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Political Violence against Pelosi, and My Exchange with Elon Musk, New Owner of Twitter
Welcome back to Lucid, and hello to all new subscribers. With so much happening today—the 100th anniversary of the start of Italian Fascism, Elon Musk buying Twitter, and the terrible attack on Paul Pelosi, which was intended for Nancy Pelosi, —I am doubly sorry we are not together today to discuss it all.
Threats against members of Congress rose 107% in 2021, and things are only worse now. Here is my new MSNBC piece on the chilling attack on Pelosi and what happens when polarization becomes survivalism.
I also want to highlight this interesting exchange I had the other day with Elon Musk, which tells us a bit about his personality and his tactics. He is a chaos agent with a history of far-right sympathies, and when he plays both sides the pro-democracy part is often for profit.
Musk was exchanging messages with top Russian officials and promoting Kremlin propaganda (not for the first time). So when he tweeted that he would help Ukraine with Starlink for free, trying to play “the big man” and the savior, I was having none of it. He has 110 million followers and cult-leader like status for many of them. I tagged him because I wanted him to see that some people were not falling for his act.
Sure enough, Musk responded one hour later, all offended. But he showed his propagandistic skills by engaging in the technique known as “redirection” (or distraction). Instead of addressing his Ukraine position or the fact he got a huge boost of funds from the US government, he reoriented the narrative to be about my supposed support of fossil fuel industries —something absent from my tweet.
Then pro-Musk blogs picked up the story, “Noted historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat found herself in the crosshairs of Elon Musk when she called him out for his ‘faux selflessness,” wrote one. Naturally, my inboxes filled up with unpleasant messages. How dare I criticize him!
There is justifiably much nervousness about what Musk will do with Twitter, given his vision of “free speech” that will benefit the right. But I think it is wrong to leave the platform preventively: that’s exactly what the right wants you to do. Why self-censor by removing yourself from Twitter, just because an unsavory individual now owns it? I will be staying there, informing the public about threats to democracy on and off line.
Stay well, and stay lucid,