The overheated register in which Silicon Valley types have tended to talk about Twitter -- as The Global Town Square, a horizonless agora in which all of humanity can meet to uh engage in free speech together or whatever -- is how they always talk about whatever they are selling, right before they move on to selling something else. For better and worse, these people like Twitter -- many people do -- but they can't say why, or call it what it is. And so it has to bring people together, for the future's sake.
You can see the problem. It is a miraculous thing, or anyway an impressive one, to invent a platform on which anyone can speak to anyone/everyone else, about anything. But because these people don't really value people or togetherness very highly, or have much to say, or consider the future as anything but a place where they will become richer, they don't really know what to do with that. "Bringing people together" is a value-neutral thing, and a mass of humanity does not become a community -- and is not prevented from becoming a mob -- simply because they're all in the same place. Silicon Valley types want whatever's next big because there might be money in it, but also they are fundamentally not very interested in inhabiting or maintaining the new realities they shape; it's too much like work. Maintaining things is hard, and requires much more care than making things does.
Over and over again, this limitation reveals itself. The capitalists forever engineering the future declare victory before the work is done, or even meaningfully begun, because they are bored and would like to cash out. It is bleakly funny to watch these recklessly wrought futures rise amid acclaim and then recede and recede to the size of their imagineers' actual vision. It's also a colossal waste. [...]
The various scammers and hustlers and aspiring drop-shipping magnates and inexplicably self-assured freelance life-coach types are all there, of course. They are drawn to Musk because they aspire to be rich and epic themselves, and post as if their livelihoods depend upon it, holding forth at great length and with little depth on whatever they think might redound to their benefit. As in all the worst online spaces, there is a sense that the hucksters outnumber the marks; a trench of jostling anglerfish, gaping and preening and starving for lack of prey.
Which is remarkable, actually, considering that the largest percentage of Twitter Blue subscribers are people whose identity as howlingly obvious marks seems to have supplanted virtually everything else about them. They are drawn to Elon for the same reason that moths crisp themselves on lightbulbs. It is difficult to imagine what kind of person would give money to the richest man in the world on pure servile principle, but observing them only confuses things more. [...]
It makes sense that these users would be drawn to Musk, even to the point of posting like him, because he resembles them in his sour incuriosity, and is aspirational in his impunity and wealth. As it happens, that type of rich authoritarian -- distractible, idly vicious, relatable in his proud pissy cretinousness -- already has an avatar in American politics. Musk sought out this population of blowhards and temporarily embarrassed grand inquisitors and armchair genocidaires, and they invariably found him, but this is a tough crowd. Where Musk has struggled to keep that constituency happy, it reflects less on his seemingly sincere receptiveness to their hair-trigger credulity, bigotry, and vengefulness and more on the fact that these people are fundamentally unappeasable, and fundamentally opposed to being appeased.
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