Volume > Issue > Terms of Service: A Discussion of Social-Media Subterfuge & Death-Dealing Democracy

Terms of Service: A Discussion of Social-Media Subterfuge & Death-Dealing Democracy


By Pieter Vree & Jason M. Morgan | May 2023
Pieter Vree is Editor of the NOR. Jason M. Morgan, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, writes the Cultural Counterpoint column and teaches history, language, and philosophy at Reitaku University in Japan.

Elon Musk purchased Twitter for a staggering $44 billion this past October. Since assuming control of the popular social-media platform, he’s peeled back the curtain and revealed the previous regime’s malfeasance in censoring all things “politically incorrect.” In light of this and other recent events, NOR contributing editor Jason M. Morgan and NOR editor Pieter Vree revisited the former’s column on the subject (“’Tis Pity We’re All Whores,” Jul.-Aug. 2022) and discussed the implications of Musk’s moves in the broader political and cultural context. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.

Pieter Vree: You wrote that conservatives’ giddiness over Elon Musk’s “hostile takeover” of Twitter drove you to “sorrow” as it was merely “one leftist billionaire seizing the levers from another leftist billionaire.” Yet, Musk has reinstated thousands of banned accounts, including those of notable conservatives Donald Trump and Jordan B. Peterson, and the parodists at Babylon Bee. He’s also exposed the previous management’s behind-the-scenes betrayal of their own rules in banning and shadow-banning certain accounts — especially those of conservatives — and interfacing with government agencies to limit certain politically charged speech — again, mostly by conservatives. Do you wish to recant or revise your assessment of the man?

Jason M. Morgan: I was totally wrong about Musk. He is proving to be much, much better than I expected. My Thanksgiving dinner was crow. My Christmas dinner was my hat.

Vree: I too was wrong in my assessment. What I knew about Musk, in addition to the few oddities about him that have appeared in our News You May Have Missed column, was what’s in the public record: He had made his mark in über-liberal Silicon Valley as one of the principal developers of PayPal and later as the driving force, so to speak, behind Tesla Motor Co. Based on his professional “origin story” — and his dalliances with pop singers — it was easy to pigeonhole him as a run-of-the-mill tech bro, but one boasting mega-bucks, something of an electric-limousine liberal.

Morgan: Musk may make electric cars, but his liberty-mindedness is high octane. He is turning out to be much more pro-free-speech than I expected, almost like a latter-day Julian Assange (of WikiLeaks fame). Musk has been releasing internal information from the Twitter head office. It seems the FBI, the CIA, and other tentacles of the federal government were basically using Twitter as a ventriloquist’s dummy to manipulate information available to the public.

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