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Musk’s big reveal begins at Twitter

Twitter’s bias against conservatives was even worse than we thought

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, Calif. Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Chiu

Musk’s big reveal begins at Twitter
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On Friday, Elon Musk tweeted to his more than one hundred million followers that the story of Twitter’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop expose would be revealed. Though Musk initially promised the information would come out at 5 p.m. eastern time, it took another hour or two for the information to begin coming forth.

Perhaps unsurprising, but agonizingly, the information flowed in the form of a long series of tweets. And they didn’t come from Elon Musk personally. Instead, the veteran Rolling Stone reporter and Substack superstar Matt Taibbi presented what he had. Taibbi is an iconoclastic media figure cut from similar cloth as the late Christopher Hitchens. He’s no friend of the right, but he is also not someone the left can take for granted. Taibbi is stubborn, fearless, and highly determined to unmask the mendacity of the powerful.

Taibbi’s long series of tweets contain information that easily fits an intuitive sense of the case and comes with “receipts.” The reporter does an excellent job of laying out the tale and explaining how Twitter’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop developed. At the root of the story is something that we have learned time and time again, which is that groups of people who have a partisan view and actively shut out dissenting voices will err, and err substantially. Those who put forth information and ideas counter to the dominant view were quickly marginalized. This is what has happened at Twitter.

To be fair to Twitter, as Taibbi observes, the micro-blogging site began as a wide-open forum. But as is often the case, freedom can be substantially threatened by the outbreak of licentious abusers of discretion. Soon, Twitter found itself dealing with all manner of frauds and predators. But in developing the tools to censor bad actors, Twitter also created the precedent for authority that could, itself, be widely abused.

Taibbi does a brilliant job of showing that both political parties came to Twitter regularly with requests to shut down fraudulent information, but did not ultimately receive equal treatment. The reason is that Twitter’s staff (not unlike many major media outlets) is overwhelmingly situated on one side of the partisan divide. Democrats got more aggressive service because they had better contacts. The DNC wanted the actor James Woods removed. Twitter took care of it. Republicans sometimes found their pleas falling on deaf ears, such as when Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Kaleigh McEnany was banned for tweeting about the Biden laptop.

Musk still holds to the classic view (perhaps not a surprise for a Gen-Xer) that any restrictions on speech should be largely content neutral.

The Hunter Biden laptop, of course, is the central point of controversy. In the weeks immediately preceding the 2020 election, the New York Post (a major publication of influence in the United States) reported the story—which has turned out to be true. Those who protest that (then) Vice President Biden shouldn’t have been tarred by his son’s drug addiction, sex addiction, etc. are largely correct. But to make that point is to evade the larger one: During the Trump/Ukraine controversy, which forced a trial of the president in the U.S. Senate, the fact that Hunter Biden was a highly compensated member of a natural gas corporation in Ukraine lurked constantly in the background.

The bigger question associated with the Hunter Biden laptop was whether it contained any evidence to suggest that Biden’s son has served as a proxy during many years of his father’s career so as to create a channel of influence that could profit the family.

Rather than permit the story to circulate on social media, Twitter essentially pre-empted it and did everything possible to prevent it from being seen or to underwrite the view that it was based in Russian disinformation. When questioned, sometimes even by Democrats who supported Biden, Twitter executives (resistant at times to CEO Jack Dorsey) took refuge in an anti-hacking policy that bore no real relation to the facts at hand.

Elon Musk seems to have been motivated to purchase Twitter, in part, because of the banning of the Christian satirical account The Babylon Bee. He was more broadly interested in the question of free speech and how it might be negatively affected by control from the partisan/political/financial powers that be. Musk still holds to the classic view (perhaps not a surprise for a Gen-Xer) that any restrictions on speech should be largely content neutral and that society is best served by a vigorous public square that doesn’t squelch unpopular voices.

The richest man in the world insists the Biden laptop story is just the beginning of the big reveal of what’s been going on at Twitter. There is likely much more to come, so stay tuned.

Hunter Baker

Hunter Baker serves as dean of arts and sciences and professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He is a research fellow of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the author of three books (The End of Secularism, Political Thought: A Student's Guide, and The System Has a Soul).

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