Twitter is not what it seems. The social media platform poses as a neutral marketplace for the exchange of ideas and information; an agora where journalists, politicians, academics, cultural icons, business titans, and ordinary citizens can engage in a dialogue unbounded by gatekeeping elites.
But it is actually a tool of progressive power. While you were hypnotized by viral memes, a cabal of social-justice STEM majors seized the commanding heights of the attention economy. And they have been using it to bend the mass public to their will. By subtly manipulating which forms of speech do and do not gain prominence — and/or, simply banishing wrongthink from its platform — Twitter imposes woke orthodoxy on the nation’s youth while insulating the liberal elite from popular rebuke. This information warfare hasn’t merely cost conservative commentators followers or retweets; it cost a Republican president the White House.
That’s the story that conservatives want to tell about what Twitter used to be, in the bad old days before Elon Musk begrudgingly bought it. Fortunately, Twitter’s new CEO has a deep-seated objection to social media companies using their power over discourse to promote partisan causes. Therefore, Musk is using his newfound power over discourse to promote the conservative movement’s demagogic narratives about Twitter and the Democratic president’s son.
Specifically, Musk delivered a vast trove of internal Twitter documents to two independent journalists, Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, who have long endorsed aspects of the GOP’s indictment of the platform. Taibbi and Weiss proceeded to publish a pair of exposés on Twitter’s inner workings. Dubbed “the Twitter Files,” these reports featured a couple genuinely concerning findings about pre-Musk Twitter’s operations. But they were also saturated in hyperbole, marred by omissions of context, and discredited by instances of outright mendacity. Musk’s commentary on the Twitter Files, meanwhile, proved even more demagogic and deceptive than the exposés themselves.
For these reasons, the Twitter Files are best understood as an egregious example of the very phenomenon it purports to condemn — that of social media managers leveraging their platforms for partisan ends. [Continue reading…]