Talking Points

Will Elon Musk create a conservative utopia on Twitter?

Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter will either resolve the conservative debate over Big Tech or intensify the improbable push from the right for the government to get social media companies under control. 

Liberals, most notably Robert Reich, have already flip-flopped on the question of whether Twitter is a private company that can do whatever it wants or a fearsome monopoly threatening our democracy. But it's a real argument that has played out among conservatives: is the suppression of conservative speech on platforms like Twitter a.) a real problem and b.) one requiring a public policy solution? Twitter censored conservatives just enough for it to be a problem on things like Hunter Biden or COVID-19 origins, but not enough for right-wing competitors like Parler, GETTR or TRUTH Social to be viable. (There was also the problem that "owning the libs" is inherently less fun inside a conservative echo chamber.)

Musk taking over the company with a stated free speech agenda would seem to be the classic free market response. (We'll set aside for now the question of whether free markets mean access to these platforms should be dependent on a friendly billionaire.) If most conservatives are satisfied with how Twitter does business going forward, that will probably resolve the debate against the Josh Hawleys of the world for the time being.

But conservatives have higher hopes for a Musk-run Twitter than the reinstatement of a few of their favorite accounts. They would like a purge of the progressive employees keeping them down and a truth and reconciliation commission of sorts — Ben Shapiro used this exact phrase — to investigate past wrongs, among other requests.

Musk isn't really a conservative in any meaningful sense. He's a liberal who has simply run afoul of a radicalized left on a number of issues. If he can't deliver, conservatives may look to Washington for answers while liberals look to see if they can make their own Twitter alternatives viable (those offended by Musk's ownership are certainly more comfortable with the absence of conservatives than the right is without libs to own).

Put another way, it's a real test of whether the new right was simply too impatient to wait for a nongovernmental solution or whether woke capitalists will sell conservatives the gags to silence themselves.