Let a trillion tweets bloom
Elon Musk is about to turn Twitter upside down. It can't happen soon enough.
What will Twitter look like after the world’s richest man finishes buying it?
Very different. Very quickly.
Elon Musk’s takeover should close tomorrow. (It was always going to close; he was never going to walk away.)
Then Musk will have a hot mess on his hands. Twitter is awful, and getting worse by the day under current management.
The little bird is a uniquely important property, as Musk knows. When it is working, it is the world’s most important forum for journalism - and for debate. It is a no-holds barred public square where elite gatekeepers cannot stop reporting and research from being presented and judged on their own merits.
It is the world’s largest open journal, the ultimate peer-review site. Because on Twitter anyone and everyone can speak, and ideas are judged very quickly and rise or fall on their own merits.
When it is working.
It’s not working now.
(SUPPORT FREE SPEECH.)
I joined Twitter in 2009, but I only learned its power in March 2020, after I became publicly skeptical Covid was as dangerous as the media had claimed. In a matter of days, my views became known worldwide - because of the platform Twitter offered me.
Here’s one small but very telling example, from a May book called The Herd, about Sweden’s decision not to lockdown:
On 25 March , Neil Ferguson testified before the Science and Technology Committee in the UK parliament. Among other things, he said that the British healthcare apparatus would be able to weather the storm of COVID patients, and that the death toll would come in below 20,000 people.
The magazine New Scientist ran a commentary on his testimony, which was subsequently quoted in a Twitter thread by the journalist and lockdown-sceptic Alex Berenson.
That thread, in turn, was pasted into an email… to both Johan Giesecke [Sweden’s former chief epidemiologist] and Anders Tegnell [at the time Sweden’s chief epidemiologst]. The subject line read: ‘Ferguson makes a U-turn?’
‘Interesting!’ Giesecke replied.
(Without going into too much backstory, if you’ve read PANDEMIA, you know that Neil Ferguson, aka Professor Pecker, helped force mass lockdowns by putting out terrifying predictions about Covid deaths - and then walked them back within days after the lockdowns began.)
I feel safe in writing that Sweden’s chief epidemiologist would have had no idea about my views on Ferguson’s testimony if not for Twitter. He probably never would have seen Ferguson’s testimony at all, because it received very little attention outside of British newspapers before I highlighted it.
And that’s why the gatekeepers on the left have worked so hard to censor it.
Yes, even at its best, even when it works, Twitter has many drawbacks.
Like all social media, it’s addictive. Its format drives pointless fights and intemperate responses. And even if you learn to avoid those - and I have - it’s often frustrating.
But what people ON BOTH SIDES seem to have forgotten is that Twitter is frustrating because it works. It’s frustrating for everyone because whoever you are and whatever you think, the world is filled with people who don’t agree.
We forget this fact, because in real life, we don’t see people who disagree with us every minute of every day. And if we do, we don’t go out of our way to antagonize them by saying so unprovoked. Even politely. Doing so is bad manners (and potentially dangerous).
But on Twitter, we do. Twitter is MEANT to allow its users to offer their views, politely or not, to everyone - stranger or friend.
So, as a Twitter user, I go out and make my (hopefully) thoughtfully considered, well-researched points to the world. And some people agree. Good for me! But lots of others respond in ways making me realize they’ve entirely missed my point. Or “strawman” me by responding to an argument I haven’t made. Or just shout back, GRIFTER! Or worse.
What I learned in 2020 is that the correct response to any or all of these provocations is who cares? I am trying to offer information to the world - to persuade the persuadable by presenting new (or new-to-them) facts and data. I am also trying to remind the people who may already agree with me of why they agree, to buttress them. As for everyone else… some men you just can’t reach.
Those drawbacks are real.
But they don’t make Twitter less important.
What has made Twitter less important in the last two years is, paradoxically enough, its own success in disseminating views outside the elite consensus to the world - most particularly about the proper way to handle Covid, the origins of Covid, and the mRNA vaccines.
These are issues on which the elite consensus formed and hardened VERY quickly in 2020 (why is a question for another day). They are issues of great import. And they are issues where a few dissenting voices to stand against the consensus in meaningful ways - thanks to Twitter and a tiny handful of other outlets - most notably Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan, who could amplify their voices.
And the elites HATED being contradicted. About masks, about lab leaks, about lockdowns and school closures, and most of all about vaccines. They immediately set out to “cancel” - to silence - the dissenters.
Carlson and Rogan proved too powerful (and profitable) to be canceled, despite repeated and well-coordinated attempts to do so.
But the Twitter dissenters were another matter. They - we - did not generate tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue. We were vulnerable. And so Twitter steadily tightened its rules against us, trying to force us into self-censorship and when those efforts failed openly removing us (and thus forcing those who remained into self-censorship).
The result has been terrible - not just for those of us who were censored but for Twitter itself. Twitter has plenty of video, but its efforts to compete with video social media sites have basically failed.
The core of Twitter remains messaging, the written word. Its advantage, its differentiation, came from its philosophical commitment to free speech - to being a site where people could report and debate on complex topics without censorship or even too much algorithmic involvement, where ideas could rise and fall on their own.
In other words, in losing its commitment to free speech, Twitter began to destroy its business model. A public square where huge numbers of the public are not allowed to speak freely will ultimately hollow out and die. And in the last two years, Twitter was on its way to becoming a leftist monoculture, Truth Social in reverse, protected only by its first-mover advantage.
Now Elon is about to return Twitter to its roots as a First Amendment haven. That doesn’t mean no censorship. Twitter must have censorship - of child pornography, of specific incitements to violence, of doxxing and harassment and the kinds of speech the First Amendment doesn’t allow online or off.
But I would expect that many of the “guidelines” and the strike policies around Covid and other topics of political and cultural importance will vanish quickly. And I would hope that those of us who are currently being censored WILL BE ALLOWED ON TO OFFER OUR VIEWS.
(That includes me: for almost three weeks I have been banned from tweeting, because Twitter’s censors found this tweet offensive:)
I could have fought Twitter over this. But I decided I would hold off. Not just because my lawyers and I have to focus on the Pfizer/White House suit, but because I WANT Elon to put me back on along with the rest of the silenced.
Let us speak.
Right or wrong. True or false. (Not because I plan to write any lies, my tweets are the truth and factually accurate to the best of my abilities, but because we have learned in the last two years that the censors will deem provably truthful information to be a lie when it suits them.)
Let the world debate. Let the world decide.
The remedy for speech - bad, good, or indifferent - is more speech.