Andrew Gawthorpe Profile picture
Nov 4, 2022 19 tweets 4 min read Read on X
The more Musk's actions don't make sense from a commercial point of view, the more I become convinced that this is about politics for him, specifically ingratiating himself with the American right and with Beijing. A brief thread with the evidence. /1
Musk seems to be on a mission to damage Twitter. He’s alienating both the most unique part of its userbase – the journalists and others who make it the global public square – and the advertisers who are Twitter’s actual customers but who can’t stomach his erratic behavior. /2
Why would he do this? It makes sense if you want to court a few specific groups: the American right, Beijing, and potentially other American adversaries. /3
To understand the domestic politics angle, you have to understand how the right has become fixated in recent years on the tech industry and the (supposed) liberals who run it. /4
Prominent right-wing figures now even talk of a kind of digital totalitarianism in which cultural norms are dictated by the (supposed) ability of tech companies to police online discourse. They badly wanted to see these companies displaced or forced to cater to the right. /5
Which is exactly what Musk is offering through (a) his pledge to change how Twitter moderates discourse, to allow more RW extremism (b) his culture war against blue checks, who in the minds of the right are the key figures in Twitter’s cabal of liberal thought police. /6
The plan to charge for blue checks makes no sense otherwise. It will destroy the perceived value of the blue check and earn piddling revenue, which is primarily an ad business. Its only purpose is to win plaudits from the right by showing he shares their enemies. /7
Musk must calculate that however many online liberals he annoys, the left will never fully turn against him. He’s the guy that made electric cars a real thing! He thinks he can use that space to court the right. Why? I don’t know. But I’m convinced that’s what he’s doing. /8
Next up: China. Here’s a screengrab from today’s WSJ. At a time of great tension between Beijing and American companies operating in China, Tesla stays in their good books through actions like this. Twitter can help with that. /9 Image
It’s no secret that China often pressures Western companies to take particular stances on Taiwan or other issues by threatening to cut off market access. They want to control Western discourse through sheer market power. /10
As the owner of Twitter, Musk must know that some of that pressure will come his way. It even gives him a great opportunity to ingratiate himself to Beijing by influencing how China, Taiwan, the Uyghurs, etc., are discussed on the platform. /11
No coincidence, then, that while the deal for Twitter was closing, Musk suggested Taiwan give up its independence and become a “special administrative zone” of the PRC, drawing praise from Beijing. /12…
Looking at these and other comments – e.g. about Russia/Ukraine – many have asked “can he really be that stupid?” Maybe, but the alternative is worse: it’s an attempt at active courtship of the world’s worst dictatorships, exactly as he takes over the West’s public square. /13
What is he going to do with this control? Twitter won’t make Musk richer – if anything, it will consume his money. But it is a tool which can be used to ingratiate him and his other businesses with the American right, Beijing, and other dictatorships. This is the real story. /14
So while you consider how Musk’s moves look to be completely contrary to the long-term health of Twitter either financially or as a genuinely useful and productive forum, keep your eye on this picture instead. Twitter is now a tool of his ambitions, whatever they may be. /end
Straight from the horse's mouth: his decisions are proving terrible for Twitter's bottom line, but he's going to keep doing them anyway because something something free speech culture war? Image
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More from @andygawt

Mar 31, 2023
Apparently it's a widespread misconception that being indicted impacts Trump's ability to run for office. It doesn't! He could even govern from jail. A short explainer of presidents, candidates and the law. /1
The constitution lists the qualifications for president: must be at least 35, a “natural-born citizen”, and resident for 14 years. Courts have found this to be a “constitutional ceiling” – further tests cannot be imposed. So yes, you can run for president after an indictment. /2
Socialist Eugene Debs did one better – he actually campaigned for president from prison. In 1918 Debs was indicted under the Espionage Act for opposition to World War I. He still won nearly million votes, the second best showing for the Socialist Party in U.S. elections ever . /3
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Mar 27, 2023
If you're looking for a well worked-out critique of the idea that Ron DeSantis is going to give Trump a run for his money in the GOP primary, I've got you covered in this post.

I make four points. 1/5…
The first is that DeSantis has managed to have a relatively stage-managed existence in Florida, a state which nowadays is extremely permissive for a Republican politician.

The second is that, especially outside of that realm, he doesn't seem to be a very good politician. He lacks charisma, flexibility and presence. He eat chocolate pudding weirdly.

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Mar 7, 2023
Facing an unprecedented number of arrivals on the southern border and expecting it to get worse in May, the Biden administration is considering reinstating the detention of migrant families. Here are the issues with that. 1/…
Family detention on a large scale began under Obama in 2014, during the Central American refugee crisis. Families were detained and screened. If they were found to have a plausible asylum case, they were admitted pending a court date. If not, they were deported.

From the beginning it was clear the federal govt did not have the resources to house a large number of families humanely. Conditions were bad, and the medical consensus is that detention causes developmental issues in children. The conditions remain bad today. /3
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Jan 7, 2023
Kevin McCarthy is finally Speaker! I wrote a post about it but below a thread summarizing how the debacle ended, and the problems it creates for the future. 1/…
McCarthy won by abject surrender to the right wing of his party, giving in to them on both procedural and substantive grounds. I'll get to the exact points he conceded in a second, but the headline is that he has created an impossible situation for himself - and the country. 2/
On procedural points, McCarthy agreed to give the extremists a third of seats on the Rules Committee and to allow them to propose endless alterations to spending bills, as well as allowing any single member to trigger a vote to unseat him. /3
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Jan 3, 2023
The first big political event of the year is happening in the U.S. - Kevin McCarthy's attempt to become Speaker of the House. His likely failure will plunge Congress into chaos, with no clear way out. Below a short primer for Europeans who may not have been paying attention. 1/
Usually the vote for Speaker is a formality because everything is decided in advance. The last time someone made a bid and failed was 1923, and that was the only time since the Civil War. But McCarthy is sure to fail today. Why? /2
The basic fact is that due to its extremism being rejected by voters, the GOP only won control of the House with a tiny margin of votes in the midterms. McCarthy needs to win the vote of nearly every Republican in the House to become Speaker. And that's proving a tall order. /3
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Nov 3, 2022
Brief thread: This more than anything explains the huge swing against Democrats in the past few months. They failed to make abortion stick as an issue - suburban white women are evenly split on which party they rate as best to handle that issue. /1…
Abortion isn't in the top five issues of concern even for Democrats, and even among women it's only fifth. /2…
The actual top issues - where Democrats are getting hammered - are inflation and crime. Suburban white women now rate the GOP as more likely to get inflation under control by 31%. For crime, it's a 20% split in favor of the GOP.

Read 12 tweets

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