Alternate headline: “Former junkie vows not to use heroin again even if he’s offered it for free.”
We’ll just see, won’t we?
I’ve written before about the pitiful launch of Trump’s Twitter alternative, Truth Social, which has been plagued by predictable tech snafus and employee turnover and less predictable disengagement by Trump himself. He’s the platform’s entire selling point; if you want to read the daily musings of the world’s most famous social media troll, Truth Social was promising exclusive access. Except Trump never actually started using it. He posted once in February and has yet to return, seemingly because he wanted the platform to become a hit organically before he graced it with his presence. Trump doesn’t associate with “loser” brands — and yet, his association is and was the only thing that could make Truth Social a winner. The company’s been left with a chicken-and-egg problem in which it’s destined to languish until its owner begins posting in earnest.
The fact that Trump waited so long to start participating on Truth Social looks like a bigger disaster now that Elon Musk has bought Twitter. Unbeknownst to Trump, Devin Nunes, and the rest of the TS team, they had only a two-month window to try to build a major following for their platform before Musk, the world’s second-most famous social media troll, swooped in and bought a much more prominent platform. Musk’s conquest portends a sort of “jailbreak” in which every right-winger who’s been banned from Twitter or otherwise feels alienated by the platform’s culture now has a reason to give it a second chance. That is, the problem that Truth Social was designed to solve may no longer be a problem.
How many potential users is that going to cost TS? How many users might the service have right now if Trump had been “truthing” up a storm since day one, giving his fans reason to stampede over to his platform and maybe kiss Twitter goodbye for good?
Trump told Fox News this afternoon that he’s done with Twitter, Musk or no Musk. We’ll just see, won’t we?
“I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,” Trump told Fox News. “I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH.”
Trump told Fox News he will begin “TRUTHing” over the next week…
“We’re taking in millions of people, and what we’re finding is that the response on TRUTH is much better than being on Twitter,” Trump said. “Twitter has bots and fake accounts, and we are doing everything we can.”
He added: “The bottom line is, no, I am not going back to Twitter.”…
“TRUTH Social will be a voice for me,” Trump continued. “And that’s something nobody else can get.”
Correction: Truth Social will be a voice for him *as long as it lasts.* Which, given the effect that Twitter’s Musk-ification is having on TS’s share price, may not be much longer:
News of Musk’s acquisition of Twitter immediately destroyed one-eighth of the value of Trump’s SPAC.https://t.co/6xm23K6HQq
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) April 25, 2022
— Scott Lincicome (@scottlincicome) April 25, 2022
It would be funny and ironic if Musk’s Twitter takeover caused Trump and his investors to panic over the decline in Truth Social’s value, leading Trump to go scorched-earth in demanding that his fans use TS and only TS. The great “liberation” of righties by Musk on Twitter could end with (some) MAGA users quitting the site and decamping for Truth Social in solidarity with their hero.
Also funny and ironic would be if liberals fled the site in protest of Musk’s buyout. Until now it’s been right-wingers seeking to build Twitter replicas that are more accommodating to their ideology — Parler, Gettr, Gab, Truth Social — but maybe lefties mortified by Musk’s criticisms of wokeness will decide that they need a thicker ideological social media bubble too:
Hi Twitterverse. Many thanks for the knowledge and sharing over the past ten years or so. If Musk takes over Twitter I will be off within a few hours. Might be just as well for my well being but I’ve learned a lot of valuable stuff from many of you.Thank you all. Howard
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 25, 2022
Tim Miller thinks it might actually be good for the country to have Musk making Twitter safe again for the far-right. Instead of Groypers, insurrectionists, and other proto-fascist chuds siloing themselves off on their own platforms and making the owners of those sites rich in the process, they may come flooding back into Twitter instead. The Parlers and Gabs will collapse, and meanwhile mainstream Twitter users can block as necessary to limit their exposure to the newbies.
If Trump breaks his promise and ends up back on Twitter, that could be good for the country too, Miller writes:
In Georgia on Insurrection Eve, we saw how a big Trump megaphone could divide the Republican base, resulting in political success for the Democrats. The election fraud mass formation psychosis led Trump voters in rural parts of the state to stay home rather than participate in yet another RIGGED contest while a small percentage of Atlanta Kemp/Raffensperger Republicans refused to be a party to the anti-democratic horror show. As a result, Georgia elected the state’s first black and Jewish senators—on the same day!—despite the fact that both had fewer votes than their GOP opponents during the November election.
A repeat of that is the worst-case scenario for the GOP at a time when the political environment is looking rather rosy for them…
Now I’m skeptical that Trump trash-tweeting the Republican haters and losers who don’t prostrate themselves before the MyPillow altar will be enough to cost Republicans Congress on its own. They’re surfing a wave, baby. But it certainly isn’t going to help.
Mitch McConnell is so keen to keep the voters’ attention focused on Biden and his failings that the Senate GOP won’t even release an agenda specifying what they would do if they regain the majority. This election is about Biden, inflation, and crime, as far as Mitch is concerned, and nothing else.
Imagine if Trump suddenly gets his account back and his daily pensees become a hot topic of media coverage again, though. McConnell’s plan goes up in smoke. Instead of the GOP making the election a referendum on the Democrats, Trump will be reminding voters that it’s more of a choice between the Dems and him.
So while conservatives are cheering Musk today for now owning the libs (specifically, the libs’ favorite social media hangout), maybe the changes they’re hoping he’ll make are actually … good for the libs?
Musk got specific about a few of those changes in a statement today:
🚀💫♥️ Yesss!!! ♥️💫🚀 pic.twitter.com/0T9HzUHuh6
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
“New features” presumably means an edit button. Fine. Making the algorithms transparent is a gesture to accountability but most users won’t care. Defeating spam bots would be nice, and authenticating humans will help with that. Although I hope there’s an accommodation for those of us who don’t want to be authenticated. For instance, I’d be fine with losing my posting privileges on Twitter due to lack of authentication so long as I could retain my feed of people who I follow, as that’s indispensable for news curating.
As for the promise of a ban-less era in which fringe types on both sides can sh*tpost without fear, that may come true but most Twitter users never run afoul of the rules so they’ve never worried about it. So long as they retain the power to mute and block the most inflammatory douchebags, their user experience will scarcely change.
In the end Twitter will be Twitter because the culture it’s created is a function of how it works:
my hottest take is that everyone who is excited for elon musk to buy twitter will be disappointed, everyone who is freaked out will stick around after all, the future will be endless uneasy compromises & disappointments about the platform’s decisions, same as ever
— Christopher Mims 🤌 (@mims) April 25, 2022
A platform that rewards speed and provocation with viral recognition will always end up drowning in half-baked grandstanding. Twitter brings out the vicious tribalist rodent in all of us. Unless Musk turns it into something it isn’t, it’ll be what it is. The best thing he could do for the country is shut it down.