Elon Musk Secures Twitter: What Is All The Fuss?
Every once in a while an event comes along that unites the warring factions and various strata of American society. It causes everyone to stop talking past each other, even for just a moment, and instead become transfixed by a single news item.
Becoming Twitter's largest shareholder and the resulting obligatory invite to take up a board seat was one of the few pieces of dull economic news that could break through and somehow excite both Wall Street's chattering analysts as well as Main Street America's celebrity obsessed culture.
It was one of those moments where you could practically hear the commentariat take a collective breathe before shouting and ranting and raving and yelling until they collapsed.
This was especially true, ironically enough, on Twitter itself.
Now, some of this frenzy is pretty understandable.
Musk is not only the world's richest person but he is also the talismanic CEO icon (and troll) of our current age and also the man who has replaced Steve Jobs as the visionary leader in the US economy and especially its vital tech sector.
The best evidence in favor of Musk's importance is a) everyone knows him and b) everyone has an opinion of him. Love him or hate him, you feel something about him.
As a result, when Tesla's CEO does something - anything! - it tends to matter and taking a very large position in a large, highly strategic and popular social media company certainly qualifies.
His financial interest in Twitter also opens the door to Musk doing something different and potentially more broadly significant as well.
As a few commentators observed this week: Musk already has money as well as fame but by becoming Twitter's largest shareholder and securing a board seat, he is now aiming to acquire considerable power as well.
The bully pulpit, network effects and megaphone that Twitter could provide one of the world's most controversial and high profile figures with a whole new dimension of influence and ability.
Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post was one thing. This is another matter entirely. Twitter is not simply a large network and public chamber, it is also the debating forum of the global epistemic elite and where . It is also, of course, incredibly, famously, noxiously toxic.
It is important to stress that there could be lots of positive aspects as well. Twitter has its problems but it also clearly has a lot of untapped potential.
The social media company has underperformed its social media peers and the broader tech index for years and its problems are legion.
But we remain puzzled that a lot of the angst is by individuals - many (all?) of whom slavishly use Twitter - are worried by Musk's commitment to free speech.
Not that he might curtail Twitter's commitment to free speech but rather that he is a staunch defender of that very quality. It denotes clearly the bizarro world we live in where a lot of people's priorities have somehow become the inverse of what you once would have expected.
It is difficult to sort of reproduce arguments you don't really "get" in good faith but the general gist seems to be that that Musk likes free speech and Twitter might become freer because of his financial interest and increased oversight and control and that this might be a bad thing?
Here is Musk himself (on Twitter):
"Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy."
Is this wrong? What part exactly is problematic? It is hard to really know but here are some examples anyway. By all means enjoy.
Here is the headline:
Here is a Twitter's employee's take which seems to suggest he may have just quit?
At least to us, these are incredible opinions and perspectives.
In an age where extreme elements of both sides of the political spectrum endorse forms of censorship and are willing to try and put the immense power of the state behind their efforts it is not only welcome but refreshing to find a CEO (any CEO!) who is willing to express support for some of America's core principles.
In any event, we strongly believe that Musk's stance on free speech is a positive and are even more pleased that he may be willing to put some of his fortune towards defending it and improving the public sphere.
We remain confused by anyone who isn't just opposed but violently so. The trend of America's tech companies acting as enforcers for one political perspective has not gone well. Whether it be the Wuhan Lab leak, the New York Post's Hunter Biden's laptop, the absurd pretzel-like contortions around "the science" during Covid or the newly disgraced god of "ESG investing" we think we have sufficient evidence to suggest that Big Tech censorship and protecting some versions of free speech over others has been a total disaster - and not just politically or financially.
It has risked, with good reason, a massive backlash against not only large tech companies but also the very idea that there is such a thing as a verifiable truth. Nothing has fueled the rise of conspiracy theories and those that profit them more than our well intentioned but ham fisted efforts to propagate a single "truth."
And we here at Pebble are not alone in our approval either. The market reacted very positively (25%+) to the news that Musk had bought a large stake and rose again (2%+) on the news that he had taken a board seat.
Investors can always be wrong. They frequently are. But the wisdom of the crowds is at least an honest appraisal of what the hive mind in financial markets hopes will occur. Clearly they do not view Musk taking a financial interest in a major US tech company to be a bad thing.
Let us hope they are correct.
But here is the thing about our defense of free speech and our puzzlement about those who do not:
It doesn't matter.
Nor should it. If you want to exclude Twitter (or Tesla, or both!) from your investments that is your choice and you should feel free to do so.
Hate Musk? Hate Twitter?
It is also none of our business.
And the next time Musk does something you don't (or do) like you can tweet at him and let him know you have excluded his companies. Or you could let him know that you have added them back in.
We make that easy too.
Have questions? Care to find out more? Feel free to reach out at email@example.com or join our Slack community to meet more like-minded individuals and see what we are talking about today. All are welcome.