Twitter, Roe v. Wade, and the Re-Opening of American Democracy

Two events in recent days signal very positive signs regarding the re-assertion of American democracy: the changes promised by Elon Musk at Twitter and the revelation that Roe v. Wade may be on the chopping block. It is not clear yet if both will actually come to fruition, but both are heading in the right direction at the moment. Both are very good for American democracy, although I am still a bit nervous they could be watered down or derailed altogether by threats, demagoguery, or downright malicious actions. We don’t need any more fiery but “mostly peaceful” protests if you know what I mean.

Musk and Twitter

I am sure many at Twitter (along with those in media and government) will attempt to undermine Musk’s efforts to re-establish free speech (see more below on Project Veritas’s video of the Twitter Town Hall). In my view, Musk has done and said the right things to this point; I hope he doesn’t lose heart or pull the football away.

As I watch the Twitter story unfold, I am amazed not at what Musk is saying or doing himself. Musk is simply fixing a problem in one social media company; many other social media companies continue their dubious “content moderation” (i.e. censorship) unabated to this point. He is simply standing up for what Americans have always stood for. Musk was raised in South Africa, yet he recognizes the value of American ideals while so many raised in America now believe that free speech is a great threat. I am amazed at the transformation of so many of my fellow citizens and their acceptance of “content moderation”. How did we ever arrive at this point? Who has led us here?

This attack on free speech is yet another episode in an awful series we can call the “normalization of delusion” (hat tip: Ben Shapiro). The anti-free speech train is still barreling down the track, but Musk could be a significant barrier in the way. Musk’s own intentions are anodyne, but the Left’s response to him is hysterical. Is the Left actually responding to what Musk said he would do or are they projecting their worst fears on to him?

Donald Trump is again relevant with regard to Twitter, but I don’t care if Donald Trump uses Twitter again or not (he says he is not). HIs tweets are not a thing to be feared or a thing to be hailed as the saving of civilization. Trump has his own social media site now in any case, Truth Social. Nevertheless, Trump ought to have been allowed on Twitter especially as many others, like the Ayatollah Khamenei with his clearly incendiary rhetoric, were allowed to stay.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1829296/media

Think of the outrage if former President Obama was banned from Twitter or some other media site? His rhetoric is just as unpalatable to folks on the Right as Trump’s is to those on the Left. The point is Trump was banned from Twitter because they don’t like him; they fear his influence. I’m against censoring any former president, those I liked and those I didn’t. I want to hear what President Obama says. It is more often ridiculous than dangerous. I would rather we all recognize what he says than suppress him.

In any case, what did Elon Musk say about Twitter?

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/elon-musks-confusing-twitter-grab

“Twitter has become kind of the de-facto town square,” he said, “so it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”

“Well, I think we would want to err on the—if in doubt, let the speech—let it exist,” Musk said. “I’m not saying that I have all the answers here.”

“Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like?” he continued. “If that is the case, then we have free speech.”

This is the heart of his message. It is simple, easily delivered, and basic common sense. Yes, allowing someone I don’t like to say something I don’t like is free speech, so let President Obama and President Trump both speak. Nearly everyone has a negative opinion of one or the other, but that should not mean either be banned. However, the New Yorker, a liberal periodical, attacks these simple words from Musk with an incomprehensible analysis:

This is, at best, an incomplete definition—hardly even a passable use of ted’s thought-leader airtime, much less a cogent rationale for a takeover bid equivalent to the G.D.P. of Turkmenistan. If Musk had purported to know more about speech norms, penumbral rights, or Habermasian discourse ethics than anyone alive on earth, the audience would have laughed in his face.

They had this take as well:

If the only premise behind Tesla had been that cars should err on the side of fuel efficiency and smooth handling, without any further technical details or proofs of concept, the idea wouldn’t have been worth much. Musk is an engineer who believes in trial and error, but free speech isn’t an engineering problem.

Musk didn’t compare free speech to building cars or an engineering problem, so why are they implying he did?

Folks, this is so simple. Make Twitter a place where people can speak freely, all people, not just those we like. We all understand free speech shouldn’t be used to commit criminal acts: to promote pornography, to infringe upon another’s copyright, to call for violence against another, but the limits have to be very, very few and exercised only in clearly defined instances. The phone company doesn’t attempt to limit the use of its platform because of something said in the past. That would be a very scary thing if it did.

These social media companies opened the door to censorship, and then used it to their political advantage. They even changed the term “censorship” to “content moderation”. Orwell warned of us such manipulation of language. I would go further than Musk in describing their actions: Twitter wants to censor political opponents saying things they don’t like to hear about the Left’s own views. The ayatollah is a nut, but he is not criticizing the Left’s current political views, so he can stay for now.

How about this alternative view of the situation? Do you believe Musk is a white nationalist and that this whole Twitter buyout is about racism? Musk lived in South Africa in his youth, so, of course, every white person who lived in South Africa the last hundred years must be a white supremacist. Thank God, he bought Twitter so we could finally realize this awful truth.

Whoopi Goldberg and many others echo this view. Mr. King does not stand alone. I do sort of understand the Left’s concern. Free speech is an existential threat to their political movements. Without censorship, the Left’s ideas lose. The normalization of delusion cannot win without the censorship of their opponents.

The Left loved Musk when he was an entrepreneur building electric cars, climate change being another existential issue for them. But once Musk drifted too close to a view on the Right, his status changed. He got too close to that flame in this one instance, so now he is the bad guy. The same treatment was given to Donald Trump . Everyone loved him and wanted to appear on his popular TV show a few years before he became a politician. When he became a Republican, all the bad feelings about him suddenly manifested. He might have wound up as another milk-toast Republican, like Mitt Romney or John McCain who the Left sometimes praises, but the Left’s condemnation drove Trump into the arms of the conservative Right. Musk sees himself in much the same way as illustrated by this meme he sent recently.

So What’s the Problem with Twitter?

I use just two examples to demonstrate how things have gone astray with Twitter.

First, the Babylon Bee, a Christian satirical periodical declared Rachel Levine “Man of the Year” after USA Today named Levine “Woman of the Year”. I think it is funny. You may not, but is it dangerous speech? Is it criminal? No. Nevertheless, the Babylon Bee was locked out of Twitter after this supposedly egregious comment https://nypost.com/2022/03/21/twitter-suspends-babylon-bee-over-rachel-levine-man-of-the-year-title/. This, by the way, is what many have said was one of the motivating factors for Musk to purchase Twitter.

The banned article notes that Levine “serves proudly as the first man in that position to dress like a western cultural stereotype of a woman. He is also an admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. What a boss!”

“He often wears a dress, which some people think is weird — but he doesn’t care one bit,” the article continues. “Come on! Men in India wear dress-type garments, don’t they?”

Second, was the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story just prior to the 2020 presidential election. I covered this in a recent post: seek-the-truth-becuase-more-than-50-intelligence-officials-said-so-really.

The New York Post article was, of course, disseminated on social media and not surprisingly garnered much interest. But then, Twitter removed the article altogether. In other words, one of the most influential social media distributors extant, censored this article at a time when it was pivotal to the election. This was a potential scandal regarding a presidential candidate and many voters were excluded from this information until after the election. Is that not shocking in itself?

Ironically, we have MSNBC host Ari Melber describing how someone like Elon Musk might use Twitter to influence an election:

“If you own all of Twitter or Facebook or what have you, you don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t even have to be transparent,” Melber said.

“You could secretly ban one party’s candidate or all of its candidates, all of its nominees. Or you could just secretly turn down the reach of their stuff, and turn up the reach of something else and the rest of us might not even find out until after the election,” he added.

Did Mr. Melber come up with this scenario on his own or did someone tell him that is EXACTLY what happened in 2020?

There is no better way to understand the thinking of Twitter than to hear from the employees of the company itself. Below is a link to an “All Hands” Twitter meeting; the video was leaked to Project Veritas, who leaked it to the rest of us.

https://youtu.be/ja3cPPL3lks (Project Veritas video of Twitter All Hands meeting)

For your convenience I noted a few of the highlights from the approximately 45-minute call.

Around the 11:30 point, CEO Parag Agrawal is asked about diversity. He said “Twitter is at its best when all diverse voices in the world feel safe and feel encouraged”. He says this is a “core belief”. But this is, in fact, the problem with Twitter. They have not encouraged all voices. Their failure in this arena is why the company was bought by Elon Musk.

Around the 16 minute mark, Mr. Agrawal expresses a commitment to openness and transparency. How can he possibly say this? How does he square this commitment with the censorship of the Babylon Bee’s satire and suppression of the Hunter Biden story which may have cost President Trump the election?

There are several questions asking if the deal will fail. It appears many employees don’t want Musk and don’t want change. Many are also understandably concerned about their own future employment with the company. The board of directors will be eliminated, and most of leadership is likely to be let go as well, but who knows about the rank and file?      

Around 21 minutes, CEO Agrawal says “we all understand what free speech means”. But he pretends free speech is something most of us do not recognize.   

I covered the importance of understanding freedom in a post last year: https://seek-the-truth.com/2021/08/20/what-is-freedom/. We have as a people lost an understanding of this basic concept:

Former California Governor, Anold Schwarzenegger said: ‘Well my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.’ No, screw your freedom.”

Well compensated soccer player Amy Wambach (worth $4 million) said: “Because Kobe and Peyton walked away from their careers with something I didn’t have: enormous bank accounts. Because of that they had something else I didn’t have: freedom.”

Mr. Agrawal, along with these two (and others I mention in the post), knows nothing about the importance of freedom.

Around the 22:30 point, one of the questioners says Elon Musk has “questionable ethics”. Interestingly, none of the execs addressed the charge made of Mr. Musk, their new boss. If they are concerned about saving the jobs of at least a few in the company, they might have addressed this comment.

Around 27 minutes, Mr. Agrawal is asked about Trump coming back to the platform. He provides a long, convoluted answer about “evolving” policies and “doing our work”, never saying anything about Mr. Trump himself. This issue he says is “tied to the future of Twitter”. Why is it so hard to give Trump a voice?  The Twitter CEO sounds well educated and reasonable. Maybe he is more suave and sophisticated than Mr. Trump, but Mr. Trump makes more sense than Mr. Agrawal does in my view. I don’t want to censor anyone, but I will say Mr. Agrawal is a radical and his principles espoused during this call are ridiculous.

Around the 30:30 point some asks: “Who will keep Elon accountable and how?” Mr. Agrawal answers by talking about the “health of the company”.

He doesn’t explain what “health of the company” means, although it sounds like it means the ability to censor. He says “content moderation” (i.e. censorship) is “fundamental” to the health of Twitter.

Can anyone deny Twitter is going way beyond any defensible limits of censorship? Mr. Agrawal says it is more important for people to “feel safe” on Twitter than it is to simply allow people to speak their minds (even people we don’t like) or to provide a balance view from all. Content moderation/censorship is what he says “makes Twitter unique”. It is what makes them the problem in my view.                                     

The Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade

After my last couple of posts on the abortion issue, the Supreme Court’s preliminary decision was leaked. The debate since then has been about the meaning of that leak. The end of the Roe v. Wade decision will mean an end to democracy some say. This is comment I received from a critic in that camp:

There must be a compromise on this issue. In my opinion if we do not, we will tear the country apart. Compromise is what has sustained our democracy; without it we would not be the great nation that we are.  We are great because of our constitution, legal and political systems.

This discussion, I think, is even clearer and more straightforward than the impact of Twitter on free speech. Our nation and our Constitution are not threatened by this decision. In fact, they are bolstered by it.

The matter of “choice” is returned to the states if this decision holds.  I prefer abortion were no more, but what is more democratic: having the citizens of each state decide whether or not abortion is the law or having it decided by nine justices?  California and New York will have abortion and consider it good for tourism.  Texas and Florida may outlaw it altogether.  Other states will have something in between.  Certainly, you have to agree that it is better to have the people of each state decide than to leave such consequential decisions to the will of five of nine justices?  This decision will be a restoration of democracy and constitutional principles, not an end to them.   I ask you: why are so many on the Left losing their minds over the right to abort a child?  Why is this the matter that is going to make or break us as a nation?  Why is this the matter that is going to determine the fate of democracy itself?  There are so many other issues that matter. 

Simple logic here says the United States has two choices to decide whether or not abortion will be available:

  1. Five of nine justices will either decide whether it is allowed or not. This has been the regime of the last fifty years. How democratic is that? How much say did you have in that decision the last fifty years?
  2. State legislatures in each of the fifty states will decide whether it is allowed or not, and if allowed, what, if any, limits there are. Voters in each of those states will affirm or reject their legislatures’ opinions with their votes in November. Isn’t that how democracy works?

The Supreme court has eliminated the voice of voters for the past 50 years. They have done so on other issues as well; this is not how our great republic should work. Before 1973, states were able to decide the issue of abortion for themselves, and we had a patchwork of legislation. This is federalism, the way our republic was designed. Each state becomes a laboratory of democracy. We compare the states and make judgments of which state is doing the best, what works and what doesn’t for each of them. It’s about time we returned to the federalist principles of our republic. In 1973, the abortion decision was crammed down on all states by an autocratic Supreme Court. The current court is finally setting aside that poorly decided outcome and leaving it to the rest of us to ultimately determine the fate of “choice”.

My critic also said the following:

You may believe abortion is murder (that is your choice); however a majority of people in this country do not think so. Murder is universally accepted to be wrong, not only is it morally wrong it is illegal as well. 

The Supreme Court is not a legislature. They are not supposed to decide based upon popular will. In addition, the current court is not making the decision on abortion itself (that’s what the 1973 court did). The current court will be returning this decision to the states, so we will see who actually believes in abortion and who does not. That’s democracy. That’s what my critic said should be done: follow the majority view.

In my view, opinions on abortion fall into one of three camps: abortion should always be banned (my view), abortion should have no restrictions (my critic’s view), and the largest group which believes it should be legal with restrictions. My critic and others on the Left are incorrect; there is not a majority of Americans in favor of unrestricted abortion.

Compromise has been tried among these groups for fifty years; it has failed.  Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle have failed;  both parties used this issue to garner votes.  I hope those dreadful tactics will someday end. Each state will now get to decide what the people want. We will get many different policy applications because there is no national consensus, despite what my critic believes. We will have a much better sense of what our citizenry wants in the next few years after all this is sorted out.

In both my view and my critics view this solution does not yield the best result on abortion: I want it ended; he wants the status quo. The current decision follows our system’s design: it allows for compromise and it takes into account the will of the voters. Let’s pray voters decide well and bring an end to this holocaust by changing hearts and minds of all Americans. This is the way we will win on this issue, not through censorship of opposing opinions or cramming down on our own views on others.

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