Elon Musk, Make People Pay To Be Assholes!
Charge $8/month to be anonymous, and bring credibility back to the blue check mark
Elon Musk is a supersized Molotov cocktail who threw himself into the already-raging discourse dumpster fire that was Twitter.
The richest, not to mention arguably the whitest man in the world, widely described as a 'genius' for bringing us electric cars and throwing his space helmet into the ring of billionaires taking humanity where no government can get the public financial support to go, took over the most up-to-the-nano-second breaking news platform and the world's most vicious public square, resulting in mass chaos. You know things are bad when Trent Reznor heads for the exit.
Anyone who's seen this movie before - you may well remember the colossal prequel about the narcissistic malignant psychopathic manchild who persuaded enough people to give him the reins of government for four years (Spoiler alert: Hilarity ensued, but only if you were a late-night comedian) - predated the corporate swashbuckler The Musk of Zero and critics claimed it would end the same way Fail-Safe did, with everything going up in flames.
Musk, after all, hasn't exactly inspired confidence as being the most stable genius ever, if any true genius can be. Musk's more irrational pre-Twitter antics include: Suggesting humans might be part of an existential video game; accusing a hero, with no justification, of being a pedophile; and of stating that 'population collapse' is a bigger problem than people realize (it's quite the opposite!) leading one to wonder whether he's just trying to make sure he has enough customers willing to live on his forthcoming Mars colony.
So no one was surprised when Elon exhibited a Musk of contradictions in what he intended to do with the platform:
- Eliminate fake news, and on his first day tweeted a debunked conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton;
- Claimed he wouldn't allow Twitter to turn into a 'hellscape' of hate speech, yet exactly that skyrocketed, unchallenged, in his first week. People tested it to see how far they could go and discovered you could say the 'n-word' again; in the meantime, over the weekend, Twitter's Head Brainiac allowed Donald Trump free reign on Twitter again after another squeaker of a vote, this time on Twitter (Trump is incapable of just winning with clearly enough votes) leading some to start office pools as to when the last advertiser leaves and Musk himself declares bankruptcy;
- Claimed he didn't want 'impersonation' on Twitter, began handing out the blue verification check mark to any asshole with $8/month, and impersonations made the hyperspace jump. Some were funny, like blue-checked celebrities changing their account name to Elon Musk and tweeting and sharing Democratic vote-blue content days before the American midterms, while others used the opportunity to fake being LeBron James and Eli Lilley for fraudulent purposes.
- Says he wanted to uphold, albeit change, Twitter's content moderation policies, which he demonstrated by firing everyone in charge of moderating fake news, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and violent/hate speech. Who replaced them? Presumably the 50 former Tesla employees he hired who know about as much about how to run a mammoth media platform as the brainiac who paid $44B for it.
- Blamed 'activists' for a Biblical-proportions mass exodus of advertisers rather than noting they'd been worried for months about whether it would be good for their brands to stay on a platform if it was in fact taken over by the notoriously erratic, ADHD Tesla leader. They were joined by numerous senior executives who departed faster than Trump administration hires.
Good times at Twitter, Inc.
Advertisers fled because no one wanted Twitter's rogue algorithms to decide their brand seemed to be particularly popular with white supremacists or gynophobic trans-activists or people who were still going on about a 'stolen election'.
Musk now warns Twitter may face bankruptcy which wasn't a problem before October 28th.
His hastily-conceived new blue check policy (now suspended until he can figure out What Went Wrong) was meant to stanch the profits the platform giant hemorrhaged after advertisers' worst fears came true. Now the blue check might be back, and with responsibility for identity on November 29th, but that's over a week away and God knows what the impetuous boy will decide in the interim.
Musk is mystified because he misses what is actually Twitter's primary attraction: It's the best place to be an asshole with impunity.
How to make it affordable for everyone to be an asshole
Former SDNY Attorney General Preet Bharara tweeted that Musk should make people pay to be anonymous.
That struck me as an awesome idea to combat the half-of-Twitter's-problem the old regime left standing after they banned Trump, the Proud Boys, and other extremist groups who'd plotted a coup d'etat in plain sight on Twitter and other platforms.
They banned the worst of the right, but left the worst of the left, probably because they didn't have much justification, seeing as the left had little, if anything to do with the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
Unlike Musk, I've never been a 'free speech absolutist' but I was close to it until the last several years when the ugly hatred that poisons America made it clear that perhaps there should be limits on free speech our founders hadn't thought of. It's an established fact they were way far too busy birthing the first kinda-democracy in two thousand years to manage a Facebook account or tweet anonymous flames about the British monarchy #KingGeorgePeesBlue #KingGeorgeTheCruel #StampOutTheStampAct #NotMyQueen #BribesandGiftsGate #HolyShit15Kids.
Twitter did become less toxic post-ban but the far left Reign of Terror continued unabated with 'cancel culture' and vicious attacks on anyone who disagreed with the 'wokenati'. Women in particular could get banned for standing up to trans-activists and 'misgendering' women in identity only.
The easiest way to do this was via the indisputably worst curse of social media: The anonymous account. Defenders claim some can't 'tell their truths', especially about traumatic events, without serious backlash if they do it under their true identities, a valid point. Unfortunately, anonymity adopted even with the best intentions can seduce you to the Dark Side. It's just too easy to be an asshole, especially when you're triggered.
I know; I had an anonymous Twitter profile several years ago, to challenge the Second Amendment set, and it turned me into an asshole. I got rid of the account, telling myself, "Be a woman and speak your mind under your real name; if you can't do that, then it's not worth saying."
Instead of paying for a blue check, make people pay to be anonymous assholes!
The system could work on a month-to-month for those who can't afford the monthly fee. If you need to be anonymous to tell your story, pay for one month with the option to renew. At the end of thirty days your anonymous account is suspended until you pay again.
It would be interesting to see how much this cuts down on toxic debate and outright flame wars. How committed are assholes to their free speech? How badly do they want to cancel someone for something they said back in 1996, if that person can dig into their own tweets and get their ass fired? If they can't afford the moolah their only option is to tweet like a wo/man/adult other, under their own identifiable blue-checked profile. Blue checks should be free and mandatory for everyone, not just the rich and famous.
Anonymity has been a major driving force behind the worldwide social breakdown. When you can say what you like with impunity, when there's no rein on your fingers, you can cut loose on someone in a way you'd never do to their face. You can call them a n----r, a c--t, or worse.
Anonymity has been the bane of human existence for all eternity, from the anonymous allegations made centuries ago that led to others' arrest, imprisonment, torture and death to the early days of the Internet in the dark text-only universe of a UNIX shell account. Anonymity and fake accounts made it easy to exchange kiddie porn on Usenet and discuss the forbidden. Before social media, anonymous users left unfiltered comments on news websites, secure their Jewish boss would never stumble upon their horrifically anti-Semitic comments. The Internet started The Plague but social media boosted its virality.
What would social media look like if everyone was held accountable?
If the public square truly was public, everyone who spouted off on their soapbox would be seen by all, including many who knew their name. Would they be as inclined to take out their personal hostilities on strangers if they in turn could be Googled? What if strangers could swat, dox, or stalk the cybertroll in return, and the feminist he wants to threaten with gang rape can report him to his local police?
Neither the left nor the right holds the upper hand in the erosion of courtesy, decency, compassion, or honest debate.
Everyone has an inner asshole, and it's time to rein all of us in.
Elon Musk, make people pay to be assholes!
When I'm not encouraging others to not be assholes (there's nothing more sanctimonious in the world than a reformed asshole!) I help women and others reclaim their power on my website Grow Some Labia.