The Robber Barons Had Nothing on Elon Musk

Oct 27, 2022 · 806 comments
Puzzled at times (USA)
If the Democrats cannot control Twitter, then Twitter is no longer a digital town square.
So much hate for someone whose success can only be attributed to that of the people and governments who buy his products and the technologies that emanate from them. Tesla's, Space X and Starlink are wildly successful and done without needing huge jobs and it stimulus programs, and tax dollars bankrolling it. The equivalent government programs like NASA's Artemis can't seem to get their rocket off planet earth, do we even have a Starlink equivalent and Tesla is really in a league by itself. So now he has Twitter, and will open it back up to the masses, what a concept and oddly is getting ridiculed for that? But before it was ok for others to own it and throttle it to those special people for their own benefit and causes. No one is perfect, and I don't think Elon ever said he was, but one thing he is not willing to take the path everyone else does. He does what is not always popular, always convenient, not always liked but in the end will better society as a whole. He was never (from what I can tell) been a popular kid and honestly didn't care. It is these amazing individuals in history that do the unpopular, give a voice to the voiceless, and help change the world in ways others don't like. Twitter does that. He puts his money, reputation, family and time on the line. This isn't all for nothing. Go Elon, continue to change the world and make sure to cause a bit of chaos and make people think, challenge their belief systems. Society needs more heroes like you.
Frank (NC)
@Bruce EV's potential to curb CO2 emissions depends on how the electricity to run them is produced. Here in North Carolina, fossil-fueled power plants produce 90 percent of our electricity. Driving a Tesla or other EV here will have little if any effect on CO2 emissions. "Preventing" climate change at this point isn't possible anyway.
Mogwai (CT)
@Bruce under the age of 40? hahaha. not all. some of us old computer scientists remember how terrible paypal was in the beginning. tesla is only radical with their supercharging network. but even that will go away once biden-bucks wind their way into getting charge ports everywhere.
Bruce (Cherry Hill, NJ)
@RB - Elon Musk created the electric car industry with Tesla. He changed it so radically that folks under the age of 40 do not even comprehend how radical Tesla was and how it upended everything. Every car maker is now seriously making EV's and this will do more to prevent climate change than anything else done in the past four decades.
R Kadar (NJ)
There are issues here for sure, but to claim Musk “is not the self-made genius businessman” is a stretch. He has succeeded in doing essentially the impossible - building a sustainable, global car company from scratch. And one so radical and influential, it’s changed the entire automotive industry and society. And then he did it with space travel! Are you kidding me? He can be erratic and just plain weird - but he is a world altering phenom and a true visionary. I hope he doesn’t destroy Twitter.
Mark Lai (Cambridge, MA)
@R Kadar - Musk didn't build Tesla from scratch, he acquired it by buying in. And it's hardly "radical". All the big automakers have been making electric cars longer than Musk has been alive. He's just good at self-promotion, which your comment proves.
Bruce (Cherry Hill, NJ)
@Mark Lai - Tesla completely changed EV in the same way that Ford "invented" the car. Everything that Tesla did with the electric car completely changed and made viable EV's that were not taken seriously or done correctly by ANY carmaker. Not even Toyota who created the Hybrid.
Lorenzo Jones (Bronx, NY)
Musk has never done anything to face such hostile media and political opposition from the left, and the reason is only - just because. Just because he May possibly be conservative? Or maybe he will encourage both sides to speak out freely? The negativism is really immoral and disappointing, when media could lead the way for a beginning of us all to not be hostile to each other at all. I believe nothing will happen, and media will be disappointed.
God (Heaven)
Musk is a successful entrepreneur who’s created thousands of jobs and four companies. No wonder Democrats hate him.
The Pessimistic Shrink (Henderson, NV)
@God That's not the point. The point for Republicans is: "What does Trump think?"
Opus (Cape Cod)
@God Henry ford created more jobs in proportion to the size of the population but his politics did skew towards the Third Reich. You can be a business man and a crap human being, want to buy a pillow?
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
@God, We love Bill Gates who actually changed the world and he employs more and gives away his money to help the less fortunate. He's an entrepreneur. Musk is a pretender who bought Tesla he didn't make it. And he is paid by US tax payers' for his rocket program. He flies to our space station, not his. His Hyperloop is a bust. His robot is hilariously primitive compared to Boston Dynamics' actual robots. His solar city is non-existent. And there are no people On Mars still. But NASA is flying a helicopter in Mars without musk. So, what's your point? We know you groupies love him but his facade has slipped and we all see him for petty little apartheidist he's always been.
nlitinme (san diego)
Musk is repulsive and sort of pathetic. hes also a genius and a billionaire how sad for him
Rachel Roth (Brooklyn, NY)
Elon Musk. Just another narcissist who believes he’s invincible and better than anyone. Kind of like Trump.
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
Just uninstall Twitter. It's like passing a kidney stone. The relief is almost instantaneous. Like every other rightist out there musk only cares about money. Remove your money from his bottom line and you'll just feel better. I know I do.
Roy (California)
Twitter is an addiction..... and Elon can't get enough of it.... He uses it like it's fentanyl ....
David (Florida)
It seems the sky is falling for some people.... Therest of us and the world probably dont really care. I was fairly happy to see he got held to his bloviations finally though. I anticipate Musks future moves at Twitter will involve making grandiose claims possibly both positive and negative about Twitter, in order to manipulate its values and attempt to recover his wasted 40 billion $'s.
GC (Massachusetts)
Hilarious to read views from the faculty lounge.
Canadian Roy (Canada)
He is a regular genius alright - he has already reinstated Kanye West's account while everyone else is distancing themselves from him because of his anti-semitism. It will take less than a month before Twitter resembles Gab.
DFGer (Eugene, OR)
Chatterers are pondering the question of why Elon would pay three times its value to grab Twitter. That's not a heavy price if you're the Saudi "prince" or Xi bankrolling Musk and it gives you and trump a platform from which to further vandalize America.
Freddy (wa)
Look for a Twitter and Truth Social merge. Then the two big guys can stage a mud-wrestling match on Fox for the leadership. Clarence Thomas can officiate, despite whatever conflict of interest he may have.
Carlotta (Orange Beach)
Come on… forms? There would be a gap between stones or it would be poured all in one piece. Forms and water rubbed in place top to bottom?
Bronwyn_63 (NYC)
Has he modeled himself after Dr Evil? Because that's who he reminds me of with all this 'world conquest' and 'because I can' egomaniac nonsense.
Dra (Md)
Considering that I got kicked off of twitter for insulting fox news and republicans maybe I can get back on and insult them somemore.
Stefan W (Paris)
We need a “digital town square” just like we need an electric toothbrush. Twitter will never be a profitable enterprise (without government subsidies), so no one should expect a replacement (a non-hate-speech version) to appear any time soon, or ever. At least Musk got something: the cloying little Tiffany blue birdlike silhouette and attached annoying sound effect—perfectly representing the bad taste of its origins—for his 44 billion rubles. Or dollars was it?
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
Jack Dorsey will personally clear an estimated $978 million on the Twitter sale to musk. Boy you really showed him, elon.
Newfie (Newfoundland)
Musk's Twitter will be another nail in the coffin of American democracy...
Steven Dalkowski (Brooksville ME)
“Digital town square” needs a good hosedown and Musk ain’t gon’ do it ever.
Suzanne (San Diego)
Mr. Musk has positioned himself as a super smart "inventor", but he is actually a speculator and a buyer of upcoming technologies. He got in on PayPal at the end, when it was fully formed and cashed in there, then the same at Tesla. His SpaceX seems to be the only thing he has "worked" on, much to his own chagrin, where he complained so vociferously and publicly, that he was working, so hard, ordering in, sleeping in office and etc. I think it may be his first experience at getting something "built/made". He should ask his own team of lawyers how many times they have had to sleep in office or pull all nighters to get work done. Have never had a Twitter account and deleted my Facebook two years ago. I know I'm not Musk's target audience: a thinking person and a woman, at that. I suspect his only use for women in his Bro-World are as vessels for his many many children, or as consumers of his products. Pass
Bill (Detroit)
For all of you who are crowing about deleting your Twitter account, you might ask yourself what you were doing there to begin with...
Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Fictional, Columbia)
If you're disgusted by a far-right take over in the tech industry--Facebook, Twitter, Venmo--then use your free-will and quit them. Boycott. These things are like candy: they have little to no nutritional value, and there are plenty of healthy alternatives, like talking to real people and using real money without an intrusive middle man.
Mr Nasaw carefully selects his facts to shoe horn Elon into his Robber Baron thesis. “Mr. Musk’s companies, and his fortune, were built with billions of dollars worth of subsidies for his electric-car company, Tesla, and billions more in NASA contracts ….“ Yes Tesla has received an estimated $4b in subsidies since it’s 2003 inception. The US pays the oil industry $20b in subsidies PER YEAR, meanwhile Exxon and Chevron just announced record profits while worldwide gas prices are at all time highs. During TARP the auto industry received $79.68 with an eventual net loss to taxpayers of $9.26 b. NASA awarded SpaceX $2.6b and Boeing $4.2b to ferry crew to space. SpaceX delivered their rockets ahead of schedule on budget. Boeing has still not delivered a single crew member to the space station. NASA has extended the contracts. The Boeing price is $183 million per seat. The SpaceX price is $88m per. I laughed that Elon’s supporters are “known as Musketeers”. That’s a new one on me. I googled it to see if that’s a thing, not really. Regardless of who started Tesla, Elon has reshaped the global market for traditional ICE vehicles. The global shift to EV will drive down the unit cost. Elon and his engineers have reshaped the future of space travel while significantly lowering the cost to taxpayers. Is he flawed? Aren’t we all? Are we all going to benefit from the disruption of entrenched industries? I think so. If that makes me a Musketeer, I am happy to wear that badge.
CarolinaJoe (NC)
@EKR No one is questioning Elon’s industrial achievements. And he did with a significant support from taxpayers. However, his venturing into politics raised a lot fears, particularly his buying of a powerful propaganda tool.
todd (nj)
He is a hard worker and he is good with hardware. Something like Twitter? Perhaps not. I have been working in system software and hardware for almost 45 years and I know.
BHill (NC)
"His wealth is based not on factories he has built, products he sells or real estate he has acquired, but on the billions of dollars of shares he owns in Tesla, SpaceX, cryptocurrency companies and Twitter." -- What century is this writer living in? Factories, really? Is there something wrong with starting modern companies which initiated the electric car era and economically put humans in space? Musk is a 21st-century industrial entrepreneur. This whole epoch is going to look pretty different 50 years from now.
Canetti (Portland)
The way to deal with an unmoderated Twitter is to attack forward, flood the zone with anti-Republican, anti-Putin, anti-Chinese, anti-South African misinformation, pornography, etc. until Musk is forced to set some reasonable standards willy nilly.
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
Jeff Bezos actually flies in the rockets that he builds. Elon's too chicken to fly in one of his personally designed rockets. NASA has the final say on all Space X rockets. That's why they work. Musk's personal rockets, the ones created entirely with his own unique genius, explode with shocking regularity.
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
But his robot can turn slightly and lift stuff up. Somebody please show elon Boston Dynamics' unreal robots that dance, do back flips and unison. Remember when elon put some fool in a unitary and had them dance to show his groupies what's year...two at the most...okay...five to 10 years at the outside.
Very lopsided article. Nobody asked NASA to give contracts to Space X. They won it because they are the only company capable of sending astronauts to space. Its crazy to suggest that Elon Musk took advantage of anything with NASA. NASA'a programs were dead and if not for Elon company, USA's space programme would have been stuck. NASA has done no favor to Elon. Its the other way round anything. Same for TESLA. Tax payer money was only for Tesla. It was for every company. And this is done the world over. TESLA was thinly EV company for a long time and even now they have 67% mkt share. They don't need tax credits. Other companies need it far more. He is not self made genius - really ! His EV ideas and reusable rockets ides came because govt gave him tax dollars. That is just plain crazy. Why could others not do it ? Tax dollars were available to all. These policies were not made for Elon. Very poor biased article. This is what misinformation looks like.
Civres (Kingston NJ)
Twitter is a bad habit for everyone on it. But that's a small number of people. The real damage the platform has done is entirely the fault of the media, like this paper, who amplify Twitter's reach far beyond its user base by using Tweets as the basis for its reporting, and replicating them in their online editions. The media is entirely complicit in making Twitter the destructive force it's been—journalists who can't pull themselves away from their Twitter feeds are killing their profession and helping pollute public discourse. With Elon Musk at the helm, now might be a good time to do what should have been done long ago—stop posting, stop reading, and stop regurgitating Tweets.
Dr. Gonzo (NY)
I mean… he created the EV industry, sent rockets to space which can get back and being reused, delivered a satellite network which is currently allowing Ukraine to conduct a war against a nuclear power… I would be a little more measured with your judgements, you know?
Stephen W (Sydney)
@Dr. Gonzo he didn’t create the EV industry, he simply had the loudest voice, which was quite easy considering most engineers simply want to get on with the job and not waste time boasting.
Zeke (NYC)
Elon will be reinstating Trump just in time for the midterms. Heaven help all of us
Bill Paoli (El Sobrante, CA)
"I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Dr Fell." If I could make up a rhyme scheme replacing "Dr. Fell" with "Mr. Musk," I would.
Steven Dalkowski (Brooksville ME)
Thurber FTW
Peter (CA)
Elon Musk by all accounts is gradually sliding back into his white South African roots of apartheid, racism and bigotry by moving to Texas, embracing Trump and the Republicans and buying Twitter to re-energize white extremism and give them an unfettered voice.
HP (Maryland)
It's strange and embarrassing at times to see how people are hooked to social media outlets. Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, Whatsapp, and many more. And the funny thing is the users expect others to have them too. They will ask you to send so and so information or look up such and such on their Instagram account or follow them on Facebook. It's become a global craze bordering on an addiction worse than substance abuse. Even politicians,employers , and healthcare outlets etc are looking up or sending "tweets". Now everything seems to be heading for a correction on its own. Metaverse( is that the new thing ?) has lost billions recently. I hope people come to their senses soon and give up these vices before they get overpowered by them( it seems they already have been taken over). They need to create other pastimes that are less injurious to their well being. I have none of these fancy memberships and invoke strange responses from those around. Who ever is the Twitter chief will not make anything better
Tomaso (Florida)
If we’ve learned anything in the past ten years, there are many million “Joe the Plumbers” out there who will line up, no matter the weather just to kiss a rich person’s derrière. Ain’t that America!
Dan Woodard MD (florida)
Musk has done some remarkable things, but this isn't one. It's just a blog site. Anyone can set one up. There is no possible way he will recover a fraction of his investment.
Stephen W (Sydney)
@Dan Woodard MD it’s probably not his money anyway….
ALW515 (undefined)
You write "It is not unreasonable to expect that a Musk-owned and controlled Twitter will, in the name of free speech, allow disinformation and misinformation to be tweeted ad infinitum so long as it discredits his political opponents and celebrates and enriches himself and his allies." It is also not unreasonable to expect that if that were to happen that the platform would quickly be abandoned by the vast majority of the people who are currently on it as well as the corporations that advertise on it and keep it in business. These things cut both ways.
CarolinaJoe (NC)
@ALW515 If half of the users abandon Twitter, which maybe unreasonably high, the platform can still exert catastrophic damage. Propaganda works, period.
Phil M (NJ)
If he puts Trump back on Twitter, then he and Trump could jump in the lake together. I'm done with Tesla and anything to do with Musk. I don't care that he sold his stock in Tesla.
Big Boomer (San Francisco)
Such worrisome news. So sad.
Some Nobody (Some Town)
Twitter has never been and will never be a public square. It is not grass rootes or spontaneous, and it doesn't belong to the public. It has always been a company with its own agenda depending on who runs it and works there and how they make money. It's nothing loftier than that. I despair that so many in our society have deluded themselves into ever thinking otherwise. Up until today you could get your account suspended not for posting pornography or rape threats, but for misgendering or deadnaming. That ban would come down on your account with a swiftness but accounts that made threats of physical violence? Eh, boys will be boys. But ultimately it's a company, not the public square. Live by the tweet, die by the tweet.
CarolinaJoe (NC)
@Some Nobody “ Twitter has never been and will never be a public square”. Twitter is public square and can exert toxic influence with ease. More so than Fox, RWR or any other amplifier of lies.
Blunt (New York City)
Free-speech! Where were we when McCarthy was ruining people who were speaking freely??
Leslie374 (St. Paul, MN)
Musk thinks he is going to protect "free speech". Now that 's really ridiculous.
Ted Theodore Logan (Music City, USA)
"but that this one will be in control of what he has rightly referred to as our “digital town square.” It's asinine statements like this that reinforce a bad interpretation of the 1st Amendment. The government doesn't have a right to abridge my speech. Private companies do. Twitter is not a de facto town square. Stop saying it is.
JoeyReader (Los Angeles)
There is something terrible going on in society via social media and it is not political rhetoric or violence that is the worst of it. The pornography that is proliferating on twitter, other social media, and on pornography platforms is increasingly violent, incestuous, demeaning, sickening and even illegal. Child porn and real rape on Twitter is already a major issue and I fear a privately owned Twitter with less staff run by someone like Musk will make it even worse. This is a creeping cancer on society that no one seems to talk about, and this type of content being easily accessible is depraved and creates an environment for radicalization. The FBI has warned that child porn is more prolific and violent than ever. Young people hardly even leave their conform zones and venture out in real life to form real connections an overly rely on twitter and tiktok. What have we allowed our society to become? The unregulated internet will be our downfall.
Some Nobody (Some Town)
@JoeyReader agreed with all your points. But men see it as a free speech issue (and sadly have convinced many women that it's "empowering") and will defend porn with their last breath. Porn is often video evidence of crimes (child sexual abuse, rape, non-consensual filming, revenge porn, assault). If only our society and law saw it that way.
Richard (Nashville)
Well-written opinion piece, thank you David. I don't use Twitter nor any of the other platforms (except Nextdoor that has missing cats) because I value my privacy and don't revel in the ugliness and misinformation that is rampant every day. This will not benefit our lives ... I hope that some semblance of moderation will still take place.
Nikhil D. (Issaquah, Wash.)
It's quite a stretch to deny Musk credit for his success and claim it is owed primarily to government support and taxpayer money. A smart businessman will and should take advantage of prevailing economic factors and opportunities presented by laws that aren't airtight.
Cp (Portland)
No one is denying his role in his own success, just that it’s not the whole picture and that American Taxpayers gave him Billions to be able to do it. And smart though it may be, taking advantage of laws that aren’t “airtight” as you say, doesn’t bode well for his integrity which is what concerns most people now that he has purchased and taken private one of the biggest global platforms of communication.
Arthurstone (Guanajuato, Mex.)
@Nikhil D. Thanks Mom. Love, Elon
Yves Leclerc (Montreal, Canada)
Who and what Elon Musk is, is irrelevant. The real problem is: How can a country that calls itself “the land of the free” leave in the hands of rapacious entrepreneurs the very channels of free expression that are most crucial in the 21st Century? It is obvious that private enterprise has even LESS interest in free speech for everyone (but itself) than Government, which at least nominally is subject to some control from citizens. Social networks should be publicly-owned, either through autonomous national or state agencies, or through cooperatives, with oversight ensured in either case by the community as a whole, using elected ethics committees or drawn-by-lot juries of users.
BHill (NC)
@Yves Leclerc -- To answer your question: Exactly because it's the land of the free. Would you like the government to step in and forbid this business transaction?
George (Flyover)
‘Mr. Musk is correct that “free speech” must be honored and protected. But is it not time that we, as a people and a nation, engage in a wide-ranging, inclusive public debate on when and how free speech creates “a clear and present danger” — as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote a century ago — and whether we need government to find a way, through law or regulation or persuasion, to prevent this from happening?’ No, and it will never be time for government to find a way as long as we have a first amendment. The idea that some speech is so damaging that it must be prevented is self-evidently wrong on its face. What amazes me is that so-called educated people make this argument and forums that have been historically committed to protecting the first amendment go along with this nonsense. Justice Brandeis is the more appropriate cite here: the answer to speech with which you disagree is more speech.
Susan (Too far north)
Andrew Carnegie built libraries. I'd much rather have that robber baron than Musk.
t8it n stryd (Ma)
Musk is and always has aspired to be an oligarch, a robber Baron of the modern era. He is exceeding all expectations. The US govt has failed it's citizens by failing to regulate monopolies which has created an oligarchy in the US
Imperato (NYC)
No he’s not. But people swallow the PR hook, line and sinker.
vacciniumovatum (Seattle)
Maybe he has to read his own obituary for him to stop acting like a spoiled rich kid and put his money to uses that don't benefit him personally but help society? It worked for Alfred Nobel. For Elon...nah, it wouldn't work. His ego is too big to care.
Jay (Texas)
@vacciniumovatum I think objectively he has helped the society by making electrical car mainstream. Without Tesla, we'd be stuck with laughable likes of Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, and the transitioning to EV we see now would be 20 years away. Also, I think SpaceX has the potential to benefit the society in the long term. I'm def. not his fanboy and prob. wouldn't buy Tesla with all its squeaking-after-couple-years and big panel gap any time soon, but overall I think he's done good. As for his antics, we are the ones consuming such news as much as we did for Trump, and whose fault is that?
Adler (DC)
The author suggests a free speech debate on whether free specs should be regulated. Perhaps we should have that debate on Twitter. The author is angry that Musk is paid millions by the government to ferry its satellites into space…something the government can no longer do for itself. The author claims that Musk’s fortune is not based on the factories he’s built or products that he sells. He fails to explain the presence of all of the Teslas on the roads and who they were acquired.
Sheila (NJ)
It is terrifying that someone with Musk’s adolescent boy brain has so much power. Grown ups, at least some of them, understand that free speech only works with good guardrails, and that freedom does not equal “I get to say what I want without consequences.” To paraphrase Spiderman (you’d think Musk would at least get this one), with great freedom comes great responsibility. 
Marcus Brant (Canada)
To be frank, I’ve never seen a photo of Musk where he doesn’t look like he’s guilty of something. To amass the fortune he has, I suspect he is. It is utterly appalling how this man feels as though he rules the world because of his wealth. To threaten to withdraw Ukraine’s internet coverage is execrable, as if these poor people don’t have enough mad billionaires to deal with. His petty name calling and defamatory disparagement of cave rescuers was beyond incongruous. In short, I hope he finds a home in space.
Brian (Chinatown Bus District)
Did I miss the rest of the article? It ended before explaining how he made his fortune.
mj (seattle)
Ahhhhhh!!! Twitter is not the "digital town square" and "free speech" is only a government obligation. Just because lots of people use Twitter doesn't make it public and companies can set their own policies about what content they will host. Really infuriating to see so many buy into the idea that Musk is trying to sell. Hopefully Twitter will suffer enormously when he opens the floodgates to hatred, bigotry and lies.
Jacarley (Berlin)
How about just sign off Twitter, make your next car Not a Tesla? It’s easy. He’s not controlling anything essential.
Melissa (Pittsburgh)
@Jacarley thank you!!
David Ullman (Washington)
Musk is just another Trump. Everything is done with other people's money. Twitter turned into a true garbage depot the minute Trump started using it it as his bloodless hammer. I quit immediately after the first Trump "tweet." I urge the American public to cancel their Twitter accounts with the speed of summer lightning!
Stan Smart (Cincinnati, OH)
Yes, Tesla got "bailout" minutes from the federal government. So did Ford and G. M. but they aren't helmed by conservatives, so that's OK. SpaceX gets government contracts because his rockets save NASA and other agencies billions. SpaceX customers include many foreign countries.
What Is This (Gotham)
All of those are fine and even appropriate when they are free of improper influence and are doled out without malice. But Musk, knowing the importance of those public investments to his endeavors, has repeatedly called for such programs to stop and for struggling businesses (including any potential competitors) to be allowed to fail.
JS (Virginia)
If it weren't Elon Musk, it would be another Elon Musk, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, etc. He's boorish and infantile, but don't blame him for playing the game better than others. Blame those responsible for making and enforcing the rules...
hm1342 (NC)
"Elon Musk is now the proud owner of Twitter. The danger here is not that we have a rogue billionaire in our midst — that has happened before, and it will happen again — but that this one will be in control of what he has rightly referred to as our “digital town square.”" David, if Mr. Musk was the darling of the Woke Left, you would not have written this piece, right?
morGan (NYC)
FYI Princess Ivanka and her hubby acted as brokers to secure 7 billion from Saudi Butcher MBS to finance the deal. How much commission will they collect? Try 7-10 million. Not bad for working the phones for 6 months.
Cynthia (Chicago)
This essay dismisses Elon Musk as just another oligarch. But the guy figured out how to land a rocket, for heavens sake! Musk makes NASA look like the USSR in 1985. Is all the animus here in the comments just based on Trump getting let back on Twitter? If so, people need to lighten up.
Richard (Canada)
The New York Times is a product of the before times. Rather than debate or deride their influence, we must recognize that they are not the self-made genius journalists they play in the media. Instead, their success was prompted and paid for by taxpayer money and abetted by government officials who have allowed them and their billionaire advertisers to exercise more and more control over our economy and our politics. There you go, fixed it for you.
S Tveskov (which Is A Danish Name…just FYI) (Vancouver By Way Of CT 🇩🇰)
@Richard Then why are you reading it?
Reader 0001 (Nyc)
Twitter is only the "town square" for journalists and some others. Many people never read twitter and many don't care about it. This is not the top headline unless you are a journalist. Healthcare, Ukraine, elections, any are more important. The media bubble of house thinks this is the most important story.
Phil in the mountains of Kyushu (Japan)
In his penultimate paragraph, David Nasaw asks beguiling Q: " . . .is it not time that we, as a people and a nation, engage in a wide-ranging, inclusive public debate . . .?" And in his final para, he concludes with how rich man Musk's success was "paid for by taxpayer money and abetted by government officials who have allowed him" his power. I wish the NY Times comment section honored this credit to the people -- wish it let us see and reply to replies to our comments, as if it honored our input to each other, to the democracy, as David Nasaw wishes the rich saw us all as underpinning them. I wish the schools of the world had such standards -- the people, us, our humanities -- as central. Not the profiteers of standardized testing as they strangle K-12. Not the bankers as they indebt all higher ed, as well as float ilk such as Musk, Putin, Trump, Mohammed bin Salman. I wish. I wish. I wish.
Jp (Ml)
"His wealth is based not on factories he has built, products he sells or real estate he has acquired, but on the billions of dollars of shares he owns in Tesla, SpaceX, cryptocurrency companies and Twitter." You statement is nonsense. What do expect, he gives away his stock and just collects a salary? There's value in his stock because others will pay for it based on today's and projected earnings. But then again, who really needs an EV or Internet access in remote areas, right?
Marty Ruprecht (New Jersey)
Yeah… it took a while for folks (myself included) to figure it out. Green energy blinded me to a lot.
Mark (OC CA)
The only thing I took away from this screed is raw jelousy and envy. He (Musk) has more than you and somehow that's unfair. He's going to kill off [something] unless we stop him. News flash: All you have to do is get off Twitter. Personally, I don't understand all the angst as I've never had an accoutn on any social media and never will. Seems utterly pointless. So log off. Stop going there. If enough Twitterati do that, then their choices will be clear - and no one can stop them, not even Musk - and the Twitstorms will cease. Democracy will be safe again!! When, oh when, will we legalize adulthood?
Al. H (Switzerland)
Free speech is fine, the problem with Twitter and Facebook is that their algorithms promote bad, fake, controversial news. That’s how they keep users addicted, so they may view more advertisement.  If Elon had mentioned, free speech, and cutting down on the algorithms it would be fine. But he hasn’t.
l provo (st augustine)
More like Private Equity. And yes Oregon has a fund that gives five thousand dollars for buyers of electric vehicles that qualify. How many other states ,and also the federal government have subsidized this loudmouth. A risk taker who rode the infatuation with electric cars ,and the California climate of innovation all the way to the bank. Texas is not the hub of innovation the last time I looked. Just a place to park your money tax free. The techies helped to destabilized the middle class in California and now they think Texas is Utopia. Austin is next. Peter Thiel and some of these others have contempt for the world they helped to create. Double down on anger at the country they became super wealthy in. Immigrants at that.
Physicist (Chicago)
"Carnegie and the steel barons elected Republican lawmakers and presidents committed to protecting their companies’ profits by levying high tariffs on foreign competitors. Mr. Musk’s companies, and his fortune, were built with billions of dollars worth of subsidies for his electric-car company, Tesla, and billions more in NASA contracts", -- call out Republicans from from over a century ago (they were today's Democratic party btw), and then forget to add that Democrats are the ones who gave musk all those subsidies. This fearmongering left wing op-ed is laughable
old fella (Utica, NY)
@Physicist The Republicans of over a century ago were the party of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft; the Democrats were the party of Woodrow Wilson.
JPLA (Pasadena)
@Physicist What's that you say? Corporate socialism? Add to that, he and his brethren we're happy to make their fortune under the entrepreneur friendly California skies, but are now beating feet to right wing tax havens where personal liberties are being squashed by Nationalist Christian politicians.
Tom (Show Low, AZ)
By controlling the content on Twitter, he controls the minds of America.
debussy (chicago)
Exactly. Musk is no more a self-made, altruistic billionaire than Trump is a "stable genius." Both are egomaniacs bent on their own self-aggrandizement. Nothing more.
Dennis Flannagan (middletown ,New Jersey)
no one should have a BILLION that’s too much power wielded by someone that does not have to answer to anyone
Yossarian (Pittsburgh)
In the future billionaires will cut out the political middlemen and just run for office themselves. All of our presidents will just be billionaires.
Mike (Texas)
@Yossarian instead of the multi, multi millionaires?! (Clutches pearls)
john fiva (switzerland)
Elon Musk doesn't seem to take the money or the power of it nearly as seriously as all these people writing about it. Until he comes out openly for Trump I'll hold my bets.
Mike (Peoria, AZ)
I just deactivated my dormant account on Twitter. Don't need it.
jg (Bedford, ny)
It isn't a town square if someone owns the town.
Bill Levine (Evanston, IL)
If our culture survives long enough for there to be historians to look back on this period, they will surely recognize that the so-called "Reagan Revolution" was primarily about allowing individuals to accumulate personal fortunes of such a size that the purchase of entire institutions became eminently affordable. As the Koch brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, Dick Uihlein and a choice handful of others discovered they could buy the Republican Party and a compliant Supreme Court to go with it, Elon Musk decided to make his favorite social media platform his personal property. Is this good for a free society? Are we even living in a free society anymore? As that larger question hangs over us, in this restricted case it seems unlikely that Musk is going to succeed in making himself the master of the public square. I make this prediction based on the delusional growth and profitability targets he has set for Twitter. No way any of that happens, the platform just isn't that intrinsically profitable. When it eventually doesn't work out, Musk will get bored and move on to something else as he always does, leaving the banks that were foolish enough to come along for the ride wondering where all the money went. I only wish the rest of the donor class had such a short attention span.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
After Reaganomics crashed the economy in the late 80s, why did anyone still vote GOP? And people actually did go to jail in those days, if they crashed the economy. The revolution was in 2008 - they all got away with crashing it, and were even rewarded with taxpayer subsidies. Imagine if we had tossed all the bankers in jail, for hoodwinking the American people with predatory loans. The problem is that the criminals were never punished. We bailed them out instead. That was the real beginning of the end.
Robert (Upstate)
Born on third base, but thinks he hit a triple.
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
My fully autonomous telsa robot just opened the door on the musk hyperloop pod I just took from LA to San Francisco at 700mph. Musk is a genius...genius.
Aubrey (Alabama)
Does Musk own all of Twitter or has he brought in suckers who will lose a lot of money if/when Twitter goes down the tubes? I don't know much about Musk but he seems to like Donald and that tells me that Musk must be a con man and serial grifter just like his buddy, Donald. In the old days, Carnegie was a hard businessman and he probably misled many people, but I wonder if he would look people in the eye and tell them a baldfaced lie? That is common for many modern businessmen like Donald and company. It will be fun to watch Musk, Donald, and the other characters who will appear on Twitter. Like watching scorpions in a bottle. Best wishes.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
A billionaire tax evader who gets tax subsidies is definitely a con man. I want a refund.
MC (Arizona)
The accusation made here, that Musk will protect free speech on Twitter as long as it promotes his side (and not if it doesn’t) really has no basis in reality that I can see. Such an outcome would essentially be the right-wing version of what Twitter is now, and indeed that would be scary. But from everything I’ve read he wants to make it transparent and unbiased with respect to ideology. This seems like a good thing
Marnor (Nevada)
It's about time that people recognize that Musk is a MAGA leaning towards screwy GOP candidates, and at times even positive towards Russia despite their barbaric actions. This happens when a country's system creates untouchable oligarchs like Musk being a fearsome outlook for a flip to the age of autocracy. Unfortunately, our government is unwilling to tamper down social media the best vehicle to promote said autocracy. Musk has just paid double what Twitter is worth, and is now firing not only top executives, but considering up to a 1000 employees. These are people who were practicing restraint. Does Musk care? Heck No. Given the shaky political situation we're in now it's about time for citizens to start thinking about the impact of the oligarch wealth, and do something about it. That could mean buy electric cars that are NOT Teslas which, in my opinion, have some of the worst car designs on the planet. USA and foreign auto makers have reliable electric cars with more classy designs. Weaning off of Twitter, or other socially disruptive media platforms can help stave off misinformation. Unless there develops a sea change of attitude things will only get worse. I believe, with these oligarchs like Musk, that we are edging towards a repeat of the Roaring Twenties on the way to one of the worst deep recessions, or depressions that America has not seen for almost 100 years ago. May America survive this developing potential debacle before it's too late.
Barry Moyer (Washington, DC)
I can't speak with any authority to the value (or lack of it) of social media as reader comments on the NYTimes is my singular excursion into a public dialog, but "free speech" is a very broad term and there has always been, as near as I can tell, completely rational restrictions placed on it, as readers of "comments" well know. If Musk sees Twitter as an exception and allows any view to be expressed without regard to civil and legal restrictions, then I would repeat the old map warning; HERE BE MONSTERS! Any format that not only allows but encourages hate speech or calls for hurtful actions, simply must not be allowed. I thought we had crossed that bridge long ago. Obviously, I am referring to Trump's most probable return to a VERY impactful web site and what will absolutely follow. So,...exactly how does this serve America and the civil restraints inherent in who and what we say we are and to what extent is wealth, extreme wealth, allowed extreme disregard for those behavioral restrictions? Anybody.......?
Why is it that so many who are outraged by Big Oil, Big Pharma, corporate America in general, or a particular political party nonetheless give a pass to -- even admire -- such a huge threat as Elon Musk? One person worth 1/4 trillion (yes, trillion with a T) dollars is more of a danger to America than are all the trolling Twitterati put together, as well as Twitter itself. If he should decide to spend his money opposing abortion, supporting restrictive voting laws, or buying an AK47 for every member of the Republican Party, there is nothing to stop him. With his money Musk can actually finance Russia's effort to take over much of Ukraine, which Musk has advocated. But that's nothing compared to the influence (i.e. bought politicians, businesses, clergy) he can wield over the life of everyday Americans. Whether it's elections, zoning variances, or laws and regulations to advance his own whims, fantasies, and economic interests, he can buy them. With chump change. An example of how Musk operates: in New Mexico, for instance, Tesla has moved onto Pueblo land, so as to avoid having to obey state laws and regulations. I have no interest in addicting, often destructive, gossip-promoting vehicles, such as Twitter. Those who are interested can fight it out among themselves. Twitter is simply an inevitable aspect of the world's one truly democratic weapon of mass destruction: the internet.
@HOOZON FIRST You make very good points, most of which I agree with, but I do want to point out something that I think is inaccurate in your comment. Elon Musk has a net worth of $250b, but he doesn’t actually have $250b in cash laying around. He probably does have quite a bit though (a few billion? Just spitballing). If he were to try to liquidate his stocks he would crash the prices. So he sorta has that money, but if he actually tried to move it from its current position it would be worth much less. He’s the richest publicly known man in the world, but his fortune is peanuts compared to the real wealth holders; Saudi Royal family, Vladimir Putin, etc. Those are the men who actually have many billions of dollars in liquid form. Heck, for the Saudis it could be trillions, we just don’t know. Putin is reportedly worth around $200b, mostly liquid, and that doesn’t even include his fleet of jets or massive palaces that “someone else owns”.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
The IRS still brags about how they brought down Al Capone, why can't they bring down Trump and Musk?
AnneW (Seattle)
With enough money you can buy all the free speech you want. And, you can fire whomever you wish. These are the two lessons/reminders to take from this event.
Alexis it Doesn’t Have To End (Bunkhars)
Oh, Musk is ENTIRELY self-made. Those who are riffing on him somehow have not repeated his success, have you noticed? For many of us techies, Elon is as near an idol as it gets in this nihilistic age.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
Self - made with OUR money. And I generally find that self made people are made badly.
Kevin Cahill (87106)
Musk is a genius. His rockets that return and land on their launchpads instead of crashing into the ocean have made space flight Musk cheaper. His Tesla cars and charging stations have accelerated the shift to electric cars, although he should have made the charging stations usable by all electric cars. On Ukraine, Musk makes more sense than do the hawks surrounding Biden and the foreign-policy “elite” who cheer for our military-industrial-congressional complex.
Marcus Brant (Canada)
So Musk invented all this or did he just find the people who could?
John (Cerone)
Some facts below: - Must sold PayPal and received between $175 - $180M - He took that money and built Tesla & Solar City which are now valued at $710bn (yes...billion) - Electric Vehicles went from being an afterthought in the mind of buyers and manufacturers to being one of the most sought after vehicles today Twitter is a very different company than Tesla or Paypal, thus his success there doesn't not guarantee success for Twitter. However, it's hard to argue with Musk's track record of past success. It's easy to sit at a keyboard and play armchair quarterback. I'm curious how many $1bn+ companies Mr. Nasaw has built. What has Mr. Nasaw done to help solve urgent environmental issues like climate change through the creation of solar panels and electric vehicles. While Mr. Nasaw is typing at his desk, Musk is delivering results.
Oregonian (Portland)
@John Then he is certainly wealthy enough to pay his employees better and taxes - Billionaires should be outlawed for the benefits of everyone
Aubrey (Alabama)
@John I take it you are saying that the only people who can comment on Musk and his activities are people who have made $700 Billion dollars. I hope Musk is successful but the world is full of armchair quarterbacks commenting on everybody and everything. Nasaw is just giving his opinion which I think is what people do on Twitter. I have never been on Twitter. Best wishes.
Mike (Texas)
@Oregonian The top 1% pay 90% of the taxes in this country. They're the reason you have roads, schools, etc. Not you paying your $20k in taxes a year. Stop trying to limit how successful someone can be just because your life isn't as grand as theirs. Jealousy isn't a very good look.
Michael (Stockholm)
A suggestion: try and remember how people reacted to both Obama and Elizabeth Warren when they pointed out that billionaires "didn't build [anything]". But it's impossible to intellectually reach the MAGA people. These are the same people who wail that an sub-average defensive back "deserves" a $200M ten-year contract.
Koala (Australia)
Impossible, probably, though it would be good to see an instant fact-checking algorithm created and applied to social media posts. The technology would exist. Be interesting to see if a mongrelized public social media mindset would want it. Too much to ask that the industry innovates in that direction - protection of facts, identification of variance from them - by itself. The aesthetic eye repels from this Twitter thing instantly. Those symbols all through it. It's visibly angry, aggressive, dissected. Says it all in a split-second look. I read a proper text once, actual sentences and peaceful visually, you know, an article, about the percussive nature of social media, which speaks at people rather than with them. (Something that happens here on NYT with its @ symbol, which to me still grates unpleasantly and be enough to give it a miss in favor of peace of mind were it not for the substance that more often than not follows). Twitter makes percussion sound and look like ballet. It throws razor blades at the eyes and hammers them in. No thanks.
john (NY)
I don't think twitter's problem has much at all to do with free speech. I think it's an aging format with an immense level of inauthentic traffic and no direct monetization. Our journalistic reliance on it is honestly pathetic. Let's let Elon waste his money in peace. Just stop using the product.
Donna Gray (Louisa, Va)
Those who can do. Those who can't teach. What kind of jealousy drives this author to state Musk didn't build anything? Viable electric cars and reusable space vehicles are nothing? The "enormous subsidies and protection" were available to everyone, yet only Musk has produced! He deserves the credit!
Siddalee (NW Arkansas)
@Donna Gray He didn’t build any of those things. Being a money guy isn’t a bad thing necessarily. Your offense implies you think it is. That’s fine but it means you don’t like Musk and his dad’s emerald money. For me, the problem isn’t with people who use or even advise the system, rather with those who think that means something more than it does.
Robert (Out West)
Tell me when you EVER saw a pic of the Beloved Elon with his hands dirty. To speed you on your quest, Adam Smith thought—correctiy, it would appear—that poorly-regulated markets create oligarchs and undercut democracy, not least because it’s in human nature to kiss up to the wealthy.
Adler (DC)
Who built them?
Auntie Mame (NYC)
Carnegie at least endowed libraries. - gave away his fortune. even as he exploited workers. So far as the continued support of the rich, of capitalism by the government -- the people to blame are the president, the Senate and House of Rep, the SCOTUS -- the governors, the legislatures, local governments with zoning laws. Just say NO rarely enters any politico's mind-- including apparently Hochul being accused of corruption already!! Have to check that one out.. -- did she really make a deal to buy Covid tests at an inflated price and get a campaign donation for her efforts? 1 million?? And the PACs are the worst of all.. But we just can't tax the rich.. and talk about corporate welfare... and the media is very much complicit.. in not calling things what they are.. Price gouging will definitely lead to higher prices aka inflation.. So far as Twitter and moi -- gotta along without ya before I met ya.. Just say no. and stop showing off. Far from the madding crowd is a great place to be.
Jean Cleary (Mass.)
Who would want to work there anymore. Musk is another Trump, albeit a real Billionaire. But then, his father owns an Emerald mine in South Africa, so Musk got a pretty good start in life.
Denis Montenier (Hudson, Iowa)
@Jean Cleary ..As did the former guy...get a good start in life from dear old dad's largesse. Unlike Trump who managed to blow his father's fortune into multiple bankruptcies, Musk achieved more than a modicum of financial success.
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
@Jean Cleary, Oh, you haven't heard, elon musk invented emeralds.
firlfriend (usa)
It is not like he actually built the first electric car. That would be Nikola Tesla.
David (Florida)
@firlfriend No, The first electric car was long before Tesla. Tesla invented Alternating Current systems and motors however. He also did a lot with brushless motors etc. which are important to electric cars.
Regret (California)
The Speaker of the House in the United States of America was targeted in a domestic terrorist attack and the sole owner of an important social/political media company is completely silent. This is not a good sign.
David H (Northern Va.)
@Regret Gimme a break. Have we heard from Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Marc Zukerberg? We heard from Mitch McConnell, bless his little heart. People are busy.
CJS (Midwest)
Genius or not, history has long taught that genius (or presumed genius) and morality rarely go hand-in-hand. To the contrary, genius is frequently used as a crutch to commit the most brutal atrocities. Witness Loeb and Leopold.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
Einstein was a nice guy, and he gave a room to Marion Anderson when bigots were giving her an attitude. I will never understand his theories, but, for that reason (and he had a sense of humor) I admire Einstein.
Ethan Allen (Vermont)
The advertising revenues relied on by social media is not for Dollar General or Popeyes. It’s for products aimed at educated metropolitan elites with disposable incomes, who Musk and his buddy Trump love to hate. For that matter, how many Trump voters have bought a Tesla? So, this moment represents an existential choice for liberals everywhere. Delete your Twitter account (don’t kid yourself you can just boycott advertisers separately) OR support Elon Musk’s insane view of the Town Square along with Trump, Ye, Alex Jones, and all the other misinformation and hate.
HR (Maine)
It won’t be a digital town square- it’ll be a digital speakers corner - full of ranting lunatics. But in this tech era these types seem to have thrived rather than be left on the fringes like they were previously.
Jean (Maine)
Musk is a "clear and present danger" to American democracy and to the whole world. Just look at his resent involvement with Putin. We need to find a way to stand up to and stop him and others just like him. Open your eyes American. The wellbeing of all of us everywhere is at stake!
Mark So (Jacksonville. Florida)
Keep in mind Trump was still on Twitter when he lost the election. All the nonsense he spouted previously did not change the election. Let him back on. I never paid attention to his rants in the past and I won’t in the future.
Brian Woodahl (Indianapolis, Indiana)
StarLink + Musk's Twitter = Voice for every human on the planet. The world's repressive regimes are shaking in their boots.
Nancy (USA)
All decent folks should deactivate/delete your Twitter accounts.
aoxomoxoa (Berkeley)
@Nancy I fail to understand the rationale for this decision of yours. I use Twitter mostly to keep up with journalists whose work is most readily available on that platform. For example, Seth Abramson has been one of the most persistently correct journalists over the past 5 years in ferreting out information that the mainstream press tends to acknowledge years later. He is documenting the actions of people who are actively seeking to overturn this country's democratic traditions. I read his posts on Twitter. How is this harming me or anyone else who is honest?
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
I wonder what's going to happen to Bernie Sanders, John Cleese, Ai-jen Poo, Stephen Fry, and all the other people on Twitter who are the polar opposites of Musk.
Legal Eagle (USA)
Just two words for Mr. Musk and his co-investors, "You overpaid."
Sam (West Of Texas)
The liberals may do a mass exodus, but MAGA is planning a massive takeover. So are our foreign enemies. This is going to get very ugly and Mr Musk will just bask in the attention and more millions. Democracy is not just doomed, it pretty near over. The rest of the world is watching in awe as this onetime superpower burns itself down by worshipping oligarchs.
Victorious Yankee (The Superior North)
@Sam, Here's the thing, MAGAs are uneducated, uncultured and extremely boring. The are one trick ponies and have no other interests other than owning the libs. If we Libs leave they'll just be tweeting to other MAGA idiots and, as the pile of defunct right-wing dating sites shows, rightist "men" are about as interesting as watching paint dry. Without libs, Twitter will become just another Aryan Nation hate platform. And now that the general public knows what a jackass musk really is, they'll bail on Twitter before y'all can say COVFEFE.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
Maybe we can get some foreign power to seize their yachts.
Bill Camarda (Ramsey, NJ)
Your brief history of how American moguls have always benefited from government intervention makes a broader point. There never have been truly "free" markets. Such things don't exist. And, after centuries of recognizably modern capitalism, and milliennia of markets, it seems vanishingly unlikely they ever will. Profit-seeking enterprise needs government, just as much as societies need government to protect them from untrammeled profit-seeking enterprise.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
Just think of all the times the National Guard were called out to "defend" all the stinking capitalists from exploited, underpaid, striking workers!
kitty (Cls)
@Bill Camarda Indeed!! Wish I had more 2 throw your way - 'Free markets' my big ol' toe!!
Gene G (Palm Desert CA)
He's the richest guy in the world ! He singlehandedly transformed the electric car industry and Tesla is the largest seller of electric cars in the world . Through Space X, he transformed the future of space travel by perfecting a re-useable rocket which returns to earth. We might return to the moon and set foot on Mars because of him ! Yet, there seems to be a compulsion to tarnish his reputation, for petty personal or political reasons. Like it or not, Musk will go down in history as a creative and technological genius alongside Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers and others whose achievements have forever changed the way the world functions.
David (Florida)
@Gene G He did not "single handedly" transform the electric car industry. The only thing he did was utilize emerging advances in lithium ion battery technology which was advancing rapidly due to cellphones and laptops needs. You are however correct in him belonging with Edison. Edison was also just a money man who loved to steal the credit for everyone else's work. The most famous of his one time employees was one Nikola Tesla. Edison ripped off his discoveries and then weaseled out of his obligations to Tesla. Luckily Tesla left and developed AC motors and systems.
kitty (Cls)
@Gene G Singlehandedly? U sure about that??
aoxomoxoa (Berkeley)
@Gene G Remember when he called a British man, who was helping to rescue those Thai Boy Scouts from a flooded cave, a pedophile because the man noted that Musk was interfering but not helping? Genius? Mars by 2030? Believe what you wish. That's up to you. I think he has done a swell job tarnishing his reputation without anyone's help.
SunInEyes (Paradise)
And guys like Musk (and Thiel) - so called "Americans" - are doing their best to run the United States and the very system that propped them up, into the ground. In Thiel's case, grabbing a handful of foreign citizenships to hedge his safety net when he finally does the short sell of the USA.
kitty (Cls)
@SunInEyes I have marveled at the same - men who benefitted from the best that the USA have to offer, have so assiduously devoted themselves to its destruction. It is the central mystery of our time!!
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
People bite the hand that feeds them - I think they feel entitled to it once you give it to them, then it's never enough. You could say this about Musk and Trump.
James (Los Angeles)
I fail to see the real threat, here. Musk says things, then backpedals, or changes course. What is it with the tarring and feathering, just because he's said some puerile, silly stuff? As an anti-Progressive ultra-liberal myself, I'm appalled at the lack of any semblance of objectivity on the part of Liberals, much less doing something as basic as applying an Ideological Turing Test before running in to scare the bees. Does it really matter that Trump is allowed back on Twitter? Will (perceived) feeble American minds be changed, by Tweets? If so, are we the ones to judge what correct thinking is, barring outright hostile disinformation, of course? Are you positive that social justice warriors, with their fraught-beyond-fraught ideologies anchored in a rejection of science and data, who have damaged Dems beyond what Liberals are willing to admit, are any better, philosophically speaking? I'm in my 50s, and I've never seen such deep, large-scale cognitive dissonance, not even from Republicans. How do you read Musk's crusade to rid the platform of bots as being some sort of Conservative attack on objective truth, which in my view is lacking on both the left and right in equitable measure? He is "a self-made genius businessman." How do you not agree with that? Just because he's bringing back a man we hear from anyway for the next election cycle? How do you declare that "democracy is at stake!" with the most anti-democratic position possible?
Ahbaya Tara (Maryland, USA)
None of these CEO “ genius” owners are self-made— they use the labor of the people they employ and then dictate the rules by which they make everyone play. Scientists, engineers, designers, assembly line workers, are all the real business heroes that end stage Capitalists use and then throw away without any moral concern.
Stephanie Wood (Bloomfield NJ)
If he would pay his taxes, and pay back all the subsidies we threw at him, I wouldn't despise him so much. But he owes us big time. He's not self made if we paid for him.
Ed (South Carolina)
@James He is not a "self made genius businessman. He inherited his wealth from his father who owned mines in South Africa. He is just another spoiled malignant narcissist who takes credit for things he did not think of nor do.
J (FL)
Having public support to develop technology does not detract from his genius. Who else has developed and built space ships that can ferry astronauts for NASA ? NASA can't get a rocket ship launched these days. And don't say anything about Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic. Blue Origin was able to lauch and land - after SpaceX did it. Mr Musk is very much like Mr Edison in that he brings together very smart and driven people to accomplish his goals. Of course those people should be recognized as much as Mr Musk himself for these accomplishments, but that does not detract from the fact that without Mr Musk, these accomplishments likely would not have happened in the timeframe they did. And which other company is supporting Ukraine to the extent that Starlink is? Be careful spouting about disinformation - history has shown us that the "experts" are very often wrong and the information called lies turns out to be true.
Canadian Roy (Canada)
@J Hi genius is taking credit for the work of others. When have your heard him ever praise the engineers that make his investments work? Never.
Why is it that so many who are outraged by Big Oil, Big Pharma, corporate America in general, or a particular political party nonetheless give a pass to -- even admire -- such a huge threat as Elon Musk? One person worth 1/4 trillion (yes, trillion with a T) dollars is more of a danger to America than are all the trolling Twitterati put together, as well as Twitter itself. If he should decide to spend his money opposing abortion, supporting restrictive voting laws, or buying an AK47 for every member of the Republican Party, there is nothing to stop him. With his money Musk can actually finance Russia's effort to take over much of Ukraine, which Musk has advocated. But that's nothing compared to the influence (i.e. bought politicians, businesses, clergy) he can wield over the life of everyday Americans. Whether it's elections, zoning variances, or laws and regulations to advance his own whims, fantasies, and economic interests, he can buy them. With chump change. An example of how Musk operates: in New Mexico, for instance, Tesla has moved onto Pueblo land, so as to avoid having to obey state laws and regulations. I have no interest in addicting, often destructive, gossip-promoting vehicles, such as Twitter. Those who are interested can fight it out among themselves. Twitter is simply an inevitable aspect of the world's one truly democratic weapon of mass destruction: the internet.
Felicia (New Jersey)
The amount of people deleting their accounts will spike for a short period, then one by one they will return. Addicts rarely succeed on their first try and there is no rehab for Twitter addiction at least that I know of. I believe so many so called elites twitter addicts, hence the kicking and screaming that a person may change their drug of choice.
Michael Gaobest (San Francisco)
We are all not required to use Twitter and other social media platforms. Feel free to exit. Nothing will be missed because anything is importance will be shared in other places such as our beloved New York Times.
Jon Orloff (Rockaway Beach, Or)
Many people already recognize that there is a great deal of garbage to be found on facebook and twitter, and ignore that content and sometimes the platforms. If Musk opens up twitter to unlimited garbage, with luck a majority of people will come to realize that there is a lot of noise with no useful content, and will pay no more attention to it than to a crank raving on a street corner, in an effort to achieve a sane and civilized society.
Portola (Bethesda)
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act exempts companies like Twitter from responsibility for what they publish. That mistaken clause has allowed online misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and outright lies to flourish while the owners of those companies have become multi-billionaires. It's time to fix this by amending Section 230 to clean up the putrid mess that social media companies have allowed to contaminate our everyday life.
KestrelFlight (Connecticut)
@Portola So you'd destroy free speech across the internet? Lets not instead. I don't even use Twitter.
Curtis Hollingsworth (Little Compton, RI)
The press prattles on about the extreme right wing, but never the extreme left wing. And the press hates capitalism, calls it systemically racist, and gives the credit for our progress and advances to government. So I guess it was inevitable that a columnist would write about “extreme capitalism.”
Canadian Roy (Canada)
@Curtis Hollingsworth The press doesn't go on about the 'extreme left' because there is none.
RickP (Ca)
@Curtis Hollingsworth I hear right wing propaganda every time I listen to Fox. And it has a big market share. A difference is that the Republicans are dominated by the extremists (not to say out and out crazies) where on the left the more extreme views have only a handful of votes -- all in the House and none in the Senate.
aoxomoxoa (Berkeley)
@Curtis Hollingsworth The press, owned by large capitalist enterprises, hates capitalism? The cognitive dissonance required to believe this is astonishing.
michjas (Phoenix)
Musk does not have the last word on free speech or on Twitter’s economic status. The courts have the last word on free speech and the state—the welfare state—regulates all corporations. Whatever Musk may think about free speech, the ACLU has its own ideas. And the two of them will duke it out in the courts. True, SCOTUS is way conservative. But that’s not so important when it comes to free speech, which is not nearly as partisan an issue as abortion. As for the welfare state, it may not stand up to billionaires as much as you’d like. But the rules and regulations that apply to Twitter are voluminous. And they promote corporate responsibility. Sometimes they are useless. But there is a reason that billionaires complain of red tape. Red tape helps keep billionaires in check. The US regulates capitalism. Less than you may want. But more than Musk wants. Musk may be a good guy or a bad guy. But either way, there are rules. And good guy or bad guy, he’s not the last word. The tobacco companies, Dow Chemical, and even Exxon have all been made to factor in the welfare of the public. Lots of harm has been done. But the welfare state is real. And while capitalism thrives, there are limits which allow for a good deal of push and pull. Musk has great power. This article suggests that his power is limitless. That is not true.
Opus (Cape Cod)
@michjas When speech is injurious it is limited, where there is a potential for physical harm. We live in a country that has more rights concerning free speech than any other western Democracy, more so than the UK or France. Even if it repugnant and that has been enshrined in a myriad of SCOTUS decisions including cases such as Falwell v Flint. For better or worse we have a tremendous amount of Free Speech that is that is not limited by the government, if corporations want to censor on their own because in most cases it is self censorship for public relations and subsequently stock valuation concerns.
Michael Joseph Brennan (Columbus, Ohio)
@michjas - Shouldn't we use the correct word for Elon Musk? He is an oligarch. Perhaps the penultimate American oligarch. of our time. I am glad that he is an American.
michjas (Phoenix)
There are multiple exceptions to free speech, 1. incitement 2. defamation 3. fraud 4. obscenity 5. child pornography 6. fighting words, and 7. threats And the most controversial free speech ruling is not about what anyone says. It is about campaign donations, which SCOTUS protected as speech in Citizens United.
Jason (NJ)
Billionaires own the Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Twitter, Facebook, and extremely wealth people own the NY Times. Ever heard of William Hearst?
gumnaam (nowhere)
Can someone with the wherewithal create with another social media site? And make it easy for the tweeters to switch over? And manage it applying the rules evenly to everyone? Perhaps call it Warbler?
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
@gumnaam Yes, anyone who can capture as big a following can challenge Twitter. The telecommunication system is open. The power of the giants amounts to being the first with the ability to benefit from an huge unserved niche. People keep returning and that gives Twitter, Facebook, and Google billions and the power that comes with all of that steady income.
Big Boomer (San Francisco)
@gumnaam Isn't that what Trump tried to do?
Doug (Texas)
When 3 men possess more wealth than the half of the US population (160 million people), as was recently reported, we really need to rethink the use of the term democracy.
Dman (Portland, OR)
I'm no fan of Elon Musk, but Tesla stock values include Tesla factories. Tesla sells a real product, which are numerous on the roads in my area. SpaceX does have paying customers for its services. The fact that a main customer is NASA does not diminish anything, just as any other company that sells its goods or services to the government is a legitimate business.
@Dman This isn't a new phenomenon--who do you think makes the military's fighter jets? Makers like Boeing and other aeronautics industries. That government contract system has existed for decades and it's a big reason why Northern Virginia is one of the richest areas nationwide.
Critical Thought (Orlando)
@Dman You are absolutely correct, but neither company would have made it to the products without the government (taxpayer) monies invested directly and indirectly. Everyone who buys a Tesla electric car is eligible for a $7,500 reduction in the cost. This is part of a government program to get electric car manufacturing and use underway. There have been several subsidies for SpaceX as well. Musk also got government funding when building his mega-factory for batteries. There is no question that Musk is a talented, innovative thinker, but he has also used that process to secure enormous government support. Hopefully, the advances of Telsa and SpaceX will result in progress that makes those funds well spent. I believe the big concern now is that Twitter is not on any of those paths to better futures for our country. Musk claims to be a free speech absolutist, which if taken literally would mean he is fine with someone shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Twitter has the potential to do a lot of harm to society, and Musk has a well-earned reputation for not seeing the guard rails in areas that get in his way.
Lyle Ross (Houston)
@Dman, most of the technologies that make Teslas work were developed on the public dole. Without public investment there is no Elonmobile. Oh, you can argue that Elon got it done, 30 years after GM. And GM only killed off their electric cars because the oil industry wanted it that way. As for Space X, redeveloping the Mercury rocket 50 years after the original is hardly impressive. The technology therein being paid for by the government. The computer systems that make it all work, modern computers, were paid for by the Pentagon, and developed at MIT with help from IBM. We pay, Elon gets rich and brags about how awesome he is. Yawn.
Gertrude (The Hinterland)
I appreciate any article that punctures the myth that Musk is some great genius. He’s not. He’s kind of weird and vaguely unlikable. He made a gargantuan amount of money. Good for him. I don’t appreciate the censorship apologia. I really, really don’t appreciate the unbelievably-tired, well-known-nonsense “fire in a crowded theater” argument with the reference to Oliver Wendell Holmes. No, we should not be having a debate on free speech. I don’t care one iota about social media, Musk wouldn’t be my first choice to run anything, but free speech got nothin’ to do with this. I wish liberals guarded free speech with the vehemence conservatives guard their guns. Free speech is a non-negotiable.
Chrisofdan (NC)
Free speech is one thing and is the shining light of democracy. Disinformation and misinformation is propaganda and should not be allowed, or at least needs regulation.
Big Boomer (San Francisco)
@Gertrude This morning, Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul, was attacked in their SF home by a middle-aged man with a hammer who could not tell the difference between all of the disinformation and misinformation on social media and reality. According to police reports, the man said he was waiting for Nancy to return home. Thank goodness he did not find her.
Critical Thought (Orlando)
@Gertrude No matter how old and tired the "fire in the theater" argument is, people still get hurt. Open your eyes a little wider.
D Bartholomew (Utah)
Musk was previously the darling of the Left, championing the electric car revolution. Now Musk wants to create a social media site that does not censor as a rule, a place that allows open and fair discussion of all policy positions. Because of this the Left is terrified. It's very interesting, tremendously telling, to see the Left hyperventilate over Musk and Twitter. Where you stand depends on where you sit.
@D Bartholomew Here's the thing I've never understood with the whole "misinformation debate", especially when it comes to sites like Twitter If what some random person says on the internet is enough to sway a person one way or the other than the problem isn't the misinformation, the problem is that person receiving it has a weak constitution Seriously. People shouldn't be that easily manipulated by what they see online. And it doesn't help that social media is quickly becoming a world of two echo chambers--one for the far left, the other for the far right.
Sheila (NJ)
The problem is peoples’ whole world view is constructed by social media in ways we don’t even really understand. Some people vanish is conspiracy theory rabbit holes, but even those of us who don’t fall that far still don’t see how the walls of our mental spaces are built by the discourse we live in. 
travis (NYC)
@D Bartholomew You are operating under a misapprehension. Musk does things for money that's capitalism. China is much more important market than the US. But US money is much more important that China money. As for free speech that the right wants, which seems to be for all their posturing is the right to have the 4chan-ish place, outright lie, slur and slither their way across the internet does not make it a very family friendly place. I have yet to see how allowing death threats makes speech more free. Musk is not a darling of the left as you say because it has become clear that he is just about marketing and all his great big, beautiful things for humanity are always a couple of years away or we will circle back to it later after the next earnings report. He doesn't live by any of the convictions he seems to champion and I've personally had enough of liars.
He's making electric cars, he's sending us to space, he's revolutionized our payment systems, he's helping Ukraine with critical technology. i don't know why is he such a horrible man? You instantly give him a label as a Robber Baron. He wants to expose the algorithm and spread freedom in his words. But we'll see how much hate speech there is.
Michelle Heart (VA)
@JP Thank you for your comment.
beans (US)
@JP 1. He only owns Tesla, he has not contributed to any technological portion of it. 2. What did he revolutionize? A banking app? 3. He is only helping Ukraine because the government is paying him to do so. He is actually making some profit off of it. Elon Musk will play a major part in the future, but he is not everything.
@beans yeah i do need to read more about the guy. thanks for the points.
Li (Santa Cruz, CA)
Twitter is a gaping mess of howling hedgehogs pushing their personal brands and (mostly) inane ideas. Unfortunately for the public, the MSM simply regurgitates and reiterates brain dead celebrity Tweets verbatim; as if these were significant, meaningful, or insightful in any way. I’d rather see the headline “Today’s celebrity braindead Tweets” followed by the list of verbatim inanities.
betterangels (Boston)
@Li Yes. Twitter would be nothing without media outlets, including the NYTimes, creating Tweet significance by amplifying the meaning and outreach of any Tweet with enough emotional impact that it will bring a lot of clicks.
Merlin (Minneapolis, MN)
Despite his wealth Musk provides evidence over and over again of his boorish immaturity. Further, the presumption that his wealth defacto makes him a to-be-taken-seriously voice in world affairs is a kind of Bond villain mania. The endgame for a Musk version of Twitter is entirely predictable. I'm sure the shareholders are happy. They can count their returns while their creation burns down society. Again.
john (NY)
@Merlin I don't think we should be giving twitter as much credit for swaying discourse as we are. If discourse on twitter can bring down our democracy, that's a failing of myriad other things leading up to that proverbial straw. I do think the shareholders are happy to take his price and walk, knowing full well the squishiness of their monthly active user numbers, the high liklihood that a significant portion of their userbase is unauthentic, and that the prospects of keeping up with a younger generation's interests are dimming. We can also surmise these systemic issues will not be made better with the sacking of 75% of the company. The insititutional knowlege will be gone, and the tech debt will crush the whole enterprise into a boring pile of not so useful app. So, if I were a board member, I'd be thrilled that this rich fool has bought my snake oil. As an american, I literally don't care what happens on twitter. We should incentivize all americans to stop caring what happens on twitter. Full stop.
The government needs to eliminate its funding of corporate products, regardless of whether that product is a rocket, an automobile, or corn. Government should narrow the scope of its funding to R&D through universities and scientific laboratories, and that funding should be increased. The amount of tax breaks and subsidies that financially well off people receive from our government is absurd, in fact, it often exceeds the amount of breaks and subsidies that are distributed to the poor, disabled, and disadvantaged. Congressional spending is out of control and complex inefficient; just look at NASA’s Artemis debacle for an example. The program had to fund jobs in literally every state in the country in order for the spending to pass, regardless of whether or not that state had the optimal resources to complete the work. The predictable result was a program that was massively expensive and has failed to actually launch a rocket. At the same time, Congress was handling out subsidies and tax breaks to Space X so they could also develop rockets. Now we have a situation where the government is awarding contracts to Space X for use of their rockets, which it partially funded in the first place, while Artemis has serious concerns about it’s ability to be a sustainable project, not to mention just getting a single rocket off the platform. No wonder Musk doesn’t respect the government. He manipulated them to get ahead and now he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
Carlotta (Orange Beach)
@RS Dr Dawkins… what is the composition of Pyramid stone blocks?
travis (NYC)
@RS thank you this is so needed. No more handouts for anyone in the private sector not even tax subsidies
D Bartholomew (Utah)
Musk was previously a darling for many championing the electric car revolution. Now Musk wants to create a social media site that does not censor as a rule, a place that allows open and fair discussion of all policy positions. It's very interesting, tremendously telling, to see so many upset by Musk and Twitter. Where you stand depends on where you sit.
Sitges (san diego)
@D Bartholomew "... Musk want to create a social media...that allows open and fair discussion ..." If this were true, I'd be all for it. But Twitter and Face book have been nothing but organs of propaganda, misinformation and disinformation -- beginning with the success of promoting "The Big Lie" regarding the election, without a shred of proof to sow doubt and distrust of democratic institutions. Be careful what you wish for.
Sheila (NJ)
But it’s not a place for fair discussion. Have you ever been on Twitter? It’s like the worst of middle school but a million times louder.
Com (USA)
@D Bartholomew Open and fair discussion is code for bigotry, hate, intolerance, and disinformation.
Andrew (NYC)
My view is that being a genius in business doesn't make you a genius in everything. It's a distinction people seem to miss. Being a great businessman doesn't automatically make you a great political leader or a great field marshall, for that matter; different types of intelligence, different skills, different formative experiences and education. Henry Ford was a good example of this. I think Musk is another example.
EF (Virginia)
He will only control it if we pay attention to it. the best way to get rid of the scourge of social media is to not use it.
beaconps (CT)
Charles MacKay noted that for our ultra democracy to survive, our leaders need to be intelligent and virtuous. Elon has assumed the mantle of leadership, will his impact on society be virtuous.
Lois (NYC)
Good point. Just as laws and legal interpretation need to be updated when societal changes lead to unforeseen benefits or harms if the old rules are applied, so too must laws and legal interpretations be updated to address the information technology era. And especially the First Amendment understanding that a "typical" type of prohibited speech would be shouting 'Fire!' in a move theater needs to be updated to address the massive societal and global harms that disinformation spread through social media causes.
Jim Kerney (La Crosse, WI)
It appears to me that after a certain point of accumulation, it is the money that makes decisions, in the body of the person formerly known as human.
john (NY)
@Jim Kerney Ironically, I think if the money were making the decision, it would definitely not be buying an aging social media product rife with inauthentic activity and no direct monetization...
Jim Kerney (La Crosse, WI)
@john I don't think the money thinks like that. A human would, sure.
Lazaro (Miami)
Twitter spends all its time choosing what speech to regulate and people to ban. Selectively enforces rules on people it does not agree with -- New York Times "Amazing, Wonderful. Free Speech is not as important as hate speech". Elon Musk takes over with an explicit rule to allow for free speech and not the censorship currently happening -- New York Times "Free Speech is under attack. Fear the big bad billionaire". The intellectual dishonesty is absolutely palpable.
Viatcheslav Sobol (HLL)
I don't recall Speaker's Corner in Hyde park people being constrained or subjected to 256 letters sentences the way"cognitive midgets" on Twitter do.
Charles (Davis)
They also had nothing to do with Mr. Musk, different time, different circumstances, different laws. This article is exactly why I tell young people to stay away from professors like this. I am a 79 years old retired small business entrepreneur (8 businesses) with a top tier university education that really was a waste of my time and a location I found loaded with professors who had little to no real world experience.
Robert (USA)
I don't use Twitter and don't intend to. I tried it once and saw little use for it. But have no fear, Musk will destroy it from within.
T. V. NARAYANAN (North Venice, Florida)
@Robert Musk bought twitter to make money. How does he make money by destroying it from within?
john roche (Millbrae ca)
Fallacy of logic. If not for Musk then we would not have certain things. Others would have stepped in instaed of musks part time assistance and billions in subsidies
Chris (San Diego)
@john roche Agreed. He didn't invent the concept or engineering of electric cars. He was the first to really successfully market them. That's not nothing but it's not the game changer he probably thinks it is. Bill Gates is another example although a much less brash personality. I don't doubt he was a skilled programmer and a shrewd businessman, but without Gates or Microsoft I don't think the world would lack for operating systems and office software.
Critical Thought (Orlando)
@Chris Gates's strength was being a shrewd businessman. IBM contracted his small company to write the operating system for the PC. IBM had little belief in the PC and never saw its future. There is a claim to a famous statement by Watson, the CEO of IBM at the time. He supposedly told the group in Boca Raton that wanted to create the PC that if they wanted to make toys, they should go to work for Mattel. (Big toy maker of the time)
Chris G (Penn)
Easiest problem to ever solve. Stop using it. MySpace doesn't exist and Facebook is coming to join them. I got a new phone recently and didn't bother adding the Twitter PWA to my home screen (I would never use the Twitter app when the web has all the technology needed for Twitter to function... no native code required). And I don't miss it, at all. Journalists love it because it can be their research source and in 280 characters or whatever, they don't have to read much. It can be a nightly news headline without much thinking, work, or journalism. I sure old fashioned hitting the pavement, getting sources, and reporting the news instead of just copy/pasting whatever someone else reported or tweeted. There's no need for a digital town square when a large percentage of the world's population is expressly forbidden to access it. It's just an advertising platform. Stop making the advertising worth it.
no thanx (bay area)
@Chris G never have, never will but his title is appropriate.
Jim Anderson (Bethesda)
If Twitter isn't a testament to humans' ineluctable obsession with self, I don't know what is.
Nonbeliever (the Universe)
@Jim Anderson: Amen!!
Dean R (Vancouver)
When it comes to Musk, people seem to form two camps: those that lionize him, and those that demonize him. Both camps appear to forget that he is human, and like all humans, has good things and bad things about him. There are lots of people that could have taken advantage of the same subsidies and government money that he did. How come they aren't all multibillionaires? He wasn't just some schlub playing Call of Duty 10 hours a day waiting for the government to offer him billions of dollars. He worked hard, he took advantage of the opportunities presented to him (and, certainly, the privilege of his well-to-do upbringing), and made shrewd business decisions. But he is hardly a flawless exemplar of the American Dream. He does indeed treat regulation with disdain, and his actions sometimes stray towards being boderline -- if not fully - illegal. He is tyrannical as a boss, and doesn't seem like the kind of person I'd have any interest in hanging out with. I find the cult around him unseemly, and generally think he's overrated as a technical mind, but he has certainly disrupted a couple industries with some true innovations. As for Twitter, I'm a big supporter of free speech when it's in good faith. But so much of today's discourse is in bad faith. I don't know how to square that, but I do think that if Twitter devolves to an unmoderated free-for-all it will shrivel and die.
RamS (New York)
@Dean R That's a pretty fair comment. In other words: "only human".
The Commodore (California)
Some good points, but also too much noise in the article... including a total lack of understanding of what Musk's wealth is based on... it is indeed based on "factories he has built, products he sells or real estate he has acquired", if not for that TSLA shares would not be worth much... And now back to the hot topic - Twitter under Musk control. Banning Trump was a silly idea (not being on Twitter is not really the same as being silenced), so letting him back on the platform is no big deal. Nobody is forced to use Twitter, or to follow people you don't care about, or even know what they are posting. If people of free will move away from Twitter, it may become another Truth Social, a rare business failure for Musk.
Lpb (Ny)
This is not rocket science. If we fear Musk and other oligarchs’ control of social media, then it is time to get rid of section 230 of the communications decency act, and allow the companies to get sued for contents posted on their site.
Cynthia (Chicago)
This is a logical and simple solution, and thus will never happen.
ray (wi)
No private single person, or small group, should have such control. This is the opposite of democracy.
The Commodore (California)
@ray they only have control if we give it to them... in this case it's pretty easy - get off Twitter. I never used it and my life had not been negatively affected... (NY)
It is well past time for our society to redefine what constitutes news and information. Individuals, in a strict, narrow sense of the word, are not "publishers" of information on social media, yet "individuals" publish information that is consumed by millions, and sometimes billions. There are algorithms that can differentiate political speech, pornography and a post about grandma's birthday party. The shear amount of money made by media owners and the enromous influence they have over politics, thanks to Citizens' United and other decision, is slowly chipping away at our morals, sense of community, and the health of our democracy. Our concerns should be bipartisan. We don't know what Mr. Musk but will do but we do know that there is too much power contained within this soon to be private company. Do our elected representatives appreciate the threats we face, and do they have the will to do anything about them?
D Bartholomew (Utah) Sounds like 1984.
Tom (Hudson Valley)
We all know that Trump is going to have access to Twitter again, and he’s going to get tremendous media attention, which is not good for the Democrats. What strategy are the Democrats going to take to counter this? The Democrats are typically awful at strategy, they need to be discussing this NOW.
BSD (America)
@Tom Does it matter what Democrats do? Trump will spew his whatever at whomever will lap it up. Our recent history shows that millions of Americans are gullible and can be swayed by a huckster hawking his lies. Do you really think they are going to listen to Democrats? Nah.
dreamer94 (Chester, NJ)
Twitter is only the "town square" if we choose to let it. I have always ignored Twitter. It's superficiality is right there in its name. It's the attention deficit disorder of communication. Donald Trump demonstrated how destructive it could be. I suggest that all of us and the media ignore it so it will go away.
Chris G (Penn)
@dreamer94 Entire countries don't allow their citizenry to be part of this town square, so it isn't a town square, just an advertising platform. Until everyone can share freely, no one can share freely. I haven't missed Twitter and I suspect most people won't either if they just shut it off.
Susan (San Diego, Ca)
So, how about we, The People, shut down Twitter? Get off of Mr Musk’s chatter site—permanently!
DavidJ (NJ)
Musk, another dealer of the nickel bag.
Paul (Massachusetts)
I was going to delete my “Twitter” and than thought “wait a minute I never had one”
JustAMinute (Oxford, UK)
Would the author be as incensed had a billion that shares his view of the world bought Twitter? Me thinks not.
josh r. (portland)
Meh. I'm one of those rubes who still give Musk the benefit of the doubt for solving such a big piece of the global warming puzzle. He could have kicked back on his pay-pal fortune and nursed his personal wounds and lashed out at perceived foes like Peter Thiel, but he decided an audacious plan to help save the world would be more fun. Some people seem to have favorite coulda-woulda-shoulda stories about how transportation decarb might have worked without Musk, but too much history stands against those stories for me to take them seriously. As for twitter, the question is whether his influence will be helpful or harmful to whatever unholy mix of parler, twitter, wechat, and meta comes to dominate our public discourse. I like his odds. Specifically addressing the nyt-group-think-unforgivable sin of allowing Trump back on twitter, well, it's not like the guy vanishes from the earth when you ban him from one platform. So I'd happily accept the trade-off it's counter-weighed by meaningful effort to rein in other pathological meme-world dynamics. Will Musk really manage to shut down election-meddling bots and troll farms, or somehow more generally elevate sane-center viewpoints? Who knows, but I like his odds better than the alternative.
Elaine (Redwood City)
More cars on the road is hardly an " audacious plan"
JDS (Santa Fe)
@josh r. You do realize Musk bought Tesla from two engineers who had the original company. They needed money and Elon had it.
Rockon (Texas)
@JDS You realize he bought a name, a piece of paper with the name "Tesla" on it. JB Straubel was to only original founder to make it through to mass production. The other 2 were not around while they Elon and he were building the company.
Karen (Cape Cod)
Not Twitter related, specifically, but if the U.S. government (aka We the People) are going to subsidize entrepreneurs, and drug trials, and all kinds of other things where people end up making big money, why in the world don't these subsidizes require that We the People are recipients of a substantial portion of any profits. Research subsidized by the government used to be public domain, once upon a time before Reagan, then it was allowed to be privately patented and profits soared, but the American people were hosed. Too many billionaires having too much control over our political system, public square, philanthropy, charity, and social decisions that should belong to We the People. And we just let them.
William Edward (Alberta)
@Karen agreed. Go governments should not subsidize. They should invest and realize the gains of those investments.
wrenhunter (Boston)
I really dislike Elon Musk, and the author of this piece makes many good points. However several of his key arguments are specious. For example, claiming that Musk owes his wealth to stock ownership, rather than "factories he built, or products he sells“ skip the obvious fact that his products sell, and his factories are productive. That’s why the stock he owns is worth so much. And yes, he’s not a purely “self-made man“ — he had family money, government subsidies, etc. but he has played the present system like a fiddle, which is arguably a type of genius. Plenty of others have trod the same path, and not done as well. You can hate the game, but Musk as a player is on top.
Mark So (Jacksonville. Florida)
I happen to like Musk most of the time. But your point that his stock does well because his company is successful is right on the money.
L Reid (Chicago, IL)
The complementary concept to "free speech" is "free to choose whether to listen". I can decide whether to personally travel to the "town square" to listen, walk away or protest if I don't like what is being spoken. In social media, if I "walk away", then I don't see ads and social media doesn't make money. The moral line is crossed when social media nefariously uses algorithms based on human tendencies to manipulate and lock in listeners - all the while selling ads. It's right off of the profiteering playbook, like knowingly selling cancer causing cigarettes. If I can turn off all ads, and only "see" or "hear" what I've explicitly chosen (or choose "I'm open to new stuff)", perhaps it works....just like music curation. But that only works when people pay for the service - not advertisers.
Johanna❌🅾️ (Florida)
So what are we to expect if trump is allowed on Twitter? More attacks like the one on Nancy Pelosi’s husband?
Rico (Boulder)
@Johanna❌🅾️ FoxNews has that covered. Do not fear.
Dave The Magnificent (Here and there)
@Johanna❌🅾️ BTW, the attacker was really looking for Nancy, Speaker of the House of Representatives who is two heartbeats from the Oval Office.
BSD (America)
@Dave The Magnificent If course he was! He was just continuing the hunt for Nancy that started in Jan 6.
MJW (90069)
The writer -- a college professor with a crystal ball -- would like readers to believe that he knows it all. But he sounds jealous of those he writes about, including Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Musk.
RJ Steele (Iowa)
@MJW Mr. Nasaw is not simply a "college professor with a crystal ball" who thinks he knows it all, as you've characterized him to delegitimize his view. He's a distinguished historian and educator using facts (the horror!) and a lifetime of learning and experience (please make it stop!) to write expertly about Carnegie, Musk or anyone or anything about which he is a recognized authority. I didn't detect a single grain of jealousy on the part of Nasaw, while your comment is a virtual mountain of distain (jealousy?) for those you perceive as arrogant elites.
Jim (South Texas)
Musk is little more that Donald Trump with more brains and actual money. Small investors and consumers are nominally powerless in the face of the enormous amoral appetites of pigs like these. All we can really do is vote with our feet and agitate where possible. Personally, I will never willingly allow a dollar of mine to flow into Musk’s pockets, but I am thinking of getting an account on twitter under a nom de guerre and using it as a platform to give to Musk what he is giving the rest of us. If enough people (admittedly a high bar) follow suit, perhaps his life can be made a bit less comfortable.
Dave The Magnificent (Here and there)
@Jim In theory, someone like Elon Musk could buy all four major American sports - all of the NFL, all of MLB, all of the NBA, and all of the NHL, and let's throw in Major League Soccer for the heck of it - every single team and every player's contract, with the change he might find in his sofa cushions. That is scary.
Ralph Matthews (MA)
You're seriously suggestion in this piece that Joe Kennedy had "scruples" when it came to business and regulations????
ss (Boston)
As we could imagine. The hunting season is now on, the prized stag is Elon. The hounds in the media are unleashed. The monopoly on the information is perhaps shaken and no one among Caucasian 'liberals', not a single living soul of that provenience, is not affected by that sad and dangerous event.
Old surfer (Georgia)
So full of hate, envy, and resentment. Nothing ever changes with the Liberal elites. Freeing Twitter from the chokehold of censorship should be celebrated, not attacked.
David (SC)
@Old surfer Really? As far as I know, the Federal Government did nothing to Twitter let alone subject them to the 'chokehold of censorship' which as you know belongs to the purview of the MAGA Party, formally the Republican Party, with their book banning, 'don't say gay' bills, making teachers teach what MAGA wants and in the ways MAGA wants, etc. Although the Federal Government and State Governments could demand things from Twitter since it is that 'legal entity established by government and protected by government' called a 'Corporation'. And Twitter decided to drop Trump after he planned, supported and instigated a Coup against our Country.
Jennifer (Anywhere)
If liberals leave Twitter, it will become Truth Social 2.0. Go.
Karen (NJ)
we shall see...
Martian_Perspective (Somewhere, USA)
I am no fan of Elon Musk, but to all the woke commenters here. What if George Soros brought Twitter? How about Bezons owning Amazon? Laurene Powell Jobs owns Atlantic. Or for a while, Carlos Slim being NY Times, the wokest of the woke, major shareholder? Twitter is basically noise without a signal. A few shouting in a digital square. It does not matter as another thing will come along and displace it (like Tik Tok making Facebook look like a fuddy-duddy.) I don't care if Musk owns it or someone else. This is a capitalist economy, and winners can choose to buy what they want unless it runs afoul of antitrust laws.
Dave The Magnificent (Here and there)
@Martian_Perspective Bezos owns the Washington Post. It's a good thing that he didn't have an axe to grind when he bought it. It's still the Washington Post. Rupert Murdoch bought the National Geographic some years ago, and the first thing he did was fire a significant portion of the writing staff. I haven't picked up a magazine in awhile, but he cable channel is indistinguishable from TLC or the History Channel, or anything else A&E runs. So yeah, Musk becoming the Chief Twit is a sort of big deal, even if some people never considered Twitter to be one.
Subash Nanjangud (Denver CO)
The author is delusional and jealous of Musk. Anybody would have got those subsidies had they done what he has done. He was, is and will be a disrupter. All left wing and MSM are going crazy and will continue to bash him. I am not a great Twitterer or tweeter but I think people like Parag and Gadde were thinking they were gods!! Good riddance!!!
Kim Susan Foster (Charlotte, NC)
I would guess that that's the end of Twitter. And a new "messaging platform" will be invented. And for your information: Genius is an IQ Score. If you don't have that IQ Score, then you are no Genius. The New York Times should communicate this fact more. So, when NYT writes "self-made Genius", that is not quite correct.
Carlotta (Orange Beach)
@Kim Susan Foster does it test improvisational skills?
Chris van Niekerk (South Africa)
Jealousy ,makes you nasty ?
Mr. Musk “promotes the idea that the normal rules of investment do not apply. He paints stewards of fair play — regulators and boards — as pettifogging enemies of progress.” He refers to S.E.C. officials as “those bastards.” We are certain he did play foul ,robbed government and people but we need a little more in details . Because what he did was not beyond what is normative .Facebook Google Amazon BlackRock and many more of post 911 billionaires enjoyed and prospered in the same sordid government financed ,subsidized ,tax-exempt, no contest bidding selection exclusive zone .
SDG (brooklyn)
The public still has some say in the matter. Remove yourselves from Twitter at least unless it is no longer under control of one self-obsessed billionaire. The alternative is for Congress to pass laws protecting this public marketplace, but I do not suggest holding one's breath until that happens.
Marcy (Paris, TX)
Elon Musk was not some inventive genius, like Thomas Edison was. He was at the right place, at the right time, had the right skill set, and the freedom to do what he wanted to capitalize on emerging technologies. It made him a lot of money. Had he been born at a different time or place or in a different family, the world might never have known his name. A lot of what happens to us is not our doing. We are mostly a product of circumstances that are beyond our control. Some of us are just luckier than others.
John (Phoenix, AZ)
You are correct. Don’t forget about the part where his family’s blood-Emerald mine in Apartheid South Africa funded his entire lifestyle and education. Nobody is doubting his achievements, but that’s not exactly what anyone would call “self-made”. I’m getting really sick of grown men obsessing over this guy.
Brian (Chinatown Bus District)
@Marcy Wait till you read about Edison!
Jennifer (Anywhere)
Thomas Edison wasn’t even Thomas Edison.
Howard (MA)
Elon wants to allow free speech on twitter. I have no issue with that. Part of supporting free speech is having to listen to some Kant. A lot of what has been banned is protected speech. Opinion. The Courts already have good rules for what is not protected. Elon wants to move to a format that follows legal protections as closely as possible. Personally, I think larger online format should be treated as a public square- and not be able to ban protected speech. You can ignore people if you like. But banning protected speech is not a good idea, in my opinion.
JSC (Out West)
@Howard Yes, we would all do well to listen to more Kant!
Dan S (St Charles, IL)
Elon Musk thinks Twitter is our "digital town square," and David Nasaw agrees with him. Statistics suggest otherwise. Fewer than 60 million of us are on Twitter (that is, about one-sixth of the population), and studies have shown that over 90 percent of the political content on social media comes from under 10 percent of the users. That's hardly a "town square." What makes Twitter seem important is that tweets are routinely and unnecessarily repeated ad nauseam by the mainstream media (including, alas, the NYT). It is this amplification that makes Twitter a force in American politics. If the media were to go back to reporting the news rather than echoing tweets, Elon Musk would find he'd paid a fortune for a closed echo chamber.
Michael Hart (New Mexico)
If ⅙ of any town showed up in their town square, I think that would be remarkable.
Drew (Cleveland)
Musk is a strange person (many who are hyper successful in their fields are); a combination of Howard Hughes and Charles Foster Kane.
Daniel Crockett (Bozeman, Mt)
Not sure if you are intentionally being misleading to promote a specific viewpoint or if you actually haven't listened to Mr Musks own words about his plans for Twitter. Currently Twitter decides out of the public view what speech is allowed and what is banned. Musk is proposing to allow you the user to dial in the filtering yourself. For example if you never want to hear right wing propaganda easy dial it down to silence. Don't want profane language? Simple dial it down your self and you'll never see it in your feed. It's the difference between some nameless authority figure telling you what reality is and deciding for yourself. I find it hard to imagine why this is a threatening concept.
John (OR)
@Daniel Crockett Perhaps it's because what gets put on paper and what actually happens, in reality, are oft times not the same, as the over-reported story of the sale/no sale of the home of twitting has illustrated.
Deborah (Colorado)
@Daniel Crockett Twitter, with it's algorithms, has amplified the dissonant and violent voices of MAGA politicians, many who have 2 accounts. Every time I blocked them on my home feed, 2 more showed up. I did not follow these people. Lauren Boebert was allowed to call for termination of the Biden presidency with impunity but I commented her supporters were old and white and would soon die - I got put in twitmo. Say Trans is a mental health issue - twitmo. Personal attacks, dog whistles for violence and lies by MAGA - just fine. Oh and don't dare criticize thin skinned Musk. I made fun of him recently when his request for a perfume name came up on my home feed and immediately got permanently suspended. Sure free speech as long as you don't criticize or make fun of Musk. I had already planned to leave Twitter since I fervently believe it is a cesspool and has deteriorated our society, politics and communication and normalized monsters. So much for free speech, huh. I suggest everyone watch Years and Years with Emma Thompson from 2019. So prescient and so very scary about chaos and the downfall of civil society, truth and democracy.
Pete Kantor (Aboard old sailboat in Mexico)
Freedom of speech? The first amendment to the US Constitution, among other things, gives us freedom of the press and freedom of speech. But when the founding fathers wrote that amendment, did they think that freedom of speech included outright lies, distortions, misinformation, slander, such as we have today?
Ralph Matthews (MA)
@Pete Kantor They did, and that is why our justice system has tools such as slander and bias laws, in addition to libel and the fact that you are not allowed to lie under oath in any legal proceeding.
Michael Hart (New Mexico)
yes they did, other than slander, which is illegal, and can be addressed in the courts.
Pete Kantor (Aboard old sailboat in Mexico)
@Ralph Matthews How does trump claim the election was rigged? Sound like a lie to me.
AndyW (Chicago)
While it is very true that Elon Musk and his business peers need to be far better regulated and taxed, claims that he is some kind of “fraud” when it comes to his revolutionary techno-industrial successes serve no purpose as part of any serious debate about the power of great wealth. Musk has several personality flaws, but also repeatedly demonstrates historic genius when it comes to using innovation and creative thinking to revolutionize entire industries. Just as Andrew Carnegie is credited with revolutionizing the steel industry and Henry Ford assembly line production, Musk will be known for making electric vehicles popular and practical via a series of risky and innovative business moves and design decisions. Virtually single handedly, Musk also propelled the United States back into a global leadership position in rocketry. His leadership and drive radically altered the cost structure of launching satellites and people into orbit. It is very true that Musk and many other US success stories owe much to those who came before them, as well as a government that supported their efforts in a myriad of ways. Of course, the Musk’s among us should all be asked to give far more back. Their resulting empires also require far more scrutiny to ensure fairness to employees, investors and the public. Incentivizing innovation however, is a useful and productive function of government which should not be diminished with jealous arguments about the worthy successes which often result.
Brian (Chinatown Bus District)
@AndyW Get back to us when electric cars become popular and practical.
Rom (Boston)
This so-called promoter of free speech manufactures his products in the most unfree land on the planet, kotows to the Chinese Communist Party to protect profits, makes harebrained statements about Taiwan, and threatens to weaken Ukraine's efforts to defeat an invader. Just because Musk excels as an engineer doesn't mean he excels at solving social and political problems. Isn't it time to stop idolizing celebrities (Trump and Musk come to mind) who are ill-equipped to navigate beyond their very limited range of expertise?
Americana Music Fan (Roaming the West)
And so the pushback begins! I never bought the idea of lonE sKum as a "genius." It is absurd to honor him with the same label as Mozart, Marie Curie, or Galileo. His only talent has been at rigging and exploiting the capitalist Monopoly game of life.
JJ (Raleigh, NC)
Commenters keep saying delete your accounts. This isn't going to help the issue. The correct advice is for news sites to stop reporting tweets on their own sites! Twitter will still have tremendous impact so long as certain high-profile accounts (e.g., Trump) use it, and those tweets are shared by the media outside of Twitter. I do not have a Twitter account yet saw the content of a great many of Trump's tweets through this very web site. Please NYT, never again show Trump's tweets!
Glenn (Cali, Colombia)
The problem with Twitter is that there is no competition. And there won't be any until people have control over their profile data and their experience on social media. Social media should be like email. Everyone has an address. But you can use any platform or program that you want to view and share information by email. You shouldn't have to have a Twitter account to view and comment on other people's social media posts. it's well past time for a law that says individuals are the owners and controllers of their social media data and experience.
A thoughtful article about the implications and outlook for an Elon owned twitter. But a weak argument about Elon not being the genius tech business he plays. Is that simply an opinion-jab in the title to bait Elon non-supporters to click and revel in the piece? He doesn't play or claim to be anything in the media, he just is a wealthy founder of many evolving and influential companies. And the 1-2 sentence argument about him being tax-payer subsidized or attempting to surface-level compare him to various undesirable businesses of past is a weak argument. Keep the personal views of him aside, and focus on the real topic-- How do we balance the ideas of free speech in this country with the prevalence of mis-information as a tool of public persuasion? And how do we keep potential filtering of mis-information from being a partisan affair; one that both republicans and democrats have been guilty of. Just because someone has an opposing viewpoint does not make it mis-information, or give you any authority to dictate that. Factual basis of information, trusted authorities to verify it, and non-partisan driven news outlets. And most importantly, an American society that wants these things, instead of one that thrives on one-sided information.
Baron95 (Westport, CT)
Wow! How envious, jealous, and petty must one be to write an essay such as this. Musk pushed the world to EVs, by showing they are the best automobiles period - not the clunky EV1s and Prius from GM and Toyota. Musk got the US to for the first time in over a decade have capability to launch humans to the space station without depending on Russian launches. Musk is enabling mass solar and wind grid-scale projects with battery storage to smooth the generation/consumption cycles. What other person has lead in three complex and completely distinct fields so successfully before Musk? And on top of that we have his push into AI/SelfDriving, boring company to solve traffic congestion, robotics, etc, that are nascent but may yield further advancements. It's completely ridiculous to say that a tiny gvmt loan when Tesla was in its infancy and a contract to take astronauts into space from NASA, mean his success is due to government help. Maybe we do need a free speech, uncensored platform like Twitter to counterbalance articles such as this in the "main stream media".
Hmmm (Salem ma)
Every Tesla is also subsidized. Musk pays little tax. There are more methods of billionaire welfare than you mentioned here. The good things a billionaire may sometimes do doesn’t negate the dangerous effects of such consolidation of power to begin with. It is a truism that the financial elite both craft law and are above the law. Plutonomy is inherently anti democratic
WaveMan (Canada)
@Baron95 One cannot admire Mr Musk's business success and audacity but absolutely disagree with his irresponsible intrusions into public life. My Tesla deposit is cancelled, there are lots of equally great EV's now available, and those makers are not pathetically craving for public attention like Mr Musk.
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
@Baron95 But will any of that negate allowing hateful and false information onto Twitter? He's already reinstated Khanye. He of the anti Semitic drivel. Perhaps he should have quit while he's ahead.
Cliff K (Los Altos)
Quote from Steve Jobs as I remember it: 'A' people hire 'A' people, 'B' people hire 'C' people. Given the successes of SpaceX and Tesla, you don't have to be a technical 'genius' to get this part of the equation right. I don't know anything about Mr Nasaw other than he's a retired professor, so another famous quote works for me here, "those that 'can', 'do'", "those that 'can't'...." Well you know the rest....
Hmmm (Salem ma)
I always thought the accusation of teachers as unqualified hacks to be another version of elitism. I happened to be a person who values educators and see that many of them to Im fact “do”
Lyn (Toronto)
If you don't like abortions, don't have one If you don't like Twitter, don't engage.
Johanna❌🅾️ (Florida)
@Lyn Amen sister
Rose (WA)
A man who is both a deadly threat to our economy, democracy and justice system and at the same time a ridiculous and petty person. He is lacking in any kindness, self awareness or the ability to see anything beyond his own ego. I am so tired of giant wealthy toddlers controlling our world!
Johanna❌🅾️ (Florida)
@Rose Which is why he and trump are such good buddies… two peas in a pod
Michael Radowitz (Newburgh ny)
>[I]s it not time that we, as a people and a nation, engage in a wide-ranging, inclusive public debate on when and how free speech creates “a clear and present danger” — as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote a century ago — and whether we need government to find a way, through law or regulation or persuasion, to prevent this from happening? ***The same question can be, and has been asked to some degree, regarding the issue of the right to bear arms. Seems that at the time the Constitution was drafted, there was no express thought given in the Constitution as to how these rights should be tempered. I guess the Constitution was drafted in good faith as far as these areas are concerned. But one wonders whether the founders had a clear intent of letting those rights extend where they may, believing that the people in their wisdom will discern when a person can go too far in exercising those rights, and draft laws and penalties accordingly. So far, we do have a “clear and present danger” consideration. Problem is, the way our system of government is designed, a “clear and present danger issue” can only be resolved in the courts instead of through legislation.
Drew (Rockville, MD)
Don't forget his massive government contracts he received through SpaceX.
Franklin (USA)
@Drew Were the contracts unearned? Is getting paid to provide rocketry a subsidy?
Sipa99 (Seattle)
Maybe if everyone just stopped talking about twitter and closed their accounts, the product would die a slow death. It would just be Donald Trump and Musk talking to their followers. Not sure advertisers would go for that.
C (Mac)
Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the putrid swamp called twitter
cdisf (SF)
Censorship rules must be fair and impartial. Banning Trump is fine with me, but not banning the hateful, racist, misogynist and antisemitic Ayatollah Khomeini smacks of a political agenda.
Carlotta (Orange Beach)
@cdisf isn’t he dead? It’s Khomani or Khamani now.
David (Seattle)
So much good comes from business people, that being everything you enjoy in life. The problem isn't business, it's government giving away our wealth to winners/losers as they see them based on voters/donors. Rather than want corrupt government and crony capitalism, you could try the America model on for size: free people, free trade, free association, with limited government control, so you get the benefits of innovation without the authoritarian/fascist/socialist problems government force always introduces.
m.keith (Massachusetts)
History (experience) and economic theory both agree on this... "free" markets always lead to monopoly or, at best oligopoly, and no competition. Once that happens, government graft is employed to retain market control, building laws that prevent change. close the market to entry, and maximize company profit. We are here now in some many business sectors and only a strong government, dedicated to true competition can lower prices and spur the innovation you seem to think happens naturally. In fact, your tone conveys the idea that there is some kind of magic free market "blessing". Free markets are not free of cost nor of need for regulation. Facebook and Google have bought more companies to kill than to create. Musk will do the same to every Twitter competitor. Decades ago we had AT&T destroying innovation in phone technology. It took a breakup to fix that and the market suffered decades of under investment and dearth of new ideas. We are going the same way with social media, but the danger is much greater in a newly interconnected, naive, global society.
JP (St. Louis)
@David The 1890s were a great time for all Americans. I'm glad there is a political party (the GOP) that has been pushing hard to return to the practices of the time.
Hmmm (Salem ma)
Except free trade is itself often undemocratic. The whole idea is a myth
Theodore R (Englewood, Fl)
Articles about Musk are just "click bait". If you're sick of him, ignore the click bait. That's the one thing you can do. Musk will hate you for it.
christina r garcia (miwaukee, Wis)
i can see it now. The elon musk center for the performing arts. the elon musk endowment for PBS, the elon musk fund for future libraries. The NYT brought to you by elon musk. He is our god. with 9 children and more on the way....
PDR (Connecticut)
As distasteful imaginable, it is perhaps best that Trump return to Twitter and let the world witness in full his derangement and anti-democratic plans for the USA and world. Daylight will be the pesticide to rid us of the MAGA plague.
Doug McDonald (Champaign, Illinois)
The writer of this piece fears a truly free press and public forum. He actually wants censorship, so long as its his opponents that are censored. The Left has never been censored by Twitter like the Right has, despite the Left's propensity for the Big Lies. And, of course, the article mentions Carnegie in a bad light, but neglects to say what he did with his money: he built and stocked libraries. The article is the usual Leftist carefully curated "hate the Right" piece.
Hmmm (Salem ma)
I see this article as warning against ogligarchy. If you want to associate ogligarchy with “the right wing” then you’re not doing your own movement a service in the PR dept
Deborah (Colorado)
With great freedom comes great responsibility and that includes speech. The 1st amendment is qualified, not entirely free. Incendiary speech, misinformation, disinformation and downright lies have proven dangerous to us as a civil society and as a democracy. Witness the attack on Paul Pelosi with Nancy Pelosi being reviled and inflammatory language used by MAGA like Lauren Boebert. We are in a post truth generation in this country
Franklin (USA)
@Deborah You left out Steve Scalise and Brett Kavanaugh.
Preston L. Bannister (Foothill Ranch, California)
I find this article a little weird. Yes, Musk has companies that were greatly aided by government subsidies. The NASA subsidies exist so that a commercial rocket company might become real. The old big aerospace companies have mostly failed. SpaceX succeeded (using less money). In short, SpaceX did what we asked, and did it well. Subsidies exist for electric vehicles, as we have long thought this represented a good thing for us all. The primary role of government is to promote the common good (check the first line of the Constitution). In short, Tesla did what we asked, and did it well. Musk has done an excellent job leading SpaceX and Tesla. However, like many similar folk in past, Musk has lost sight of his limitations. Twitter is nothing like Tesla or SpaceX. This is just another rich guy operating outside his range.
Alan (Los Angeles)
Democrats and the left pass laws giving massive subsidies to electric cars supposedly to protect the environment. Elon Musk uses those subsidies to produce a lot of electric cars which supposedly helps the environment. Left-wing writer complains that Musk’s business is based on the subsidies his side has passed for the purpose of getting Musk to do exactly what he is doing.
Hmmm (Salem ma)
Let’s not assume that corporate liberals speak for everyone on the Left. I for one have consistently questioned the environmental wisdom of subsidizing what is essentially a luxury consumer product
Robert (Out West)
I doubt you’ll care, but the actual complaint is that he takes the money, pretends he did it all hisself, and then loudly proclaims that government shouldn’t be giving out the money at all. See also the, “Trump is a self-made man,” hallucination.
M Red (Texas)
This article is hilarious and so are the handwringing comments. If someone is getting their news and information from Twitter or any other social media for that matter, they deserve whatever quality is implied therein.
Harold Rosenbaum (Atlanta, GA)
Even Citizen Kane was a good guy until he got power and a public voice.
Occupy Government (Oakland)
Yeah, well, we thought we could rely on market forces. Didn't Disney object to "Don't Say Gay?" Didn't corporations stop funding election deniers? Well, that's all gone. Amazon, AT&T and other companies are again donating money to Republican candidates who voted for the coup. We expect America to be a force for good, but market forces are amoral. Musk will do as he likes. And as a private company, so will Twitter.
l provo (st augustine)
The pursuit of pushing the envelope in fashion, movies, comedy and literature has come home to politics and social media. The Shock Jock comes to mind. This is no different than the Roman Coliseum creating spectacle to amuse the citizens of the empire. Maybe not as cruel yet. Musk sees the money to be made by blasting the country with crazy out doing crazy. As Facebook and Instagram are fading perhaps a new approach to the bored is affront.
Jp (Ml)
"Never used it. It will simply devolve into a fount of hate and lies is my guess." Too bad you've never used it. It doesn't need to " devolve into a fount of hate and lies" - it already is. The phrase is "content moderation".
Ayecaramba (Arizona)
He's the guy Trump wanted to be. It must gall him to see Elon running things.
ronald harder (Bangkok)
Pretty good chance Musk will go the same way as other narcissistic megalomaniacs have tended to do. On the other hand , America seems to have a soft spot for those types - Trump comes to mind. But eventually it comes down to cold hard cash. Trump could fool the banks, play and cheat the system , but eventually it all will crash down. Trump is old so maybe not for him, but definitely for his offspring. Musk's problem will be that most of his wealth is in Tesla shares. And the headlines about 'Worlds Richest Man', have gone to his head with the Twitter purchase. Everyone I have talked to is cancelling their Twitter account. There are now so many better places to : have fun if you are young and creative; vent hate and anger if that's your thing; just give your thoughts in a calm controlled way to others you trust have enough intelligence to appreciate them. Twitter sure seems like yesterday's big thing. So let's say Twitter is worthless, a definite possibility. Don't know how much of the $44 billion Musk is on the hook for . And then take the fact that Tesla is realistically over valued by the stock market by 10X. Reasons for that are obvious. Then take Musk's stake in Tesla, divide by 10, subtract the share of the $44 billion he paid for Twitter, which I contend is near worthless, and what do you get? When I did my interpretation of the numbers I got somewhere between a very small number, and a negative number which would be bankruptcy.
mckenzie422 (Bloomington IN)
I suggest abandoning twitter by all - especially people with hopes for some semblance of civic decency and constructive dialogue
JM (San Francisco)
Here we go... The real question is: Will Musk use Twitter for good or to spread more evil? This could be the tipping point to destroy democracies.
Lily (Portland)
@JM- Do you even need to ask?
Manolo (New York)
The human being in freedom has as a priority the primary instinct to conserve the species on the basis of his main tool granted by his God: Reason: Knowledge, common sense. God is the all, is Alpha and Omega. The future is to improve the natural conditions inherent to life in a maximum tone of harmony, according to laws contained in the "Constitution" whose purpose is the welfare of the human being, so that the Economy, which is subsidiary to it, -must comply with its natural purpose, regulating the corresponding; It is also subordinated to the laws of supranational organizations, which establish and are congruent with the fundamentals of the rights to a healthy life and its basic and elementary principles, and others contained in the documents and constitutive letters of supranational organizations, such as the United Nations, the Hague Tribunal, etc. , through the use of a Capitalism with social responsibility, respectable of the right according to the best western values and principles, such as the representative democracy, making use of the best of science to the effect, in order to reestablish the lost balance, and maintain it as a legacy forever, for the present and future generation
hello (there)
About that town square: one is the company one keeps.
Chris (Pittsburgh)
If Musk said he'd maintain the Trump/Twitter ban, nobody would think twice about this acquistion. I find it odd to call Musk out having 'exploitined opportunites emergining in a rapidly disintegrating regulartory state," especially when he's much of his time in Northern CA - the regulatory champion of the country (I know he's since moved to TX). For whatever benefits he's reaped through subsidies and lobbied government enablement, it's all been within the guardrails of current laws and regulations. The instance noted where he didn't follow rules, he stepped and paid his fine. If we don't like how he's built his empire, we should focus on the rules that enabled it. Personally, I have a level of admiration of the efficiency of Tesla, at least from a production standpoint (I do not own a Tesla). As imperfect as the cars have been, they've continually been improved on a cadence that more resembles a software company releasing product updates. Same cannot be said by many other car companies. To this end, for as nice as the current offering of electric cars may be, Tesla is leading innovation and forcing other manufactures to follow suit in order to compete. If Twitter under Musk is able to solve for bots and fake accounts, then Twitter is a better product, no questions. If they then add the additional features as Musk has alluded to, then it becomes a more attractive product to an even greater user base. Does that not outweigh letting Trump back on?
What a mess (US)
Musk says he's doing all of this for the benefit of humanity. I would argue he's doing it primarily for the benefit of his humanity and that of his wealthy friends. I'm certain he'll use it primarily to help prop up and maintain his wealth through political attacks.
Rockon (Texas)
@What a mess His wealth is entirely Tesla stock, the health of the company is what maintains his wealth, not political attacks, or tweets.
Andy (Seattle)
My wife is marketing director for a large corporation and recently had dinner with the Twitter ad sales team who were seeking to have them increase their ad buys on Twitter. Her thoughts after hearing Musk promise to limit content moderation on the site: "Why would we risk running ads on Twitter when we have absolutely no idea what they will appear next to?" Good luck making money with your purchase, Elon.
Here Be Dragons (Southeast US)
Twitter will almost certainly become an ideological free-for-all under Musk without regard for any clear and present danger that may cause simply because he has no concept of how anything he does could possibly have a downside. He wants something and can afford it and that's good enough. If anything, Musk may well provide the impetus needed to regulate social media along the lines of the proposed EU Digital Services Act.
Jubilee (Prattsville, NY)
@Here Be Dragons Musk has "no concept of a downside?" Whatever your politics, give the man his due. He builds cars and spaceships. Pretty difficult to do that without at least having a "concept of a downside."
A. (NJ)
@Here Be Dragons Good. Our society should learn to live with free speech.
Bruce (Boston)
The SEC and FCC should have blocked the privatization of Twitter as a public utility.
B D Duncan (Boston)
Twitter is only important to overly online journalists and politicians. It really doesn’t have the reach or impact that it’s heaviest users believe it does. Things like Trump tweets only got coverage because websites (like this one) constantly reported on them. It’s not a public utility, it’s just a website.
David (Seattle)
@B D Duncan If corporate media didn't repeat tweets, most of us would never know about any of them. We now suffer from twitter polling, as if the world operates the way posting comments from the safety of being around no other human affords.
Bruce (Boston)
@B D Duncan's definitely not a "website." It defines itself as a digital town square. Would you like your town square to be privatized?
Blanche White (South Carolina)
We seem to be overrun with faux self made "genius" businessmen. Whatever and however the source of his wealth, Musk doesn't seem to know how to deal with it and the power has gone to his head. His Twitter finger in the wee hours of the morning seems to outpace his grey matter and he has revealed himself as lacking intelligence and heart. I am still waiting for that EV that "Everyman" can purchase "Henry Ford style" that he promised he could do many years ago during a late night interview. His fumbling statements regarding the Starlink equipment for UKRAINE, even though he later took it back, was the last straw for me. What I know, for darned sure, is that if I were wealthy I would have no hesitation and no remorse for giving supplies to Ukrainians who are daily living in a bloody 19th century conventional war with high tech equipment ...and none of us have any real idea what that is like! ....yet, every day these young and middle aged people join ranks to defend their Country and they stay in their towns and cities knowing terror can fall from the sky at any minute. I am humbled by this example before us ...and I am disgusted by this American made oligarch, who, apparently, views the world in the Ayn Randian style of selfishness.
Janice H. (NJ)
@Blanche White Very true, and very well said! Vote Blue everyone, so that we peons can have some power, or the oligarchs will make us into Mexico with the Very VERY rich, and the Very VERY poor. A Mexican entertainer I saw warned us that is where the US is heading, and I see it and believe it, and it is the GOP Republicans who will take us there if they get power.
Steve (Oregon)
I wonder how many of our billionaire sociopaths didn’t start off with wealthy parents? I can’t think of any.
David (Seattle)
@Steve Bezos. The Apple Steves. Now do corrupt politicians who operate on force and violence over free markets and free people who exchange voluntarily.
Chris Williams (Chicago)
This statement is absurd: "His wealth is based not on factories he has built, products he sells or real estate he has acquired, but on the billions of dollars of shares he owns in Tesla, SpaceX, cryptocurrency companies and Twitter." Excuse me? Obviously Musk's wealth is based on Tesla stock, and Tesla stock's value, even if inflated, is based on his factories and his products. Of course the subsidies are crucial, but he has built a product people like. I don't understand how assertions like this make it into the New York Times. Patently absurd.
Kelly (San Francisco)
Thou are the spokesman of the Musketeers, good luck fanboy.
Objectively Speaking (The Universe)
Musk bought into Tesla and the profit of StarX is government subsidised — what’s not to understand?
Ted (Portland, ME)
@Chris Williams I agree. I'd add that SpaceX is a success not because of subsidies, but because it provides a needed service for NASA, a service that NASA itself has been unable to develop in a timely manner. Using reusable rockets is an important innovation and one that saves money. Without SpaceX we'd be be entirely beholden to the Russians for space transportation. You can rightly criticize Musk for his comments on Ukraine and Taiwan - one-sided and entirely self-serving, but he has created companies that produce popular, innovative products.
Shamrock (Westfield)
I have never been on Facebook, Twitter or any social media except for the Times comment section. So the existence of Twitter is of no concern to me. I go to libraries to read. But Musk is a genius inventor, engineer, and entrepreneur. If he was a loyal member of the Chinese Communist Party the Times would fawn over him as the greatest man of the century.
P H (Seattle)
Elon Musk will not be controlling my "town square" on Twitter, because the moment I heard he was buying it, I deleted my account. Good riddance.
David (Seattle)
@P H It was a bit ironic my twitter account was suspended today over an obviously absurd joke that magically was treated as if entirely serious. Glad they help me kick the twit-foolish habit.
HOUDINI (New York City)
your words: rogue billionaire mine: Donald Trump 2.0
David (Seattle)
@HOUDINI Musk can never run for the Presidency since he's not a natural born American. But celebrity is the way most elections operate, but then picking your rulers and sovereigns who will control your life no matter how you voted is neo-American sadness.
Gary (New York)
I’m signing up for a Twitter account just so I can delete it.
Me (Miami)
Musk is a self made billionaire constrained by no “woke” nonsense, no wonder the left hates him. They can’t control him…..
Hmmm (Salem ma)
I think the issue is that billionaires class can control us. Plutonomy is undemocratic
RJ (Mount Vernon Ohio)
Love Libs defending Twitter as a "Digital Town Square". Rubbish. If this were true, then any LEGAL speech would be tolerated. As both I and certain ex office-holders can attest, this is 100% not the case. This offensive and decidedly un-woke would-be Twitter user hopes that Musk does axe about 75% of the woke Twitter workforce, starting with its execrable content-moderation group. Then, we can have a real "Town Square", one where folks can - you know - choose to engage or NOT as they like, not based on the decision of some faceless (fascist) censor.
Jim (South Texas)
@RJ This comment reminds me of an old H L Mencken quote: “Democracy is a system of Government predicated on the idea that the average [person] knows what [they] want and deserves to get it, good and hard.”
Square State Dude (Square State)
Those who live in bubbles will believe what they chose to believe. Twitter? Meh…. If Twitter is not there, they will hear from their disciples from some other source. And they do. The only time I hear about Twitter is the tiring, recurrent, laughable, indignant main stream outlets’ coverage of inflammatory tweets. “Can you believe what [name] said?” Yes. Yes I can. And you are still surprised? Stop covering this nonsense.
Jack Sonville (Florida)
If we, collectively, do not wish Twitter to be "the digital town square", it will cease to be. Do not sign up and, if you have signed up, unsubscribe. I have never subscribed to this electronic trash heap and my life, and psyche, is all the better for it. For example, I never saw even one of the estimated 25,000 tweets Donald Trump posted during his presidency. I have no idea which Kardashian had what plastic surgery or is dating which rapper or NBA player. I could not care less what Justin Beiber's publicist tweeted today for him, nor Taylor Swift, Katy Perry or Harry Styles. I can wait to see/read the news once or, at most, twice a day--I don't need to see "breaking news" tweets every five minutes. I don't need ESPN, FanDuel and DraftKings tweeting point spreads and gambling odds at me all day. You people are doing this to yourselves. As George Orwell famously wrote in 1984, "Freedom is Slavery". In the name of free speech and the supposed benefits of 24/7 access to unfettered information flow, you are making Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and their ilk your masters. Set yourselves free--your mental health and our nation will both be better off.
John Chastain (Michigan (the heart of the Great Lakes))
Freedom isn’t slavery and ignorance isn’t freedom, Orwell understood the power of propaganda and wouldn’t advise a head in the sand posture as a effective response to tyranny. What you don’t know can hurt you.
SD (denver)
Will journalists and political figures ever leave Twitter?
Non-Attorney Spokesperson (Springfield)
I hope this means that the NYT will discontinue linking its stories to Twitter, as if it is some sort or reliable reference point. I don’t use anything to do with twitter or Facebook garbage and won’t click on any of those links.
BC (Massachusetts)
Utter nonsense. The robber baron narrative is weak and forced. Not a huge Musk fan, but to claim he's simply the product of government subsidies and nothing special is just petty. And then the climax, a wide ranging, inclusive debate on the dangers of free speech. I realize this is an opinion piece, but I'm constantly amazed how often the media calls for censorship in the name of "disinformation". Too often disinformation is just information people like this author just doesn't like. Embarrasing this garbage is printed. (even digitally)
George (Chicago)
@BC Do you think that MTG's "forest fires are caused by Jewish lasers" and pedofiles "run a pizza place in NYC where they feed on babies" constitute a little more than just "information that people like this writer may not like?" The problem with that is that there are enough people in this world who are capable of believing such nonsense.
Kev Dog (Sun Diego)
The fact that Democrats and their media conspirators are so distraught over Musk buying Twitter is just confirmation that Twitter is an essential platform for promoting a Democratic political agenda. Musk being a non-political actor is therefore deemed a threat to the world because he will no longer protect the Democrat party line. If a person or company does not bend the knee to this ideology, they are the enemy, hence the thousands of words dedicated to attacking him by the NYT.
View from the street (Chicago)
Carnegie gave his fortunel away -- I'm not sure Musk will do the same.
Victor (Rancho Santa Fe)
How is this any of Musk's fault? He plays the game on government rules. Dumb government subsidies have enriched Musk, the Google guys and Gates. They just play the game by the rules created by the government. Its called gaming!
AD (Lalaland)
Yawn. So predictable that you try to trash talk Musk as a hedge against the torrent of non-censored speech that will threaten your control over narratives. Leftist media became pro-censorship, and they don't even see that as a problem that goes against American foundational values. Also, no one is blind to the hypocrisy of your not caring that Bezos owns the WP.
Ayecaramba (Arizona)
@AD So, Don really won the election?
Bryan Phillips (East West Midwest South)
The final paragraph is the payoff. Let’s hope twit rots on the vine. Musk didn’t invent Tesla. His boring company is a failure. And a bunch of real rocket scientists built the rockets. A group of squirrels could have plugged together PayPal.
Ayecaramba (Arizona)
@Bryan Phillips Yes, except someone had to organize and plan the companies and hire the managers, scientists, engineers, and accountants who actually built the companies. Elon did that.
Edward (Taos)
The megalomaniacal fantasies of an privileged introverted little white South African princeling have been made manifest. We live in the age of real life comic book superheroes striding the global stage abetted by a 21st century variation on the mass psychology of fascism. Yay rocket boy!
Memfem (Tennessee)
Musk is as goofy and as dangerous as Trump. Now that he has Twitter it will become even goofier if that’s possible. Chaos will reign if they both get hold of us.
I do love the delicious irony of a man who made billions off of Democrat legislated EV subsidies and then spending the money on the favorite mouthpiece of the man who is the Democratic public enemy number one. You can’t write this stuff.
Peter Rasmussen (Volmer, MT)
The trouble with censorship, is who gets to decide what constitutes misinformation, or even a lie. Ever read the collection of lies compiled by the Washington Post, supposedly uttered by President Trump? Most of them were simply differences of opinion, not literally, lies. If he contradicted the liberal agenda, it showed up as a lie on their list. Many of them were actually uttered by other people in his administration, but attributed to him. Who gets to appoint the censors?
@Peter Rasmussen Jeff Bezos at the WaPo.
Robert (Houston)
Anyone who has paid attention to Elon Musk knows that the success of Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla have little to do with him, and more to do with the hard work of the engineers, managers, and workers beneath him. The only part he played is to throw money at the projects to curate an image that he's a futurist...which says more about the outsize influence of billionaires than it does about an efficient market/education system. His acid trips would be unacceptable for any day to day worker, much less a manager in charge of high profile projects. His erratic behavior is not a sign of genius, just someone who is so disconnected from reality. That being said, I highly doubt Twitter will disappear. It's made up of users whose intent is to have themselves heard and those wanting to hear other loud voices. The culture of outrage and doom & gloom seem to prosper here. Without an alternative, I have little reason to believe it will fade off. Social media just replaces other social media.
Jubilee (Prattsville, NY)
"The danger here is not that we have a rogue billionaire in our midst...." Just wondering why the concern for the "rogue billionaire" emerges upon Musk's purchase of Twitter, But seems to have been less publicly disseminated in the media when, for example, Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post. With all due respect to Twitter which will supposedly now move to a less-censored platform, lots of people are still influenced, for good or bad, by a prestigious American news and digital content outlet, which tightly controls its daily narrative, headlines, and reader comments.
Bob Guthrie (Australia)
The United States has allowed a South African and an Australian to basically run America. The article states: "The danger here is not that we have a rogue billionaire in our midst — that has happened before, and it will happen again — but that this one will be in control of what he has rightly referred to as our “digital town square.”" Two powerful information companies run by billionaire foreigners now dominate America even to the point of destroying democracy in the USA. Seems un -American to me.
Mark Pertuit (Belgium)
Let’s see what he does with it.
Brett (NYC)
It’s clear this paper has found its new punching bag now that Donald Trump’s political future is fading. To say Elon has done no good is not the least bit fair or balanced. I’m sure we can find plenty of articles on this website supporting subsidies for electric vehicles and even space exploration.
Peter Engel (Bklyn NY)
@Brett This was written by a well-regarded history professor, not NY Times Editorial. But NYT has every right to point out what Musk does that endangers democracy.
Elfarol1 (Arlington, VA)
The only difference between Musk and the other billionaires is his need for attention. They run the country. The politicians are the mules carrying the oligarchy's money that pollutes democracy. Democracy was broken long before Trump and his ilk invaded politics. They are a symptom, not a cause of democracy's decline. The lawsuit that forced Musk to put up or shut up regarding the Twitter purchase was merely refereeing fights between denizens of the 1%.
faivel1 (NYC)
Please have Anand Giridharadas as often as possible, his powerful words resonate with the nation like no one else, his new book is a must read The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy Oct 18, 2022 by Anand Giridharadas Also Jon Meacham American writer is a great reminder of what is at stake. People who never lived in a dictatorship as I did as Masha Gessen did might take it very lightly, please don't. It could happen here as easily as anywhere, we're not immune and we see it everyday, it's a battle for life. In ‘Surviving Autocracy,’ Masha Gessen Tells Us to Face the Facts By Jennifer Szalai June 3, 2020 Boycott Twitter
G Pecos (Los Angeles)
South African Elon Musk fashions himself an expert on the US Constitution. We'll just have to wait and see what free speech looks like on Twitter, and if appropriate boycott its advertisers.
Mookie (Mossy in Seattle)
I have a model Y, but I’m just done with this volatile, mercurial, Putin asset. It’s the Titanic. If he reactivates The Donald account, I’m totally burning my account.
Carla (Brooklyn)
What is the point of Twitter? And why goes this guy get so much press? Is this really what draws people’s attention these days? Social media has made us all insane!
Andre (La Jolla)
Get off Twitter. And politicians: If you want to be taken serious, do not tweet.
If you don't like Musk taking over Twitter, delete the app and dump the stock.
Akira Olema (San Francisco)
Elon can take some satisfaction in knowing he's become important enough to be hated by all: conservatives, for his ideas; liberals, for his wealth.
Joe Citizen (Kansas City)
You left out all the Russian Robber Barons we derisively call Oligarchs.
Buzzman69 (San Diego, CA)
I don't use Twitter. I actually don't know anyone who does and I've been asking a lot of people. I know lots of people who use Facebook and Instagram and a few who use Tiktok. But the only place I hear Twitter mentioned is in the news. Is perhaps the only reason it has the usage it does is because it became an echo chamber for journalists and politicians? If journalists stopped paying attention to it, would Twitter simply shrink back into the funny little message ap it was originally going to be where celebrities make fools of themselves and a few people offer off banal and simplistic comments, political and otherwise? I don't have an answers to these questions. But I sure wish journalists would give it a try so we could find out. That's like asking an insecure actor never to look in the mirror...
Frank (NYC)
Blah blah blah...Musk didn't make that. *Yawn* Typical whining that billionaires didn't make their billions but stole it from everyone else/got it from the government. Of course, this ad hominem attack is just dropped out of the sky in the last paragraph as a standard Progressive "Amen". Musk's stock makes him wealthy because his companies are valued as such by the free market. Of course, free speech should really not be free when it is "dangerous". And, of course, anything not aligned to Progressive orthodoxy is what is "dangerous". I see people like Nasaw a bigger threat to the nation than industrialists like Musk. I reject a wholesale embrace of Trump's "enemy of the people" epithet for the press, but there was a thread of truth in it.
Shamrock (Westfield)
Twitter should have only been used to convey liberal thoughts. Conservative thought should always be censored. That’s free speech.
Swami Dave (USA)
@Shamrock Have you spent time on Twitter? If so, you will soon see that this is untrue.
Roy (Italy)
I couldn't care less that he has bought Twitter. I don't use twitter and don't know anyone who does. It will have no impact on most people. However, I find it. curious that he spent that much money buying it. He may be a little crazy but he is certainly not stupid. Maybe he can increase it's monetization. Who knows.
Ferris (Minnesota)
Elon Musk is NOT in control of the "digital town square," we are. Delete your Twitter account today-you will see very quickly just who is in control.
John H. (USA, Midwest)'s such a great philosophy! It ensures no thought, no nuance no reason. Just remember, fair readers, just 'cause your rich, it doesn't make you smart. Just arrogant.
Religionistherootofallevil (Rockland NY)
There is so much confusion about what “free speech” means (leaving aside the now apparently unshakable misinterpretation of the first amendment). It’s one thing to defend the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, quite another to scream fire when there is no fire just to see how many people might die scrambling for the exits.
jmsegoiri (Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain)
It seems that we need 007 to take care of this Spectre. It's curious we have now rogue multi-billionnaires that believe they have the answers. It sounds so Ian Fleming!!!
cdisf (SF)
@jmsegoiri And the ousted rogue billionaire CEO of Twitter was fine censoring legal speech he didn’t like but allowing the Iranian mullah to post their hate? The CEO just got a $40 million severance package. He’s not one of the good guys.
Moby (Detroit, MI)
Memories of J. D. Rockefeller only worse. Rockefeller was a greedy extreme capitalist but he wasn't a narcissist.
Robert Avant (Spokane, WA)
Quoting the Schenk decision, authored by Holmes, is a dead give away as to the author's viewpoint on Elon Musk. Equating Musk to Carneige and Joe Kennedy, Sr. is pure historical screed. The author of this piece should be eternally grateful that Holmes and the Schenk decision are in the same dustbin of history that neomarxist twaddle attempts to survive in.
John (OR)
Genius or not, his much maligned/discussed/chortled at deal to buy Twittler stole/usurped/borrowed a lot of headline space and column inches from the Investigations of Donald John Trump and his team of merry best people. Ye!
Rex Nemorensis (Los Angeles)
"His wealth is based not on factories he has built, products he sells or real estate he has acquired, but on the billions of dollars of shares he owns in Tesla, SpaceX, cryptocurrency companies and Twitter." Wow, this guy Nasaw has a really, really limited grasp of how an economy works. Why exactly does he think that those shares are WORTH billions of dollars?
Invictum (China)
The MSM also promote disinformation, each article carefully scripted to promote an agenda. The idea that newspapers (and I include the NYT) are simply bipartisan fact providers is very far from true. And the people know this.
Teresa (nyc)
I closed my Twitter account yesterday before Elon's takeover. Perhaps journalists can be the first to lead the way away from this platform. It's only the "digital public square" if you make it so.
J. English (San Diego)
The language in the First Amendment says Congress cannot make laws that abridge free speech. It is, in this vein, absolute. Congressional leaders can; however, be more discerning as to how much of the public purse can be allocated to billionaires who seek ever greater riches over what is considered a digital public square. I see nothing that would prohibit Congress from making laws that prohibit the present day " digital social media platforms from being be privately held. The platforms are public and therefore ownership of the platforms should be public.
Franklin (USA)
@J. English Lenin did it - why can't we?
Craig (PA)
If the claims the author makes, that Musk just made a fortune on government subsidies, then why hasn't the author become a billionaire? It sounds really easy! Subsidies exist for a reason, to incentivize private entities to make or do a thing that the government believes is a net positive. Musk did exactly that, he created a new category of car, and built the first new American car company in 100 years. Next he privatized space travel, at a fraction of the cost of our government's attempts. He's providing internet services to Ukraine at his own personal cost. He's done all of this and because of his politics authors like this one feel the need to deride him because he believes the town square should be a place of free exchange of ideas, not the left leaning, censor the right, behemoth that it was until today.
Max (Downeast Maine)
Everyone I know uninstalled Twitter yesterday.
Trevor Diaz (NYC)
Now change the US Constitution so that Elon Musk can get into WHITE HOUSE?
Tara Mehegan Rashan (Full time US travel)
I canceled and uninstalled Twitter during Trump's 2016 campaign, and wish I could do this again!, just for the sense of freedom it provides a feeling human being, tired of the polarization, all-out lies, and rampant stupidity. I've never read about Elon Musk, the same way I've never read about Kanye West. I didn't even read this article! If everyone canceled and uninstalled that claptrap we could put Musk in the poorhouse.
Tater (New Mexico)
There are now fully electric vehicle with good battery charge range that can be purchased for around $20,000 new (with Federal Tax credit). Models from all the car companies will be available within a year or two. Given that Tesla is no where near this important price point it cannot be considered a mass supplier of electric cars as currently GM (Bolt), Nissan (new Leaf), and others. As a thriving business Tesla has a long way to go in a very competitive market.
Carlotta (Orange Beach)
@Tater if Volkswagen is not in there German engineers know it is unworkable.
Kevin McManus (Southern California)
Best essay ever written about Musk. He made his billions on the backs of the American people…….
Lily (Portland)
@Kevin Mcmanus- And his parents made their money on the backs of African people.
Si Seulement Voltaire (France)
"in control of what he has rightly referred to as our “digital town square.”" This is the real world folks and free speech has been debated (and cancelled) since the beginning of our Western world: "That Socrates was prosecuted because of his religious ideas and political associations indicates how easily an ideal held dear by his fellow Athenians—the ideal of open and frank speech among citizens—could be set aside when they felt insecure." Those believing that only "some opinions" should be allowed are following in the footsteps of the likes of Mao and Pol Pot as well as Hitler, Stalin and Putin today! In reality, extreme authoritarianism has existed from both right wing and left wing political extremes and when the math of consequences of those representing the left/"liberal" ideology have done far more damage to far more people over much longer periods. The deaths and damage a Hitler did (who called his system socialism too) pales in comparison to that of what Mao, Stalin or Pol Pot did to their citizens in the name of "socialism".
AgnosticGirl (USA)
Thank Thee Lord, he is a naturalized citizen.
Carlotta (Orange Beach)
@AgnosticGirlyeah I think Einstein stole the German engineers Manhatten project data… if the Germans lost that race they did not want to win. It is true. Restating someone else’s work is what many of the promoted genuises do. I have no reason to believe Musk has, there is also collaboration, riffing on a theme and conversant critique. Sometimes just seeing a work around and sharing.
bluecedars1 (Dallas, TX)
I 'deactivated' my Twitter account yesterday - as I did with Facebook the during the previous presidential (mis)administration. These billionaire sociopaths, and their conservative minions, will destroy humanity and the planet for their profit and comfort. They think they are so powerful and 'special', they'll be able to emigrate to Mars. I wish they would embark today!
frankly 32 (by the sea)
As I lay in bed I can put my hand on Mr. Nasaw's biography of Joe Kennedy -- it's black with gold print. Above it is a volume of Frank Freidel's biography of Franklin Roosevelt. These and Robert Caro's books on LBJ are generally considered by scholars to be the greatest political biographies of the last hundred years. I've given dozens of them as presents because without them you cannot understand the last century. Joseph Kennedy campaigned for FDR -- and ethics at the SEC (putting William O Douglas in charge) -- because he feared that if our economic system collapsed from cheating, the resulting social convulsions could wipe out everything he'd had achieved. Then, in the short version, FDR saved America from the Depression and the the world from Hitler. FDR use to say that so and so was one of the two most dangerous men in America -- often changing the names with the times. Wonder who Franklin would name now as the most dangerous men in America? There would be so many to chose from. The other day's Time's front page was the most depressing front page I can remember since JFK's assassination. Now, if someone as learned as David Nasaw says Musk is a fire in the theatre... Who is going to save us?
Jim (Merion, PA)
No one should be barred from any social media platform and nothing should be deleted. It’s the best way to expose creeps like Kanye West. I hope Musk does that with Twitter.
Bruce (New Mexico)
Deactivated my account.
Moribund Monday (Bay Area)
There may be many many reasons to drag Elon, but this op-Ed is full of broad assertions with little reference to anything specific. It’s a character judgement with no meat on its bones. He was subsidized - ok I believe it - but how much, by who, when, etc? He’s more dangerous than depression-era robber barons - ok, I’ll bite - but why again, because he sends tweets..? You say Elon owning the Tweetscape is more profound than the cabal once controlling the nation’s railroads.. ok, why again? The piece and it’s readers would have been far better served if the author had stuck to one historical example and actually fleshed it out somewhat. Even if you agree with the gist of this piece, it plainly doesn’t meet NYT standards. This feels like it was written by AI, not a serious writer. Com’on you guys! Do better.
PM (faraway)
i believe Jack Dorsey, the Twitter founder, pushed hard for a Musk takeover, because Jack wanted Twitter to be a true platform for free speech. I can't imagine a more stupid decision that entrusts one man -- an unstable egomaniac -- to somehow offer a "free speech" forum for the entire world!
Howard (MA)
What is this bizarre fascination people have with Elon? Is a free speech platform that awful?
Truth is sacred (Great Lakes)
@Howard It is when speech is full of lies that fractures the common good. Whatever happened to the admonishment that you can't yell fire in a crowded theater just for kicks?
Howard (MA)
@Truth is sacred That would be illegal and not protected on twitter. Part of supporting free speech is having to listen to some Kant. A lot of what has been banned is protected speech. Opinion.
Howard (MA)
@Truth is sacred That would be illegal and not protected on twitter. Part of supporting free speech is having to listen to some Kant. A lot of what has been banned is protected speech. Opinion. The Courts already have good rules for what is not protected. Elon wants to move to a format that follows legal protections as closely as possible. Personally, I think larger online format should be treated as a public square. You can ignore people if you like. But banning protected speech is not a good idea, in my opinion.
Blake Lemberg (Seattle)
Trump back on twitter means trump as president.
Win (NYC & Cape Ann)
boycott Tesla. Money talks for Muskrat
Ben Martinez (Massachusetts)
If I wanted to figure out if, say, the open display of Swastikas and other Nazi symbols might qualify as protected speech, as it does in this country, I might go ask the country that has had the most experience with Nazism how they handle this issue. Try it in Germany and you’ll end up in jail.
Alfred (Wessex)
Bitterness and jealousy and intolerance really seethes through this clunking prose.
cdisf (SF)
@Alfred Agreed. The left never owns up to its own rising intolerance and hatred, the very things it often correctly accuses the right of.
Win (NYC & Cape Ann)
@Alfred Yes I am intolerant: Intolerant of all those right wingers taking rights away from women, lambasting LGBT, their thinly veiled and often overt racism, book burning, climate change deniers, forcing their version of christianity (that's lower case) on others and so on. All I can say, thank god that Elon Musk was a foreign born South African who will never be president. And to all "elite" moderates and liberals: Boycott Tesla. Make it hurt his pocket book, which would be highly effective since the right wingers won't buy them either. And if they do, they'll finally do their part in addressing climate change. Love the irony.
dlb (washington, d.c.)
Let me suggest muskrats rather than musketeers.
Kensluck (Ft. Florida)
To me Elon Musk reminds me a lot of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch advantaged Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and TFG through his papers's endorsements in order to win special rights to various media outlets throughout the UK and USA. Once he had acquired print, TV and Movie companies his power over the politicians and the public grew exponentially as he began to spread his brand of toxic propaganda throughout his Empire. Murdoch, News Corp. and Fox News is a big part of what has brought our country to this point of mis-information and rebellion. Elon Musk is operating on the same level through his money and Tech companies he is influencing and using political leaders to his benefit. I don't believe it will work out for the benefit of mankind or the USA. These types like Murdoch and Musk are not working for the betterment of mankind but solely for the benefit and enrichment of themselves. I don't see Twitter under Musk control as becoming a beacon of 'Free Speech' but more likely another propaganda machine to benefit Elon Musk.
S.W. Hanna (Celt, VA)
I hope twitter goes down in a seething heap of sputtering vileness. And Musk with it. He should stick to cars and rockets.
K (NJ)
@S.W. Hanna He should just "stick" the cars and rockets - an obnoxious, super rich jerk is all he is.
Edward Fox (London)
If Twitter has 240 million users, then Musk has paid $183 for each one
David Henry (Concord)
STILL, one cannot yell fire in a crowed theater harming others. "Free speech" can have legal consequences. The same for making up malicious lies about others. Lawsuits have a way of moderating "free speech" from the biggest mouths.
Fred L. (Nevada)
If Trump, the Master of Lies, gets back on Twitter, what is there to keep it from becoming the trashiest site since
Alan (Norwalk)
This is a joke right? He is the most innovative person maybe ever and self made. I have read 2 bios and although I could never work for him he can change the world more than anyone in the past century. He is totally uninterested in things and admits proudly to being an Aspberger.
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
Just because Joe Rogan gave Musk his blessing, and the Alt-Right Crypto-types hero-worship him because he sticks it the Dems (who are the only ones capable of regulating his businesses, fyi; the real reason he's anti-progressive and preens himself on "owning the libs"), doesn't mean Musk is some champion of free speech. Not at all! Quite the contrary: Musk is identified by both the CCP and Putin's regime as a "Counter-Elite" (Kremlin state-TV talk shows were openly talking about this just last week); when Musk suggested ceding all eastern Ukraine to Putin... only a day after he opined Taiwan should just be given to the CCP; the same landlords who set the tax regime for his Tesla factories. Talk about two anti-democratic "hot takes"! In other words: Musk has been identified as a "Counter-Elite" by our strategic enemies... to be used as a "useful idiot" that can harness and conduct their disinformation campaigns to undermine Western security and values on a global scale. Musk, when you zoom out and take this larger view, has actually been groomed to jeopardize and destabilize the actual elites these censorious totalitarian regimes fear and whose abilities could constrain them; call this the Deep State/the Military-Industrial Complex/the Biden Administration as opposed to MAGA/ or what have you... Not trying to sound conspiratorial/tinfoil-hatted here. Just trying to point out there are second-order effects to Musk's monopoly. Starting with: Musk is compromised by the CCP.
cdisf (SF)
@The Constitution Matters More importantly, the letter released Monday by the Squad urging Biden to sell out Ukraine to end the war is proof that at least 30 democratic legislators are in bed with the CCP. But let’s just ignore that and focus on a private citizen, right?
Bjorn Hamso (Bethesda, MD)
I’m not a fan of Musk after his unethical stance on Ukraine and having become Kremlin’s “useful idiot”. However, this article oozes of contempt for a man that has done more to help humanity toward sustainable energy use than any other living person. The article is based on half-explained points and insinuations to create bias against Musk, and a curious claim that he built Tesla on billions of dollars of government subsidies. As far as I know, Tesla has only received a government loan of $465 million because the electric car company was expected to bring societal benefits worth the interest rate subsidy, and the loan was paid back nine years ahead of time. The author also tries to present Space-X’ contracts with NASA as government subsidies, which is preposterous. I’m a flaming liberal, but I have to say this article has the taste of the down-pullers in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.
sy (Home)
Wow. Awesome article.
Sam (Sydney)
Why does it matter whether DT is on Twitter or not? Once he announces he is running you guys will just publish whatever he posts no matter where he posts it.
Gene McKenna (San Mateo CA)
The irony of reading about the dangers of misinformation in the NYTimes. Afraid of the competition?
albert (arlington)
Just another Rupert Murdock destroying our country in the name of profit. BEWARE!!!!
Litewriter (Long Island)
Twitter’s symbol should now go from being a little blue bird to being a little white “splat.”
Mean Old Mike (Fairfield County, CT)
Twitter banned the NY Post. They banned a sitting US President. That was as wrong as if they were to ban the NY Times and President Biden. If you want to find support for your theory of a flat earth, that the Twin Towers are in fact still standing, that JFK is alive and that the moon landings were fake your best bet is Google.
VC (Richmond VA)
. Musk is just another goofy American who got rich off of other people's work... and then fired them. .
K (NJ)
@VC He's not an American.
Paul M (Jacksonville, FL)
They cry “FOUL PLAY” when anyone tries to hold them accountable to the same rules applied to everyone else. They claim “INTEGRITY” when refusing to even consider facts that conflict with their faith or ill-informed opinions. They call it “FREEDOM” to have the right to control someone else’s actions, words or body. They support “DEMOCRACY” by gaming the system to create minority rule. They see it as “STRENGTH” to lie, cheat, steal and bully as long as you win. What will the call “SHAME” when they are finally held accountable?
Jackson (Virginia)
@Paul M Who is “they”?
Paul M (Jacksonville, FL)
@Jackson The usurpers of our social norms. The robber barons, crony capitalists and snake oil salesmen who manipulate people for their personal gain or in some tragically pathetic attempt to fill a void in their souls. But, l suppose "they" is also a bit of a Rorschach test. Who do you think “They” represents?
math365 (CA)
Progressive Democrats created this proclaimed "Monster Robber Baron" by giving him Billions in tax credits and buyer subsidies to sell people his "luxury" electric cars. Now they insult him for having a mind of his own.
Michael (Morris Township, NJ)
Hold on a minute, pardner. While you’re right that Tesla benefitted mightily from governmental subsidies, those subsidies were green energy subsidies and carbon offsets favored by extreme left Democrats. Indeed, is it not just a BIT disingenuous to complain about governmental subsidies in this era of the IRA, CHIPS Act, and other leftist policy? Progressivism is built on handouts and subsidies. Leftists complaining that progressive subsidy programs make some people rich? Please. This is akin to leftist whining that red states get more back from DC than they pay in, which is entirely a consequence of means-tested, progressive-sponsored, welfare programs like the ACA. Any effort to suppress “misinformation” would, perforce, prevent tweeting things which are demonstrably untrue, e.g., “systemic racism exists” or “voter suppression is a thing”. It would affix “fact checks” to fraudulent bill names like Inflation Reduction Act, Affordable Care Act, American Rescue Plan. It would prevent any claims that “green” projects are economically viable. It would not suppress the truth, like the Hunter Biden laptop story, and would deplatform lairs who called it a hoax. It would not permit users to claim that men can have babies. There would be no room for election deniers like Stacy Abrams. Put simply, leftists will not be heard to complain about the consequences of leftist policy. Nor will an ideology built on lies and fairy tales be heard to complaint about “misinformation”.
Sid B (Schaumburg, Illinois)
Many here miss the usefulness of Twitter. Twitter is very useful in getting support from companies. Many have staff dedicated to responding. That’s the only reason I didn’t delete my account years ago.
Bradley Bleck (Spokane, WA)
Just now deactivated (can I not delete?) my Twitter account. Rarely used it, but this seemed like the best thing. Won't change anything beyond the annoying intrusions I received to check one thing or another that adds zero value to my life. Doubt it will be as peace inducing as quitting facebook, but one less bit of background noise in my life is a good thing.
Carl Johnston-Taylor (Oakland, CA)
@Bradley Bleck Thanks for letting us know! (Insert eye roll.)
Bradley Bleck (Spokane, WA)
@Carl Johnston-Taylor Like i said, I know it means next to nothing. Don't let the eyes roll so far up that you fall over backwards. Wouldn't want that!
An interpretation (Buffalo NY)
I support Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter only because I'm amused by the meltdown among the surveillance control HR scold crowd. The same people who had a meltdown when the mask mandates were lifted. Anything that triggers these people has my full support.
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
@An interpretation Forming value judgments based on how others view certain things is a sad way to live one's life.
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
@An interpretation What a sad way to live.
John K. (Gainesville, VA)
The biggest beef people have is the clearly partisan nature of moderation. The left and far left regularly promote as much and sometimes more misinformation than the right and far right, yet rare if ever get censored or called out. Elon's track record says he will clean up twitter. That is all that matters. Petty attacks from the author on his business activities are comical. Do you know how much Nasa would spend on the services SpaceX provides if they did it themselves? We had millions of federal employees that did nothing during the pandemic but draw a paycheck which is only 50% less work than they do on a normal day as most in my experience are not tasked more than 4 hours a day, at most. Elon's employees, as did other federal contractors worked during the pandemic. We need more skilled and innovative companies and their employees and fewer federal workers. Blaming Musk and others for long standing government trends is petty.
IZA (Indiana)
@John K. The moderation is only "partisan" in nature because only one of our two major political parties uses Twitter to lie and spread inciteful, seditious, and libelous language to poison our political discourse. Frankly, it wouldn't be a problem if half of America wasn't stupid enough to believe it, but that's another conversation entirely. And the stereotypical Randian "gubb'ment bad, billionaire good" nonsense is as naive and foolish as it is disconnected from reality.
Zeke (Anchorage)
@John K. Your post is a good example of misinformation, but at least it's clearly identified as an opinion.
Timothy Jackson (Atlanta)
The difference between misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories is about 6 months, when the TRUTH comes to light. Sometimes it takes longer, but that’s a good rule of thumb. Remember 2 weeks to slow the spread? The jab stop the virus dead in its tracks? It’s a pandemic of the unvaxxed? All the while our “leaders” were enriching themselves on Big Pharma stocks. Wow, jut wow.
dz (la)
@Timothy Jackson 1.07 million covid deaths in the USA.
Kevin (Bay Area)
Idiotic article. His wealth is based on the shares he owns? Yes, shares from companies he risked much of his own capital to build. He's a true entrepreneur who risked much, persevered through adversity and has done amazingly well. He got the best results of anyone and now you want to tear him down even knowing that all of his main ventures responsible for his vast wealth are pursuing honorable goals for humanity.
John Ondespot (Ohio)
@Kevin When you wake up take a look around. This is America remember? We virtually engineered risk out of the wealth equation. If there’s anyone benefitting from expensive social services in this country it’s the rich and the corporate. In the rare instances where it didn’t take we make up for it with a long menu of tax benefits, subsidies and outright gifts in the millions and billions of dollars. We took the terrible concept of negative externalities and stretched it to cover the Earth and everything on it, obviating Don and Fred Trump’s need to go full criminal. Not that they wouldn’t do it just for the fun. I don’t know how you missed it… your heroes of capitalism have been investing in the project ever since that nasty Roosevelt (the first one) won a few skirmishes more than a century ago. On the other hand this explains how you managed the trick of getting “honor” and “Musk” in the same sentence.
AndrewH (New York, NY)
@Kevin Could not agree more. Genuinely foolish article. Reminds me of that old Steve Martin routine. You can make a million dollars and never pay taxes. First, get a million dollars.
Grégoire (Sevilla)
What a fine example of a "Musketeer"!
Seriously? (Austin)
Oh please…who is the king of disinformation…the fantastical goof named Trump that we all know is exaggerating…or the liar who says that his debt forgiveness scam was passed by one or two votes in Congress…or the guy who bribes Saudi Arabia to pump more gas so he can win midterm elections…or the VP who says diesel school buses caused the pandemic learning loss. Or the fool who says he’s always stood with fracking. Or the politician who made up a dossier to fraudulently smear a duly elected President…sorry, there is an equivalency and it’s not false. Musk will expose them all and clean up the town square.
D (M)
The rich have always played by a different set of rules, but we now have a government that does little if anything to stop them.
Jeff (Denver)
There is no public benefit to "absolute" freedom of speech with no responsibility and no accountability. And anyone who thinks Musk is selflessly working for the benefit of humanity gets what they deserve. Personally, I'll continue to avoid Twitter (and Facebook), since I consider them open sewers into the communal water supply.
Dennis Hager (Incline Village NV)
What is the point of this article in trying to minimize Musk? PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, all high risk, massive, long term bets, that are paying off for the government, the country and shareholders (including himself). These types of ventures are never led by government bureaucrats or worker groups. Instead, they are led by entrepreneurs, who take a massive risk on long term visions. When they payoff, the winners make big money, big news and a lasting legacy and leave generations of benefits (e.g., transcontinental railroads, automobiles, universities). When they don’t, we rarely hear about them … one more explosion, and Musk would be merely a footnote or that crazy guy who wanted to play with rockets. The US government has long had policies of making investments and subsidizing long term ventures that the private investment sector couldn’t stomach. SpaceX and Tesla are two of the few recent examples of that. It’s why we have the infrastructure we do (railroads, telecom, interstate highways and a space program). Sadly, that mostly ended with the interstate highway and space programs back in the 60s and early 70s. Instead, now (for the past 50 years) our government primarily caters to the short term profits of the powerful and entrenched special interest groups and companies (pharma, fossil fuels, defense, and so on). We need more Elons and more public/private collaborations on big, long term, game changing ventures, and I hope they are successful. Go Elon!
LIChef (East Coast)
I got a chuckle when I saw something in his Twitter acquisition statement about following the law. This from a man who despises the SEC and routinely puts out insider information on social media.
Tom Kelly (Minneapolis MN)
Mr. Musk differs from no other wildly successful entrepreneur in the United States over the past 200 years, whether you agree with his viewpoints or not. Just re watch "There Will Be Blood." The overarching question about the limits of free speech is very challenging, particularly in a pluralistic, multicultural, quasi capitalistic democratic republic and representative democracy like this country. Who decides what constitutes a clear and present danger or who can yell fire in a movie theater, or not? I believe strongly in erring on the side of freedom and speech vs. legislation and am very happy that the "Bird will be Freed!"
Kent (Chatham)
Maybe Musk had a hand building his companies. Maybe he's not a guy you'd want to have beer with. But if we're honest we'll admit that, net net, the world is a better place because of his unique ability to see and act beyond most of our horizons and bring the world transformational products and services. Maybe his Twitter will be transformational, too. The only thing I know for sure is it can't be worse than the Twitter that shut down the accounts of people who Tweeted misinformation -- that turned out to be truths that could have saved lives. The Twitter that blindly followed government "advice" to stop discussions that free societies have historically allowed. Let's see what happens before we pillory the guy. We can always find a law later to quash Twitter if we don't like what he does. That's the new American Way!
CA John (Grass Valley, CA)
I deactivated my Twiiter account today. You can too. Face it. Social Media has not proved the boon its developers promised. It's bad for teenagers. It keeps a lot of people glued to a machine instead of reaching out to people. Don't feel bad, you can quit too.
Sean K (Florida)
I just opened my Twitter account today! So cheers!
Alberto (San Diego)
Twitter is protected from lawsuits by Section 230 of the Commiunications Decency Act. It is time to repeal Section 230. Doing so will make Twitter (and other social media companies) responsible for its content. If it publishes a lie or misinformation that causes harm, Twitter could then be sued. If Musk wants absolute freedom of speech then we should subject him to absolute reponsibility as well.
Beth (Colorado)
Musk was the scion of a well-to-do Afrikaner family in South Africa. So he is accustomed to being the oligarch and has no experience with a full fledge democracy. I've been to S.A. and love it but the race-based inequality is unsustainable, and people like Musk show no awareness on that score. So Musk is like a highly intelligent Donald Trump who sees himself as a self-made achiever doing good for humanity. Unlike Trump, Musk has made some real contributions but still takes far more than he gives.
Allison (Texas)
Start prosecuting monopolists, for literally goodness’ sake. And tax these MFs out of existence. We don’t need billionaires. Even billionaires don’t need to be billionaires, although they think they do. But they will be just fine as ordinary millionaires. Nobody should be permitted to amass so much power and wealth that they become a danger to society, as Musk and Bezos and Thiel have all become.
John (OR)
@Allison Soon he'll have his rocket ship and depart to Mars where he'll recite 'Nearer My God to Thee' and offer to tithe to Him a million dollars, pending a safe landing.
Teresa D Hawkes Ph.D. (Eugene, OR)
Mr. Musk does not have fealty to any land as such. He was born in South Africa to a rich man who ruled. He was abused there, as many are, rich or poor. It was one of the most polarized societies on Earth. He migrated to suit his needs, which we can argue about ad infinitum, and we will get nowhere with him. He is outside and owns the inside of many places. He serves those like Russia or the US if he desires. He owns a worldwide bit of social media, Twitter. He will do as he pleases. We don't know what that is. This upsets the US at this time and makes Russia happy. For this time only. He seems to come down on the side of autocrats. Given his history, why should anyone expect otherwise? He has been subsidized by the US government due to his business skills. He has gotten people to space and back alive. This is no small accomplishment. Can anyone but governments do this? He makes electric cars for the rich. These are needed. The middle class and poor can take care of themselves. They are with other companies. There will always be such men as long as humans exist and can act on their desires. Why this makes anyone mad after thousands of years of this behavior is what makes no sense, yet, in each generation, we fall for this spell. My prediction is we will keep doing that as long as we can because this is normal behavior on our part, AND all these types of men are definitely good at business and working people.
Ira Gruber (Irvine California)
What we know is that Antonin Scalia and his cohorts completely negated the opinions of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in deciding that limits to “free speech” were not within the meaning of the Constitution. The Constitution makes no mention of this, so that Congress was allowed to use Holmes’ opinion to authorize the creation of the Federal Communications Commission. One of the sillier things the Federal Communications Commission did was restrict Soupy Sales from making comments that were overtly sexual on his “children’s” television program, although the target audience was really teenagers who found his comments hilarious. However, the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission kept the newspaper and audio communications industries from publishing irresponsible material, something we are lacking today. Twitter is a powerful weapon, far exceeding the destruction caused by firearms. Under Musk’s freewheeling approach, the expansive “free speech” we enjoy today will be limited by widespread public acceptance of disinformation specialists like Trump It is therefore the job of Congress to repudiate the Scalia first amendment interpretation and reauthorize an effective Federal Communications Commission with the power to seize Twitter from Elon Musk, if needed.
Nancy (USA)
@Ira Gruber Good luck given the anticipated results of midterms. And beyond. :( :(
Mark (Germany)
I am sure Elon is just a human being like the rest of us with warts and all. I really can't believe twitter makes any money but waht do I know. It sounds liike a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing to be honest.
John (OR)
@Mark Are warts like mushrooms?
Joe (Rochester, NY)
I’m not a twitter subscriber and with the mass amount of “information” available a very simple practice when reading, hearing or even seeing video is to “consider the source”.
Boston Barry (Framingham, MA)
We the people, have a decision to make. Who runs this country, billionaires or voters? Libertarians believe that there is hardly a place for government, unless it is to subsidize business interests. Protecting consumers or our democracy is government overreach. Like Fox News, the forces of evil now have control of an important media channel. Musk will give space for Trump to spread his lies and provide a much larger home for bigots. Will our government prevent misinformation and hate speech? Will the media and people boycott the lies? I doubt it.
Milton Lewis (Toronto Ontario)
Anti-semitism is on the rise. Will Musk prohibit anti-Semitic comments and racist rants on the “new” Twitter? His failure to do should result in an organized boycott of his other business ventures. Especially a boycott of his Tesla brand. Free speech is not unrestricted.
Nancy (USA)
@Milton Lewis And just deactivate,then have them delete, your Twitter account. And tell "at - elonmusk" why.
schtickyhickey (New York)
No one should have so much power. The planet's security and future is in jeopardy of super rich, power hungry individuals buying, wielding, manipulating, invading, spreading disinformation as much as any other external force.
tanstaafl (Houston)
Think about where the U.S. would be without Elon Musk. His Tesal leads the world in EV technology; without him, Asia would dominate EVs. His SpaceX leads the world in space technology; without him, the U.S. would not even be able to launch humans into space. Musk affirms the importance of immigration to American vitality. And he might just revitalize Twitter, whose woke censors are so insecure about speech they don't like that they banned highly credentialed scientists and doctors questioning the efficacy of interventions against the pandemic, many doubts which were proven correct. We don't need social media companies in bed with our government, no matter which party is leading it. If he fails, Twitter fails, and we turn the page. Big deal.
Newo (Norfolk)
Youve boughy into the propaganda. All his businesses had huge subsidies but he wants to ax them for others. His EVs are sub par now compared to competition
Nordeen (Madison, WI)
@tanstaafl, Elon Musk did not do the work that you're giving him credit for. He just put a big flashy sign on other people's stuff. Elon's gift isn't intelligence. It's irrational ego and a rich daddy, just like someone else that we all have the displeasure of knowing. Big deal? No. Buyer beware. Real people get hurt in this nonsense.
June Landis (Limerick, PA 19468)
You know, there’s a very simple and easy solution if you are concerned about what gets posted on Twitter going forward: get off Twitter! I’ve never had an account and I can testify that my life is just fine without it!
John (OR)
@June Landis Yes, largely true save the time, space and resources consumed by twitting and its/their ability to foment attention seeking scrums of distraction.
Susan (Boston)
A true media company - is it The New York Times - should stop reporting about Twitter or quoted Tweets. There are a lot of people not on Twitter and never will be, and try to get their news from reputable journalism and stories longer than a Tweet. I am tired of reading what anyone Tweets, let alone Donald Trump, and have it repeated again and again in the The New York Times, the Washington Post or PBS Newshour. Tweets are not sources and journalists should stop using Twitter as a source. Please use the telephone. Use email. Stop giving Twitter a life and it will die, as it should now with Musk at the helm.
ER (London)
What a muddled Alice in Wonderland world this author lives in. One would think someone keen on censorship of speech for misleading information would not spin such absurd nonsense. For example: "His wealth is based not on factories he has built, products he sells or real estate he has acquired, but on the billions of dollars of shares he owns in Tesla, SpaceX, cryptocurrency companies and Twitter." The author is confused and incorrect. Elon Musk's Tesla and SpaceX did build and sell products and services (eg cars, rocket launches, satellites) from factories it built. The sales of these products and services (and their expected growth, profitability) is what drives the share price. "We must recognize that he is not the self-made genius businessman he plays in the media. Instead, his success was prompted and paid for by taxpayer money and abetted by government officials who have allowed him and other billionaire businessmen to exercise more and more control over our economy and our politics." So Elon Musk "plays" a self-made genius businessman. What an absurd, mealy mouthed attempt to detract from such real, significant business achievements. He famously repaid the government loan. The author seems to think the government has handed him these businesses, yet, remarkably, no govt (or business) on the planet in history has made a reusable (ie recyclable) rocket. Elon uniquely contributed to forwarding the world's space and electric technology - reducing both cost and carbon.
Paul (Denton)
As the author notes his fortune was jump started and built on the backs of the taxpaying citizenry. It has been maintained by regulatory capture and right wing political sycophants currying favor. Like all of these bloated,untalented billionaires he is nothing but a charlatan who never worked a hard day in their lives.
John (Hartford)
Nonsense. Nasaw needs to read an account of the activities of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and its founder John D. Rockefeller. All of it conducted in the shadows. If Musk coughs the world is going to know about it.
AnObserver (VT)
Hm, Speaking of the public square, let us not forget William Randolph Hearst, who helped start a couple of wars, among other "accomplishments"
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
A sign of Musk's hubris is he's now calling himself "Chief Twit" without noticing the irony. And his first major reinstatement to Twitter is Khanye West, the vocal anti-Semite. But in the end, Twitter is only as important or powerful as we, the people, allow it to be. It is not a fair representation of all Americans, has no journalistic or academic or any other form of bona fides. It is merely Twitter members spouting off, mostly anonymously. To which I say: Why should anyone care what's on Twitter?
Margaret (Oregon)
Over the past year Twitter has become an unsatisfying bore. It’s just too much.
Judy (Canada)
Elon Musk is a remarkable person. He is entitled to do everything he is doing, including holding his views on free speech and acquiring Twitter. He is not a ruthless power seeker or a monopolist or a greedy capitalist or hedge funder, he is an inventor and an engineer. Whatever power he has exists because he is incredibly good at what he does. How can people on the one hand claim to be strong supporters of free speech while on the other expect people who control platforms like Twitter on which rights of free speech are exercised to restrict the speech appearing on those platforms because the so-called free speech supporters find it unacceptable or irresponsible? I wouldn’t go so far as to call this hypocrisy, but isn’t their position internally and irreconcilably inconsistent? Trying to have their cake and eat it too? My own view is all rights should be subject to reasonable restrictions, and if there are to be restrictions they are to be defined by law, in legislation or other regulations and/or in court decisions. As the internet has opened up the world to speech and made it more free than ever, this regulation has not materialized despite the fact that many people, including many liberals, believe much speech that is occurring is irresponsible. If there should be restrictions and there are none that is a failure of government, not a failure of capitalism or of accumulated wealth or power, and it is certainly not the fault of Elon Musk.
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
@Judy Gee. I guess you really, really, really like Elon Musk.
Judy (Canada)
@Jerseytime I do, but that is not the motivation for my comment. My beef is that many commenters like to blame individuals or groups for perceived failures in US society which are actually failures of government and the general population.
Charles (Davis)
The genius is in DOING IT. I was taught that 97% of the population are "viewers" and only 3% are "doers", and at now age 79 I found that to be true. Commenters here are typically viewers oohing and aahing and criticizing Mr. Musk, and that includes the professor, author, who has been and simply is a viewer, historian. As a retired entrepreneur having started eight small businesses I greatly admire Mr. Musk
Jerseytime (Montclair, NJ)
@Charles History is packed with "doers" who "did things" of great impact. Large numbers of these "doers" were evil, and their impacts resulted in millions dead. Therefore, us "viewers" are allowed, nay required, to examine the actions of "doers" in order to determine if their actions will result in positive or negative impacts. This process is known as democracy.
Shamrock (Westfield)
@Charles Musk will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest inventors and entrepreneurs. That’s a compliment to him.
NDCatt (San Diego)
I’m a “doer”. I don’t believe my “doing” gives me the right to judge the commenters on this forum as observers, as if being such should be derided. I also know there are many different ways to “do”, some noble and others not. To me, Musk is a clever manipulator who also is unable or unwilling to discern finer philosophical points. He champions the simplistic thinking that lying = free speech on a massive scale, that there’s no distinction. The most important point in this article is that our history is rife with people who gamed the system to amass enormous wealth- and affect political outcomes, thus the lives of everyday citizens, and that our regulatory apparatus must be repaired. As an older “doer” myself, I’ve observed that birds of a feather stick together. Those who refuse to see or are unable to see glaring flaws in a person or system most often share similar traits.
NowCHare (Charlotte)
It's relatively easy to contain Musk. His money comes from taxpayers as the article so rightly points out. If he plays nice he'll get to reap his fortune for the rest of his life. If not, it will only take one angry democratic president to pull the plug on his little gravey train. As for Twitter, do you wonder why he was so reluctant to go through with the deal after his impulsive bid? He's been practically dragged to the company, kicking and screaming, after he realized what a blunder he'd made. How much do you think it would even cost to create a decent alternative to that platform? I bet the new british PM could do it for pennies with his wife's shady offshore tax-dodging tech company. The more I look at the rich and their politics, the more disgusted I get. We need a cap on wealth.
RJ (Mount Vernon Ohio)
@NowCHare Yep, nice to know you favor letting Democratic Presidents destroy private (or public) companies. One might call that fascism.
Mike (Ohio)
What puzzles me is the belief that just because someone makes, or has, a lot of money means that they have any idea about how the government should work. Those are discrete sets of talents, skills, and knowledge that have very little overlap. Yet we continue to elect candidates, that espouse untruths simply because they are people with the money to spread these ideas in the media.
drollere (sebastopol, CA)
i personally have a mild distaste for mr. musk -- he seems to me to have the classic engineer mentality of systemic simplication toward vast scale technological solutions -- but i don't dislike him as much as mr. nasaw seems to. true, at the very end of this piece mr. nasaw seems to recognize some core systemic problems -- taxation and officials and control and all that -- but only after indulging in a spate of petty character snipes. i personally think of twitter as a social conversational toilet, and i thrill to the possibility that mr. musk sees himself as the capable plumber to fix it. asking the inveterate troll to set right the public conversation ... oh, dear friends, you can't make this stuff up. of course regulation and digital free speech are incompatible. but that is because digital identities are inherently fictional. this means you must and can only regulate the words and not the speaker. free speech means you can be applauded or shouted off the soapbox. it means you are a real person in a real space of real people, or simulate as much with a byline or a colophon. ever wonder why twitter has a bot problem? because everyone on twitter is indistinguishable from an algorithm. let's see what mr. musk and his kitchen sink can do with that. i can confidently predict this: the exercise will be instructive.
Karen (Bay Area)
Drollery, have you heard of capital letters?
Lily (Portland)
@Karen- Perhaps he's channeling e.e. cummings?
"For more than two centuries, American moguls like Mr. Musk have transformed our economy and our daily lives (and enriched themselves) by playing a winning game with governments. They sought and received from those governments enormous subsidies and protection, while demanding that they be left alone to conduct their business as they pleased. The railroad robber barons built their fortunes on government-supplied land on which they laid their tracks and then collected government subsidies for every mile of it." The above describes socialism pure and simple, Not capitalism !! America beware of those socialists posing as capitalists who speak with forked tongue.
mangocat (Stuart, FL)
@R R That is more like oligopoly than socialism. Rule, whether political or economic by a few robber barons is hardly socialism, and is closer to feudalism. It was Mussolini’s theory that the robber barons, the heads of corporations would bind together with the fascist leader and the church to form the leadership of a country, with the middle class as the body, and the working class as the feet. Trump believes in this ideal, as does J. J. Vance and other candidates on the right.
KH (Vermont)
Every time I read about these tech moguls I think of "Revenge of the Nerds". These titans unleash technologies throughout the world with no regard for the social and political repercussions, We are living it in real time. Think of the good these people could do with their billions for a suffering world. Instead, they feed their egos. Life's just one big video game for them.
mangocat (Stuart, FL)
@KH it bags e, I think, with dungeons and dragons.
Mike (Jacksonville)
Musk is sometimes brilliant and sometimes silly. This article contains almost zero substance. The author doesn't offer any specific concerns about how Musk will operate twitter- all just vague, OMG, evil capitalist, the world is ending sort of observations. Many other headlines are noting that senior leadership is getting fired. This is not no uncommon in mergers or purchases. There is so much hyperbole in discourse these days. We could all just wait and see what happens with twitter and then judge on concrete outcomes. Then again that would be rational. In any event, Musk is not a long term threat to society. By definition individuals are not long term.
Kappy (Los Angeles)
@Mike Agree!
The Littlest W (Whoville)
It is not as if anybody needs twitter. I don’t, and I don’t know anybody who does. So responsible people delete their accounts leaving it to be a cess pool— the new National Enquirer. So what? The rest of the world will move on.
l provo (st augustine)
@The Littlest W The media needs Twitter and social media to create free content to attract viewers. Very little is spent on investigative journalism when you can quote the idiocy of D Trump or other fringe thinkers.
Ted B (Prospect Heights)
I often wonder whether Musk would be as prominent if it wasn't for Marvel films. Robert Downey Jr said that his version of Iron Man was inspired by Elon Musk, and that famous line from Iron Man 2 ("Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist") has become Musk's brand. I think Elon is a genius at PR. He's also the perfect representative for our age, when government R&D takes a backseat to private capital and influencers hog people's attention. It's Musk over Nasa, Teslas over green jobs programs as the way to fight climate change. And the richest man in the world has the maturity of a 13 year old.
Caroline (Los Angeles)
@Ted B I think you are exactly right - in his statement to advertisers he referenced that his take over of Twitter was essential to protect the future of our civilization. He really sees himself as some kind of semi-mythical figure above all the rest. In reality, he was born rich, made a few smart moves, and devolved into a petulant and mean spirited playboy. His attempt to smear the cave diver - who did the actual work of rescuing those young Thai children - as a pedophile should have ended our adulation of him, full stop.
Jon (DC)
“What makes Mr. Musk particularly powerful and potentially more dangerous than the industrial-era moguls is his ability to promote his businesses and political notions with a tweet.” So can anyone with a Twitter account.
mangocat (Stuart, FL)
@Jon but you need businesses in addition to the tweeter.
Joe Runciter (Santa Fe, NM)
Low paid laborers "built our railroads" - many (most?) were Chinese workers imported to do the hard work. Iron workers built our cities' sky scrappers and bridges. Unions and intentional government policies combined to produce our middle class.
Jomo (San Diego)
We've just witnessed a chilling spectacle in China, where one man just put the finishing touches on his absolute power, for life, over the world's most populous nation, one-eighth of humanity. No one, not even the senior leaders, can challenge or criticize him in any way. Well, money equals power. Extreme concentration of wealth allows a handful of unelected individuals to have disproportionate power over the lives of the rest of us. Wealthy tycoons can purchase media outlets and thus control the flow of information, as Murdoch has done. Musk already has arguably as much sway over US and international affairs as the President does. He can expand or turn off the internet in Ukraine on his whim. He has the power to prevent criticism of himself on Twitter. Much higher marginal tax rates and inheritance taxes could be part of the solution to prevent excessive concentration of power, while also benefitting society at large. If Musk wants to rule, he should stand for election.
mangocat (Stuart, FL)
@Jomo does Musk believe in elections?
haniblecter (the mitten)
the common person doesnt use or pay attention to twitter BUT, elites and media do, and they control what we see. So 'we' dont use twitter, but we're governed by it.
Eric (New York)
The “solution” to Elon Musk buying Twitter isn’t to just delete our accounts if we don’t like or trust him. That will just allow Twitter to become more of an unregulated cesspool of mis- and disinformation than it already is. Social media needs more regulation, not less. 70% of Republicans believe the 2020 election was stolen, in spite of absolutely zero evidence. 147 Republican Congressmen and women voted to overturn the election, ignoring the oath they took to defend the Constitution. Soon Trump will return to Twitter, with his 90 million (gullible) followers, just in time to start his 2024 campaign for president. Musk’s takeover of Twitter will be another nail in the coffin of American democracy.
Kappy (Los Angeles)
@Eric To your last sentence - Maybe, maybe not. I would argue that Twitter is already a disaster that is putting the nail in the coffin of democracy. I think the pragmatic approach would be to wait and see how things go with this takeover. Despite the negative media dumping on Musk before seeing what he does, he may have some creative solutions.
nigel cairns (san diego)
When I was a well-off doctor, I remember thinking, to my embarrassment now, 'I pulled myself up from nothing, why can't anyone?' Then I lost all my money in the 2008 recession. I had lost my perspective in my arrogance. So has Musk?
Victor (Rancho Santa Fe)
@nigel cairns No Musk knows how to play the game.
JDS (Santa Fe)
@Victor No, he doesn’t. He actually overpaid for Twitter and by a lot. The banks that backed the deal have to hold the debt instead of selling it to third parties. It’s a bad deal. Why do you think Musk caved? The Delaware courts told his lawyers he will lose. I hope moral companies and people deactivate their Twitter accounts. Let the Trumpies have it.
J Kile (White Haven, PA)
It’s amazing, and scary, how rights that were important enough to be included in an addendum to the Constitution, and have been defended for over 200 years have been so weaponized against our society. Freedom of speech, right to bear arms, separation of church and state. The proliferation of media, cable TV, social media and talk radio has become all the lies, name calling, verbal attacks on anyone, you want to disseminate without any oversight or consequences. The barrage is so overwhelming and continuous that sorting through it all to find the truth has become almost impossible. The right to bear arms is now carry any guns anywhere you want. What could be the danger in that? Separation of church and state is now negligible. The very conservative Catholic majority (I have nothing against Catholics) on the Supreme Court will now run the country according to their religious beliefs.
RB (Larkspur)
@J Kile Unforeseen consequences.
Jackson (Virginia)
@J Kile And yet Reverend Warnock is in the Senate and campaigns in church. Is that separation?
mangocat (Stuart, FL)
@RB foreseen by those who have pushed this.
Alan (Beaver Falls)
The world is awash in media and social media outlets. Twitter is dwarfed by WeChat in Asia and there is no lack of other plaforms for blogging, commenting etc.... Worries about Musk are a tempest in a tea pot. And you have to admit, firing the CEO and CFO on day one and opening the platform back up for all users is priceless.
Davidicus (New Brunswick)
@alan…Nothing is Priceless, as demonstrated by Musk. everything has a price, if there’s enough money on the table.
Robert (Boston)
Time for Twitter users to vote with their feet; if Musk makes Twitter into a cesspool of lies and misinformation, why would you continue to use it.
@Robert That's what it is now.
Robert (Boston)
@BB That's why I do not use it...
Some Guy (Some Place)
...Carnegie Mellon literally made loans to the federal government, assassinated laborers & strikers through Pinkertons and state actors, maintained closed-loop literal company towns that nickle and dimed his workers to death, actually had Congressmen in his pocket, prominently influenced US policy abroad and domestically through outright bribery, laid down the genesis for Big Oil destroying our biosphere and corrupting society everywhere, etc. Please stop this hyperbole. Musk is awful, but he's no CM.
Puzzled at times (USA)
I especially regret the exit of Parag Agrawal, a defender of the free speech and of the American constitution.
RJ (Mount Vernon Ohio)
@Puzzled at times Yep - tell that to Donald Trump. Good riddance to Agrawal and hopefully (soon) to the Twitter content moderation (censorship) bureau
The Mountain (Florida)
And as night follows day, the mainstream media will amplify every outrageous tweet.
Carmeli (USA)
Musk is an insecure megalomaniac and attention seeker with a "savior" complex: he's going to "save humanity", "save free speech", "save (white) people from declining birth rates", and on, and on. Observe him when he's exposed to new information, facts or something he might not know...for instance rocket engines (there's quite a lot he doesn't know about rocket engines)...he becomes agitated, defensive and then attacks when "instigated" embarrassment is readily acute. I wish he would fly to Mars on one of his rockets and never, ever come back. But, that's not going to happen.
Spencer (St. Louis)
@Carmeli Let him take trump, mcconnell, alito and the rest of them with him as well.
Jeff (Mississauga ON)
But who decides when free speech becomes “a clear and present danger”? If two people would make totally different decisions on that, evidently labelling speech a "danger" is the real danger.
Britethorn (Chicago)
I'm a Liberal Democrat and I realize that Musk is far from perfect, but this is one of the most ridiculously one sided pieces I've ever read. Perfect example of throwing "the baby out with the bathwater."
David Lange (North Carolina)
Who's afraid of Elon Musk? Billionaires are not like us; they have more money. But no dynasty ever survives. And on the face of it, Musk's enterprise does not seem destructive. It may even benefit the planet. Meanwhile, the bourgeoisie have their Teslas to boast about while dining at the French Laundry. Seems like a fair trade to me. But freedom of expression is another matter. And no, it isn't time to begin to whittle it away. Nobody should consider it a source of objectivity, much less truth. It isn't really meant to be. We value it because it enables us to think as we please and speak as we think. And that is quite enough. The rest is up to us.
Giordano Bruno (Gardiner, NY)
@David Lange So I assume you are also against parents and school boards deciding on what books to ban from libraries?
Joe (Rochester, NY)
@David Lange I’m hopeful your first paragraph is correct and I agree with the rest. The problem is too many people can’t or won’t spend the time to actually think about what they see/read. Mom used to say believe 1/2 of what you see and none of what you hear. Just a reminder to consider the source.
David Lange (North Carolina)
@Giordano Bruno You should think as you assume and speak as you think, never mind whether it makes sense or not.
Kimberly (Denver)
Too many have figured out how to weaponize the 1st Amendment against the entire country, and among our own citizens, not only foreign influence. We really need to grapple with this issue and determine how to address it. Social media does have some restrictions in other Western countries, and possibly their actions could be a starting point as we consider how to deal with this here.
John Swen (Cranston, RI)
Wow! Nasaw says Musk's "wealth is not based on factories"? Huh? He says Musk's fortune is built on subsidies for Tesla and NASA contracts. This is pure disinformation. The Tesla subsidies were available to all electric car manufacturers. The NASA contracts were a bargain for the government. If this is the kind of "truth" that Nasaw wants to promote then may God help us if he ever has any real power or influence. Let's hope that Musk follows Joe Kennedy Sr.'s example and uses his knowledge of social media to fix our broken "public square." Then Nasaw can write a book about it.
Joblo (Virginia)
Not only were the Space-X contracts a bargain, their main competitor for those contracts, Boeing, has shown nothing but total incompetence.
arosskopf (Fort Pierce, FL)
@John Swen Clearly some Americans prefer autocracy. Joe Kennedy did.
Dean (NC)
@John Swen In Musk you trust. Despite the warning signs. You are worried that Nasaw might abuse power. Good work on identifying who is the real threat! /s Maybe God has been helping the Ukrainians. Elon was happy to pitch Putin's idea of appeasement land for peace. Watch what happens to Starlink service in Ukraine a few months from now when most people's attention is on other things.
Mike75 (CT)
Twitter was a cesspool before Musk bought it and it will likely continue to be so. The real problem is that way too many people conflate the Twitterverse with real life. If Musk runs it into the ground it would be a net benefit to the world.
Daniel (Washington State)
For me, social media is encapsulated in two somewhat divergent concerns: SCOTUS' Citizens United decision. When corporations became people, and money equals free speech, without any significant legislative pushback. Social media's known commodity: its users. That data monetized and sold to be sifted and sieved for targeting (Cambridge Analytica) social opinions as *minor* as presidential elections. Musk's known predilection the dumbest among us and apparently having nothing else to do but seek attention makes those concerns even more pressing.
KS (London)
David Nasaw, Did you ever attempt to understand why the Tesla car is better than that of other EV manufacturers? Why SpaceX rockets radically changed space launches? A business is only ever sustainably successfull if the product is great. He doesn't portray himself as a "self made genius businessman" as you labelled him. He protrays himself as an engineer, and he is almost unapparalled in this ability, and it because of his engineering ability that his companies have become successful. He had a great scientific and engineering mind long before he was wealthy. Instead of denigrating him because he is successful, we ought to be celebrating engineering and the positive impact that engineers all over world make through scientific understanding and problem solving. We wouldn't have electricity, cars or indeed the ability to publish articles digitally without engineers.
JB (Oakland)
The world doesn’t need more cars or rockets. Musk is not an engineer.
arosskopf (Fort Pierce, FL)
@KS Did he actually engineer the Tesla or the rocketry. Citation please.
anupam (Seattle, WA)
@JB Musk has been the cheif engineer of SpaceX for a long time.
Bob (PA)
He is clearly a smart, voluble, and dangerous, person. We should all be concerned at what he might wreak.
Jen (Earth)
If you really care, stop buying Tesla. There are good alternatives. Period.
Steve (Charlotte NC)
@Jen I wouldn't have a Tesla if you gave it to me...
Kste Alexander (“)
While we watch the brave girls and women of Iran beg to sing their words in public, we see a morally bankrupt individual try to become master of the Metaverse, undermining all words in his deep cynicism. Donald Trump . Larry Flint. Elon Musk. All the same cut of the cloth.
Jorge (Texas)
I put a deposit on a tesla when there was no factory and then my car was built when he was sleeping in the factory for two years. My tesla is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever own. Say what you want about him but my tesla gives me joy every day. Oh, and those rockets landing ….
kick19741 (boulder)
Counterpoint: it’s going to feel amazing as an old school democrat and second wave feminist to say I don’t want trans women in my bathroom without the fear of being banned from Twitter.
@kick19741 Yeah, I'm a liberal, but some of the censorship on twitter is too much. People should be able to calmly state facts and opinions. It's wild to me that a woman saying "sorry, I'm a homosexual that only dates females" results in a ban, but the males sending her rape and death threats are not. I don't think Musk will be a net positive though, the impact of letting trump back on to stage another violent coup is too great a risk. Why can't we have some common sense? Like have a rational policy that doesn't tolerate threats of violence or scientific misinformation, but doesn't ban everyone who doesn't adhere to the latest woke dogma.
Matt Mendenhall (Colorado)
@kick19741 Oooooh! Just imagine the fun a whole bunch of people can have. Now someone might be able to post that segregation is the way without fear of being kicked off. Someone can now say anything they want about you, about minorities, about Democrats, about QAnon, about baby blood drinking, about gay people, trans people. Oh, it's going to feel fabulous, ain't it. (Just don't say anything about musk or trump and you'll feel freeee!!!!)
The shallowest of concerns
no kidding (Cambridge)
We fool ourselves if we think we are anything more than survival of the fittest. It's eat or be eaten. And that's why we are where we are: climate change, Ukraine, Trump. Musk is simply doing what we all do, only better. This isn't the brave new world, its just us humans being what we are, as we have been, as we will be. Buckle up, the ride is just beginning.
Joe Runciter (Santa Fe, NM)
@no kidding And yet, the generally accepted reason we are the only hominid species that survives today is our superior ability to organize and cooperate in large groups. If we were "every man for himself" the lions would have picked us all off one by one.
RB (Larkspur)
@no kidding Right. Fasten your seat belts if you haven't already.
Guy (Toledo)
Can twitter really become more toxic than it already is?
AD (Lalaland)
@Guy Only if you consider free speech toxic.
mangocat (Stuart, FL)
@Guy oh, yes. There are blogs and podcasts that make twitter sound like a junior high recess.
Angela (New york)
Always great to have a defender of “free speech” (love the quotation marks!) cite Schenck, which was a case in which the US gov’t locked up people for disagreeing with the draft during WWI. Oh yeah that same gov’t locked up political opponents like Eugene Debs, under the same silly espionage laws. Case was of course overturned. You would expect better from a historian to know … you know, history!
Diane (California)
Musk owning Twitter is yet another arrow shot into the heart of our democracy. The son of an emerald mine owner In South Africa during the apartheid regime is not the kind of person I would willingly trust with a tool practically designed for political actors to propagandize and mislead people. The worst is yet to come if Musk allows Trump back onto the mega-media platform. And the Twitter folks who profited handsomely in this deal just sold out the country.
anupam (Seattle, WA)
@Diane Elon was estranged from his father from his adolescence. Elon did not take money from his father for his college education. He also got zero money from his father when he was toiling in Silicon Valley.
Jonathan G (California)
@Diane - does this sound so bad? Twitter was already a struggling with bots and not the best place in social media. Maybe we give it a chance and vote with our participation and use.
Paul from Oakland (SF Bay Area)
You left out Musk's family history that puts the lie to his "self-made" mythology. His father owned an emerald mine in South Africa making him many millions, and little Elon got to putter around for years trying this and that, with the comfort that his personal well being and access to capital was never an issue. And no doubt exploiting African miners helped establish his contempt for the working class. Listen to the stories of Tesla auto workers on Musk's indifference -My favorite is his refusal to paint yellow safety arrows in his California auto plant because it clashed with his personal aesthetics. Trump new wave is what we have here.
anupam (Seattle, WA)
@Paul from Oakland Elon was estranged from his father from his adolescence. Elon did not take money from his father for his college education. He had to pay for himself. He also got zero money from his father when he was toiling in Silicon Valley.
Pete (Portland)
Someone, perhaps much smarter than Musk, at this very moment is plotting to out-Musk Musk. And when that happens Musk will be crying foul. People like him are without principles. They are just in the money and power game and they will take down democracy to win it, never realizing they are the ones most in peril from a world without rules until it happens to them. Now that he is own top, Musk needs rules more than ever. He just doesn't realize it.
JSF (Midwest)
I wish folks would stop taking the phrase 'digital town square' as a correct characterization of what social media is. It's far from it. It's full of bots, trolls, crypto-shills, high school students who try to pass themselves off as seasoned oracles of a specific topic, and influencers paid to share their boss' content. While true that our actual public lives have all of that, it is a lot easier to sift through outside of social media. For as much prognostication there is about how bad social media is for our mental health, teenagers, and society in general, there are too many media folks who don't challenge the characterization of 'digital town square'. The digital town square is closer to what the internet pre-Facebook was. That era is long gone, and we're never going back. Too many companies have gotten the taste of big data and advertising money to give it up. We can start by acknowledging that no matter who owns Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever platform, they're never going to a create a 'digital town square'.
Shazam (Earth)
He paid way too much for Twitter and has no plan to monetize the platform. There will probably be more than a few resignations -- employees who don't want to work for him. Regular users may close their accounts when it becomes a platform of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and hate speech. In a few years, he will grow tired of trying to make it profitable and will sell it at a loss. He's no Carnegie.
Independent (the South)
Disinformation is a demand-supply equation. If nobody listened to Fox News, they wouldn't exist. I am always amazed that more than 5% of Americans voted for Trump. How do we stop the demand for misinformation and outright lies?
Steve (Charlotte NC)
@Independent We can't. America is a socially corrupt place.
Korgull (Hudson Valley)
Twitter is certainly not the "digital town square", most humans don't use it, and for the verified humans who do, only 10% of the users generate 90% of the posts. Twitter is a digital echo chamber for the loudest oafs in the village, no more no less.
Marat (Long Island, NY)
Some commentators here argue that "Democrats are not "against free speech", but against free speech without some ethical and legal guardrails. " I was wondering who will define those "ethical and legal guardrails?" A special commission? This is how free speech ends.
Matthew (NC)
@Marat No, Its not about anyone determining who can say what. Its about stopping obvious threats and dangerous situations from coming to fruition. Its like that old adage (paraphrasing admittedly) about pornography. You may not know how to define it, but you know it when you see it. Some things don’t need a panel of experts to decide, they just need some common sense applied.
eheck (Ohio)
@Marat Your freedom of speech ends when you deliberately lie about another person or engage in activity that could harm another person, e.g., threats, child pornography. That's the way it should be. There are people and tech companies who think that child pornography should be considered "protected free speech." Do you think the ethics and guardrails that protect children from this kind of vile abuse should be eliminated? Actions should have consequences. Republicans seem to have conveniently forgotten that, as part of their long, deliberate descent into amorality and corruption. They have abandoned the concept of civility and embraced anarchy and violence as a means to an end.
Pete (Portland)
@Marat Conservatives like you are all for regulations and an assault on human rights when you feel like it, such as banning abortion, banning speech in schools to squash the free speech of gays, suppressing the rights of workers to unionize, and voters to vote.
A. Nonymous (Austin)
It doesn't take genius to make money as internet-escrow middleman (paypal) or parlaying that windfall to leverage available tech to manufacture electric cars. But still, Elon Musk is pretty darn smart. He is a vertical integrator of all his holdings, from satellites to drive his cars to rockets to launch his satellites to a social media platform that is sure to market all things Musk.
Mike (Viginia)
Twitter is hardly more pernicious than the fox news empire and it is not the sole social media service. This is an irrelevant development in the US media landscape.
Trevor Kay (Palm Springs)
So you believe that banning Trump from Twitter had no effect on his influence?
Pedter Goossens (Panama)
And since Musk's "success", maybe other Billionaires will do the same, i.e. buy ways to exercise political power/influence and we will have rendered control to the billionaire class!!!
Albert (Florida)
@Pedter Goossens oligocracy has always been america's "democracy" same game different authors
Paul Plummer (Coon Rapids MN)
I have a lot of respect for Musk. He created a car company that every other auto maker in the world is trying to catch up to.
Les Szabolcsi (Atlanta, GA)
“Mr. Musk is correct that “free speech” must be honored and protected. But is it not time that we, as a people and a nation, engage in a wide-ranging, inclusive public debate on when and how free speech creates “a clear and present danger” — as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote a century ago — and whether we need government to find a way, through law or regulation or persuasion, to prevent this from happening?” In my wildest nightmares it never occurred to me that one day I would read such a paragraph in an American newspaper.
Finklefaye (Houston, Texas)
@Les Szabolcsi I spent my life as a journalist and we were prevented by libel and privacy laws from threatening individuals with physical harm, spouting racist epithets, printing what we knew to be false, knowingly doing reputational harm. I have watched with great alarm as social media platforms and FOX have broken all of those restrictions with impunity. If reports are accurate, Twitter was flooded with hate speech the minute the deal closed. Just as in autocratic states, America is becoming a country in which fear permeates our lives and controls our actions.
Byron Chapin (Chattanooga)
@Les Szabolcsi Can we not free that shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater is dangerous and criminal. What about, repeatedly shouting, "This election was rigged", with no evidence to back that up?
Sarah (San Jose)
"Free speech" in this context means the ability to freely spread lies and misinformation. How will that improve the platform?
Max (NYC)
@Sarah It will be greatly improved by encouraging free debate. As opposed to abiding by some biased "fact checker".
David Eike (Virginia)
Rather than debate Free Speech vs the Public Good, we might focus, instead, on reinventing our public education system to teach critical thinking skills, with a particular emphasis on logic and how to recognize and understand cause-effect relationships. If more Americans were capable of thinking critically about the nonsensical premises of most conspiracy theories, those theories would never get any traction in the first place. More and better critical thinking might also help fight racism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice.
NorthernVirginia (Falls Church, VA)
Newspaper and magazine mogul William Randolph Hearst seems like a more apt comparison to Musk's control of Twitter. Hearst's infamous telegram is still an astounding proclamation of near omnipotence: "You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war." Of course, if people simply ignored Twitter and other social media, those businesses would rapidly lose their relevance.
Loud and Clear (British Columbia)
Free speech is basically open-carry and use-at-will without repercussions. Our social contract, which is in tatters and continues tatterizing into nothingness, demands implicit understanding there are limits to what may be said. Not in the USA. End of times.
Teresa (nyc)
@Loud and Clear Easy to say from BC
Mark Kropf (Long Island)
The 'cause of Free Speech' or the 'caws of Free Speech' are two sides of the muddle which we must face in any public square or any digital forum supposing itself to attain the status and reputation of the physical space. Is the forum to be one for serious discussion of importance or is it to merely be the cacophony of a murder of crows up in the tree branches? Is the nature of Free Speech the abandon of a forum to any input, only to what is considered serious or to often senseless material of emotional angst directed to no good end and perhaps to vile outrage in the service of hate? How is Free Speech to be defined so that it is both suitable and yet not overly managed? The problem with the Musk model is that none of these questions can be answered with anything remotely clear and the result is some arbitrary management or one of communications anarchy. While communications anarchy is not impossible to occur, it is not at all practical for the needs of responsible governing and the EU or the U.S or another government will seek to shut down anything remotely open to unlimited discourse as the forum unwinds out of control. Musk sees no limits, but limits define humans in all manners of their actions. We can seek a utopia in digital media, but it exists only in our fantasies!
617to416 (Ontario via Massachusetts)
Free speech is increasingly being transformed by data and technology into free manipulation. Free speech absolutism is therefore transforming into a near-absolute power to manipulate people's thoughts and emotions. This in turn means tremendous power to manipulate people's decisions and actions. We worship free speech. People like Putin understand that, and they laugh as they freely manipulate us into destroying our democracy.
Peter Engel (Bklyn NY)
$44B for THAT? Musk's lenders will be fed up soon, and this will not end well. Musk is increasingly erratic, and Tesla is now his only real cash cow. I think we have reached Peak Elon. I respect David Nasaw enormously as a writer and historian, but I think he's ahead of himself here. Twitter is not steel, oil, railroads, or a for-real media company that billions rely upon. But please read yourself and weigh in on what you think.
profwilliams (Montclair)
IF he can produce cars like Tesla, blast rockets into space, then land them back on an unmanned barge (so successfully that NASA keeps awarding him contracts), I don't don't care if he's not the self-made man he pretends to be (though this "opinion" offers no evidence of it), he makes great things. Things that make humanity better. Not sure you can say that about most politicians. So what's your beef? He's outspoken? So what.
Alan (Washington DC)
@profwilliams the jury is still out on dude making humanity better. just because it seems to glitter right now I do not think so-called disrupters like him are good for a society that clearly needs guardrails. Worshipping someone that knows how to manipulate guardrails of government by freebies on the taxpayers back is not genius. It is low moral fiber which is exactly what we have in politics all over this country.
Matthew (NC)
@Alan @profwilliams Also, he didn’t "Make" these things. Some amazing engineers did. Musk just capitalizes on other people’s ideas like Microsoft did in the 80's.
Pete (Portland)
@profwilliams The Beef is that speech can also be propaganda, and a company like Twitter or Tiktok can manipulate just like Putin manipulates his media in Russia. Is there really free speech then? Musk famously fired people at Tesla for exercising their free speech. So he is really more interested in propaganda than free speech. And he will use his new Twitter toy to make himself even richer by manipulating the markets. That is the real problem.
Katrin (Wisconsin)
People like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel are eager kingmakers behind the scenes.
Alfred (Wessex)
@Katrin Good. We cannot move on from this historical anomaly called "democracy," the rule by mediocrity, fast enough. It's long past due that we return to less barbaric governance. Vive le roi.
CD Chase (San Diego CA)
Twitter is a waste of time and would be nothing if the media didn’t fawn over it. It is Not any town at all - much less a town square.
JEB (Austin TX)
The world would be a far better place without Twitter.
Deb (Portland ME)
Does anyone really need Twitter? Or Facebook, for that matter? Get real with the people around you, and have real conversations with them. I bet you'll be glad you did. Maybe someday I'll give up reading and writing comments in the NYT, and then I'll be totally free of social media!
Bjorn Hamso (Bethesda, MD)
I’m not a fan of Musk after his unethical stance on Ukraine and having become Kremlin’s “useful mouth piece”, but this article oozes of contempt for a man that has done more to help humanity toward sustainable energy use than any other living person. The article is based on half-explained points to create bias against Musk, and a curious claim that he built Tesla on billions of dollars of government subsidies. As far as I know, Tesla has only received a government loan of $465 million because the electric car company was expected to bring societal benefits worth the interest rate subsidy, and the loan was paid back nine years ahead of time. The author also tries to present Space-X’ contracts with NASA as government subsidies, which is preposterous. I’m a flaming liberal, but I have to say this article has the taste of the down-pullers in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.
Robert (Out West)
The claim’s dead accurate, as nothing Musk has built could have been built without Government research, funding, work, and innivation. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but pretending that Musk forged a heroic empire out of the virgin land is just plain silly.
Yakky Duck (CA)
@Bjorn Hamso Musk is an actual engineer and he assisted in the design of the Falcon rockets built by Spacex, which are very important to various organizations, including the DoD. I agree that Musk has some kind of seriously bad craziness but discounting him totally as this story does is stupid.
yulia (MO)
he got about 3.2 billions subsidies from California
Trevor Diaz (NYC)
Now change the US Constitution for Elon Musk, so that he can run for US presidency, even though former California Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the line since 2003, when he was elected as a back door Governor of California. Elon Musk can say VINI, VIDI, VICHI.
DM (Redstate)
The tears. The tears. Conservatives will have a voice again. Cry me a river. Elon is saving free speech in America. The bird is freed!
John Lee Pettimore (Cleveland)
@DM Three words -- fire, crowded, theater.
Max (NYC)
@John Lee Pettimore Sorry, we're no longer buying that false analogy. The fire/theater example represents immediate physical harm. Not hurt feelings, nor a prediction of something someone might do, in the future, maybe.
Yeah he is actually. The media is losing their mind.....that someone will allow a different viewpoint on the platform. And it's so obvious.
guyslp (Staunton, VA)
Referring to anything as our "digital town square" is just completely reality-divorced. Twitter may be many things, but the last thing it can be accurately compared to is a town square. Most town squares are quiet, peaceful, and not populated almost exclusively by self-promoters on soapboxes. The inordinate concern about Musk's having acquired Twitter is, to steal a brilliant phrase, "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." And it's just as likely as not that Musk will drive Twitter to its grave.
John Lee Pettimore (Cleveland)
@guyslp The sooner the better.
Justin (Mountain West)
“You didn’t build that”. It is a ridiculous statement by the author to minimize Musk’s success as a simple result of government contracts and subsidies.
yulia (MO)
I think it is the result of subsidies. The electric cars were around for years, but oil companies lobbied against that. climate change changed the calculation and the Government started to support the development. he was just in the right place at the right time
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
If someone has the majority of their net-worth tied up in factories the assets of which are ultimately owned by and subservient to a Chinese Communist Party that is avowedly revanchist and out to displace the United States (and with a history of manipulating big private sector players for its own political advantage; see Jack Ma!); and this person ALSO seeks to obtain and run the monopolistic mouthpiece megaphone by and in which the United States conducts its political speech, to elect its own representatives... am I the only one who sees this as the textbook dictionary definition of A CONFLICT OF INTEREST? That the person who purports to control and dictate what constitute the parameters of "political speech", here in the Free World... is also financially beholden in innumerable ways to a Chinese Communist Party that -- under Xi, at least -- is pretty clearly out to get us? A CCP which -- in the Democratic West's "hegemonic" place -- wishes to erect a world-spanning, globe-trotting authoritarian nightmare... which will long outlast Tesla! This is not adding up, folks. Conflict of Interest... anyone?? Albert Speer was a smart guy, too! But would we have wanted the Third Reich's chief architect-industrialist to have ALSO purchased and run the NYtimes on the eve of 1939, for example? Loyalty matters too! Musk has got one foot in democracy... And maybe more than one foot out. Somewhere on Mars.. I'll take "conflict of interest" for a $1,000; or is double jeopardy no fun?
DB (Hawaii)
did i just read that the government should limit speech?
Alan R Brock (Richmond VA)
@DB It's related to the ''fire in a crowded theater'' thing.
Elvis (New York)
It must be Halloween season and we have to look for scary characters.
cjp (WV-FL)
How ironic but unsurprising that the NYT publishes a guest commentary suspiciously critical of yet another accomplishment by the foremost capitalist of our era, whose genius and well-rounded understanding of the world as it works prompts this foray into the news and thought publishing industry. Perhaps one positive consequence will be a higher likelihood of getting this very comment through the "civility" screen to see the light of day. Certainly, many of my fellow readers will know exactly what I mean.
Margaret (Oregon)
@cjp Who knew that making a gigantic purchase was an “accomplishment “?
cjp (WV-FL)
@Margaret Ever try to purchase or sell anything for $44 million, let alone billions? Simply managing the legions of attorneys and accountants needed to close such a purchase is mind numbing and beyond the capacity of most humans. While it is too soon to evaluate the merit and relative success of such an investment (and whether those actually putting it together have accomplished anything of lasting value in the world), it's far less work to take pot-shots from the bleachers at those who able and willing to try.
Svirchev (Route 66)
Too much media attention gave us Trump the president. The flabby-bodied Musk is after a similar target and he is a far more cunning conniver. He doesn't brag, he just does.
Robert (Minnesota)
Twitter will become nothing more than a vile junior high food fight with no hall monitors. I hope that leads to its demise.
SirTenTea (Long Island City, NY)
Never knew that the promulgater of climate saving electric cars was such an evil slimeball. Thank you for your truthful reporting. But, this country has never learned from history and I fear we are headed for a downfall unless we nip it in the bud now.
AC (Philadelphia)
Disinformation is not free speech. Is Chinese propaganda free speech? And can we please abandon the myth that Twitter is the Town Square? In the town Square you have to own your speech, face-to-face.
Max (NYC)
@AC Yes and yes. Political content is actually the highest level of free speech. I now see that the problem is a lack of understanding of the 1st Amendment.
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
Who cares if Musk owns Twitter? Clorox owns KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce- does that mean there's bleach in the secret formula? I don't use Twitter and I don't care if anyone does or doesn't. I DVR my favorite programs and fast forward the commercials. Whereas- some people enjoy the commercials. If millions of Americans are dumb enough to believe the diatribes from the likes of #RedVelvetLoungeLizard and #MyVansARockin'InAlabama - that's their problem, more importantly, that's their choice. They are free to read and believe anything they want. There was a Flat Earth Society long before any of these platforms were around. Ignorance and Stupidity will be with us today and long after all of us our gone.
Bosox rule (Canada)
Free speech or propaganda? Corporate opinion or meddling in foreign policy? Surely your "original" Constitution protects against deliberate harm of the American people by the use of propaganda. Oh, there's nothing about "Twitter" in the original Constitution? Something about rights? Is the First Amendment unlimited? I have already uninstalled Twitter!
rowgst8 (Freedom, PA)
First of all, "freedom of speech" is not absolute. The First Amendment begins "Congress shall make no law..." This says nothing about private entities. Furthermore, the Founding Fathers clearly did not understand the plasticity of the human mind nor the ease by which people can be manipulated. The percentage of people who believe that the 2020 election was rigged, in the absence of any supporting evidence, is a testament to the degree to which people can be manipulated to believe what best supports their biases and attitudes. There is a belief that humans have a free will. Neurobiology tells us otherwise. Most humans spend very little time questioning whether what they believe is actually true. Instead, they align with like-minded individuals who reinforce their feelings and biases. As the sense of urgency increases, we are likely to align ourselves with others who share our priorities, sacrificing those priorities that we feel are less important. And so, "the right to life" begins at conception and ends at birth. Humans deserve to be born, but they don't deserve shelter, to be fed, economic opportunity, health care, clean air and clean water and sensible regulation to protect our environment. The Declaration of Independence refers to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". I doubt that this view is shared by many of our citizens.
Pedro Shaio (Bogotá, Colombia)
I am exhausted by people asking for a debate about social media. And then there is no debate. Here, too: "But is it not time that we, as a people and a nation, engage in a wide-ranging, inclusive public debate on when and how free speech creates “a clear and present danger” — as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote a century ago — and whether we need government to find a way, through law or regulation or persuasion, to prevent this from happening?" OK, let´s have it, the debate! First point, you have to reduce the speed, to give monitors time to edit out everything that is objectionable, i.e. anything that is not factual, or not put in a reasonable way, or pornographic, or violent. Just this will make most of the crazies go away. Mr Musk does have a big problem: in a world where money talks, he has so much of it, that its great roar drowns out anything anybody says to him.
Mick (Los Angeles)
This guy will mine the earth for lithium and cobalt until the earth’s inner systems are disrupted to the point of volcanic catastrophes that wipe out most of what’s been done to the planet by people. Frankly that’s the best thing that could happen to the human race, and to this beautiful planet.
Reverie (PNW)
Exactly. Another relevant point may be that this deal may swamp Twitter so deep in out of control senseless mind fodder that it will die naturally, somewhat akin to what happened at Facebook when everybody under 60 years old simply left out of sheer boredom, Mind fodder is o-u-t.
Bob (Cologne)
I am still waiting for the explanation how he is not a self made billionaire.
MH (Cambridge MA)
@Bob Well, "self-made" generally means someone had no help and the article clearly lays out that US taxpayers have helped out Musk's companies in a number of ways, most directly through subsidies to Tesla when it looked like the company would fail. Had the subsidies instead gone to another company (say Rivian or Lucid), Tesla could easily have failed and then he wouldn't have been able raise money for Space X, Solar City, etc.
Katrin (Wisconsin)
@Bob The article‘s argument is that Elon Musk used our government‘s legislative, banking, and securities infrastructure to his advantage. The fact that he grew up well-to-do, with a father who owned half an emerald mine probably gave him opportunities as well.
Reverie (PNW)
@Bob Try reading it again. He cheated the system and broke regulations. He is a self man con man. Better?
Tony P (NY)
I think I will give Musk a bit of time before judging his ownership of Twitter. I am fairly active on twitter and it is a cesspool of misinformation. Sadly, this guest essay seems to be intended to do exactly what twitter has been doing for quite some time.
Peter (CT)
Take someone who is socially challenged, or differently socialized, or a person of social incompetence, or whatever we are supposed to call him (in the old days, the word started with“a” and ended with “e”) and put him in charge of a huge social media platform. What could go wrong?
Jwalnut (The world)
Why do reputable news agencies keep covering twitter and Elon Musk’s tweets? The people who follow Elon Musk’s tweets about Ukraine, as an example, are relatively small potatoes next to the amplification given to him by outlets like The New York Times. The rantings ( or in their minds- the brilliant ideas) of Elon Musk and Ye should be relegated to the back page.
Denis (Boston)
You can avoid the clear and present danger if you regulate social media as well as you regulate professions like medicine, hair styling, law, plumbing, finance. It’s almost unending. The only major industry with no regulation of some sort is social media. The result has been garbage. Churchill said “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing…after they’ve tried everything else.” It’s that time.
Peter Aretin (Boulder, CO)
I have effortlessly ignored Twitter since its inception. I urge others to give it a try.
AFW (Washington Heights)
@Peter Aretin you may find it comfortable with your head in the sand, but many of the rest of us prefer to have our eyes and ears open to the forces that shape public discourse.
Bill (Detroit)
Musk presides over a social media site, not the bread basket of America. Visiting a social media site is, you know, voluntary. And if your moral compass is so weak that you can be influenced by something you read there, well, that's on you.
617to416 (Ontario via Massachusetts)
@Bill Most of those people with weak moral compasses can vote though—and the people they elect certainly do affect you. You may not participate in social media yourself. But you live in a world that is very much influenced by all those millions who do.
MH (Cambridge MA)
@Bill sure, until enough of those weak-willed people start questioning elections and the next thing you know, it affects us all.
Dave (Texas)
Oh no, Musk bought Twitter! More liberal hand wringing with doom and gloom predictions. Stop crying. The world is not ending, everything will be OK.
Bernhard Kopp (Potsdam / Germany)
I find the " market square " - theory most peculiar. Ordinary folks have nothing but their individual voices, but Musk and his ilk enter the square with high performance megaphones and bully-pulpits. No, Twitter is no " agora meeting place ".
DGM (Housatonic)
As was the case with Trump, our culture has willingly raised Musk to the pedestal he now sits on, and the beat still goes on. We now have the two of them, and no one to blame but ourselves. In a way, it's entirely fitting that Musk now owns the platform that was singularly responsible for giving Trump his voice.
Kate (Chicago)
Their followers worship their idols like they’re god-like Messiahs, flawless with limitless talents and genius capabilities and healing powers. They can’t see or cope with evidence that chips away at these delusions, because these are basically cults.
Matt J. (United States)
We can all do our part. Shutdown your Twittter account and don’t buy an electric car from Tesla. Tesla is incompatible with the values that many people espouse so why drive one? Tesla is quickly becoming the brand of Trump so let the GOPers have it. Look at what happened to Zuckerberg’s wealth once Facebook’s outlook took a turn for the worse. We came only hope the same for Musk.
Johnny Woodfin (Conroe, Texas)
As always - the best government that money can buy... It's too bad that money can't buy happiness - for everybody.
The Musks of our world believe they can play outside the rules, and in fact they most often do just that: play outside the rules. Those who play in the Twitterverse (I am one) have a growing concern that Twitter will be turned into cesspools of mind sludge. Musk has stated he will return Trump to Twitter. I surmise Ye will be next? There is reason to believe and to suspect that Twitter will become as unbounded and unbridled as Musk is. I will indulge a want-and-see, but for only so long. Too much of our "social media platform" world is being concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer filthy rich power moguls. That is not a good thing.
Bridget (New York)
The media gives far too much attention to Twitter. That is what gives it power. Compared to other social media, Twitter is tiny. Stop shining the spotlight on Twitter and eventually it will wither and die.
FWIW (Portland)
Mayne now journalists will stop using Twitter for "news" leads. Just because someone tweets it, doesn't make it newsworthy. (Especially if the person tweeting is Trump.)
Let’s be clear. This is not about Musk, it’s about Trump. Would everybody really be hyperventilating over this guy’s Twitter purchase if Trump had lost in 2016? Trump is slowly fading away (trust me, I live in a red county in a red state and people here are sick of him) and Twitter will just be another social media platform like Instagram, etc once he does.
IZA (Indiana)
@KLH Trump may eventually fade away (doubtful, given that he plans on running again in 2024, and the Republicans who are sick of him will vote for him anyway), but his lies, disinformation campaigns and general nastiness live on in other GQP trolls who will continue to use Twitter to disseminate those lies.
George S (New York, NY)
Part of the reason - a big part - that Musk has so much power with things like Twitter is the media. There is regular Twitter, if you will, with millions using it for the nonsense it is, including celebrities and companies; but that dynamic took on a new risk when politicians started to use it. It was the media that made Twitter into some go to source for "information", or what used to be called propaganda. Trump excelled at being outrageous while at the same time being inane - and the media gobbled up every misspelled burst of foul invective. Left and right, each fumbling keystroke was covered like something on stone from the mountaintop. Is it too late to turn back the clock on that? Perhaps, sadly. I fear that this poison will spread and further harm our already benighted democracy.
Mike (AR)
I wouldn't put the subsidies recieved to build Tesla in the same catagory as the contracts to carry astronauts into space. The taxpayer money given to him for building Tesla very much fits into the theme of this opinion. Building rockets and carrying astronauts is an actual service that NASA needs and can no longer do themselves.
Steve (US)
@Mike Why can't NASA do it? Because their funds were cut. But if the funds were cut so they can be paid to SpaceX, where are the real savings, except in PR? NASA is not funded by your tax dollars, but SpaceX is? I'd rather fund NASA directly myself and cut out the "private" middle man.
Henry Silver (Durham)
As for robber barons, Musk has nothing on Big Oil and medical insurcos when it comes to pillaging Americans. Elected representatives are beholden to those industries and won't take steps to bust up the oligopolies that regularly gouge us as best they can. Social media is a different type of beast - a powerful tool that bends political perspectives. Expect nasty fights over regulating it.
Aristotle (SOCAL)
To quote former president Obama: you did not build that. Yes, folks, it's the second coming of the Gilded Age, except this time the capitalist, through their Republican representatives, have stacked the courts in their favor, bred distrust among Americans in their government, and we don't have a Franklin Roosevelt on the horizon. America's unique brand of unbridled capitalism is incompatible with our democratic values. Democracy suffers.
N Chevy (nyc)
@Donna Gray In Chicago, Obama worked at various times as a community organizer, lawyer, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School in the city's South Side, and later published his memoir Dreams from My Father before beginning his political career in 1997 as a member of the Illinois Senate. OK, maybe lawyer is not a real job... ;-)
Donna Gray (Louisa, Va)
@Aristotle - Praise a politician who. like most of them, never had a job in his life!
Blue fisherman Bloom (Port Jeff)
Certain human beings, of humbler intellectual stature, still crave an aristocracy. They vote for the party of princes and kings because they think those people will take care of them. And so we have billionaires who pay no taxes and accumulate huge political power through their wealth. And become the neo-aristocrats. As the article points out, we paid for their successes through taxpayer financed subsidies. In the case of Musk, he is not the inventor of Tesla and Space X technology; he is the acquirer. But try telling that to a neo-peasant.
James Brown (Del Mar,CA)
@Blue fisherman Bloom I guess I'm a neo-peasant because I know well that Musk did not invent the car or the rocket; no one person did; what he did was far more important. He had the vision to see that such things were possible and the stamina and money to make them work.
Simon Willard (Massachusetts)
I draw a parallel between Hu Jintao being ushered off the stage and Donald Trump being expelled from Twitter. Both are examples of those in power trying to suppress the influence of opponents previously in power. I despise Trump. But when you forbid a legitimately elected former President of the United States from speaking, you engage in an obvious censorship where political orientation decides what can be spoken aloud. A private media outlet can police speech all it wants. But reliance on a corporation like Twitter to determine what is true and what is false feels wrong to me. Absolute truth is hard to establish. And bending or shading the truth in the service of public persuasion is part of any political process. For now, I'm giving Elon the benefit of the doubt; that he will enlarge the boundaries of permissible speech and do so without agenda. Let's hope he follows through.
vin (Irvine)
@Simon Willard A propaganda platform is not good for America since now we have shrinking population of educated people. Giving Trump a fascist deployment tool is not ok.
KB (Chicago)
Theres a reason the word 'Oligarch' was never given an English-language equivalent (its Greek - frequently synonymous with Russia now). The American Politicians and Business leaders wanted us to think it was a foreign concept. Its not. In 2022, its very much a domestic concept.
Shields (Georgia)
@KB I think "robber barons", a term used in this article, can be considered the English-language equivalent of 'Oligarch'. It is not a coincidence that Trump named his youngest son Baron.
Betsy S (Upstate NY)
This is a real question. What does Twitter do that makes it worth $44 billion?
Jordanmilo (Midwest)
As the new Number Two said: “Information”!
Lady Liberty (New York)
I recently saw a documentary in which one of the people interviewed claimed that Elon Musk believes that one of his girlfriends, the Canadian electro-pop musician Grimes (Claire Elise Boucher), with whom he has two children, is actually a “simulation” created especially for him. If this is true, it demonstrates an extraordinary level of narcissism that trumps…well, even Trump. He has also made various statements that suggest that he is an alien (from outer space). Do we really want to be living in the childhood sci-fi fantasy of a narcissistic sociopath, and empowering and enriching him further? Do we really want to play into the hands of this self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” who is about to unleash a free-for-all of disinformation and hate speech on the US and the world? If not, I suggest actively dissenting by boycotting the now Musk-owned Twitter. In reality, this dictator-in-waiting won’t succeed if the public simply refuses to empower him. The real power is in our hands.
Ed (Oklahoma City)
Quit wringing your hands and stop using the products produced by men and women who don't share your values. It's that simple.
Mike S. (Eugene, OR)
@Ed I was never on Twitter, and I'm not wringing my hands. But I sure am shaking my head.
John (Pa)
I have never joined Twitter and this won't make me change my mind. I'm sure having Musk in charge will make it more damaging to our nation. It's been nice hearing less from that traitor trump. Now he'll be back lying to a larger audience destroying our nation. Nations are ruined when the rich get too much power. A great time to be old in America. It's painful to watch it fade away due to the greed of our current version of robber barons.
Brad Steel (in Absentia)
He paid $44B and it’s worth about $12B. This deal is worse than a Trump casino.
Mike (SC)
@Brad Steel I'm not sure I'd give you what's in my wallet right now to own it.
Charles (Davis)
@Brad Steel He does not entirely care about the money he is so rich. I admire him for taking a stand. To you 44 billion is a fortune. To him it is just, maybe plus or minus, a 10th or a 5th of his current fortune. If he loses it all he is still at the top of the world's richest.
hawk (New England)
Joe Kennedy was "adept" at manipulating the stock market? Today he'd be in prison, in fact many SEC laws were about him. So a billionaire advocate for free speech buys Twitter with intent on reshaping it into what it should be, and the Liberals go apocalyptic? It's the end of Democracy. Free speech. 1st Amendment
Steve (US)
@hawk Do you really see no problem with people spouting disinformation online? Is that what you call "free speech"? Free speech used to be about expressing political opinions without being repressed or silenced, not about telling people Sandy Hook parents are "actors" pretending their children were killed so that there will be gun control. That used to be called being insane and/or lying. Same goes for Pizzagate and other absurdities of the sort constantly circulated widely now thanks to these platforms. You really think there's no problem with that? How are people supposed to sort through all this misinformation? Who has the time? Aren't you concerned for democratic institutions?
An interpretation (Buffalo NY)
Everything is apocalyptic to those people. They think the end of democracy is around every corner. And the world is ending, we have only 12 years left. There is a weird sky is falling hysteria that, I believe, reflects a mental health crisis in our society more than anything else.
Max (NYC)
@Steve You're confused. "Sorting out misinformation" is exactly what free speech is about, not the government approved viewpoint. As for Sandy Hook, Alex Jones was sued for defamation and lost. That's how it's supposed to work.
RjW (Chicago)
I wish Elon the best of luck going after the bots and the disinformation sphere generally. That mission accomplished, he can let Trump publish his way into history’s dust bin. It won’t matter. That’s the goal.
Justin (Chicago)
Did anyone else notice that it is impossible to deactivate twitter your account this morning? The questions are whether so many people are leaving that the system is overwhelmed, or that musk has disabled the feature to protect the appearance of having users. 
M (NJ)
I was just able to deactivate my account. Maybe try again? Hard to find. In your profile Go to: settings and privacy > my account > deactivate If enough people do it, that will send a message…
doug mac donald (ottawa canada)
An egomaniac in control of the largest social platform with limited government regulation..what could possibly go wrong.
Thick Brick (Glen Cove, NY)
Deleting your Twitter account is a start, but it will still be injecting foul poison into the public discourse. Elon is now the face of Twitter, and he should be held personally accountable for the damage it does.
CWS (California)
Don't hate the player, hate the game. Both parties will take another dozen Musks, Bezos, Gates going forward. Shocker, money has no conscious especially with capitalism. As noted Musk's wealth was created by the tax code that rewards private investment that creates jobs. Plus the federal government also gave billions through laws to Musk companies for solar and EV. Antitrust? After Microsoft. Elon has nothing to worry about. What's farcical is the same Democrats that gave money to Musk's companies use the media to message the electorate that it's not right, fair or equitable that this wealth creation amassed by these charlatans, which was totally enabled by the federal government tax code and laws, is wrong. This is your democracy and its not fair for the people, its for the ultra wealthy and those invited by them. What has changed was the ultra wealthy had a code of anonymity and invisibility which the internet has broken. So the rich are enabled by this democracy and its broken but it can't be fixed by a capitalist democracy or the socialist Democrats. However, the nonsense that it can will be no more than tweets. Sad.
AFW (Washington Heights)
@CWS if you hate the "game", then it's a good bet you'll also hate most of the "players"
Tracy (Arizona)
We thought slander and libel laws would protect us from the lies people tell. They aren't enough. And deregulation is exactly what oligarchs have been striving for ever since regulations were begun. They have no morals or conscience and don't care who they hurt (or the planet), as long as they make money. As long as the means of production (ie, their businesses) are not owned by the state, none of them deserve tax subsidies (that's socialism for the rich). And no one does America any favors by making TV shows about "rich" blowhards who need glorification.
Aaron Hart (Russian River)
Am I only one who thinks that Elon and Twitter are a perfect match? It’s not as if Twitter has been a beacon shining a light on our best selves.
AFW (Washington Heights)
@Aaron Hart Twitter is a dumpster full of flammable garbage, and Elon Musk is a perfect match.
A Gnome Named Grimble Grumble (The Gates Of Dawn)
When critics of Mr. Musk peddle the fear of "disinformation" and "misinformation", they never seem to use as examples such things as "Covid originated in a wet market" or President Biden's July 2021 pronouncement that "You won't get infected if you get these vaccinations". Can Mr. Nasaw or any of his fellow naysayers explain?
Steve (US)
@A Gnome Named Grimble Grumble Yes, because mistakes due to not knowing enough about a vaccine or about the origin of Covid are exactly the same as Hilary Clinton is running a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizzeria basement in DC and Sandy Hook parents are hired actors and their children never existed. All inaccurate statements were not created equal.
AFW (Washington Heights)
@A Gnome Named Grimble Grumble easy: neither one of those statements is "disinformation"
pH7 (North Carolina)
Let's look at what Elon could create here. Suppose there were a forum where people on both sides of a topic contributed their arguments and replies. On gun control, for example, the discussion would dominated by neither side. Instead, a free discussion, with pro and con arguments and rebuttals, would ensue. In today's world, I go to the NYT and NPR to learn the latest dirt on Trump, the Supreme Court and Elon in addition to praise for Dems. I go to Fox News for the latest dirt on Biden, Schumer and Pelosi in addition to praise for the GOP. To learn about immigration policy and the positives of weak GOP candidates, Fox is the only source. To learn about the evils of country living and the positives of weak Dem candidates, NYT and NPR are the only sources. Look at the Reader Picks for any piece on this forum. Overwhelming favorites will nearly always be very liberal. Look at ordinary people guests on Fox. Overwhelming numbers go to very right wingers. What if Elon creates a forum where both immigration and country living are discussed, with both expert and lay people contributing on both sides and lies policed by the membership? Certainly, the opinion columnist business would change along with the campaign debate process. If R. Warnock publicly asked H. Walker a question, could Walker stay silent? Newspapers and broadcast media obviously are against new competition, but their single-sided control over what gets discussed and how is problematic.
Greywolfe (Florida)
Just repeat this every morning: "We know they’re lying, they know they’re lying, they know that we know they’re lying, we know that they know that we know they’re lying, but they still lie" - Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It works!
Pundit (Washington)
I’m always amused by such authors who complain about capitalists receiving government subsidies but won’t consider asking for the end of all subsidies by the state. Hypocrisy? Only complain when you don’t like the person receives the subsidy?
a reader (New York)
@Pundit But isn’t there a difference between extremely wealthy people who get subsidies, & the poor who may need them in order to eat? Shouldn’t any subsidies there are be going to the poor?
Pundit (Washington)
Sure there is a distinction. And you trust our politicians to stick to it?
Michael (Morris Township, NJ)
@a reader You mean like the poor people who are benefiting from the CHIPS subsidies? The poor people who will get subsidies for electric cars costing $80K and spending massive bucks on "green" stuff under the fraudulent IRA? One gets more of things one subsidizes; when they're honest, leftists admit -- or even like -- this. Musk got rich, for instance, in part, through leftist sponsored green subsidies: if you subsidize electric cars, you get more of them. It's not hard. Now, if you subsidize people to make babies they cannot afford to raise -- Medicaid covers half of all births -- simple logic says that's what you'll get. Put simply, subsidize poor behavior and you'll get poor behavior. Leaving aside the philosophy that charity should not be the function of government as no one is ever entitled to the product of someone else's labor, the laws of economics cannot be repealed. When you subsidize anything, you get more of it. And subsidizing poverty is no different.
Richard (Easton, PA)
Maybe if the media didn't pounce on every tweet by a "famous" person, the platform (and others like it) might be revealed for what it really is: a waste of time. Of course, by leaving a comment on this forum, I am essentially "tweeting," too, albeit maybe in a different forest. "Social" media has given us all the ability to insult one another without the risk of real-time consequences. One cannot see the hurt one might cause with a careless word, nor can anybody see the twinkle in one's eye when the intent is satirical or humorous. Provocateurs no longer risk being punched in the nose. It's like giving a toddler matches to play with, and the mainstream media (including this newspaper) fan the flames. Let Trump and his arrogant ilk (including Mr. Musk) babble to their hearts' content...but deny them the fame and notoriety they crave.
GM (Pittsburgh, PA)
I'm surprised any form of media would be concerned with misinformation or disinformation as the public is fed only what the media deems fit.
Matthew (Avalon)
@GM The credibility of an outlet helps it succeed. The New York Times attracts a large and generally well-educated audience because its reporting is of a high order, which allows it to live off subscriptions and charge substantial ad rates. In addition, the public shapes what the media provides. Crime reporting is important on its own, but it's also what people consume, and news outlets prioritize it. If the public gravitates toward conspiracy theories and powerful people screaming about their so-called oppression, media outlets will be incentivized to deliver more of that. If the public were to demand more climate change coverage -- and they have -- outlets like the Times will invest more in it. (And they have.)
Robert (CT)
Railroad robber barons made money from government lands. The internet 'highway' will be used by Musk, which was funded in its origin by the government and sustained by public and corporate infrastructure. Maybe private companies, like Twitter, should pay a higher toll, or regulated (by government and corporations) on what they plan to drive/publish on our new public digital highway.
Robert (Minnesota)
@Robert I'm thinking that new highway will soon be littered with trash as they are allowing any unlicensed driver with any vehicle (or donkey) to travel on it. I hope most find a cleaner, more regulated highway.
Aaron Hart (Russian River)
Too late, the highway was littered with trash long ago, which is how humans leave most highways, trails and even other planets.
Joseph (Portsmouth, Virginia)
An article of this sort is not only refreshing and hopeful in that it unveils the underlying hatred of fellow citizens by another scheming oligarch and that is good. Another good is that the original "Robber Barons," of whom Musk is only a recent manifestation, helped to ignite the labor movement and unions in the United States, many of which have been allowed to lay in waste. So, hopefully this bloated criminal will help to recharge that much needed reawakening in the American public. So that too is a good thing. Regulations are protections for the country and the more this ersatz Citizen Kane thinks he can hoodwink the system the sooner louder will be his return trip back to Xanadu. That will be a good thing.
marie-claude garneau (Paris)
Carnegie companies were private, because large publicly traded companies generally did not exist at the time of his business career. Musk has done the opposite because in order to raise the capital needed for such endeavors as his would be next to impossible in today's economies.
JP (San Diego)
Once I hear of Musk’s plans to build free libraries, a free college, a hospital, or a principled non-profit instead of a self promoting social media platform, then I will put him in the same category as the problematic robber barons from our past.
David Potenziani (Durham, NC)
Elon Musk is a media star because he's a mogul. His tweets get global notice—and not just on Twitter. They are picked up and spread by traditional news organizations, expanding his reach even to those of us who avoid the social media cesspits. Granted, even bad actors may require news coverage, but news should also be thoughtful and explain context. Hyping tweets by a zillionaire who's trying to manipulate markets or even the rest of us is not news. That's just using PR for bad purposes.
DZ (Philadelphia)
musk certainly built his companies/wealth on the back of govt subsidies, cash infusions to get started. He's not as 'self made' as many want to believe. But give him credit for pushing his ideas/creativity through to the product stage. He comes across as an arrogant person, but has done some good stuff.
Edward B. Blau (Wisconsin)
Mr. Musk has a great intellect paired with some serious problems with empathy and socialization. If Twitter fails or becomes unusable it will not affect me one iota. If his Starlink satellite fails it will very much affect those in isolated areas or under tight government control or Ukraine who need it for internet service. His efforts to pry us from gasoline have benefitted all of us even those among us who drive where there are no charging stations. He has done some very good things despite his personality defects but like all of us needs some external controls.
DCBinNYC (Big Apple)
Musk's corporate empire includes major interests in authoritarian states like Russia and China, major purveyors of disinformation. This could indeed be a very bumpy ride.
When Musk told Bolivia the equivalent of 'we can coup who we want", some people thought he was great. Democracy as defined by who has power and who can inflict it. Very ironic.
AKJersey (New Jersey)
The key word is “antitrust.” In the early 20th century, it was understood that a competitive marketplace was essential for an efficient economy with a minimum of corruption. That idea seems to have been lost, and we need to bring it back. The laws are already available, or can be updated. Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet (Google) are among major companies that should be subjects of antitrust laws. They should all be broken up into multiple, competing companies. None of this happened under Trump, but perhaps it will start under President Biden.
Jackson (Virginia)
@AKJersey It’s not to Democrat advantage to break up any company. If you’re so upset, don’t use any of these companies. They certainly aren’t required to sustain life.
Bosox rule (Canada)
@AKJersey nope, Biden is running as a Bush Republican!
KT (Earth)
It seems to me that the ones who benefit most if all liberals abandon twitter would be conservatives. As a progressive senior, I have enjoyed twitter. I choose which persons and organizations I follow and ignore the rest. Well, except for some cute animal videos. I'm quite sure conservatives would be pleased should those I follow disappear from twitter and I would lose a valuable source of information.
Bowden (New York)
And for what it's worth, Musk is also a "Captain of Industry" - with all the positive and negative trappings that come with such entrepreneurial spirit.
ken (Melbourne)
The trouble is not Musk its a predatory ,rabid capitalism that has created individual people with so much money they can act as monopolies and influence politics with sheer power. Bezos while less political is just as bad with his horrendous suppression of unionization and worker rights. There is an ugliness about all these billionaires living out their boyish fantasies. Largely free of any oversight to do animal experiments for unnecessary egocentric pursuits of science fiction aspirations., clutter and destroy space, buying up media and social media, leveraging political favor. and more If the system creates these beasts then their power will be unleashed in all sorts of scary ways. Capitalism does not work the way intended for the welfare of the people and to encourage competition if it is full of monopolies and oligarchs . There is nothing great about 21 year old lipstick billionaires either. I think the slide of the US cannot be stopped now, its like the downfall of Rome, Any sense of proportion and equity has vanished with the financial system.
Kip Leitner (Philadelphia)
It's simple -- Musk wants Trump as President because in order to stay out of prison, Trump will need to destroy the regulator and law enforcement duties of government. Hamstringing the Justice Department, FBI, courts -- including the Supreme Court, IRS enforcement etc, is in the interest of white collar criminals like Trump and Musk. They share the common concern to rule over the peasantry without incursion of any laws whatsoever to restrict their freedom to oppress.
Hugh Massengill (Oregon)
The truth is usually at once fascinating, and, in this day and age, frightening. Lots of truth laid at our feet in this article. Russia lost its way while working toward democracy, China only pretended at working at the same, and there is a significant chance our America will be, in less than 50 years, just another banana republic run by a dictator for the benefit of the oligarch billionaire class. As it is, I have watched Oregon's latest election cycle get hammered by our Nike oligarchs manipulating minds and votes with massive investments in bombarding the airways. "Big Money" is not about speech, it is about subverting democracy itself. Corporations are not people, they are machines striding the land like space aliens...and our democracy is powerless to stop them. Skynet, thy name is corporate power unregulated and as undemocratic as any organization in China.
Laurene Powell Jobs bought the Atlantic. Marc Benioff bought Time. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. It seems like the left has a bunch of publications owned by billionaire lefties. No panic when that happened.
froggy (CA)
@TL You've named 3 publications that strive to minimize misinformation. They continue to do so. Musk has stated that the guardrails are off with Twitter, that misinformation will have free rein.
GL (Chicago, IL)
@TL If you think that any of those three entities wield any power at all, to say nothing of power even approaching that of f'book or twitter, you're mistaken.
Tracy (Arizona)
@TL Not true. I, for one, did not want to see Bezos buy the Washington Post.
Diogenes (Earth)
I swear the profile photo of Elon Musk in this column suggests to me Viktor Vasnetsov’s portrait of Ivan the Terrible. Keith Rupert Murdoch resembles Mr. Magoo. The ensuing political firestorm will further darken American democracy. We shall become…Cartoon X.
larry bennett (cooperstown ny)
Musk and Trump may well conspire to take over the nation and end democracy in favor of autocracy.
Anil Rajput (.com)
I did my engineering with the CEO of Twitter Paraga Agarwal at IIT Bombay. He studied computer science whereas I was enrolled in electrical engineering but we attended many classes together during the first year. After graduating from IIT in India, Parag went to the US, not to Pakistan or China but after becoming CEO of a company in the US, he became a dictator and mocked the first amendment of the same country that welcomed him. It is beyond belief that the Taliban can be on Twitter but Trump cannot. Thankfully, a real engineer has taken over Twitter, who believes in free thought.
@Anil Rajput Elon Musk is not a "real engineer". His formal education was in physics and economics, and he dropped out of a Ph. D. programme in materials science (yes, you simply can read his Wikipedia page). As for free speech and though, as adults know (or soon realise), with freedom comes responsibility. Your freedom of thought and speech should not burden or hinder the freedoms of others, and abusing these freedoms is often associated with anti-social behaviour, even criminality. People like Musk, who resembles his one-time fan Trump in some ways, are accomplished self-promoters, who repeatedly abuse their freedom of thought and speech to make reckless, irresponsible and false claims, denigrate others and advance their own interests.
Anil Rajput (.com)
@SM Formal education does not matter if you can build stuff that no one else can and that makes you an engineer. The more complex things you can make, the better engineer you become, and Elon is certainly the best, as of now. Also, crossing the first 18 years of life does not necessarily make you an adult, who can create new ideas. The war of ideas is going on and on, and no one knows how to prevent it. Current ideas are useless and it is the freedom to create and share new ideas, that may help us, or not but no one knows for sure. However, it is always better not to be silenced by ideologues and dictators, who are absolutely wrong, such as Parag Agarwal.
DM (Space is the Place)
It’s only a “digital town square” with the buy in by media and politicians. Without it, it’s fully exposed as the cesspool of trivialities and boorish behavior populated by D-list celebrities and attention-seekers. Twitter is supposedly important simply because of the actions of The Times and its ilk, which re-post and report on Tweets, and who’s writers have been given their own Twitter handles.
Maljoffre (Germany)
Musk is “a rogue billionaire” who threatens democracy while Jeff Bezos who owns the Washington Post and has contracts with the CIA is not because Musk has opinions that differ from the powerful mainstream media and permanent state of the American democracy that dwells, thrives and governs in darkness.
@Maljoffre Having "opinions that differ" from the mainstream is not an excuse for stupidity, irresponsibility and greed.
August West (Midwest)
"His wealth is based not on factories he has built, products he sells or real estate he has acquired, but on the billions of dollars of shares he owns in Tesla, SpaceX, cryptocurrency companies and Twitter." The factories, the products, Tesla, SpaceX would not exist absent Musk, who should be thanked for providing, at no cost, critical internet service to Ukraine--horrors that he now is asking to be paid, going forward, for that. There's been weirdness, yes, but I'm more impressed by what Mr. Musk has done than what a CUNY history professor pontificates. Regardless, long live free speech.
@August West Elon Musk is not a creative genius. He is a businessman, and I'm very confident that in a hundred years none of his ventures or businesses will last or be remembered, and Musk himself will be forgotten. History of full examples of tycoons who thought they were above the human race, only to be forgotten.
Rodin’s Muse (Arlington)
It’s just time to quit Twitter. And start a new public square without algorithms mucking things up.
Gerard GVM (Germany)
At times like these, I am reminded of the Five Essential Questions of Democracy formulated by the late British politician Tony Benn, and that those in positions of economic, social and political power should always be asked them, and made to answer them: 1) What power have you got? 2) Where did you get it from? 3) In whose interests do you use it? 4) To whom are you accountable? 5) How do we get rid of you? And he said that anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system. Ready, Mr Musk? 1) A lot; 2) From my tax money; 3) Your own; 4) Nobody; 5) We can't.
artusan (Sydney Australia)
If all it takes is enough money to gain control of media companies such as Twitter, etc. Then what stops Saudi Arabia or a confidant of Putin to take over Twitter later on. Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. (Sky News, etc.) has been influencing elections and public opinion for years and years. It is called capitalism and the US wrote the book on it.
John (NYC)
Elon Musk is arguably our era's Thomas Edison in a number of important (EV/Solar/Space) circles, but with far more attitude. We should perhaps consider, as a polity, doing to Elon what China has done to Jack Ma. Muzzle him. I know, I know. We're a Democracy so gawd forbid that consideration. In any case from where I sit in the cheap seats of American plebeian society Musk appears to be an empathy-lacking person somewhere on the spectrum of psychopathic tendencies. I've seen and dealt with his type many times over the course of my life. His breed is endemic in Capitalist and big politics circles. An amoral character concerned only with the ambitions of self. But he's smart, I'll give him that. Most are. But all this smoke he throws about Twitter and society. It makes me laugh. You don't see him thundering and thumping around in China, do you? He kisses the ring and toes the line over there, so I look askance at his "save society, a digital Commons and greater good" subterfuge. It's all lip service to service an end. His end, not the greater good. Why he wants Twitter, which is well outside his wheelhouse of experience and knowledge is beyond me but I'm betting on him driving it into the ground. Robber Baron indeed. So it goes. John~ American Net'Zen
john (Baltimore)
Carnegie, once established as a steel magnate, became a voracious stock trader/manipulator-made Gordon Gecko look like a spare bedroom day trader.
D.DeMarco (Joppatowne)
So don't use twitter. I never have. Hasn't diminished my life in any way by not tweeting. Try it, you'll like it.
AFW (Washington Heights)
@D.DeMarco your attitude is all over this comments thread, and people don't seem to understand that it's totally misguided. It does nothing if *YOU* personally don't use Twitter, if everyone else is using it.
Kenan Porobic (Charlotte)
What is an unpatriotic behavior? Racking up the hefty profits while you homeland sinks deeper and deeper into the enormous debt. Imagine if the US soldiers refused to fight during the WWII because they could personally die. The troops risked their lives to protect the country and the community. The rogue barons aren’t even willing to sacrifice their fat profits to help the society. It is possible to fully serve the people and the country without being profitable. It means all the services and goods are produced and delivered, the workers employed, and all the cost covered… It means the system is stable in perpetuity. If the community is losing the money and internal stability, it’s shameful to exploit the situation to enrich self. Give advice to the smart people! Only they can recognize its value!
Jenni (B.I. WA)
If the government would just do the job of regulating tech, this would not be the slow rolling disaster predicted by this author. Lets make tech platforms liable for the death and destruction facilitated by their products. Why not?
See also