and deceptive, and they have only been given to journalists who agree with Musk’s core beliefs, which are that the mainstream media has no morals and that social media and most elite institutions are biassed and working with the government.
Musk’s political activism is hard to understand if you don’t understand his hypocrisy on Twitter. He has supported the ideas of maximum free speech and amnesty for people who have broken his rules. Under his leadership, Twitter has turned its back on the people who planned the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as on neo-Nazis like Andrew Anglin and people who talk about the January 6 investigation, like Roger Stone. At the same time, Twitter has shut down accounts that made fun of Musk or said things that were on the left. Musk has, whether on purpose or not, been running Twitter by the classic Frank Wilhoit quote: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, and out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.” In other words, the billionaire has been pushing for a long-running right-wing political project that my colleague Adam Serwer recently called a “belief in a new constitutional right.” Most importantly, this new right, the conservative right to post, takes precedence over everyone else’s right to free speech.
Why does Musk do everything he does? The answer is pretty easy to figure out. Musk’s far-right activism, like everything else in his life, seems to be driven by his own personal goals, not by a strong political ideology or set of values, but by making money and “being seen as a visionary who will change human society,” says Lopatto. Musk wants to keep the political systems and values that have made him a respected member of society. It’s a philosophy that the writer John Ganz has described as “bossism” or “bosses on top.” For Musk, this is done by right-wing activism. Musk’s tweets, like this morning’s dismissive one or his worrying hints that maybe his former trust-and-safety employees didn’t stop child-exploitation posts because they didn’t want to, are cruel for the most trivial of reasons: they are likely to get people to use a platform that Musk has put in a financial bind by taking on more debt and losing advertisers.
But Musk is a loser even as a far-right troll. Musk is a try-hard, not like someone like Donald Trump, who is still the model Twitter troll. And even though the Twitter shock jocks will love him because he angers the liberals and serves their purposes, the regular shitposters and bigots still see him as a dabbler. Musk’s tweet about Fauci didn’t get much attention on the far-right message board 4chan. One poster thought, “Elon is just being controversial to get people to visit his website.” Musk can’t be anything but cringeworthy, even when he tries hard to be an edgelord.
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