If there’s one tweet that may inform you all the things that you must find out about Elon Musk, it’s this one from early this morning:
My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 11, 2022
In 5 phrases, Musk manages to mock transgender and nonbinary folks, sign his disdain for public-health officers, and ship up a flare to far-right shitposters and trolls. The tweet is a merciless and mindless play on pronouns that additionally invokes the proper’s fury towards Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, for what they imagine is a authorities overreach in public-health coverage all through the pandemic and an obfuscation of the coronavirus’s origins. (Fauci, for his half, has mentioned he would cooperate with any doable investigations and has nothing to cover.)
Past its stark cruelty, this tweet is extremely thirsty. As right-wing troll memes go, it’s Dad-level, 4chan–Clark Griswold stuff, which is to say it’s determined engagement bait within the hopes of attracting kudos from the one influencers who give Musk the time of day anymore: right-wing shock jocks. However that’s the correct firm for the billionaire, as a result of whether or not or not he needs to confess it, Musk is actively aiding the far proper’s political undertaking. He’s a right-wing activist.
Presently, Musk’s politics are a topic of debate within the press. On Saturday, The New York Occasions’ Jeremy W. Peters tried to supply a nuanced portrait of the Twitter proprietor’s ideologies, arguing that Musk “continues to defy simple political categorization.” However Peters’ laundry listing of Musk’s latest lib-trolling and “woke” scolding—equivalent to Musk’s November advice to his hundreds of thousands of followers to vote Republican—undermines the very thesis of the article. The nuance Peters is on the lookout for doesn’t exist: Musk’s actions and associations make a transparent case that he’s a right-wing reactionary.
Musk, for his half, has maintained that he’s a centrist, that his politics have remained unchanged, and that it’s the Democratic Social gathering that has veered dramatically leftward. (Musk and Twitter didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.) Musk’s logic—that wayward leftism has given a lifelong reasonable liberal no alternative however to assist right-wing causes—is a standard trope amongst far-right activists. It has been employed by many within the so-called Mental Darkish Internet and influencers equivalent to Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Glenn Greenwald, and others. The argument stretches far again in American politics. The neoconservative motion in america was originated by liberals who grew disillusioned with the Democratic Social gathering, particularly in relation to the left’s Vietnam protests.
Past Musk’s political affiliations, his precise political convictions—by which I imply the bedrock set of values, ideologies, and organizing ideas by which he sees the world and needs it to be structured—are a barely completely different dialog. Right here, I are likely to agree with The Verge’s Liz Lopatto, who wrote not too long ago that Musk doesn’t actually have political opinions, solely private pursuits. However one can have vapid or nonexistent political opinions and nonetheless be a political activist. Political activism is about actions. Right here’s what these actions appear to be in follow:
I’m gratified for the reinstatement of my account on Twitter and am grateful to @ElonMusk for his dedication to equity and free speech.
God Bless America and thanks, Jesus.
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) December 7, 2022
I affirm your pronouns Elon.
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (@RepMTG) December 11, 2022
Publicly, Musk seems deeply dedicated to the proper’s tradition warfare in opposition to progressivism in most types. His buy of Twitter was an explicitly political act couched within the notion of preserving free speech. However Musk’s notion of free speech is a broad course correction that entails amplifying and advancing the pursuits of right-wing reactionaries whereas trolling the left. Musk would possibly argue that that is restoring steadiness to the system, but when we’re judging based mostly solely on actions and outcomes, it is vitally arduous to see his tenure at Twitter as something apart from a collection of insurance policies meant to profit a specific ideology.
Musk additionally merely loves palling round with far-right influencers on Twitter. A scroll by his Twitter replies is a somewhat outstanding doc of a person who has (or at least had) extra money than any human being within the historical past of humanity, a good quantity of energy, and an infinite provide of choices for easy methods to spend his time, and who chooses to spend his time as a reply man for distinguished MAGA voices, equivalent to a consumer who goes by the deal with @catturd2 and Turning Factors USA’s Charlie Kirk.
Similarly, Musk’s “Twitter Information” undertaking, for which he has been releasing Twitter’s previous inner paperwork regarding controversial content-moderation selections to unbiased journalists, is an consideration spectacle dressed up within the fashion of investigative journalism designed to thrill Musk’s Twitter buddies. As I wrote on Friday, a few of the inner conversations and screenshots from Musk’s firm are fascinating paperwork that make clear the intractable downside of content material moderation at scale. However they’re offered in a blatantly partisan and deceptive method, and have been launched solely to journalists who share Musk’s pet ideological points: that the mainstream media is ethically bankrupt, that social media and most elite establishments are biased and colluding with the federal government.
The hypocrisy on the heart of Musk’s Twitter tenure is essential to the understanding of Musk’s political activism. He has championed beliefs of free-speech maximalism and amnesty to those that’ve offended his guidelines. Twitter, below his administration, has let again on organizers of the Unite the Proper rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; neo-Nazis equivalent to Andrew Anglin; and January 6–investigation personalities equivalent to Roger Stone. On the similar time, Twitter has suspended accounts which have mocked Musk or expressed left-leaning views. Whether or not deliberately or not, Musk has, in impact, been governing Twitter utilizing the basic Frank Wilhoit maxim: “Conservatism consists of precisely one proposition, to wit: There should be in-groups whom the regulation protects however doesn’t bind, alongside out-groups whom the regulation binds however doesn’t shield.” Put in another way, the billionaire has been advancing a long-running right-wing political undertaking described not too long ago by my colleague Adam Serwer as a “perception in a brand new constitutional proper. Most essential, this new proper supersedes the free-speech rights of everybody else: the conservative proper to put up.”
Why is Musk doing all of this? The reply is fairly easy. Musk’s far-right activism clearly appears to be, like all else in his life, personally motivated, not by a powerful political ideology or worth system however, as Lopatto argues, by the buildup of cash and “being perceived as a visionary who will reshape human society.” Musk is all in favour of preserving the political values and techniques that preserve him on prime as a revered member of tradition. It’s a philosophy that the author John Ganz has described as “bossism” or “bosses on prime.” For Musk, right-wing activism serves that function. Musk’s tweets—like his dismissive tweet this morning, or his regarding insinuations that, maybe, his former trust-and-safety workers didn’t cease child-exploitation posts for motivated causes—are merciless for the shallowest causes: as a result of they’re possible to attract engagement to the platform that Musk has plunged into monetary uncertainty, because of each his piling on of debt and his alienation of advertisers.
However whilst a far-right shitposter, Musk is hapless. Not like someone equivalent to Donald Trump, who stays the Twitter troll template, Musk is a try-hard. And though the Twitter shock jocks will fortunately lap him up as a result of he triggers the libs and serves their functions, Musk continues to be seen as a dilettante by the inveterate shitposters and bigots. Over on 4chan, the far-right message board, Musk’s Fauci tweet barely merited dialogue. “Elon is simply being controversial to drive visitors to his web site,” one poster mused. Even in his thirsty makes an attempt to be an edgelord, Musk is failing to be something apart from cringey.