Elon Musk’s ‘Anti-Democratic Worldview’ Imperils Twitter as an Open Forum

by | Oct 31, 2022 | News

On October 27, billionaire and CEO of Tesla Elon Musk finalized his takeover of Twitter, after several months of attempting to back out of the deal. As visiting professor at Georgetown and writer for The Guardian Thomas Zimmer pointed out in a twitter thread on Friday, with Musk’s purchase, the world’s wealthiest continue to build a concerning level of unaccountable control over technology and media.

“It’s highly problematic that tech oligarchs are amassing so much power and influence,” Zimmer said. “They are not democratically controlled in any way, there are no checks and balances, they are not guided by any concern for the public good.”

Zimmer insisted that he has held valuable reflections and conversations on the platform and that, despite his concern, he isn’t willing to abandon it unless it becomes impossible to use it constructively. He argued part of the threat to Twitter’s future viability is Musk’s rightward lean amid a politically charged takeover. The billionaire appears to view himself as a defender of “free speech” against “wokeism” and “cancel culture.”

Tech oligarchs on this “libertarian-to-Far-Right path” resist regulation and accountability of any kind, believing their aims are in the interest of humanity.

“It’s an inherently anti-democratic worldview,” Zimmer said. “It’s not surprising, therefore, that such people gravitate towards the reactionary political project of maintaining traditional hierarchies and towards autocratic regimes who can give these oligarchs the kind of freedom they desire.”

This anti-democratic power presents a danger to traditionally marginalized groups, which have used Twitter to amplify their voices and demands. Zimmer says much of the moral panic over “cancel culture” is a reaction to resulting criticism and the means to “extract a political cost for a certain discriminatory behavior.”

Zimmer said democracy — “egalitarian, multiracial, pluralistic democracy” — needs platforms that provide opportunities for marginalized groups to speak their demands for equality and respect straight to those in power.

Though Musk’s takeover could shut down the platform’s usefulness to this end, Zimmer sees “tremendous value in Twitter facilitating conversations of journalists, politicians, and other public figures with people who would usually never have access to those levels of influence.”

There is no current alternative to Twitter, Zimmer said. “We can either try to keep having the kinds of conversations and, yes, communities of which we have been part on here, or we’re not going to have those conversations at all.”



Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash.


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