"All they have is censorship. Their ideas don’t hold up in debate," tweeted Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert on April 26.
Hers was one of the more incisive comments in the media storm around Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter for the staggering sum of $44 billion.
Real conservatives, along with libertarians and some non-woke liberals, are rejoicing with an ebullient cry of freedom that the world has not heard since communism's fall.
The reasons are plain to see. For "free speech absolutists," a category in which Musk readily includes himself, Twitter censorship is a thing of the past.
Over the last few days, conservatives have reported that their Twitter followings are no longer limited, that they are no longer subject to unofficial "shadow bans," and that mysterious algorithms that they have long suspected kept their tweets from normal accessibility no longer appear to function.
Some are testing the new regime, tweeting such taboo statements as "Trump won" or "There are only two genders" to see whether these widely shared but Twitter-proscribed opinions are still flagged as “misinformation” or violations of policy.
So far, they no longer are.
Conservatives who were banned from Twitter — in some cases permanently — are now enthusiastically appealing their bans.
It remains to be seen whether the most famous of them all, former President Donald J. Trump, will seek to return to the platform, on which he had over 88 million followers before Twitter banned him in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 events.
While Trump was banned, Twitter placed no apparent restrictions on the governments of Iran, China, Russia, or North Korea, and even allowed the murderous Taliban to tweet with impunity.
Musk himself has decried the suppression of critical news stories, including vital pre-election coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop story, which legacy media outlets now consider credible, and which some 25% of voters say would have influenced their votes had they known of the story before casting their ballots.
Twitter’s new owner characterized the decision to suppress the story as "obviously incredibly inappropriate."
Musk laudably hopes that "even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means."
America agrees with him. A majority believes that Twitter censored free speech under its old management, while 57% approve of Musk’s purchase.
If the massive chorus of cheers reveals a conservative movement more confident and more united than it has been for years, progressives and, unsurprisingly, their small allied community of Vichy conservative confederates are in a tizzy.
The New York Times, which recently editorialized that America has a "free speech problem," now maintains that free speech on Twitter is inherently problematic and should not be allowed.
One scold at the former paper of record dismissed Musk’s buyout as "a problem masquerading as a solution," while another of its hysterics suggested that loosening Twitter’s speech restrictions would turn it into a "cesspool" and prove to be a bad business decision.
The Washington Post, which is also solely owned by another billionaire — a billionaire who has not had the poor manners to advocate free speech — fears that Musk will "ruin" Twitter and "change it for the worse" by allowing speech to resound freely.
The saturnine Bulwark, largely staffed by refugees from the failed Weekly Standard, which went out of business in 2018 after adopting a puerile Never Trumper line, fantasizes that a free Twitter may take the wind out of the sails of alternative social media platforms to which right-wingers have gravitated.
For that petty reason, but not for the prospective restoration of free speech, Bulwark offers "half a cheer" or "a mild affirmative grunt" for Musk’s ambition.
A number of progressives have announced that they will leave Twitter, albeit in the same unconvincing way that they offered to make America a better place by moving to Canada after Trump’s first election to the presidency, in 2016.
Perhaps the most hysterical reactions came from within Twitter itself.
Project Veritas, a hardnosed investigative outlet that was itself banned from Twitter in February 2021, revealed a leaked audio recording of an internal "all hands" virtual meeting in which Twitter employees were deeply troubled by the prospect of free speech.
One who obviously lacked much of a civics education asked whether there was “an updated definition” of the concept that may have eluded the company’s workforce.
Board member Bret Taylor, who sounds like he has thoroughly researched alternative definitions of masculinity, reassured Twitter’s disconcerted employees "I just want to acknowledge all the emotions of today."
Those emotions were raw.
One loaded question from an employee asked how Twitter’s new owner would deal with a predicted "mass exodus" of colleagues "considering the acquisition is by a person [Musk] with questionable ethics," a category that apparently includes commitment to free speech.
Another employee demanded to know "who will keep Elon accountable and how," without elaborating to whom the company’s new owner should be held accountable, and without mentioning what means might be used for that purpose.
Still another found that returning to open discussion of controversial topics threatened to put Twitter "in a very difficult position."
Obviously, that "very difficult position" involves the left having to defend its views in free discussion rather than simply eliminate those who disagree.
All Twitter’s nervous CEO Parag Agrawal could do was offer to arrange for Musk to answer employee questions at a future meeting.
The episode was so embarrassing that Twitter’s chief marketing officer Leslie Berland took to her personal Twitter account to disclaim that any of the views expressed in the recorded meeting were hers or the company’s.
Twitter’s general counsel Vijaya Gadde, who reportedly played a major role in banning Trump and other figures, was said to have broken down in tears over the potential consequences of Musk’s acquisition.
With inquisitors like her, who needs heretics, but how long will it be before she pleads that she was only following orders?
Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University. Read more — Here.
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