Looks Like Censorship
With DeSantis set to announce his run on Twitter live tomorrow accompanied by Musk, can’t help but feel you might be right.
I think Musk is, objectively, an idiot, and I enjoy and appreciate your writing here, and I am with only a few exceptions a very strong left-liberal type. But I thought you slid past something important when you described the right as “fantasizing” about woke totalitarianism right before you went on to compare your own experience with those under a totalitarian state. I think it’s worth wondering whether everyone banned from Twitter under the old regime really was as bad as you might imagine, or whether they too might have been expressing relatively mainstream views in a way that seemed reasonable, and suddenly found themselves cut off, leaving the same impression on them as you received.
I know that’s true of a large number of gender critical users, most of whom were not right-wing at all, because there was at least one thread after Musk reinstated many users in which people who had been banned (or suspended pending removal of content) shared the triggering posts, and whether or not you agreed with them, I think it would be hard to make a good faith case for most of them that they were abusive or harmful. And yet they had that experience you did of finding their ability to participate in a discussion abruptly blocked by an anonymous censor. Conform or leave.
None of this is the end of the world. It’s just to say it’s worth thinking about how that experience was for others in the pre-Musk era.
FWIW I agree with other commenters that the amount of useful content on Twitter has been plummeting and the platform is increasingly unreliable, so maybe you’re not missing much.
Fact: Can’t be a toxic narcissistic endemic liar and free speech absolutionist. It’s one or the other.
I deleted my main Twitter account in December when the flap around @elonjet and his pissing on journalists reporting, but I did keep my account that I used to promote my niche-y product management Substack. When Musk got into a pissing match with Substack and shut down the API access for automates sharing, and actively blocking Substack links, I logged in for a few days to see what Twitter had become.
My feed was flooded with OnlyFans and soft porn posts by the paid blue checks, and a ton of completely bogus ads that made no sense.
Looking at traffic sources over the last 6 months, I noticed that Twitter pretty much stopped being a source for visits since late December, tailing off to 0 in February or so.
I deleted that dedicated account and will never look back. It was a good run, and I will miss the product management community that I had cultivated there, but frankly, I do not miss it.
Musk has done one good thing, he has cured me of my addiction to the last Social Media that I participated, Twitter.
They are so thin-skinned, that little trio you named.
Under Musk, Twitter is an explicitly right-wing, even far right, space, and your presence there, as well as that of other leftists, is a nuisance for him. It's also a means for him to promote himself, his allies and favored ideology, even though his desire to be a celebrity has revealed enough of his personality and politics to make him look far less appealing. Imagine Peter Thiel hosting SNL! (Maybe he'll get a cameo in Dasha Nekrasova's next film.)
When Musk said he was going to buy Twitter, it was clear that, in a certain way, Twitter has a very undefined value over and above its value to sell advertising. 1) It’s a propaganda outlet par excellence. It played a significant role in Trump’s win. 2) It’s a tremendously valuable source of intelligence for national governments, particularly those who want to oppress their own people. 3) It once had value as a political organizing tool but I think perhaps this is from the past given how it coordinated with national governments even before the Musk takeover...and now he would sell any organizers to the highest better. I don’t know how this all translates into economic value eventually but of course people use their money to do what Twitter does--which is influence societies, markets, and other things so Twitter is endlessly valuable --just a shortcut to propaganda. He can let whichever trolls and bots he favors roam free and suppress ideas which are not favorable to him.
It’s somewhat ironic then that Musk’s actions on Twitter had such a damaging effect on his public persona. He could be a bit enigmatic, keep a bit of that very unearned genius cred, and of course this helped pump stock prices. (The market cap on Tesla remains absurd. Is there any explanation for this whatsoever?) Certainly you’ve been a very effective critic of Musk and he hasn’t been unwilling to silence his critics on Twitter or cause problems for any accounts that get under his skin.
This makes me think though that people should raise a stink about your account being blocked. I don’t have enough followers on Twitter to be very effective. This makes me ANGRY, honestly.
I don’t think it is a good practice for people when they see there is absolutely stupid bullshit that has harmful effects to say ‘oh these people are like that.’ I think we should always make it harder to be like that. There’s nothing illegal about Musk using his company to silence all critics of himself or the ideology he favors but people should speak out about that when they have the opportunity. There’s no reason to help him appear harmless when in fact what he is doing and what he will do in the future is extremely harmful and this is one example of how he abuses power and how he will be a harmful agent in elections and the dissemination of information in the future.
He’s letting Nazis run free and knocking out an account that criticizes fascists and fascism. He really should be called out for this. I really doubt this was a genuine violation of ‘terms of service’ given the arbitrary way this is thrown around. I don’t think anyone should do the work of finding the technical foul given the accounts he lets roam free.
If you got Matt Yglesias to advocate for you I’m sure you could get reinstated.
Any chance it has something to do with jokingly tweeting one of those weird password replies?
This is wild stuff. I know its remarked upon often but this seems like the absolute saddest way to live your life if you're a multi-billionaire. Of course, part of how you become a multi-billionaire is by being a abnormally obsessed about shit you'd be better off ignoring but still.
I've had three content flags from Twitter, all linked to retweets of NEXTA or WarTranslated news on the war in Ukraine. Wrote in defense to no reply. I retweeted yours on the armed Maryland sentinel at the school bus and wasn't flagged. Figured your ban was related to your effectiveness/voice. May irk the folks who make decisions.
The incomparable Charlie Warzel called it in his Galaxy Brain newsletter for the Atlantic. Twitter Is a Far-Right Social Network:
Just like what John wrote about that the tech aristocracy has gained self-awareness and seeks to dominate the social media consciousness.
John, you should wear your Twitter ban as a badge of honor.
Whether or not the ban was warranted is beside the point. Twitter is what it has become, there's no going back. There's no going forward, either. We can't just pretend that if Elmo goes away and if Twitter is restored to what it was, the current nightmare will just go away.
In a sense of poetic irony, this ban probably wasn't because of incompetence of Twitter as an organization or even the capriciousness of its leadership. The ban was intentional, as you may suspect. That's a good thing because Elon Musk cares about your opinions enough to silence you because you say things he wants left unsaid.
How important is it to be on twitter as a writer? How many people encounter you on twitter (either directly or by reference) and then come to substack to read your work? What stranglehold does twitter have on substack writers?
"Nice little writing career you've got going here. Be a shame if anything happened to it."
My modest contribution