Now that we’re several days into the Elon Musk era of Twitter, some additional musings on how we got here and where we’re going. In no particular order:
1. Elon Musk did this to himself. There’s an old quip about how to make a small fortune in publishing: Start with a large fortune. Well, certainly Musk has a large fortune — the largest in the world, if we’re talking valuation rather than actual liquidity — and he’s about to make it smaller, because Twitter is worth nowhere near the $44 billion or so that he paid for it. Certainly Musk realized that almost immediately, which is why he tried to back out of the deal as soon as he made it.
The (former) board and shareholders realized it, too, which is why they absolutely, positively would not let him back out. From their point of view, Musk was their patsy, their stooge, their pigeon in a confidence game that let them cash out while Musk was left holding the bag. Twitter hardly ever made money as it was; now with the debt Musk has to service on an annual basis, it’ll probably be underwater for a long, long time.
But, look, no one made Musk do this. No one made him decide to become Twitter’s largest stockholder, no one made him make a ridiculous offer for the service, no one made him make that offer at what was basically a locked-in high price with little to no way of backing out gracefully if the financials did not add up. Musk, high on his own presumed genius and fashy-flirting worldview (and possibly also just high, period), was playing to his right-wing cheering squad of simpering fanboys when he decided to buy the place, and didn’t think through the consequences. So now he’s got himself a social media service and no clue what to do with it. Which is actually a thing we should underscore:
2. Elon Musk has no idea what he’s doing with Twitter. Both Musk’s frothy bootlickers and ardent haters think the dude has some sort of master plan for the service and that he’s bought the place to turn it into a fascist-friendly sinkhole that he can push democracy into (this being a bug or feature, depending on one’s own tendencies). And maybe, left to his own rich-white-dude-libertarian tendencies, he would have done. But the thing is, there’s no money in social media that way. Elon Musk may be an authoritarian-frotteuring bore, but the majority of the heavy users of Twitter (i.e., the ones generating content) are vaguely-to-solidly lefty, and the companies who advertise on the service don’t want to have their ads served next to an orgy of bigoted utterances by shitty people. Musk’s deal for the service has left him with something like a billion dollars in debt to service on an annual basis. He’s not going to do that with an exodus of high-profile users and no ads.