Predictably, Elon Musk’s $8/month “verification” program has resulted in a flood of fake tweets.

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter was difficult to satirize. The business loses revenue (Reuters, 11/07/22), thanks in large part to the billion dollars in additional debt payments that Musk has forced on him. His idea of ​​selling blue checks for $8 was widely ridiculed (Variety, 11/02/22).MIT Technology Review, 11/08/22). A lockdown of the company’s offices has left many wondering if Twitter would survive the weekend before Thanksgiving (daily beast, 11/17/22).

For the right-wing press, Musk, who backed Republicans in the recent midterm elections (Reuters, 11/07/22)—is a social media savior appalled at content moderation, fact-checking, and the banning of certain extremist content. FoxNews (11/16/22) praised him for reducing his expenses to Twitterand others say he is a champion of free speech trying to end Big Tech censorship (Desert News, 11/01/22). The New York Post (11/11/22) said the advertiser is boycotting Musk’s Twitter were signs of a liberal plot to enforce online awakening, while Matt Taibbi (Sub-stack, 11/15/22)—who once wrote about the greed of big banks for rolling stone— attacked the billionaire union-busting media baron’s critics for leading a pro-conformist witch hunt.

For all of Twitter‘s issues – petty fights, harassment, bots, extremist content – the social media network has been a liberating way for writers, activists and scholars to create platforms and followings free from corporate media filters . Under musk, Twitter could become such a cesspool of hate speech (American scientist/Nature, 11/08/22) and imitators (CNN, 11/09/22) it becomes unusable, or the stress of layoffs and loss of income could bring the whole thing down.

Paid evenings

It would be a loss for many users, but such a situation is not new in the American media. There is a long history of wealthy parties taking control of the media and watering it down, even splitting it up for parties. It’s just that this time it’s about the richest man in the world and on social media.

Watch American radio. “Since the passing of the Telecommunications Act 1996, clear channel“- now called iHeartRadio— “grew from 40 stations to 1,240 stations,” or “30 times more than previously authorized Congressional regulations” (Future of Music Coalition, 11/18/02). The company silenced The Dixie Chicks trio on its stations in retaliation for the band’s anti-war stance (Jacksonville Business Journal, 03/18/03; Crack, 01/14/22), and its news and talk stations host right-wing commentators, including, once, the late Rush Limbaugh (PA, 03/27/12). These proprietary biases have had enormous political implications due to the consolidation of the radio market.

American Perspective: Why Hedge Funds Shouldn't Own the News

American perspective (10/01/20): “Hedge funds control one-third of American newspapers, and the four largest local newspaper chains are owned or operated by these poorly regulated financial institutions.”

Meanwhile, Sinclair Broadcasting Groupwhich operates nearly 200 local television stations, strongly supported the Trump administration (counter-turn, 8/11/17; Voice, 04/03/18), and the group gave generously to Republicans (Center for Public Integrity, 04/03/18). The group has the largest local television reach in the country, and its influence is only growing (New Yorker, 10/22/18).

This is also an old story in the world of newspapers. Columbia Journalism Review (07/15/13) reported how Wall Street investors took over Grandstand Company, “winding up newspapers” and “taking declining businesses and effectively selling their remaining assets that are stable or growing.” This is a story told later by vanity lounge (02/05/20) and Atlantic (10/14/21) like the situation with Grandstand the papers got worse.

McClatchy was also purchased by Chatham Asset Management (New York Times, 08/04/20). As the American perspective (10/01/20) noted that these deals often force newspapers to lay off staff and even close newspapers, due to the “practice of cutting costs to the bone to maximize short-term returns”. For instance, McClatchy recently outsourced its design and composition work (Pointer, 03/29/21).

In both of these cases, the consolidation of local media ownership has not only skewed content to the right, but has created local news deserts where, if newspapers and stations exist locally, local coverage is either scratched with naked staff or audience and readers. are left to dine on warmed up on wired copy. It is a deficit for democracy.

Advancing Mogul Politics

CJR: The Washington Post has a problem with Bezos

Dan Froomkin (CJR, 09/27/22): “Virtually every public policy issue covered by the Post affects Bezos’ sprawling personal and business interests in material ways.”

And consider for a moment that Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is the richest person in the world, while No. 2 is Jeff Bezos of Amazonwhich also has the Washington Post. Like Musk, Bezos is another wealthy corporate boss who wants to influence public debate by controlling a major media outlet. Its editorial influence is unclear, but FAIR (10/03/17) underlined the Jobfact checker (10/02/17) defending Bezos against Senator Bernie Sanders’ accusation that Bezos has a lot of money. The Columbia Journalism Review (09/27/22) speculates that Bezos at least passively influenced the direction of the Jobthe news and opinions sections of . Musk and Bezos are two sides of the same coin here.

Or consider when late Republican mega-donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for $140 million, prompting columnist Jon Ralston (New York Times, 1/2/16) to say, “I find it hard to believe that he would have paid so dramatically too much for this newspaper without having an agenda in mind.” Under Adelson, the paper (11/07/16, 10/03/20) twice endorsed Donald Trump for president. Adelson, who was an ardent conservative Zionist, also established a free Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayomwho until recently “served as an unofficial spokesperson” for Benjamin Netanyahu (PA, 01/12/21).

Moguls use their money to advance their politics, both through campaign contributions and media acquisitions. In addition to Musk’s recent endorsement of Republican candidates, his interest in conservatism has grown following Donald Trump’s presidential election. “Beginning in 2017, Musk’s donations began to skew significantly more toward Republicans than Democrats, spending almost seven times more on GOP campaigns,” Business Intern (06/15/22) reported, adding that Musk “has accepted positions on two of Trump’s White House counsel.” He applauded a coup in Bolivia (Jalopnik, 10/19/20) and is openly hostile to unions (NPR, 03/03/22).

Musk’s acquisition of Twitter seems like a new chapter in the story, but his choice to skew Twitter being right-wing friendly (as its right-wing cheerleaders think) or bringing down the network is just the latest episode of monetized interests plundering our communications infrastructure for financial or ideological gain. Musk Twitter The takeover feels novel, as it affects new media rather than old. But what Musk is doing to social media has long been done by financial interests to mainstream media, much to the poverty of our journalistic culture.


The featured image: New York Times representation (11/17/22) by Elon Musk (photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images).


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