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Monday, December 09, 2019

Wealth

Elon Musk

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After The Wall Street Journalreported that billionaire Elon Musk proposed to Twitter that he buy the company at his original offer of roughly $44 billion — following months of his attempts to back out of the deal, resulting in a recent lawsuit — many right-wing media personalities celebrated the news and expressed hope that banned users would be allowed back on the social media platform.

In a statement released in response to the reported acquisition, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone warned that under Musk’s ownership, Twitter “will become a supercharged engine of radicalization if he follows through with even a fraction of what he has promised.” Musk had “made it clear that he would roll back Twitter’s community standards and safety guidelines, reinstate Donald Trump along with scores of other accounts suspended for violence and abuse, and open the floodgates of disinformation,” he said. NBC online disinformation reporter Ben Collins offered similar warnings in a short Twitter thread, stating that “it could actually affect midterms” because Musk “can elevate any idea or person he wants through recommendations and UX [user experience] choices and there will be no oversight on this as a private company.”

When the purchase deal was first announced in late April, there was excitement among right-wing figures banned from Twitter for violating its terms of service and on right-leaning Facebook pages. Anti-trans figures celebrated by expressing increasing bigotry on the platform in violation of its rules against hateful conduct. Fox News hosts were also ecstatic, with some advising Musk to fire everyone at Twitter while pushing the fake narrative that the platform censors conservatives. (According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, Musk has often opposed transparency at Tesla and quashed his employees’ freedom of speech.)

Now, right-wing media and extremists are once again celebrating Musk for moving forward with his offer to buy Twitter. They’re especially expressing excitement about the likelihood that Musk would return disgraced former President Donald Trump to the platform, from which he has been banned since inciting violence surrounding the January 6 attempt to overthrow the government. He continues to spread inciting rhetoric, recently against law enforcement.

Some right-wing media figures expressed glee about Musk’s Twitter deal

  • Former Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitanosaid that Musk’s Twitter acquisition would be a “great gift to the American people.”
  • Fox Nation host Tammy Bruceexpressed relief that Musk’s deal to buy Twitter had been rekindled: “As long as he gets it that’s all that matters.”
  • Fox host Dan Bonginospeculated that Musk would “own the libs at Twitter,” and he bid his audience to “enjoy every second.”
  • On his Telegram channel, Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexandersuggested he might be back on Twitter if the Musk deal goes through and said that “firing bad Twitter staff” and allowing every bad actor who has been banned from the platform back on “makes PEACE more probable.”
  • The right-wing political organization Project Veritas — which specializes in "sting" operations aimed at smearing its perceived political opponents — used Musk’s takeover as an opportunity to solicit emails from whistleblowers to “restore trust in Twitter.”
  • On the Great Awakening message board, which is associated with the QAnon community conspiracy theory, users agreed that Musk had played Twitter “like a f**kin fiddle.” As one top commenter ominously wrote: “They're so screwed without the commie censorship crew.”
  • Users on the pro-Trump message board The Donaldsuggested that Twitter is a “MASSIVE democrat bot farm” and that Democrats “won’t be happy” about losing their “psyop, programming machine.”

Other right-wing figures speculated that Musk’s Twitter acquisition will open the floodgates for “free speech”

  • Fox Business reporter Lauren Simonettispeculated that the Musk deal could be positive for Twitter users if he “makes these changes that are more supportive of free speech.”
  • Newsmax host Greg Kellysuggested that Musk might bring Trump back on the platform and said that “we should be able to say whatever the hell it is we want to say.”
  • Newsmax anchor Bob Sellerscommented that the deal “could have a political effect” and Musk might “allow things other people would not have” on Twitter.
  • Conservative media watchdog Newsbusterspublished an article titled “Free Speech Wins, Libs Have Epic Meltdown Over Musk Deal.” On Twitter, the organization’s founder, Brent Bozzell, said that he hoped the deal would go through “for the sake of free speech.”
  • Frequent Fox guest Glenn Greenwald said that the “hysteria” over Musk’s Twitter acquisition derived from liberals' fear that “Musk will stop censoring their adversaries.”
  • On his radio show, Outkick.com founder and frequent Fox News guest Clay Travissaid the deal was a big win for “those of us who want to be able to share our actual opinions on social media.” Meanwhile, Outkick.com published an article praising the deal as “a tremendous win for freedom of speech.”
  • In a Twitter thread, right-wing provocateur Christopher Rufosingled out Media Matters and others for reporting on disinformation and prescribed that Musk “should protect independent voices against the false, manipulative, and destructive game of these ‘disinformation reporters’” upon seizing the company’s reins.
  • On Facebook, right-wing advocacy groupPragerUattributed a quote to Musk bashing “wokeness” as “a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue.” The post racked up over 100,000 interactions.
  • On Truth Social, right-wing filmmaker and conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souzasaid that Democrats are “terrified by the prospect that under Elon musk, Twitter might again become a genuine free speech platform.” On Twitter, D’Souza speculated that his own following on the platform might double “to around 5 million.”
  • Former One America News Network host Liz Wheelerteased that she might voice opinions about elections, COVID-19, or trans people as a “first tweet on FREE SPEECH Twitter” once Musk takes over.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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Queen Elizabeth II

As a person whose eight great-grandparents were born in Ireland, my enthusiasm for British royalty is rather limited.

Irish Times columnist Patrick Freyne may have put it most succinctly: “Having a monarchy next door” he wrote in 2021, “is a little like having a neighbor who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window, and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbor who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”

That said, I never took it personally. I’d pretty much overdosed on ethnic nationalism by age 12 or thereabouts, tired of being told there was a proper“Irish” opinion on every imaginable topic, and that it agreed with my maternal grandfather’s. I don’t recall how he answered when I asked why he spent so much time talking about a foreign country he’d never visited. It was a rhetorical question. Many of my classmates at school had grandparents with one foot in the Old Country — Ireland, Italy, Poland, wherever. We were American kids.

Even so, at our wedding, to give you some idea, my mother demanded to know of Diane’s family, “What nationality are you people, anyway?” (Louisiana French.) They were flabbergasted. Indeed, my wife was never forgiven for not being named Ginger O’Grady. But that was nothing to do with me.

But no, I never held all that sad history against Queen Elizabeth. So her ancestors caused mine to die of famine. Nothing she personally could have done about it. Insofar as I could tell, she played the hand she was dealt with grace and dignity. Even back when she was Princess Elizabeth, driving ambulances during the London Blitz and giving radio pep talks to British children.
She reigned a very long time.

Out of curiosity, I checked the front page of the Irish Times on the day she died. The lead story was the arrival in Dublin of country singer Garth Brooks for a series of shows. He’s hugely popular there; the Irish love ballads. The queen’s death was relegated to the bottom of the page. Coverage was respectful, but muted, in contrast to the worshipful spectacle on American TV.

No matter. What the English have given us — Irish, American, Canadian,Australian, Indian, et al.— is their language: The language of Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Austen, Tolkien and Orwell. Also of Jefferson, Twain, Joyce Carol Oates, andTa-Nehisi Coates. If you love books, you’re pretty much an Anglophile, as I certainly am.

My English friends vary from stridently anti-monarchist to mildly sarcastic about the Royal Family. “It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true,” Orwell wrote in 1941, “that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save the King than of stealing from a poorbox.”

“Unquestionably,” indeed.

“Bloody royals,” snarls my friend Lawrence from his garden on the Isle of Wight. Useless parasites all, he insists. He even quarrels with my observation that Duchess Kate is terribly beautiful. Too scrawny, he thinks. He’d surely agree withTwain’s suggestion that they be replaced with a family of cats.

“They would be as useful as any other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues and the same treacheries,” Twain wrote, “they would be laughable, vain, and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive, finally, they would have as sound a divine right as any other royal house.”

Indeed, millions around the world find themselves riveted by the ongoing soap opera that is the Royal Family. All those castles, all the tiaras and crowns, and the Queen’s kin are every bit as crazy as your own: complete with racist
grandad, adulterous uncle, his doomed, betrayed wife, a second funny uncle with a lech for underaged girls, not to mention grandson’s preening, Drama Queen wife…

The British royals behave every bit as badly as the inhabitants of any Arkansas trailer park or New Jersey tenement. Millions derive great comfort from that.

Upon Queen Elizabeth taking the throne in 1952, Churchill described the monarchy as“the magic link, which unites our loosely bound but strongly interwoven commonwealth of nations.” If anything, she presided over its steady, inevitable demise. Born to the globe-spanning British Empire, she leaves her son and heir King Charles III pretty much all that’s left of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Even that may not last, leaving Charles ruler of a small island nation in the North Atlantic. Even so, Elizabeth left it better than she found it. Had I been born to her privileges and burdens, I’d also have chosen to spend my time on a country estate surrounded by dogs and horses, to all appearances the best of the lot.