Musk, Twitter, and you.

Elon Musk Twitter from MarketWatch

This is an evolving story, and so in an effort to not date the below too much – we shall focus on some wider context, rather than the exact events unfolding. But it remains to be established that – subsequently to buying a significant stake in Twitter and refusing to be integrated into the existing management structure; Elon Musk offered to buy Twitter outright above the current market rate, but thus far it has been blocked by the existing board, perhaps in cooperation with other major shareholders like Vanguard Group, Blackrock, and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company. These are the facts at the time of writing but give a sufficient jumping-off point to note some relevant points.

For brevity it must be assumed that the reader is familiar to some extent with Elite Theory, so to simply connect the tissue: per elite theory, any given society will contain a necessary divide between the masses and the elites – governing or rogue. While this latter distinction is usually only observed in reference to the governing or non-governing elites, it could also apply to the general masses, albeit with the caveat that it denotes only an alignment, not an act. The masses do not govern, even if they favour the actions of the current governing elite. So, there are governing elites, and governor-aligned plebs, then the rogue elites, and the rogue plebs. To be reading this will probably have one inhabiting the rogue pleb category, as indeed is the writer. These categories are not intractable, for there can be shifts; with plebs occasionally becoming elites, and rogue elites occasionally becoming governing elites. In all of these regards, however, the governing elite which prefers or benefits from the governing arrangement are the true actors, and in any cycling of the elites, it will be a rogue elite, not the plebs, who are cycled in. Plebs need not be entirely divorced from the process, but they do not dictate the terms in a meaningful way as the elites do, the plebs are instead a resource. But from the pleb perspective, this relationship need not be only one way. The plebs themselves have interests and wants, which may be satisfied by a different elite, even if that elite does not serve the plebs – but simply finds their desires or interests aligned. In this way, although a rogue elite will enlist and utilise the manpower of the plebs (rogue plebs, one imagines), so too do the rogue plebs utilise the skills and power of the rogue elite to see the governing apparatus altered to their liking.

Usually, the appeals for this kind of patronage occur through dissenters who are subsequently contacted or cooperated with by a rogue elite. The elites themselves have much more at stake oftentimes, and so their desire to subvert must be at least somewhat concealed. The plebs may face many of the same risks – imprisonment, censorship, property confiscation, and the like – but the stakes are lower. In one frame, this could be considered a function of protest; rogue (or even governor-aligned) plebs mobilise a public display of affiliation and present themselves as a tool to be wielded by an elite who would have them. Protest leaders may be brought into cooperation with other elites to combine the labour resources they can offer – with the financial or institutional resources of the other elites, or even just take the mandate as cover to act. Many a coup (most notably the colour revolutions) have been conducted under the cover of a protest movement that would usually greet the removal of incumbent governing elites with much rejoicing. What is much rarer, is an elite that announces its rogue intentions, and only afterwards tries to find support that would coalesce itself into a rival political force. And yet in some sense that appears to be what Elon Musk has done.

Musk’s goals, as revealed by some of his public statements around this issue, in particular, will probably not be palatable to most; as they may contain things like mandatory verification of identity, ending anonymity. In return there seem to be two major benefits to be attained; the removal of certain restrictions in the name of freedom of speech, and by extension – potentially a removal of some of the advantages held by the Left on the platform, including largely sympathetic content moderators, and legitimisation tools such as the infamous Blue Check Mark for mouthpieces of the governing elite. Even if he does not favour the right explicitly then, it would be depriving the larger governing apparatus and ideologues of their privileged access to one of the major narrative-building and dissemination tools. In the worst-case scenario for him – Twitter could crash and burn in the wake of the acquisition, and our corner of rogue Rightism would be better off for it, as there would be no dominant incumbent while the user-base of Twitter attempts to find a new home (almost certainly providing a boon to established alternative platforms owned by people a little closer to us. But if that doesn’t happen, then perhaps we’ll regain many of our lost champions, or the field will be ripe for smaller players to grow their presence – unimpeded by the usual suspensions and bans.

Enter the opposition to this development. Some may say that Musk is controlled opposition, or indistinguishable from the current governing-elite-aligned leadership of Twitter. Their reaction to his bid seems to suggest otherwise, but something much closer to an outright ‘no’ being the answer, rather than a public counteroffer. To them, as to Musk, this is not merely a matter of economic profits not fully being realised. This is, by most accounts, a question of Western civic health (and what a depressing thought that is, on reflection), and the governing apparatus does not want to relinquish its tool. They present the same reluctance that any government would – if the suggestion were made that they privatise their censorship department. The integrity of the barely unofficial governing ideology demands that they keep a tight grip on the censor, public-private theoretical distinctions be damned. As such, it’s unlikely that they will let it slip away if they can help it. Indeed, there has already been talk of pursuing investigations into Musk’s financial and business activities, though this would not be new to him; indeed, this may be merely a chapter of a vicious cycle where reprisals against him for refusing to kowtow lead to greater acts of deviance, and in turn greater pressure.

Regardless of the specifics from his point of view, there remains the question of how we ought to view and react to such events. Firstly, two incorrect paths:

Falling in behind any of his advice, commentary, or espoused trends through his leadership would be a mistake. He has flipped back and forth on some issues (such as Bitcoin) with the end result of personal enrichment, so while I am quite certain he’d be thankful for your efforts, it would not put us in a better position overall, only him.
Founding a Muskist party or movement which attempts to present a platform and explicit alternative government. He does not seem to have shown much interest in explicitly governing, and so an individual leader-driven movement that the leader rejects would not gain much traction. Indeed, it would likely cause more harm, as it would begin to necessitate specific policy proposals which would create divisions where there need be none if he were to just remain as a nebulous force that pushes in a broadly helpful direction.

For now, then, the most useful way that this trend can be aided in a practical (rather than purely mimetic) way is quite simply to support the proposal if shares are held. There is a clear financial incentive for this as well but, given the leadership pole which has emerged around Musk on this one issue, it is a point around which shareholder activism can take place. Even this is tenuous, however, as most shareholders would have their holding managed by a fund of some kind – thus giving the fund the greater power to determine how voting rights are used. Ergo, Musk would have to bring institutional investors onside.

Beyond this, there is not much which would meaningfully aid his attempt. Legitimacy and manpower are the greater share of what plebs can provide, which in this case would only be able to pressure the government against blocking the sale if it were arranged (and that is assuming the government wouldn’t simply ignore such pressure).

The main takeaway then is to be searching for other scenarios which might provide a similar boon. Within the same business context – this writer has a bias towards perception as power, and so Netflix might be another strong contender. Indeed, it’s in much the same position, with company insiders holding only around 1.5% of shares, similarly leaving the accusation open that the current management is not properly representing the interests of the shareholders. Plenty of interests align with the desire to see Netflix take a different path, and we would almost certainly stand to benefit from a change in their programming and messaging. To this end, either personal investments, or investments via trusted funds and managers who would carry out our will in making use of voting rights, will enable us to be ready for another figure to step forth and present another opportunity to seize ground and, for once, be on the offensive.

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