sherwin6_ Dimitrios KambourisGetty Images for The Met MuseumVogue_elon musk Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
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Elon Musk’s Covert War on Free Speech

Elon Musk’s defense of “free-speech absolutism” is fundamentally bogus. Now that the billionaire culture warrior has completed his purchase of Twitter, the platform will be overrun by toxic disinformation, including deep fakes, insipid propaganda, calls for violence, doxing, and other forms of illiberal anti-speech acts.

NEW YORK – In 1897, the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst sent illustrator Frederic Remington to cover the Cuban War of Independence. When Remington relayed that “there will be no war,” Hearst allegedly cabled back: “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.”

It’s an old story with a well-known moral: Wealth confers power, and power begets a craving for more power. A familiar corollary follows: He who controls the means of mass communication controls how reality is constructed and conveyed.

The means of mass communication have changed since Hearst’s time, but the behavior of plutocrats has not. Having used Twitter quite effectively to promote his own businesses, Elon Musk recognizes that the platform commands significant influence in contemporary public life. And now that he has completed his $44 billion purchase of the company, it is imperative that we consider why he wanted it – and what he will most likely do with it.

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Update Oct 28, 2022 14:10UTC

The author has updated the third and final paragraphs to reflect Elon Musk’s newly completed acquisition of Twitter.