Right-Wingers Are Eating Up the Idea of Elon Musk Taking Over Twitter
Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has made a bid to buy Twitter—and right-wingers couldn’t be happier. In a letter to Twitter chairman Bret Taylor detailing the $43 billion offer, Musk wrote that he believes the company has the “potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe,” calling free speech a “societal imperative for a functioning democracy.” The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who currently owns 9.2% of Twitter and is offering to buy the remaining 90.8% for $54.20 per share, wrote that “the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
Musk’s proposal came the day after Tucker Carlson declared Musk the “last hope” for online conservatism in a monologue that basically begged Musk to buy Twitter. Republican lawmakers and right-wing agitators quickly began praising the Musk news Thursday morning, greeting the billionaire as a liberator who could unshackle them from Twitter’s community guidelines, which prevent misinformation and hate speech from propagating on the platform. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican firebrand whose account was once temporarily suspended ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration (a move Twitter said was a mistake), said on Twitter that Musk’s “fight for free speech is patriotic and necessary. He deserves the Medal of Freedom.” Rep. Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican, simply wrote, “Make Twitter Great Again,” while Rep. Jim Jordan praised Musk on Fox, painting him as the embodiment of “free speech.”
Last Saturday, Musk rejected an offer from Twitter to join the company’s board—a move that would have barred him from acquiring a Twitter stake greater than 14.9%. In a weekend posting spree, with some tweets now deleted, Musk seemed to signal that he was not prepared to take on the fiduciary responsibilities of joining the board. He asked his followers if Twitter was “dying” and pitched the idea of turning the company’s San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter because “no one shows up anyway.” Conservatives have latched on to Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” and his apparent disdain for Twitter’s current management. After Musk was disclosed as Twitter’s top shareholder, conservatives immediately began lobbying him to reinstate Donald Trump’s Twitter account. (Though Trump claims he most likely wouldn’t want to come back to Twitter, saying the platform is now “very boring.”)
For years, Trump, Republican lawmakers, and their allies have targeted Twitter and other tech giants, claiming they specifically censor conservatives on their platforms. In 2018 right-wing pundits and activists claimed thousands of their Twitter followers were deleted from the site in a so-called anti-conservative “purge” as Twitter tried to crack down on abusive or fake accounts. Twitter’s leaders have also come under direct attack in congressional hearings, where Republicans have berated them for this alleged bias. (Ironically, Twitter did its own study and admitted that it does have a bias—against left-wing accounts, finding it amplifies right-wing politicians’ and news outlets’ tweets more than tweets from accounts espousing left-wing views.) Since the January 6 attack, Twitter has been far more aggressive in policing adherence to its community guidelines and suspending accounts that violate them—something that pushed Trump and his allies to create their own conservative social media platforms.
While the right-wing attempts to replicate Twitter’s platform have largely failed, conservatives are now convinced Musk would usher in a version of Twitter that is friendlier to conservatives. “This is the best news for free speech in years!” tweeted former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on Thursday. Former Fox Business host Trish Regan called it an “incredible” development, adding that Musk could “play a major role transforming the social media landscape and restoring our first amendment.” Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s former White House press secretary turned Fox News pundit, went so far as to say that a Musk takeover of Twitter would lead to the GOP winning more elections. “If conservatives are given a free public square where they can say their opinion unbridled, uncensored…where social media cannot censor the Hunter Biden story…conservatives win nearly every time,” McEnany said during a Thursday Fox News segment.
Some conservatives also reveled in a sense of schadenfreude while mocking those concerned by the idea of a Musk-led Twitter. “The panic coming from blue-check media after Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter is the fear of losing the ability to censor conservatives online and silence free speech they don’t like,” tweeted Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican.
Musk, whose Twitter account boasts a following of more than 81 million, often uses the social platform to settle personal scores with his detractors. He once called The Intercept’s Ken Klippenstein a “pseudojournalist & douche-about-town” after the reporter shared an old photo of Musk fraternizing with now convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell. In a more severe name-calling incident, Musk falsely accused a British diver who helped rescue 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave of being a “pedo guy”—an insult that he eventually apologized for.