Twitter Files Expose Authoritarian "Cult Of Identity" That Controls The Media
"Revolt Of The Public" author Martin Gurri on why the Woke hate Musk
The name of our Substack publication, Public, came from the 2018 book, Revolt of the Public by a former CIA media analyst named Martin Gurri. It is perhaps the best book ever written about the impact of the Internet on social and political life. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to watch Leighton’s video about Martin’s great book and read our interview with him in which he strongly denounces the FBI behavior that we revealed in our research into the Twitter Files. We are honored to publish his important essay about the Twitter Files, and why they matter, here. — Michael
by Martin Gurri
Only yesterday, Elon Musk was a hero to progressives. He had made the electric car sexy and organized a migration to Mars to save humanity from the coming ecological apocalypse. Musk voted for Barack Obama twice and for Biden once. When he offered to purchase Twitter on April 14 of last year, he clearly believed he was reconnecting progressivism to its liberal roots.
“For Twitter to deserve public trust it must be politically neutral, which effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally,” he said. Famously, Musk characterized himself as “a free speech absolutist.”
But elites took that for a declaration of war and changed their tightly synchronized minds about the man.
Twitter in the hands of Musk was “dangerous to our democracy,” said Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren. “If Elon Musk successfully purchases Twitter, it could result in World War 3 and the destruction of our planet,” wrote David Leavitt. The White House expressed newfound concern about “the power of large social media platforms … over our everyday lives … tech platforms must be held accountable for the harm they cause.”
Before Musk’s takeover, Twitter management had gone on record stating, “We do not shadow ban [i.e., secretly block users]. And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
Thanks to Twitter’s internal emails and messages released by Musk, we now know both claims were false.
“Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users,” wrote journalist Bari Weiss. The targets were offenders against elite orthodoxy—a conservative activist, a right-wing talk show host, and a Covid-dissenting doctor, among others.
In December, Musk invited Weiss, Matt Taibbi, and Michael Shellenberger to examine the company’s internal Slack messages and emails. Taibbi and Weiss are fierce critics of establishment media; Shellenberger is a strong anti-establishment voice on energy and homeless policy. All are, in Weiss’ phrase, “politically homeless,” neither right nor left, but tend to write about aspects of the struggle between the elites and the public.
Taibbi, Weiss, and Shellenberger are clear thinkers and good writers but two traits, in my opinion, separate them from the pack: independence and integrity. Musk could have bought himself a passel of hired hacks who would have churned out whatever spin he wished. With these three authors, he gave up control over the Twitter Files output in exchange for their ironclad credibility.
Defenders of pre-Musk Twitter argue that the company is a private entity and can do as it wishes: First Amendment protection of free speech applies only to government censorship.
Although technically correct, this argument loses some validity when all major institutions promote the same orthodoxy using more or less the exact words. It collapses when it becomes clear that the federal government has been acting the part of a grand inquisitor and pushing content decisions on its “private sector partners.”
Why is that? How did we arrive at a place where the U.S. government would work with social media companies to censor disfavored views — and disfavored citizens? To answer those questions, we need to take a closer look at the Twitter Files.