After six installations of mostly-uninteresting "Twitter Files" released as clumsily-connected Tweet threads, Bari Weiss and Co. have finally started compiling their findings into some actual prose pieces published through her new media venture, "The Free Press."
In an introductory article to the Files, Weiss offers a little transparency into how the whole ordeal came about — with Musk apparently inviting her and Taibbi, et al, to Twitter HQ with just a few hours notice. One passage in particular stick out to me:
Musk, who is a South African native, analogized the work of cleaning-house at Twitter several times to a kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But what looks to some like truth and reconciliation can look to others like revenge.
At one point after midnight, as Musk showed off a closet of swag, including t-shirts left by the previous crew that said "Stay Woke," he joked: "The barbarians have crashed through the gates and are pillaging the merch!"
What's more bizarre: this pairing of paragraphs (what a sequence!) or the white guy whose father owned an emerald mine comparing Twitter to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission — like the one from Musk's native South Africa, which strived to unify the nation by creating a comprehensively transparent narrative of apartheid? Typically, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are tasked by successive governments in the aftermath of horrible acts of oppression by the previous government — something like the Shoah, or First Nations resettlements and kidnapping campaigns, or an imperial occupation that famously forced women into sex work slave camps for military pleasure.
By invoking a Truth & Reconciliation Act, Musk is making two deeply concerning implications: one, that Twitter is a State in-and-of-itself, and that two, things like "banning Donald Trump" and "making a bad call about a completely pointless smear piece featuring Hunter Biden's dick pics," are equivalent to genocide.
Is it trolling? Sure, with Musk, you neverquite know. Except, as my friend Parker Molloy recently reported with startling clarity, you do know exactly what Musk is saying and doing here. Because his political beliefs — an outgrowth of his upbringing, no matter how much he tries to deny the source of his family wealth and power — have always been abundantly clear. He's a pseudo-"libertarian" in the sense that he's a Republican who likes weed and hierarchical systems that place him at the top, and dislikes anyone on the lower rungs of that hierarchy trying to tell him what to do.
On one hand, there is certainly value in the new CEO for a large social media that has been mired in controversy to try and take some steps to appease a wide range people in order to rebuild trust in that platform. That's a logical goal! But in the context of Musk's history of political systems, I do believe his comparison to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was absolutely sincere.
What's less clear was Weiss's motivation in including that detail (and the paragraph that followed it) in her Twitter Files Introductory Piece. Later in the same article, Weiss goes on to say that her reporting shows "evidence of Musk's claim that, at Old Twitter, 'they were pressing the thumb hard in favor of the left. On the left, you could get away with death threats. On the right, you could get suspended for retweeting a Trump rally.'" Which is patently untrue, according to her own reporting thus far. But, to be fair, she does acknowledge in the article that:
Much more seriously, Musk has business interests in China. Could he wind up suppressing information negative to China to please the CCP? Old Twitter was moderated by the morals and mores of one group. Now it is moderated by the morals and mores of one man.
If I took anything away from my week at Twitter, it's about power. It's about how a handful of unelected people at a handful of private companies can influence public discourse profoundly.
They can do it because of how good the tools they made are—and how little the public understands them. They can influence the outcome of elections. And they do.
I will never not be amazed at how many wealthy, privileged idiots have had an absolute meltdown because they misinterpreted blue verification checkmarks as a covetable status symbol.