161 Comments

Elon Musk is doing exactly what John Roberts and the Supreme Court told him he could do. When scotus declared money speech, they told all the lying, cheating mostly white male wealthy they could do and say whatever they want because all is legal if you have the money to make it happen. Musk lies and cheats his employees and will end up doing the same to Twitter and its users because that is what he does. Everyone who could challenge him is afraid that his money will speak louder than their rights and they will be brought down while Musk gets richer and even more powerful. It is time members of Congress get some courage and pass the billionaire tax bills NOW before those rich fools do even more damage, and they will if not stopped.

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author

Exactly right, Ruth. Democrats need to pass the billionaire tax.

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YES, those tax bills MUST BE PASSED. They may help somewhat but they will be a drop in a billionaire's bucket and will not stop someone like musk. Citizens United should NEVER have happened but I fear the genie has been let out of that bottle and until many MANY more Americans can see what our reality is becoming, I fear for our country.

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It was Catholic Justice Kennedy, whose son worked for Deutsche Bank at the time, who wrote for the majority in Citizen's United. The Federalist Society's anti-abortion, rabid Catholic Leonard Leo, who for 30+ years recommended Justices from O'Connor to Kavanaugh (who replaced Kennedy) to Barrett (using $22M in dark-money contributions), now controls R Court nominations (and probably donates heavily to McConnell). Yeah, the Court has been politicized . . . by those for whom power, domination and control is paramount.

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When Justice Kennedy stepped down, I was not following all this stuff as closely but immediately thought there was something fishy about the timing... everything. Since then I've felt more and more that, excepting a few, most justices have been on the payroll of others besides the US Govt. It is an extremely hard pill to swallow and it is beyond nauseating.

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Robert you are right to call out Musk's contradictions and law breaking but ultimately if vast numbers of users subscribe to twitter for their news or alternative realities then short of an outright ban which would be unconstitutional and contrary to liberal values of open discussion the only other recourse is to using anti trust laws which were used to break the robber railroad barons of tge early 20th century.I am guessing that Elon has an ambition to merge his bitcoin interests with twitter and fuse platform technologies to create and control an alternative financial ecosystem that competes with the current global financial system.The sky is literally the limit of Musk's ambitions and currently it seems there's no stopping his super sized egotism.

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I think you're right about his apparent megalomania and idiosyncrasies. (note that Musk HATES pronouns) This is the new age of robber barons. In the last one, some of the worst had a epiphany. I.E. Carnegie gave away everything, Ford, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller created charitable foundations. Noblesse oblige vs guilt?

In 2020 he supported Andrew Yang, whose platform revolves around the ongoing problem of job displacement through technological automation and AI. Musk said in a tweet that universal basic income, which Yang supports, is "obviously needed". Later. he supported Kanye West.

Here's hoping he becomes a little more mature. He was a COVID hoaxer who later got COVID, and went from condemning artificial intelligence to investing in it. He got multiple government subsidies but would deny them to everyone else. I'm hoping he'll subsidize my favorite charity, the Social Security Administration. https://www.ssa.gov/agency/donations.html

And maybe he can have an open public discussion with Robert. On the record.

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I'm eager to have an open discussion with him. On the record. Somehow I doubt that will happen.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

The problems in America are not just about the voters. The bigger problems in my opinion are the leaders. President Biden is hell-bent on the election somehow making things right. But just as you are pointing out in this post, the game has changed and we need to remove the gloves and play hardball. Trump should be in prison or executed for treason along with his fellow traitors. If we fail to hold traitors accountable, we are losing and will lose our democracy. Watch closely Putin killing men,women and children while he attacks a sovereign country. This is one of trumps fascist idols. He obviously is not playing games and we should respond just the way we need to when we’re dealing with vicious traitors in our country. Our politicians need to get a set and get serious because the enemy is very serious and we are clearly at war

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I agree Ed. And frankly, under the circumstances, TFG Should be executed in accordance with the law.

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I fault Lenin, et al for many inhumanities, but not for what they did to the Czar.

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Per Reuters this morning: “ Twitter says billionaire Musk not joining its board, warns of 'distractions ahead'” So one power grab averted.

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author

Frankly, I don't believe it. He wouldn't have plopped down $2.64 billion for nothing. I think this is part of a Kabuki bargaining dance on his part to get more clout on the board.

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How much did the value of that stock rise after he bought it?

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I am not sure that this is a good thing! Being on the board would have placed some constraints on his behavior. For example, he agreed to limit his Twitter stake to 14.9%. Being on the board requires him to act for the benefit of all shareholders.

Now he is free to act only in his self-interest! He can become an "outside agitator" and could buy enough stock to completely take over the company if he wishes. The board has no choice but to respond to his "distractions" since he is their largest stockholder. See https://finance.yahoo.com/news/elon-musk-is-not-joining-twitters-board-now-this-can-happen-104001816.html.

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Oh. My. Gosh. I cannot stand this pompous and egotistical “American Oligarch”. When I learned in the paper that Musk had joined the board of directors and owned the largest share of Twitter it made me cringe. I never knew just how bad Musk is - I have found the likes of him, Trump & Putin so repulsive there is only so much I can read before my stomach turns. Once more, you have opened my eyes a bit wider.

Professor, IF I had a FB account or a Twitter account (or any other social media) I would spread your article on it like wildfire. For now I will do my best in helping the Dems prevail in November.

🌻

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It’s for damned sure I will not be buying a Tesla.

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Nor will I - Never would have even considered it. There are certain people that I am instantly wary of from the moment I see them - he is one such individual.

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Probably not going to change your mind about it... but Musk wasn't precisely the founder of Tesla; at this point his association to the brand is likely irrevocable - but "Miranda was a drifter", as they say:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla%2C_Inc.#Founding_(2003–2004)

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I agree! Even though I can afford a Tesla, when I do buy an electric car, I’d rather buy a Chevy Volt than help give a dime to him.

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total hypocrite and a 5 star douchebag. the guy could use his platform as Tesla CEO to tout the progress of the company's leading role in transforming the auto sector from ICE to electric and how that helps combat climate change. instead we get his cypto bulls***t, look at me I'm a bad billionaire crap, and other public behaviors that belie a rotten, spoiled, and petulant human being beneath it all. I hope that Tesla workers unionize sooner than later, because they deserve the fruits of their labor, not this attention hogging wingnut. Dr. Reich, I deleted my twitter account years ago. I'd open a new one if you want the rest of us to troll him with "modern day robber barron", because if the glove fits.....

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It would probably be seen as a compliment these days, by Musk’s fans or Musk himself…

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Thank-you, once again, for bringing the truth to us. I cannot tell you enough how much this means to me, and I am sure ,others. I am going to keep this short and sweet. If Elon Musk allows Trump to back on Twitter, I am closing my account there. Trumps dangerous rhetoric, heard previously, almost daily in tweets, mainstream news coverage, press releases and more was hateful free speech and I turned it off immediately every time it was on. I realize we do have the right to free speech but lies from demagogues walk a very fine line.

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Agree.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Yes, and since the orange attempts to establish his own social media platform have (unsurprisingly) FAILED at every turn, he will be thrilled to be back on.

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As I sit here and ponder how do you stop a power grabber when he has eluded all the barriers that control any aspect of billionaires. Not having to pay taxes , thumbing your nose at the law, and depicting Putin-Trump axiom as a plus makes me think he is setting himself up to rule the nation. My only hope is that some new rules can stop this attack from the ultra rich. Keep after them Robert Reich.

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author

I will.

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We have allowed this by not holding white collar criminals responsible!

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I hate to generalize, but are American oligarchs any different than Russian oligarchs? Maybe some are....

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Nope. They just speak a different language.

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doubtful.

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There are a lot of Teslas in our neighborhood. I should applaud. But then I cringe.

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I own a Tesla. I love the car but hate the owner. There aren’t many large companies in the US that aren’t owned by the right. You’d have to cringe at most purchases made from Amazon to be fair.

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YES!

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It is obvious he who controls the masses controls the world, and that is the whole purpose, to have people following him to lure them to his products. Now, the ultimate responsibility does not seat with this thing, for lack of better description, but with those who follow him. The 80 mill that are blind to his atrocious use of resources, the waste of earth, as if he was to live 80 mill years. The ego that fuels on the Twitter comments and absurd values of those that follow him is what he needs for what is a billionaire without praise and more people to subjugate? Now he will change the Twitter game to make more of the Twitter subscribers follow him and make more blood money and have yet a more inflated ego to continue doing his predatory enrichment and abuse of earths resources without a force to stop him. But, he is not solely to be blamed for it, but also the rest of us who have failed to stop him.

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founding

Thank goodness he wasn’t born in the US and can’t run for president.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Paula B. ; What is to stop him from installing a puppet? He has enough money to do that. Putin was installed by oligarchs. He was the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg with a background in the KGB. The oligarchs were looking for a Pinochet. They chose him. Donald tRump thinks he is a 'genius'.

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founding

Argh, I didn’t think of that. However, he’s the one with the name. I imagine that alone would get him elected. If the name can’t run maybe we have a chance of defeating the puppet. And BTW, Trump wouldn’t know a genius if it bit him.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Paula B. ; Haha! It would not stop him from doing bad things though, as we have seen. Big money lets them get away with so much! We still have a slow moving coup going on. The law is a slug! Good thing we are not waiting on the Cavalry! We are infiltrated with Seditionists. There have been many corrupt regimes all over the world that have fallen! If we can't clean house we will go down! The MSM still talks about tRump 'winning' in the next election!

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founding

Totally agree. I hope something useful comes out of the January 6th committee but I’m not holding my breath. It seems pretty open and shut to me but what do I know?

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Most people can see who tRump and his followers are. The last several years show plenty of evidence of wrongdoing, from his statements about 'grabbing' things to being able to 'get away with' shooting someone on main street or Broadway, or wherever, to the 'Russia, if you're listening' speech and on and on. How about the one hour long recording of arm twisting a GA election official? Excerpts of his rally speeches where he urges his mob to 'Hit him in the face' for saying things he does not want people to hear, or identifying reporters so the bullies could attack them, all showed his intent. But we still see and hear the pundits wringing their hands, incredibly, worrying about 'the most difficult thing to prove in a court case'. Gimme a break!

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Laurie, I too am sick to death of hearing how difficult it could be to bring TFG to justice. Huh? We have written, video, audio, live tv, you name it of his crimes! His only cover is right wing news and lack of urgency by all those who should have had him either in prison or getting the death penalty by now. We’ve given the death penalty to spies for less!

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founding

It all depends in the judge and the jurors, I think, because there’s so much evidence.

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

“ Musk advocates free speech but in reality it’s just about power.” Why in the world should an individual be compelled to allow anybody and everybody to contribute to his personal twitter stream?

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author

I think you missed the point of my piece, David. Musk has 80 million twitter followers, owns a controlling share in the company, and is the richest man in in the world. He talks about the importance of free speech but uses his power in ways that defy it.

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Elon Musk cares only about His free speech, like so many freedoms 'valued' by the wealthy Right, or the MAGA right ; only for their own enjoyment.

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Hi Laurie! This is so true. The entire Qpublican cult does not care about anything but themselves & the bog power grab at ANY cost!

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Seeking Reason ; They don't realize how compromised their 'Freedom' will be if and when he gets the kind of power he craves!

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Very good point! But they’ll just blame the Democrats anyway. It seems preposterous that enough of them will come out of their psychosis-Like thinking.

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Seeking Reason ; Who owns the media? They have normalized corruption and betrayal of decency, the laws and the truth. This news about Dr. Reich is just another step along a march toward loss of even an illusion of Democracy or ethics or 'fairness' ( one of tRump's most frequent complaints,; how 'unfair' everything was for him). Meanwhile, we have not seen much in the way of action in our Justice Department. I have been asking since the Jan 6, 2021 attack ; If this was a foreign army invading our Capital city, and the U.S. Capitol building, would there not have been an immediate response from our military? Our CIA and F.B.I. and Total Awareness (and who knows what other networks?) would have seen it coming ; Hell! I suspected there would be something, and I'm just an old lady in the boonies!

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Unfortunately, I find myself in the position of having to defend an action of a man whose politics I find dubious to a man I whose politics I for the most part admire. So I will merely add that when Voltaire (allegedly) declared “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, he did not include the codicil that he felt any obligation to listen to it. ;)

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The point Prof. Reich is making is not what Musk might be compelled to do, but what he chooses to do. Social responsibility is clearly anathema to Musk. Also, that in our culture of money worship, wealth talks.

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I watched the PBS Ben Franklin documentary the other day, and thought, we could use a modern-day Franklin. Immediately I thought of Musk. But Franklin believed in God (not like his Puritan parents though) and virtue and other Enlightenment VALUES, did not work for profit after retiring from his printing business at (I think) 42. All his inventions were for the common good, and he actually refused to copyright them when pressed. Elon Musk seemed to want to save the world with his Mars project, at least from a possible asteroid hitting the planet, but he’s grounded not in Enlightenment or original American values but in neoliberalism and libertarianism, both of which completely fail to value the ideals required for democracy—the common good and equality, the importance of the law in sustaining these things, the relationship between government and freedom. In other words, perhaps Elon Musk could use a little more holistic, liberal arts (self-)education. He put Adam Smith on his Twitter reading list, but clearly missed the significant moral dimension of that Enlightenment economist’s theories, like his concern for the poor and justice, which Amartya Sen has pointed to in Smith. Mostly, I wish Musk would put his money (all of it) into solving the climate crisis if he wants to save the world. Nobody actually wants to live on Mars. But American democracy is failing us because I don’t get a say in where all his multi-billions go. If he were alive today, I’m pretty sure Ben Franklin would have paid his fair share of taxes, and wouldn’t have been greedy enough to acquire that much wealth in the first place.

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On the other hand, I’ve been a big fan of Grimes for a long time, and there was SOMETHING she liked about him…maybe there’s hope?

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I myself haven’t read enough of Smith to give an opinion. Sen’s points out that Smith’s first book Moral Sentiments was “eclipsed” by “Wealth of Nations,” which was the book Musk recommended. This is a very brief thing Sen said on Smith. https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/126069

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The doc also talked about Franklin’s views on free speech with respect to his Gazette (and Poor Richard’s Almanac was certainly something like Twitter to colonists back then in its reach). He was very pro different views but did not print everything, for moral reasons. It’s true however slaves were sold on the Gazette. Franklin ultimately introduced the first abolitionist proposal in the earliest days of Congress so he changed his mind over time.

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Please forgive what may seem like cynicism... but there are people who think something less than the world of Twitter - and for good reason: it is... difficult... to find much merit in a platform which enables speech only to bring out the absolute worst in its users (and especially when one has memory of the pre-Twitter Internet & has watched its popularity grow oh-so-recklessly!)...

In short: when the singular representative of your founder's sentiment is a message saying "Delete your account!" the rest of what has been called "free speech" follows; the fact that almost no one mentions the original intent of "dispatch" messages being used for machines to talk to other machines should give pause to anyone overthinking the idea of shouting through Twitter's coffee straw.

PS: Sorry to hear about the blocked connection; when my sister does such things (and then doesn't undo them - whether she was mistaken or otherwise) it's proved necessary to (as a 40-year-old adult) tell on her; though parents can prove altogether unhelpful with respect to such things (loving both their children equally, regardless of fault), they certainly aren't impressed as a result. (The next step would - presumably - be having her friends shame her back into her senses... but successful business people keep such busy schedules & are rarely available!)

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

The up-side of Twitter is that it demonstrates, for all eyes to see, how freedom of speech plays out within the context of capitalist "freedom." There's a PhD in Sociology/Political Science waiting out there for someone with an intense social science bent, who would definitively encapsulate Twitter culture!

UPDATE: Having just viewed John Oliver's current offering, he coins the term - at least to my reckoning - "surveillance capitalism." Since we're discussing Twitter - and by extension, related platforms - it's worth mentioning that "data miners" are extracting every possible drop of marketable information from social media sites and selling it, without >any< legal regulation or restriction. There's much more to this story than meets the eye above and away from Musk's claim to be some kind of half-assed libertarian giving us all our freedom.

https://youtu.be/DxlEaLTG42I

Also consider: https://youtu.be/b1HWNcLDK88 In this one, the discussion turns to what Putin did about NTV, also consider the deals made with Putin leading up to that point in the discussion. Relevant here is how politically, Musk vaguely resembles those oligarchs in many ways. (Among other things in this video, you'll hear how the US invasion of Iraq provides a justification for Ukraine, that I mention in an earlier discussion.)

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Point made and Point taken!

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All in good fun...

= )

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

That reminds me of something one occasionally heard, strenuously uttered, on the workroom floor, in the midst of all hell breaking loose: "Are we having fun yet ‽" ];-)>

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Yes, definitely important to have a laugh (which is probably a motivation for "repeat customers")...

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Your second paragraph...

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Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Mr. Reich, I hope you can answer the following question: Section 230 renders social media unaccountable for what is posted on their platforms. But, does Section 230 protect the algorithms? Does 230 give social media the right to influence what is promoted (retweeted, liked, shared, etc) on these platforms?

As for Elon Musk and his newfound power on Twitter, the bigger question is, will the rest of the board bow to his wishes or will they act as a check on his power? Isn't that the reason boards even exist?

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founding
Apr 11, 2022·edited Apr 11, 2022

Having seen how boards operate I wouldn’t count on anything good happening.

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