In two recent decisions, owner Elon Musk has deferred to Twitter polls. Is this slopey-shouldered approach to morality clever or weak?
The Great Elon Musk Twitter Saga continues. Most recently, Musk reignited the culture wars with his decision to “temporarily suspend” a range of journalists for apparently doxxing his 2-year-old son. Except this is not what they did, and the screenshots of those banned showed it was meant to be permanent.
However, though Musk appears to be content to stoke the fires of political division, he also realized that an awful lot of people were unhappy about this decision, and it may have fallen foul of EU press freedom regulation and even caused concern in the UN.
When faced with difficult decisions, people in important decision-making capacities step up and make those tough calls, even though not everyone will be happy with the outcome. Perhaps that is the sign of a competent and assured leader.
This is precisely not what Elon Musk did.
First, on recognizing the damage the decision was doing to his own brand (given the mass exodus of consumers to rival Mastodon), Musk reversed the
ban suspension. But he didn’t decide to do this. Instead, he put it out to a public poll on Twitter:
But because the number of options split the results, he redid the poll:
The question was a leading one because none of the journalists even doxxed his exact location. At most, some of the journalists reported on the news item of Musk banning @ElonJet, a handle that reproduced publicly available data on the flight locations of his private jet. Some of the journalists didn’t even do that, but appeared to have been banned for merely being critical of Musk in their writing.
What this did, of course, is extricate Musk from making a difficult decision. On the one hand, you could call this weak, but on the other, you could call it a savvy PR move. “The masses have spoken!” says the Pontius Pilate of social media.
Realizing that he was onto a winning decision-making mechanism, Musk rinsed and repeated.
This time, the decision was a whole lot bigger:
Musk must be in a difficult position. He is, at one and the same time, courting and very much pleasing the rabid right who demand their freedom of speech to attack and insult whom they want, while also incurring the wrath of the left and much of the bell curve Twitter users in the middle.
The lesson here is that though the extreme right (just like the extreme left no doubt) shout very loud, we often mistake volume for mass. There are an awful lot of Twitter users who don’t think and act as do Musk and his extreme right cheerleaders. Therefore, constantly appealing or capitulating to that group of people is not a good business model unless you want to emulate Parler, Gab, or Truth Social. And none of those social media sites has anything like mass appeal.
Twitter, to have a sustainable business model, needs to appeal to the center—the large hump of the bell curve—and that also includes corporations and businesses. Just appealing to MyPillow is probably not the basis for international corporate success.
What Musk has also shown here is that, in the event of needing to make a really difficult moral decision, you can always resort to doing a Twitter poll. Then, in light of a resulting disaster, or situation that doesn’t suit him, he can blame other people: those Twitter users, the “woke” left, the huddled masses.
But not himself.
This way, Musk is morally inoculated and comforted by a blanket of PR insulation.
This is either very weak or very well played. You decide. (In a poll?)