I know: you are probably sick of news about Twitter and its awful owner. I do not plan to write more about the ominous-sounding but empty “Twitter Files” unless there is something truly newsworthy which emerges, and I would rather extract one of my own teeth than think about Elon Musk for very long. But what he did this weekend deserves a mention for its callous brutality.
Sawdah Bhaimiya, Insider:
Elon Musk smeared Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, by falsely and baselessly claiming that he supports the sexualization of children, in a tweet on Saturday.
The tone of a straight news article masks how bad this was. Musk posted a context-free screenshot of a section from Roth’s PhD dissertation. Roth argued for a harm reduction approach when youth try to access adult-oriented dating apps; in particular, LGBTQ youth, who are at higher risk of ostracization and violence by openly dating.
It would be too charitable to assume this is a case of poor reading comprehension. Even if it was, it put a damaging smear in front of a hundred and twenty million people, and the lack of a filter on one of the world’s most visible people is deeply worrisome. But it was not.
These folks are hopped up on a conspiracy high. Their energy is QAnon/pizzagate, meets election denial, meets anti-vaxxers with Twitter’s new owner pouring gasoline on the fire. And they’re loving it. They truly believe Twitter’s former leadership committed thousands of felonies, rigged an election, were in cahoots with the FBI, plus all the usual stuff about everyone being a pedophile.
Musk’s attacks immediately put Roth in harm’s way. Last night on patriots.win, the current iteration of /r/the_donald, the top-rated comment on a thread about #TheTwitterFiles was, “we need to see people hang.” Scrolling through the site, I found multiple violent threats targeting Roth specifically.
Justin Ling wrote a heartbreaking but relevant article about violence against queer communities before this weekend’s events:
Through the late 20th century, the idea that Queer people were not just a perversion, but a threat to society as a whole and children in particular, was endemic. The rhetoric is exactly what we hear today, just with different words.
I wrote about this trend in dispatch #8 From Anita Bryant to Milo Yiannopoulos, the anti-Queer backlash is as hateful as it is predictable and tired. Then, during Pride month, I wrote: “this kind of cultural backlash feeds directly into violence.”
Here we are.
Musk is an unhinged propagandist who is among the world’s most visible people. He has a fan club. He made a dorky appearance at a stadium comedy show last night.
There are some people who have branded themselves as edgy or counterculture — the sort of modern day punk rock icons able to draw attention to the opposite of the coddled, politically correct mainstream. This is utter nonsense. There is nothing revolutionary — nothing upsetting the status quo — about the views Musk is sharing and which are amplified by millions. These people are not dangerous because they are modern day Daniel Ellsbergs, speaking truth to power, or proponents of subversive culture. They are the power. And they are yelling louder and with more violence than at any time in recent memory.
Please take care of yourselves and each other.