Elon Musk: The next Joe Rogan
The woke mob came earlier this year for Joe Rogan even though his worldview doesn’t exactly align with your average featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Rogan endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president in 2020, after all, so don’t expect to see the “King of All Podcasts” sporting a MAGA hat anytime soon.
But Rogan, an entertainer, said some insensitive things on his program years back and therefore had to be eliminated from public discourse forever, in the mob’s view. He also was accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus because the messaging from our leaders in Washington and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been so consistent, accurate and to the point. (Yes, that’s sarcasm you just read.)
Boycotts of Spotify, the site hosting Rogan’s podcasts, were announced on social media — even 76-year-old rocker Neil Young announced his boycott of the site.
After two-thirds of cable news ran endless segments explaining what a threat Rogan is to America, the news cycle moved on. And when the dust cleared, Rogan wasn’t just left standing, but, thanks to all the ridiculous media coverage, he was propelled into a different stratosphere of popularity, adding 2 million subscribers to the 10 million he already had.
“The problem that I have with misinformation, especially today, is that many of the things that we thought of as misinformation just a short while ago are now accepted as fact,” Rogan explained at the time. “Like, for instance, eight months ago if you said, ‘If you get vaccinated, you could still catch Covid, and you could still spread Covid.’ You would be removed from social media.”
He was correct — and those removals were largely happening on Twitter, which soon may be owned by billionaire Elon Musk, who has taken the baton from Rogan on the whole this-powerful-person-needs-to-be-stopped-because-he’s-a-real-threat-to-democracy front.
Musk, a self-described free speech absolutist, has offered to buy the social media giant. This greatly upset many on the left since Twitter has conducted itself in such an exemplary fashion in recent years. (Yes, that’s more sarcasm.) This is a company whose former CEO, Jack Dorsey, admits it wrongly censored accounts and suppressed information it deemed as misinformation. Conservative accounts were locked simply for sharing the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story or for questioning whether COVID-19 may have come from a lab in Wuhan, China, that studies coronaviruses.
Yet, somehow, Musk is deemed to be a huge threat for not advocating censorship and suppression based largely on political affiliation.
“This deal is dangerous for our democracy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said after Twitter’s sale was announced. “Billionaires like Elon Musk play by a different set of rules than everyone else, accumulating power for their own gain. We need a wealth tax and strong rules to hold Big Tech accountable.”
Warren, not so oddly, didn’t echo the same sentiment after another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, purchased The Washington Post in 2013. (In a related story, the newspaper, whose mantra is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” has never endorsed a Republican presidential candidate in its history. Funny how that works.)
In case you’re keeping track at home, in terms of how the Bezos purchase of the Post played versus Musk’s purchase of Twitter, here’s a sample of headlines in the U.S.:
“Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post buy marks a fascinating cultural transition in America” — Business Insider, Aug. 5, 2013
“Elon Musk’s attempt to buy Twitter represents a chilling new threat: billionaire trolls taking over social media” — Business Insider, April 14, 2022
And in the U.K.:
“Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover: what will change, is free speech at risk and should you delete the app?” — The Guardian, April 26, 2022
Ah, so Bezos represented a “fascinating transition” in purchasing the Post, but Musk represents a threat to free speech by purchasing Twitter.
Over on cable news, as it dealt with the Musk deal, the hyperbole was so crazy it became the best unintentional comedy to be found. “When a petulant and not so bright billionaire casually bought one of the world’s most influential messaging machines and just handed it to the far right,” one MSNBC host declared last month.
Yep. The world’s richest man — the CEO of Tesla and the guy who made available his SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system to provide a besieged Ukraine with internet access amid Russia’s invasion of that country — is “not so bright” and a pawn of “the far right.”
“I think we can look to the Western countries in Europe for how they are trying to limit it but you need — you need controls on this. You need regulation,” CNN contributor David Zurawik told “Reliable Sources.”
“You cannot let these guys control discourse in this country or we are headed to hell. We are there. Trump opened the gates of hell and now they’re chasing us down,” he added.
It’s this kind of rhetoric that Americans are largely turning off while turning on alternatives such as Rogan or embracing Musk as Twitter’s new leader.
In a recent Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill, 57 percent of voters approved of Musk’s purchase of Twitter, while just 43 percent opposed it. That’s a 14-point gap.
Musk announced on Friday morning that his $44 billion deal to buy the company is on hold while his team confirms how many fake and spam accounts exist on the platform. But he also tweeted that day that he is “still committed to [the] acquisition.” It’s hard to see him coming this far only to back out.
Rogan and Musk are both unique in their perspectives and fearless in their commentary. And after both challenged the status quo, the mob came for them, but they became even bigger than before.
Fortunately for believers in free speech, the mob is being muted by a solid majority of people with common sense.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.
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