Elon Musk's Twitter Move and the US Elite

May 10, 2022

Introduction: Tesla CEO Elon Musk taking over Twitter reflects the struggles within the elite that rule America. In the two weeks since the news came out, the mouthpiece media controlled by the pro-establishment camp, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, have been lashing out at how the takeover will jeopardize the democratic system from all angles. Jeff Bezos and other big capitalists closely associated with the Democratic Party with control over media platforms, such as Bill Gates, have taken turns to warn against the takeover. Tesla's relationship with China is also listed as a potential crime.


According to a report published on News Week on May 2, 2022, the former Reddit CEO Ellen K. Pao, in an op-ed, wrote for Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, called for government regulation "to prevent rich people from controlling the channels of communication." An Axios report argued that Elon Musk "is increasingly behaving like a movie supervillain." These remarks are not so much the wails of journalists and intellectuals as the guise of a struggle between elites. Throughout Western history, meritocracy has been the constant norm, which Italian sociologist Robert Michels referred to as the "iron law of oligarchy." In organizations of all kinds, "elites" tend to utilize their skills, resources, and power to differentiate themselves from the general population. This dynamic pattern is equal to democratic societies made up of the public. Elites may be at odds with a party's democratic mission. However, paradoxically, democratic politics cannot function without elites' control over key institutions because of the average people's lack of means, time, and ability to oversee the day-to-day functioning of democratic institutions. Meritocracy is therefore inevitable, but the public can act to protect themselves from oligarchy. A solution is to have elites against elites.


The reaction of American elites to Musk's Twitter acquisition at this stage is similar to that of Britain to North American colonies, as the former enunciated that the latter should know its place and change the way they speak. Power struggles among elites jeopardize freedom of speech and thought, as the incumbent ruling class aligns closely to keep the rising class out and dominate narratives with the help of media allies, thus misrepresenting the threat to the status quo as a threat to the masses. Thus, the challenge to the power of the incumbent by the rising class has turned into a public crisis.


It is worth noting that the word "democracy" as used by the current ruling elite refers only to the established political order, i.e., extreme oligarchy, rather than an idealized governance system involving public participation. To align the public energy and attention with the incumbent ruling elite's interests, media platforms like Twitter tend to push information selectively, making them more of a vehicle for controlling information than just private enterprises. For a regime that perpetuates lies through content censorship, having control over information channels is vital to centralizing power.


Twitter has used various excuses to block certain users because the content they published flies in the face of the present elite ruling class's principle to control people's minds. After the Twitter takeover, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the establishment of the "Disinformation Governance Board" to combat the so-called "misinformation and disinformation," the latest in the US Regime's efforts to control information channels in the face of potential threats. The article concludes that people who are dissatisfied with the current ruling elite in the U.S. may not be able to escape the elites' existence. However, the people can at least stand with those more in line with their interests, and help the latter cut off the power chain of the current ruling class and build up a political order better suited to the American citizens.


(Source: https://news.163.com/)


The main reasons why Musk's Twitter acquisition caused a stir in the U.S. are: First, in terms of Twitter's small profitability and lagging product innovation capabilities, all stakeholders are actually concerned about a political event of symbolic significance, instead of a commercial acquisition, and they are not fighting for a company but for control of public opinion. In a broader context, underneath the veil lies the confrontation between the American public and the elites who have long controlled the state apparatus. It is particularly worth noting that the pro-establishment camp is aggressive but cannot use the public opinion it controls to prevent the acquisition. Most of the public has sided with the elite on this issue. They think it is better to let Musk control online media platforms than politicians, thus revealing the depth and breadth of the antagonism. It is clear that the doubts about the legitimacy of the American elites' power come from not only the public, but also other elites and the capitalists behind the scenes. Under the current system of the U.S., public resistance to elites must be carried out on their behalf by new elite groups, and it must be endorsed by the capitalists that manipulate elites. In view of this, the simultaneous presence of public discontent, elite representation, and capitalists' opinions has increased the likelihood of a significant change. Here is another recent event that is as symbolical as Musk's Twitter acquisition. James David Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis and an anti-establishment representative, won the Republican nomination for the open Senate seat in Ohio on May 4, 2022. Should he succeed in being elected in the midterm elections at the end of this year, the sky is the limit for his political future.


Second, the Twitter acquisition case also shows a paradox that the current elites in the U.S. are caught in. While the entire world was undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, the U.S., which is in the doldrums, is facing great domestic turmoil. Since Trump's elected presidency in 2016, the domestic political spectrum of the U.S. has changed drastically, as various forces have reshuffled. As it was more difficult for the two parties to take turns representing different capital forces to govern and control the state power, the pro-establishment camp of the two parties quickly merged after Biden took office. They backtracked on their promise to rectify domestic issues through reforms. Instead, on the one hand, they used media control to suppress different voices; on the other hand, they trotted out their stock tactics—diverting attention away from domestic conflicts to international relations. In other words, they sought to solve domestic issues by provoking a world war or a financial crisis. As a result, liberal interventionists from the Democratic Party, such as Jake Sullivan and Antony Blinken, have quickly colluded with the neoconservatives who launched the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, which triggered the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. But the pro-establishment camp also faces two challenges: One is that the rise of social media makes it harder to suppress public opinion, especially amidst weak governance and ideological polarization; both the left-wing progressives and right-wing conservatives have very stable supporters. The other is that changes in the world pattern have made the political ramifications of diverting people's attention away from domestic strife more uncontrollable. For example, the U.S. is going to the dogs in these years, but it tries to maintain its global hegemony by putting the skids under China, Russia, and other emerging economies, which, however, will definitely backfire. To rectify these issues, the pro-establishment camp can only up the ante by taking out-of-spec measures that even violate its own rules, such as Trump's social media account ban and unprecedented financial sanctions against Russia. These measures will trigger a deeper problem: a "collapse" of rules. Compared to Biden, Trump, who believes in social media platform algorithms, and Putin, who believes that SWIFT is neutral, are more likely to obey the rules. The paradox of maintaining rules in the U.S. is that the so-called rules-based order must be re-ordered at home and abroad through actions that undermine established rules. However, the problem is that their legitimacy comes with these rules, which leads to the public feeling threatened by the empowerment they had before and, more importantly, the monopoly capital that controls American politics. Therefore, Musk's proposal to acquire Twitter after the Russian-Ukrainian conflict may not be a decision done on a whim. As the spokesperson of the capital proprietor, this move does not only represent his personal preference. The freedom of speech Musk demanded not only has the superficial meaning of reclaiming basic rights for the public but also essentially means that capital forces want to take back the right to define freedom of speech, and thus recover the control of public opinion that the current elites think they can use at will. Of course, the capital forces behind American politics are also intricate, and the interests of various capitalists are not entirely consistent, which has led to the current debate and struggle. The Biden administration does not dare to veto the acquisition directly—it can only pass the so-called Disinformation Governance Board, which will further exacerbate the contradiction.


Finally, the Twitter acquisition also indicates that a new round of shock waves is brewing in Internet governance, that is, a more intricate public opinion governance environment under the ideological reform trend and technological innovation. The Internet media platform is not just a content platform for discussing the legality of governance, but its own ownership and control rights are also an interpretation of the legality of governance. The US struggle for control of public opinion is mainly an internal strife. At face value, it is a struggle between the current elite and the public, but in essence, it is a struggle between different elite groups controlled by capital forces. The interests of the public and capital forces are fundamentally inconsistent.



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