I wondered what Elon Musk would do to that place, but to be honest I did not remotely expect that he would tank it as quickly as he appears to be doing. He's fired half the staff in one week, including many critical security and stability workers. Musk's fan base of crypto imbeciles and gutter racists are spewing their usual venom. Thanks to the controversy and Musk's own erratic and unprofessional behavior, advertisers are pulling back en masse and big accounts are scattering to other platforms. Technical instability is surely just a matter of time.
Meanwhile, Musk's rhetoric about "free speech" appears in practice to mean that people who make fun of him or impersonate him will be banned, while Twitter's former anti-misinformation systems are now weaponized by right-wing liars.
It might just be the largest single pile of money ever set on fire in human history. As John Ganz writes, "I am overly given to viewing things in terms of grand clashes of ideologies and social forces to the point that I can sometimes lose sight of the two dominating spirits of world-affairs: stupidity and vanity."
Like Ganz I'm of two minds about Twitter collapsing and/or decaying down into some kind of 4-chan style nest of Nazis. On the one hand it's the only social media I genuinely enjoy, I've made a ton of friends there, it's home to some of the funniest jokes and best writing anywhere, and I don't think I'd have my journalism career without it. On the other hand I spend wayyy too much time on it, its frenetic pace warps my perception and makes it hard to concentrate on anything, and the constant conflict and abuse frequently sours my mood. The more followers you get, the worst the experience is on there.
But I do think on net Twitter dying is a bad thing. It was one of the few major media institutions not owned outright by conservatives (even CNN these days) or so culturally cowed by conservatives as to barely count as even liberal (NYT), and if isn't replaced by anything then the American media landscape will shift even further to the right.
So for the moment, I'm going to experiment with Mastodon, and I'm going to rededicate myself to actually putting this newsletter out each and every week. With just some of the time I currently waste on Twitter, this should be easy. Email subscriptions are highly appreciated, but you can read this site like a good old blog in an RSS reader if you like too. Money subscriptions, YouTube subs, or podcast subs are of course welcome—if I get another 150 signups I am going to have to upgrade my Ghost service level and more than triple my outlays there—but not at all mandatory, of course. The paid tier here is just a tip jar, at least for the moment.
On to some articles!
Conversely, if Trump were president today, he almost certainly would have given Bolsonaro all the help he needed. The two were close politically and personally—indeed, Bolsonaro is probably the only leader of a major country who is comparably mentally deranged. Instead of the savvy diplomat Burns, the CIA would be run by a literal torturer. All Trump would have had to do is provide enough encouragement and diplomatic cover for Bolsonaro’s police goons to swing the total vote count by a couple more percentage points. Without any fear of U.S. reprisals—in fact, with the loud encouragement of the American president—can there be any doubt that he would have succeeded?
So when a man was arrested after breaking into Nancy Pelosi’s house on Friday and assaulting her husband with a hammer, causing grave injuries, the Republican crime loop closed on itself. The alleged perpetrator, a man named David DePape, apparently attempted to tie up Mr. Pelosi and told police he was “waiting for Nancy.” DePape seems to have posted all manner of right-wing conspiracy content online: anti-vaccine propaganda, transphobia, angry reviews of superhero movies, white nationalism, and antisemitism—in other words, the kinds of stuff one hears on Tucker Carlson every night, though in less plausibly deniable form.
In response, Fox News regular contributor Leo Terrell argued: “Democratic voters, Democratic politicians, this is a wakeup call. Crime is everywhere and it does not discriminate.” That’s right: When right-wing media seemingly drives a right-wing maniac to commit a terrorist attack against one of Fox News’s primary hate objects, it is Democrats’ fault.
The lesson here is that when a country borrows in its own currency—like the U.K. or the U.S.—it is impossible to have a crisis of confidence in the national debt, unless the central bank lets it happen. If private actors don’t want to buy U.S. Treasury bonds, leading to a feedback loop of skyrocketing interest rates, the Federal Reserve can simply buy them instead and end the panic.
If they win in 2022, Republicans are promising the same old massive cuts to social programs, above all Social Security and Medicare, which they’ve been trying to get at for decades. And they’re going to try to force President Biden to agree by threatening a global financial apocalypse. In the words of Roger Daltrey, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
That’s carbon energy for you. It enables the worst dictatorships on the planet, and puts nations at a high risk of energy shortages and wild price fluctuations. But conversely, we see that abandoning fossil fuels for solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and other zero-carbon technologies will not just help with climate change, it will also enormously improve national security.
Obama’s eloquence only underlines his absence during the other 102 weeks of an election cycle. Sure, he has a tweet or interview here, an endorsement or donation there. But, aside from blocking Bernie Sanders from a presidential nomination, otherwise he seems to be enjoying his life as a rich celebrity — producing Netflix documentaries, partying with oligarchs, building his immense presidential library, or hanging out at his huge mansion. If Obama really cared about the political future of his party, not to mention American democracy itself, he’d be a lot more present on the political stage.
See you next week!