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How Elon Musk brought pro-censorship progressives out of the closet

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, the richest man in the world and the biggest shareholder of Twitter| Photo: Alexander Becher/EFE/EPA

Gone are the days when being considered progressive was synonymous with being radically against any kind of censorship. If, historically, part of the left was for decades associated with the struggle against the control of the discourse practiced by authoritarian regimes, today, broad ranks of what, in the United States, call themselves “Liberals” are increasingly greedy for control.

It is worth remembering that the term “liberal”, in English, does not necessarily denote openness to the free market – while there is, in Brazil , self-proclaimed “liberals” who take the same path when it comes to expression. A recent symptom of this shift has been the reaction of progressive influencers and intellectuals to the announcement that South African billionaire Elon Musk, the world’s richest man and a staunch supporter of free speech, has offered to buy Twitter for around US$. billion.

In an article for the City Journal, Corbin K. Barthold explained how Elon Musk’s ad ended up ripping off the mask of progressives once and for all who seem unfazed when freedom is threatened by the state or tech oligarchs – except when the state argues that people should be “able to speak freely within the limits of the law.”

“I invested in Twitter because I believe in its potential to be the platform for freedom of expression around the world, and I believe that freedom of expression is a social imperative for a functioning democracy,” Musk wrote in a letter to the president. resident of Twitter’s Board of Directors. “However, since I made my investment, I realize that the company will not thrive or meet this social imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed into a private company.”

It is worth mentioning that Musk’s move is not, in itself, a guarantee of maintaining freedom. In the first interviews given by the tycoon after becoming one of the main shareholders of the network founded by Jack Dorsey, the billionaire said, for example, that his “top priority” would be to eliminate spam mechanisms, which are a form of legal communication. In addition, Barthold also recalls that Musk has not fully explained how the purchase will be financed and has already dissolved large deals before.

Still, the first hours that followed the announcement of the offer, last Thursday (), yielded good revelations: as soon as the news of the negotiation hit the internet, journalist Jeff Jarvis – evidently verified by the network – already appealed to the “Maximum card” of virtual discussions: the comparison with Nazism. “Today Twitter feels like the last night in a Berlin nightclub in the twilight (of the Republic) of Weimar Germany.”

What, exactly, does a libertarian billionaire threaten to buy a social network to allow its users to express themselves within the law – which already provides for appropriate punishments for incitement to violence – has to do with with the rise of a bloodthirsty dictator remains anyone’s guess. Also because, as much of progressive “history” tends to ignore, the censorship of Nazi pamphlets in no way prevented their coming to power in Germany.

Along the same lines, historian Max Boot expressed concern. “I’m scared of the impact on society and politics if Elon Must acquires Twitter,” he posted. “For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.” It was, of course, lacking to explain what kind of democracy this is, who can be part of it and, above all, who will take care of this “content moderation”.

The Intercept’s own founder, journalist Glenn Greenwald, a notorious leftist, mocked the frenzy of the progressive left in his newsletter: “American progressives are obsessed with find ways to silence and censor your opponents. (…) For years, his preferred censorship tactic has been to expand and distort the concept of ‘hate speech’ to mean ‘views that make us uncomfortable’ and then demand that such ‘hateful’ views be were prohibited on that basis.”

“Besides functional illiteracy, the framework of ‘hate speech’ to justify censorship is now insufficient because progressives are eager to silence a much wider range of voices than they can credibly accuse of being hateful. That’s why the newest and most popular structure of censorship is to claim that your targets are guilty of spreading ‘disinformation’. These terms, by nature, do not have a clear or concise meaning”, explains the journalist, stating that “few events have revealed this distorted structure as vividly” as Musk’s announcement. “The fact that Musk has repeatedly denounced Twitter’s increasingly heavy and clearly ideological censorship regime does not mean that he is sincere in his intention to restore free speech on the platform, but the mere possibility that he intends to do so has sent progressive censorship advocates into spasms of panic and hysteria,” explains Greenwald, in line with libertarian and conservative voices who celebrated. the novelty.

Despair, after all, has its grace: the left who migrated from social causes to a deliberate affair with identitarian billionaires, he suddenly returned to worry about the concentration of power. And all because of a space that is often described as the “public square” of the Digital Age. For the elite, it seems, it is not good for it to be frequented, dominated and cultivated by common people.

As conservative journalist Auron MacIntyre points out, “If you think politics is above culture, look at how various corporate entities coordinate with investment firms, government agencies, foreign rulers and means of communication to prevent a part of the cultural production apparatus falls into the wrong hands”.

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