Elon Musk Bets $44 Billion on Free Speech's Future
Musk’s purchase of Twitter has sealed his bond with the American right—whether the platform’s left-leaning employees and users like it or not.
Elon Musk's pursuit of Twitter Inc. began earlier this month as a joke. It started slowly, then spiraled out of control, culminating on April 25 with the world's richest man agreeing to spend $44 billion on one of the most politically significant technology companies ever. There have been bigger financial acquisitions, but Twitter's significance has always outpaced its balance sheet. This is a unique Silicon Valley deal.
To recap: Musk announced in early April that he had bought a stake in Twitter, citing the company's alleged suppression of free speech. His complaints were vague, relying heavily on the dog whistles of the ultra-right. A week later, he announced he'd buy the company for $54.20 per share, four days after initially pledging to join Twitter's board. Twitter's directors noticed the 420 reference as well, and responded with a “shareholder rights” plan (i.e., a poison pill) that included a 420 joke.
Musk - Patrick Pleul/Getty Images
No one knew if the bid was genuine. Musk's Twitter plans seemed implausible or insincere. In a tweet, he referred to automated accounts that use his name to promote cryptocurrency. He enraged his prospective employees by suggesting that Twitter's San Francisco headquarters be turned into a homeless shelter, renaming the company Titter, and expressing solidarity with his growing conservative fan base. “The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” he tweeted on April 19.
But Musk got funding, and after a frantic weekend of negotiations, Twitter said yes. Unlike most buyouts, Musk will personally fund the deal, putting up up to $21 billion in cash and borrowing another $12.5 billion against his Tesla stock.
Free Speech and Partisanship
Percentage of respondents who agree with the following
The deal is expected to replatform accounts that were banned by Twitter for harassing others, spreading misinformation, or inciting violence, such as former President Donald Trump's account. As a result, Musk is at odds with his own left-leaning employees, users, and advertisers, who would prefer more content moderation rather than less.
Dorsey - Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Previously, the company's leadership had similar issues. Founder Jack Dorsey stepped down last year amid concerns about slowing growth and product development, as well as his dual role as CEO of payments processor Block Inc. Compared to Musk, a father of seven who already runs four companies (besides Tesla and SpaceX), Dorsey is laser-focused.
Musk's motivation to buy Twitter may be political. Affirming the American far right with $44 billion spent on “free speech” Right-wing activists have promoted a series of competing upstart Twitter competitors—Parler, Gettr, and Trump's own effort, Truth Social—since Trump was banned from major social media platforms for encouraging rioters at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But Musk can give them a social network with lax content moderation and a real user base. Trump said he wouldn't return to Twitter after the deal was announced, but he wouldn't be the first to do so.
Trump - Eli Hiller/Bloomberg
Conservative activists and lawmakers are already ecstatic. “A great day for free speech in America,” said Missouri Republican Josh Hawley. The day the deal was announced, Tucker Carlson opened his nightly Fox show with a 10-minute laudatory monologue. “The single biggest political development since Donald Trump's election in 2016,” he gushed over Musk.
But Musk's supporters and detractors misunderstand how much his business interests influence his political ideology. He marketed Tesla's cars as carbon-saving machines that were faster and cooler than gas-powered luxury cars during George W. Bush's presidency. Musk gained a huge following among wealthy environmentalists who reserved hundreds of thousands of Tesla sedans years before they were made during Barack Obama's presidency. Musk in the Trump era advocated for a carbon tax, but he also fought local officials (and his own workers) over Covid rules that slowed the reopening of his Bay Area factory.
Teslas at the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop Central Station in April 2021. The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop was Musk's first commercial project. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Musk's rightward shift matched the rise of the nationalist-populist right and the desire to serve a growing EV market. In 2019, he unveiled the Cybertruck, a Tesla pickup, and in 2018, he announced plans to manufacture it at a new plant outside Austin. In 2021, he decided to move Tesla's headquarters there, citing California's "land of over-regulation." After Ford and General Motors beat him to the electric truck market, Musk reframed Tesla as a company for pickup-driving dudes.
Similarly, his purchase of Twitter will be entwined with his other business interests. Tesla has a factory in China and is friendly with Beijing. This could be seen as a conflict of interest when Musk's Twitter decides how to treat Chinese-backed disinformation, as Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos noted.
Musk has focused on Twitter's product and social impact, but the company's biggest challenges are financial: Either increase cash flow or cut costs to comfortably service his new debt. Even if Musk can't do that, he can still benefit from the deal. He has recently used the increased attention to promote other business interests: Boring has hyperloops and Neuralink brain implants on the way, Musk tweeted. Remember Tesla's long-promised robotaxis!
Musk may be comfortable saying he has no expectation of profit because it benefits his other businesses. At the TED conference on April 14, Musk insisted that his interest in Twitter was solely charitable. “I don't care about money.”
The rockets and weed jokes make it easy to see Musk as unique—and his crazy buyout will undoubtedly add to that narrative. However, he is a megabillionaire who is risking a small amount of money (approximately 13% of his net worth) to gain potentially enormous influence. Musk makes everything seem new, but this is a rehash of an old media story.
More on Society & Culture
4 months ago
A Gun-toting Teacher Is Like a Cook With Rat Poison
Pink or blue AR-15s?
A teacher teaches; a gun kills. Killing isn't teaching. Killing is opposite of teaching.
Without 27 school shootings this year, we wouldn't be talking about arming teachers. Gun makers, distributors, and the NRA cause most school shootings. Gun makers, distributors, and the NRA wouldn't be huge business if weapons weren't profitable.
Guns, ammo, body armor, holsters, concealed carriers, bore sights, cleaner kits, spare magazines and speed loaders, gun safes, and ear protection are sold. And more guns.
And lots more profit.
Guns aren't bread. You eat a loaf of bread in a week or so and then must buy more. Bread makers will make money. Winchester 94.30–30 1899 Lever Action Rifle from 1894 still kills. (For safety, I won't link to the ad.) Gun makers don't object if you collect antique weapons, but they need you to buy the latest, in-style killing machine. The youngster who killed 19 students and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, used an AR-15. Better yet, two.
Salvador Ramos, the Robb Elementary shooter, is a "killing influencer" He pushes consumers to buy items, which benefits manufacturers and distributors. Like every previous AR-15 influencer, he profits Colt, the rifle's manufacturer, and 52,779 gun dealers in the U.S. Ramos and other AR-15 influences make us fear for our safety and our children's. Fearing for our safety, we acquire 20 million firearms a year and live in a gun culture.
So now at school, we want to arm teachers.
Consider. Which of your teachers would you have preferred in body armor with a gun drawn?
Miss Summers? Remember her bringing daisies from her yard to second grade? She handed each student a beautiful flower. Miss Summers loved everyone, even those with AR-15s. She can't shoot.
Frasier? Mr. Frasier turned a youngster over down to explain "invert." Mr. Frasier's hands shook when he wasn't flipping fifth-graders and fractions. He may have shot wrong.
Mrs. Barkley barked in high school English class when anyone started an essay with "But." Mrs. Barkley dubbed Abie a "Jewboy" and gave him terrible grades. Arming Miss Barkley is like poisoning the chef.
Think back. Do you remember a teacher with a gun? No. Arming teachers so the gun industry can make more money is the craziest idea ever.
Or maybe you agree with Ted Cruz, the gun lobby-bought senator, that more guns reduce gun violence. After the next school shooting, you'll undoubtedly talk about arming teachers and pupils. Colt will likely develop a backpack-sized, lighter version of its popular killing machine in pink and blue for kids and boys. The MAR-15? (M for mini).
This post is a summary. Read the full one here.
2 months ago
A Dog's Guide to Every Type of Zoom Call Participant
Are you one of these Zoom dogs?
The Person Who Is Apparently Always on Mute
Waffles thinks he can overpower the mute button by shouting loudly.
The person who believed their camera to be off
Barkley's used to remote work, but he hasn't mastered the "Stop Video" button. Everyone is affected.
Who is driving for some reason, exactly?
Why is Pumpkin always late? Who knows? Shouldn't she be driving? If you could hear her over the freeway, she'd answer these questions.
The Person With the Amazing Bookcase
Cicero likes to use SAT-words like "leverage" and "robust" in Zoom sessions, presumably from all the books he wants you to see behind him.
The Individual Who Is Unnecessarily Dressed
We hope Bandit is going somewhere beautiful after this meeting, or else he neglected the quarterly earnings report and is overcompensating to distract us.
The person who works through lunch in between zoom calls
Barksworth has back-to-back meetings all day, so you can watch her eat while she talks.
The Person Who Is A Little Too Comfy
Hercules thinks Zoom meetings happen between sleeps. He'd appreciate everyone speaking more quietly.
The Person Who Answered the Phone Outside
Frisbee has a gorgeous backyard and lives in a place with great weather year-round, and she wants you to think about that during the daily team huddle.
Who Wants You to Pay Attention to Their Pet
Snickers hasn't listened to you in 20 minutes unless you tell her how cute her kitten is.
One who is, for some reason, positioned incorrectly on the screen
Nelson's meetings consist primarily of attempting to figure out how he positioned his laptop so absurdly.
The person who says too many goodbyes
Zeus waves farewell like it's your first day of school while everyone else searches for the "Leave Meeting" button. It's nice.
He who has a poor internet connection
Ziggy's connectivity problems continue... She gives a long speech as everyone waits awkwardly to inform her they missed it.
The Clearly Multitasking Person
Tinkerbell can play fetch during the monthly staff meeting if she works from home, but that's not a good idea.
The Person Using Zoom as a Makeup and Hair Mirror
If Gail and Bob knew Zoom had a "hide self view" option, they'd be distraught.
The person who feels at ease with simply leaving
Rusty bails when a Zoom conference is over. Rusty's concept is decent.
Hector de Isidro
1 month ago
Why can't you speak English fluently even though you understand it?
Many of us have struggled for years to master a second language (in my case, English). Because (at least in my situation) we've always used an input-based system or method.
I'll explain in detail, but briefly: We can understand some conversations or sentences (since we've trained), but we can't give sophisticated answers or speak fluently (because we have NOT trained at all).
What exactly is input-based learning?
Reading, listening, writing, and speaking are key language abilities (if you look closely at that list, it seems that people tend to order them in this way: inadvertently giving more priority to the first ones than to the last ones).
These talents fall under two learning styles:
Reading and listening are input-based activities (sometimes referred to as receptive skills or passive learning).
Writing and speaking are output-based tasks (also known as the productive skills and/or active learning).
What's the best learning style? To learn a language, we must master four interconnected skills. The difficulty is how much time and effort we give each.
According to Shion Kabasawa's books The Power of Input: How to Maximize Learning and The Power of Output: How to Change Learning to Outcome (available only in Japanese), we spend 7:3 more time on Input Based skills than Output Based skills when we should be doing the opposite, leaning more towards Output (Input: Output->3:7).
I can't tell you how he got those numbers, but I think he's not far off because, for example, think of how many people say they're learning a second language and are satisfied bragging about it by only watching TV, series, or movies in VO (and/or reading a book or whatever) their Input is: 7:0 output!
You can't be good at a sport by watching TikTok videos about it; you must play.
“being pushed to produce language puts learners in a better position to notice the ‘gaps’ in their language knowledge”, encouraging them to ‘upgrade’ their existing interlanguage system. And, as they are pushed to produce language in real time and thereby forced to automate low-level operations by incorporating them into higher-level routines, it may also contribute to the development of fluency. — Scott Thornbury (P is for Push)
How may I practice output-based learning more?
I know that listening or reading is easy and convenient because we can do it on our own in a wide range of situations, even during another activity (although, as you know, it's not ideal), writing can be tedious/boring (it's funny that we almost always excuse ourselves in the lack of ideas), and speaking requires an interlocutor. But we must leave our comfort zone and modify our thinking to go from 3:7 to 7:3. (or at least balance it better to something closer). Gradually.
“You don’t have to do a lot every day, but you have to do something. Something. Every day.” — Callie Oettinger (Do this every day)
We can practice speaking like boxers shadow box.
Speaking out loud strengthens the mind-mouth link (otherwise, you will still speak fluently in your mind but you will choke when speaking out loud). This doesn't mean we should talk to ourselves on the way to work, while strolling, or on public transportation. We should try to do it without disturbing others, such as explaining what we've heard, read, or seen (the list is endless: you can TALK about what happened yesterday, your bedtime book, stories you heard at the office, that new kitten video you saw on Instagram, an experience you had, some new fact, that new boring episode you watched on Netflix, what you ate, what you're going to do next, your upcoming vacation, what’s trending, the news of the day)
Who will correct my grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation with an imagined friend? We can't have everything, but tools and services can help .
Lack of bravery
Fear of speaking a language different than one's mother tongue in front of native speakers is global. It's easier said than done, because strangers, not your friends, will always make fun of your accent or faults. Accept it and try again. Karma will prevail.
Perfectionism is a trap. Stop self-sabotaging. Communication is key (and for that you have to practice the Output too ).
“Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the process.” — Ruri Ohama
 Grammarly, Deepl, Google Translate, etc.
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4 months ago
After 240 articles and 2.5M views on Medium, 9 Raw Writing Tips
Late in 2018, I published my first Medium article, but I didn't start writing seriously until 2019. Since then, I've written more than 240 articles, earned over $50,000 through Medium's Partner Program, and had over 2.5 million page views.
Write A Lot
Most people don't have the patience and persistence for this simple writing secret:
Write + Write + Write = possible success
Writing more improves your skills.
The more articles you publish, the more likely one will go viral.
If you only publish once a month, you have no views. If you publish 10 or 20 articles a month, your success odds increase 10- or 20-fold.
Tim Denning, Ayodeji Awosika, Megan Holstein, and Zulie Rane. Medium is their jam. How are these authors alike? They're productive and consistent. They're prolific.
80% is publishable
Many writers battle perfectionism.
To succeed as a writer, you must publish often. You'll never publish if you aim for perfection.
Adopt the 80 percent-is-good-enough mindset to publish more. It sounds terrible, but it'll boost your writing success.
Your work won't be perfect. Always improve. Waiting for perfection before publishing will take a long time.
Second, readers are your true critics, not you. What you consider "not perfect" may be life-changing for the reader. Don't let perfectionism hinder the reader.
Don't let perfectionism hinder the reader. ou don't want to publish mediocre articles. When the article is 80% done, publish it. Don't spend hours editing. Realize it. Get feedback. Only this will work.
Make Your Headline Irresistible
We all judge books by their covers, despite the saying. And headlines. Readers, including yourself, judge articles by their titles. We use it to decide if an article is worth reading.
Make your headlines irresistible. Want more article views? Then, whether you like it or not, write an attractive article title.
Many high-quality articles are collecting dust because of dull, vague headlines. It didn't make the reader click.
As a writer, you must do more than produce quality content. You must also make people click on your article. This is a writer's job. How to create irresistible headlines:
Curiosity makes readers click. Here's a tempting example...
Example: What Women Actually Look For in a Guy, According to a Huge Study by Luba Sigaud
Use Numbers: Click-bait lists. I mean, which article would you click first? ‘Some ways to improve your productivity’ or ’17 ways to improve your productivity.’ Which would I click?
Example: 9 Uncomfortable Truths You Should Accept Early in Life by Sinem Günel
Most headlines are dull. If you want clicks, get 'sexy'. Buzzword-ify. Invoke emotion. Trendy words.
Example: 20 Realistic Micro-Habits To Live Better Every Day by Amardeep Parmar
Our culture lacks focus. If your headline gets a click, keep paragraphs short to keep readers' attention.
Some writers use 6–8 lines per paragraph, but I prefer 3–4. Longer paragraphs lose readers' interest.
A writer should help the reader finish an article, in my opinion. I consider it a job requirement. You can't force readers to finish an article, but you can make it 'snackable'
Help readers finish an article with concise paragraphs, interesting subheadings, exciting images, clever formatting, or bold attention grabbers.
Work And Move On
I've learned over the years not to get too attached to my articles. Many writers report a strange phenomenon:
The articles you're most excited about usually bomb, while the ones you're not tend to do well.
This isn't always true, but I've noticed it in my own writing. My hopes for an article usually make it worse. The more objective I am, the better an article does.
Let go of a finished article. 40 or 40,000 views, whatever. Now let the article do its job. Onward. Next story. Start another project.
Online content creators will encounter haters, whether on YouTube, Instagram, or Medium. More views equal more haters. Fun, right?
As a web content creator, I learned:
Don't debate haters. Never.
It's a mistake I've made several times. It's tempting to prove haters wrong, but they'll always find a way to be 'right'. Your response is their fuel.
I smile and ignore hateful comments. I'm indifferent. I won't enter a negative environment. I have goals, money, and a life to build. "I'm not paid to argue," Drake once said.
Grammarly saves me as a non-native English speaker. You know Grammarly. It shows writing errors and makes article suggestions.
As a writer, you need Grammarly. I have a paid plan, but their free version works. It improved my writing greatly.
Put The Reader First, Not Yourself
Many writers write for themselves. They focus on themselves rather than the reader.
This article teaches what? How can they be entertained or educated?
Personal examples and experiences improve writing quality. Don't focus on yourself.
It's not about you, the content creator. Reader-focused. Putting the reader first will change things.
Extreme ownership: Stop blaming others
I remember writing a lot on Medium but not getting many views. I blamed Medium first. Poor algorithm. Poor publishing. All sucked.
Instead of looking at what I could do better, I blamed others.
When you blame others, you lose power. Owning your results gives you power.
As a content creator, you must take full responsibility. Extreme ownership means 100% responsibility for work and results.
You don’t blame others. You don't blame the economy, president, platform, founders, or audience. Instead, you look for ways to improve. Few people can do this.
Blaming is useless. Zero. Taking ownership of your work and results will help you progress. It makes you smarter, better, and stronger.
Instead of blaming others, you'll learn writing, marketing, copywriting, content creation, productivity, and other skills. Game-changer.
2 months ago
Dehumanization Against Anthropomorphization
We've fought for humanity's sake. We need equilibrium.
We live in a world of opposites (black/white, up/down, love/hate), thus life is a game of achieving equilibrium. We have a universe of paradoxes within ourselves, not just in physics.
Individually, you balance your intellect and heart, but as a species, we're full of polarities. They might be gentle and compassionate, then ruthless and unsympathetic.
We desire for connection so much that we personify non-human beings and objects while turning to violence and hatred toward others. These contrasts baffle me. Will we find balance?
Assigning human-like features or bonding with objects is common throughout childhood. Cartoons often give non-humans human traits. Adults still anthropomorphize this trait. Researchers agree we start doing it as infants and continue throughout life.
Humans of all ages are good at humanizing stuff. We build emotional attachments to weather events, inanimate objects, animals, plants, and locales. Gods, goddesses, and fictitious figures are anthropomorphized.
Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks, features anthropization. Hanks is left on an island, where he builds an emotional bond with a volleyball he calls Wilson.
We became emotionally invested in Wilson, including myself.
Why do we do it, though?
Our instincts and traits helped us survive and thrive. Our brain is alert to other people's thoughts, feelings, and intentions to assist us to determine who is safe or hazardous. We can think about others and our own mental states, or about thinking. This is the Theory of Mind.
Neurologically, specialists believe the Theory of Mind has to do with our mirror neurons, which exhibit the same activity while executing or witnessing an action.
Mirror neurons may contribute to anthropization, but they're not the only ones. In 2021, Harvard Medical School researchers at MGH and MIT colleagues published a study on the brain's notion of mind.
“Our study provides evidence to support theory of mind by individual neurons. Until now, it wasn’t clear whether or how neurons were able to perform these social cognitive computations.”
Neurons have particular functions, researchers found. Others encode information that differentiates one person's beliefs from another's. Some neurons reflect tale pieces, whereas others aren't directly involved in social reasoning but may multitask contributing factors.
Combining neuronal data gives a precise portrait of another's beliefs and comprehension. The theory of mind describes how we judge and understand each other in our species, and it likely led to anthropomorphism. Neuroscience indicates identical brain regions react to human or non-human behavior, like mirror neurons.
Some academics believe we're wired for connection, which explains why we anthropomorphize. When we're alone, we may anthropomorphize non-humans.
Humanizing non-human entities may make them deserving of moral care, according to another theory. Animamorphizing something makes it responsible for its actions and deserves punishments or rewards. This mental shift is typically apparent in our connections with pets and leads to deanthropomorphization.
Dehumanizing involves denying someone or anything ethical regard, the opposite of anthropomorphizing.
Dehumanization occurs throughout history. We do it to everything in nature, including ourselves. We experiment on and torture animals. We enslave, hate, and harm other groups of people.
Race, immigrant status, dress choices, sexual orientation, social class, religion, gender, politics, need I go on? Our degrading behavior is promoting fascism and division everywhere.
Dehumanizing someone or anything reduces their agency and value. Many assume they're immune to this feature, but tests disagree.
It's inevitable. Humans are wired to have knee-jerk reactions to differences. We are programmed to dehumanize others, and it's easier than we'd like to admit.
Why do we do it, though?
Dehumanizing others is simpler than humanizing things for several reasons. First, we consider everything unusual as harmful, which has helped our species survive for hundreds of millions of years. Our propensity to be distrustful of others, like our fear of the unknown, promotes an us-vs.-them mentality.
Since WWII, various studies have been done to explain how or why the holocaust happened. How did so many individuals become radicalized to commit such awful actions and feel morally justified? Researchers quickly showed how easily the mind can turn gloomy.
The us-versus-them attitude is natural and even young toddlers act on it. Without a relationship, empathy is more difficult.
It's terrifying how quickly dehumanizing behavior becomes commonplace. The current pandemic is an example. Most countries no longer count deaths. Long Covid is a major issue, with predictions of a handicapped tsunami in the future years. Mostly, we shrug.
In 2020, we panicked. Remember everyone's caution? Now Long Covid is ruining more lives, threatening to disable an insane amount of our population for months or their entire lives.
There's little research. Experts can't even classify or cure it. The people should be outraged, but most have ceased caring. They're over covid.
We're encouraged to find a method to live with a terrible pandemic that will cause years of damage. People aren't worried about infection anymore. They shrug and say, "We'll all get it eventually," then hope they're not one of the 30% who develops Long Covid.
We can correct course before further damage. Because we can recognize our urges and biases, we're not captives to them. We can think critically about our thoughts and behaviors, then attempt to improve. We can recognize our deficiencies and work to attain balance.
We're currently attempting to find equilibrium between opposites. It's superficial to defend extremes by stating we're only human or wired this way because both imply we have no control.
Being human involves having self-awareness, and by being careful of our thoughts and acts, we can find balance and recognize opposites' purpose.
Extreme anthropomorphizing and dehumanizing isolate and imperil us. We anthropomorphize because we desire connection and dehumanize because we're terrified, frequently of the connection we crave. Will we find balance?
2 months ago Draft
This is a draft