Only If I Musk

The most powerful people have been controlling the distribution of information since well before the printing press. It's not reasonable to expect them to distribute that power equitably.

Only If I Musk

For Halloween this week I went as a Twitter user. The costume was simple because Twitter users look just like you and me, except 69% of them are democrats, half of them are bots, and the Balance of them are Ted Cruz because Trump and Marjorie Taylor Green have both been kicked off the platform.

When it comes to costumes, the details matter, so as an accessory I walked around the neighborhood shouting short hot takes and one-liners to myself. Occasionally another trick-or-treater passing by would love something I said, but surprisingly most people just ignored me.

In the aftermath along with a Halloween hangover, I'm surrounded by news that is almost exclusively about Elon Musk now owning Twitter. Ideally, I'd celebrate by not caring, and finishing the last episode of The Watcher on Netflix, but then again, I've never been good at taking vacations.

If you're a regular here, you know I don't always weigh in on every topic of pop culture drama, especially when everyone else has already filled their corner of the internet with their take on issues that are better off blocked from our feeds. I try to wait for the good stuff so I can reserve precious column inches for important issues, like why I'm afraid of cold butter or talking about a circus act that used to be a political party.

Suffice it to say I usually focus on the issues that matter to us all the most, and if that isn't enough, I narrow in on the ones that matter to me, since I am the only decider here. But now that all my content can be written by AI, I can weigh in by using a third-party app, without having to think, say or do anything other than click the space bar every now and then.

This new tech allows me to drop opinions on even more meaningless issues than ever, like whether or not Sarah Palin can spell Lauren Boebert's name correctly on a Tweet thanking her for her endorsement (the answer: no she can't).

My first experience with artificial intelligence was with Grammarly, a tool designed to tell me what words to hyphenate. But as the tech industry advances, although currently not in the form of profits, artificial intelligence is now using machine learning to shove ads at me that claim that it (if that really is their pronoun) can write my entire independent publication. I think this demonstrates it/its failure to recognize that The Lorem Ipsum has not missed a week since its birth, even if some issues have been submitted by phone, the device that knows me best.

They say AI and the Metaverse will change the way we do everything, and so far they are correct in my case – I avoid Facebook whenever I get the chance, and I do it more efficiently than ever.

When it comes to artificial intelligence, I’m more apprehensive than excited. I don't mean that I'm concerned about my own job as a crafty writer. I'll let an artificially intelligent bot do that worrying for me. I'm talking about Ye, the artificially intelligent rapper and presidential candidate. Ye has made headlines for his attempt to buy Parler, the haven for roughly thirty bitter people who think that running a social media company is about free speech. It's not machine learning that concerns me. It's the outsized impact someone like Ye has on what happens in American Politics.

Ye (The Artist Formerly Known as Prince's favored hip hop muse, the artist formerly known as Kanye West) has become a sort of "how to" source for a variety of things, like 'How to be a worse person than Donald Trump without being Vladimir Putin', and 'How to have a brand worth billions one day and drop billions in value the next'.

These are incredible accomplishments in their own respect, but Ye is accomplished in more conventionally enviable ways too. Ye's net worth is at least $400 million, despite the loss of standing with Adidas and other companies that have dropped him as a partner in business ventures. He continues to own the Yeezy brand and owns shares in Kim Kardashian's shapewear line. He still remains streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, and some of his better songs remain in my own Apple Music library. All these amounts to consistent earnings and influence.

Kanye has been removed from partnerships with Balenciaga, Vogue, a documentary production company MRC, his agent CAA, Gap, and Adidas. And although he is back on Twitter, that is not the only place where Kanye West has a character limit. Ye has no trouble getting an audience.

The Power of Influence

I think Ye should probably continue to get paid for the earnings of his music, even if he is banned from ever performing at the Grammys. I for one will continue to listen to his songs like "Gold Digger", "Made In America", "Jesus Walks" or "Runaway" because after all, a lot of musicians are dicks, and listening to music because someone is nice gets old when it sucks.

Despite having been banned from Twitter and later restored, Ye still continues to have a voice loud enough to inspire people to spread his gospel in under 280 characters, even if it's on sheets hanging from highway overpasses or spray painted on football stadiums. Ye's die-hard fans will go out of their way to defend his antisemitic claims, saying "Kanye is right about the Jews".

Elon Musk, who can bend the stock market with a single tweet, says he "Talked to ye today & expressed my concerns about his recent tweet, which I think he took to heart".

That's so wonderful and really makes me feel pretty great that he may now be almost as polite as my children were as toddlers, now that Elon had a little chat with him.

This brings me to the bigger matter on my mind.

Some of the most powerful communications platforms, whether it is the portable platform of fame and influence or tangible platforms like Twitter or the much less useful Truth Social, leave us subject to the interests and rhetoric of a select few. And some of the few are dicks.

Some of the many are too, as we see in the last few elections. Some dicks get followed. And some followers will commit a mass shooting in a Synagogue like what happened in the Pittsburg Tree of Life Synagogue shooting four years ago.

It would take more than a few Yeets (Ye Tweets) to turn me into an anti-Jew mass murderer, but ironically, it only takes a handful of dicks to shift the center of public sentiment by 3 percent and increase the likelihood that someone else will be a dick too. If you want a more comprehensive analysis of how this works, here's a year-long examination of Trump's rhetoric and the swelling of violence from his followers.

Elon Musk believes the internet needs to be a more democratic space (understandable since he is the richest person on earth), and that the world needs a digital public scare where absolute free speech is a virtue. Musk tweeted Power to the people! this week. He happens to be one of the most powerful and richest people on earth and has used that leverage to gain control of one of the most powerful communication platforms on earth.

Power To The People

The most powerful people have been controlling the distribution of information since well before the printing press. It's not reasonable to expect them to distribute that power equitably. After all, one of them did buy Twitter for 44 billion dollars because he wanted to.

When it comes to the control of information, the only people that rise to the top are the ones we let rise to the top, by investing in their power. Once someone is on top, it's virtually impossible to unseat them. And the people on the top have the power to shift the narrative in their favor.

I'm happy for Elon Musk and his new toy, but it won't make the world a better place. It certainly won't make information more democratic. Trump has been banned from Twitter, and he has found a way to congregate with his most extreme followers on his own platform. Ye is having no trouble connecting with his anti-Jew followers and plans to own a social media platform of his own. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. Marc Benioff owns TIMES. Rupert Murdock owns several right-leaning news platforms like Fox News and The New York Post. Michael Bloomberg owns Bloomberg News. Google is the largest funder of Wikipedia.

And, to be fair, I own The Lorem Ipsum.

We choose to give the power of information to those who we wish, and we should be careful to give it to those who can be trusted with it.