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Musk’s Money Is Playing Old Games With New Media

Cartoon from Springfield News-Sun

For all of Twitter’s problems—mean-spirited fights, harassment, bots, extremist content—the social media network has been a liberating way for writers, activists and academics to build platforms and followings free from corporate media filters. Under Musk, Twitter could become such a cesspool of hate speech (Scientific American/Nature11/8/22) and impersonators (CNN11/9/22) that it becomes unusable, or the stress caused by layoffs and the revenue losses could bring down the whole thing.

what Musk is doing to social media has long been done by monied interests to traditional media—much to the poverty of our journalistic culture.

FAIR, 18 Nov 22, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been difficult to satirize. The company is losing revenue (Reuters11/7/22), thanks in large part to the $1 billion in additional debt payments Musk has saddled it with. His idea to sell blue-check verifications for $8 was widely ridiculed (Variety11/2/22)—predictably resulting in a flood of fake posts from “verified” accounts—and mass layoffs have put the website’s infrastructure in jeopardy (MIT Technology Review11/8/22). A lockdown of the company offices had many wondering if Twitter would survive the pre-Thanksgiving weekend (Daily Beast11/17/22).

Monied parties

This would be a loss for a lot of users, but such a situation is hardly new in US media. There’s a long history of monied parties taking over media and watering them down, even breaking them up for parts. It’s just that this time it involves the world’s richest man and social media.

Look at American radio……………………… its news and talk stations are home to right-wing commentators—including, formerly, the late Rush Limbaugh (AP3/27/12). These owners’ biases have had enormous political implications due to the consolidation of the radio market……………………….

It’s an old story in newspaperland as well………………………………………

Advancing mogul politics

And consider for a minute that Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is the world’s richest person, while No. 2 is Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who also owns the Washington Post. Like Musk, Bezos is another rich, corporate boss who wants to influence the public discussion through control of a major media outlet. …………………………….

Moguls use their money to advance their politics, both through campaign contributions and through media acquisitions. In addition to Musk’s recent endorsement of Republican candidates, his interest in conservatism grew after the presidential election of Donald Trump. “Starting in 2017, Musk’s donations began to skew much more heavily toward Republicans than Democrats, spending nearly seven times more on GOP campaigns,” Business Insider (6/15/22) reported, adding that Musk “accepted positions on two of Trump’s White House councils.” He cheered on a coup in Bolivia (Jalopnik10/19/20) and is outspokenly hostile to unions (NPR3/3/22).

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter seems like a new chapter in history, but his choice to either skew Twitter to be friendly to the right (as his right-wing cheerleaders believe he is doing) or to run the network into the ground is only the latest episode of monied interests pillaging our communications infrastructure for financial or ideological gain. Musk’s Twitter takeover seems new, because it impacts new media rather than the old. But what Musk is doing to social media has long been done by monied interests to traditional media—much to the poverty of our journalistic culture.

For the right-wing press, Musk—who backed the Republicans in the recent midterm elections (Reuters11/7/22)—is a social media savior who is appalled by content moderation, factchecking and the banning of certain extremist content. Fox News (11/16/22) lauded him for reducing spending at Twitter, and others say he’s a free-speech champion trying to end Big Tech censorship (Deseret News11/1/22). The New York Post (11/11/22) said that the advertiser boycotts of Musk’s Twitter were signs of a liberal conspiracy to enforce wokeness online, while Matt Taibbi (Substack11/15/22)—who once wrote about the greed of big banks for Rolling Stone—attacked critics of the anti-union billionaire media baron for conducting a pro-conformity witch hunt.

For all of Twitter’s problems—mean-spirited fights, harassment, bots, extremist content—the social media network has been a liberating way for writers, activists and academics to build platforms and followings free from corporate media filters. Under Musk, Twitter could become such a cesspool of hate speech (Scientific American/Nature11/8/22) and impersonators (CNN11/9/22) that it becomes unusable, or the stress caused by layoffs and the revenue losses could bring down the whole thing.  https://fair.org/home/musks-money-is-playing-old-games-with-new-media/

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November 18, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, media

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