Is it ok to ignore Elon Musk?
December 18, 2022 10:16 PM   Subscribe

What it says on the tin. When Trump was Twitter's Main Character I felt I had to be at least somewhat aware of his tweeted rants, because he could literally be declaring war or making some sort of dangerous decree. Now, major newspapers are breathlessly reporting every thing Musk tweets, he's seeming increasingly unhinged, and it's making me feel scared. Is it ok to totally tune him out?

With Trump, I felt that I urgently needed to call my local representative, donate/phonebank/volunteer, and otherwise try to get him out of power. He was a direct danger to my health and safety and to the health and safety of those around me.

I'm more confused about Musk. He's not elected, he's just some rich guy, and I guess he can do anything he wants. The things he's saying on Twitter, slamming trans people, winking at QAnon, dissing the "woke mob", are alarming, as is that somehow each of those things spawns a zillion news headlines, thus amplifying his venom. As a politically engaged person who does not want democracy to go away, is there something a responsible citizen should be doing to try to combat Musk? Or, is it ok to just completely ignore anything he says and does and go about my business?
posted by rogerroger to Law & Government (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think maybe we'd all be better off with less attention paid to Musk.
posted by NotLost at 10:37 PM on December 18, 2022 [30 favorites]

I think as individuals our responsibility to the democracy is to try to involve ourselves in things that build democratic and communitarian institutions, and that advance solidaristic ends rather than individual and atomized ends.

So if you can do that vis a vis Musk, maybe because you occupy a place in tech or are positioned to lobby for something positive or you can pass a law that eliminates billionaires, then you should. If you can't, you don't have to think about Musk very much and you'd probably be better off leaving Twitter, if you're on it, and calling it a day.

To an important concern you raised, anything we do in support of the lives and well-being of trans people is needed, Musk or not, and I think we don't need to think much about Musk in the process.

That's my take, anyway.
posted by kensington314 at 11:03 PM on December 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

It would be nice to ignore him, I see him as a threat to humanity as well as democracy - he's the new Ford and potentialy a lot worse. I think whatever we can do, wherever we are. Whether it's a tiny thing or something that really affects him - or simply tryng to keep our own democracy alive - certainly a lot of people here (NZ) who seem to want literal civil war - and Musk, and his ilk are driving that.
posted by unearthed at 11:19 PM on December 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

You could have ignored Trump’s tweets too, you know. There’s a difference between being aware of current events and obsessively following every word a public figure says. What actual, concrete good does it do for you to constantly know the latest dumb bullshit these people say?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:21 PM on December 18, 2022 [49 favorites]

I think the only people we're truly obligated to pay attention to are people who would depend on us for their lives: young people and old people who can't fend for themselves, sick people, hungry people, people without a place to sleep... beyond that, you're free to ignore anyone you'd like. If there's a cause you're interested in fighting for (like democracy), give that cause your attention instead. Unless you have a personal connection to Musk, there are probably other things you can do that would be more effective in that fight.
posted by panic at 11:26 PM on December 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

I think the important thing to consider is what you will do with that information. You listed several ways you could respond to Trump but I think you’re right there’s not a ton any of us can do about Musk on a daily basis.

BTW, I work in advocacy and spent the Trump administration opposing him and his policies AS MY JOB, and I never followed him on Twitter or anywhere. You truly are not required to give them all the attention they demand.
posted by lunasol at 11:41 PM on December 18, 2022 [24 favorites]

He's a threat, but not a US President-level threat: several levels below. He IS however a huge threat to journalists and journalism given the outsize role of Twitter for sparking stories and helping them get traction, not to mention the profile and rep of individual writers. (This is not to say he can't do enormous harm to communities that depend on Twitter as a medium for organising and solidarity).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:21 AM on December 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

I am ignoring him online. If he comes up in conversation IRL, I'm giving my opinion of him. He is godawful but I can't do anything about him, and reading that kind of drivel just winds me up with no good outcome. So you're not alone, if that helps.
posted by plonkee at 1:11 AM on December 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Definitely ignore him! Give people crap about not ignoring him! He wants our attention so much he paid 44 billion American dollars for it and I for one deleted my account and deliberately avoid reading news stories about him. No interest in the guy. Irritating dullard.
posted by potrzebie at 1:27 AM on December 19, 2022 [8 favorites]

You could see it as your civic duty to not encourage his fame by giving him more clicks.
posted by trig at 2:20 AM on December 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You can ignore Musk. You could have ignored Trump's Twit-storm as well, since by law, declarations or war and other presidential decrees must have other avenues for dissemination than Twitter.

We live in a weird time period where we have been convinced that Twitter or any other up to the minute information funnel is some kind of normal and deeply necessary thing. It is not. Any news important enough will reach you by other avenues, and as an individual citizen, you are highly unlikely to have any real way of changing the outcome regardless of when you find out about it.

Forwarned, in America at least, does not mean forearmed. It just means you get a couple hours headstart on being angry.
posted by ananci at 2:42 AM on December 19, 2022 [22 favorites]

I ignore him, I ignored Trump, and in fact I ignore anyone (good or bad) who uses Twitter to try and whip up emotions for clout. It makes for a nicer Twitter experience.

The banned journalists are still working and the consequences they are suffering were always the risk of their and their news organizations reliance on someone else’s platform for free publicity.

(I’m not anti-press, I just go to actual news sites for news instead of navigating 20+ long threads of 280 characters. It’s also better for my mental health to limit news to a set amount of time per day and not use Twitter as a news firehose.)
posted by kimberussell at 3:21 AM on December 19, 2022 [6 favorites]

There were news sources before Twitter; there will be news sources after Twitter. You are not obligated to follow anyone or their hot takes about the latest sensation. The whole Trump and now Musk thing is just yellow journalism for the modern era. People like dumpster fires, I guess.

If you want to save democracy and the fourth estate, why not subscribe to your local paper? Like kimberrussell, I find that actual news sites (local and national) are much better than Twitter threads. I also check NPR and listen/watch PBS Newshour. (I do not own a cat, but I am otherwise the stereotype of an Old Lady, thanks!)
posted by basalganglia at 4:11 AM on December 19, 2022 [9 favorites]

I have been paying a certain amount of attention to his actions (like firing half the staff) because I find that interesting in a trainwreck kind of way, but I've been ignoring him personally in terms of not following him, not seeking out his statements/posts, and so on. He is clearly a worthless scumbag and I'm happier with him not having much of a presence in my life.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:08 AM on December 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

A vast majority of what happens on Twitter is only important to the people on Twitter. So-and-so had a hot take and then Celeb du Jour took them down a notch? Don't care. Breaking news out of Asia? AP, WaPo, BBC, whoever will cover it. Arab Spring and the revolutions that Twitter fueled have moved elsewhere. I think I heard that the protests in China were organized on Signal? So no-one except the people who received the message would even know.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:34 AM on December 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

I mean, I think we do all have reason to be concerned over the fact that the richest man can just buy a super powerful social media outlet and do with it as he pleases.

Constructively, you can support your local news outlets, NPR, and call your representatives and urge them to better regulate Tech.

But yeah, you don't have to follow Elon on Twitter, or even be on Twitter.
posted by coffeecat at 8:00 AM on December 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: is there something a responsible citizen should be doing to try to combat Musk?

I literally don't think there is anything that CAN be done about him, is the thing. He's a tech dictator. Like a bunch of people are suing him (that's not yours to do) and the EU is threatening...stuff...and dimwit did put up a poll asking if he should step down and people voted yes. But it's not like writing to your senators or donating money is going to help to get him out of Twitter. The entire point is that right now he can do whatever he wants with that app, no matter how stupid it is, and no one can stop him. If he decides to let people just post the n-word over and over again and start another IRL riot at the capitol or god knows what, you as a member of Joe Public can't do fuckall. So while he's not as big of a threat as Trump, I think he's more of an indirect threat...but there's nothing that can be done about him.

If being impotent and out of control of a situation like that makes you nuts, and you're not on Twitter, then ignore him. I personally now watch him like a giant trainwreck waiting for him to somehow sink himself with his own hubris, but to each their own.

(And frankly, I only read the tweets of Trump/Musk that were being bandied around so much you can't ignore them. I would never be on Twitter/subscribe to see.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:48 AM on December 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

Yeah; I blocked and muted his name as a term on Twitter a few weeks ago.

I follow enough people in tech and journalism and politics and culture that my Twitter feed became dominated by him. I found myself being forced to have opinions on people and things I didn't have the time for. Three months ago he was a guy I thought seemed a dick but who I had to pay very little attention to, now he's a guy I am sure is a dick and who apparently I was supposed to think about a lot.

So yeah, nope out of it.
posted by Hartster at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2022

To stop those monsters, one-two-three,

Here's a fresh new way that's trouble-free,

It's got Paul Anka's guarantee ... [winks]


Guarantee void in Tennessee.

Paul Anka and Lisa:

Just don't look! Just don't look!
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 9:10 AM on December 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Ignore Elon, but actively avoid Twitter. Treat it as malware, and encourage others (especially organizations that publish public-facing information) to do the same.
posted by credulous at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Why anyone takes any utterance out of that dope's mouth even remotely seriously is beyond me. He's not changing the world, he's not making a positive difference in anything, and he should not be looked to for any sort of guidance or direction on where tech or anything else is going (not that you're doing that, but just as a general principle). He's just a troll with vast resources.

Ignore him. There's no need to care about what he does.
posted by pdb at 4:53 PM on December 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

A lot of what the media is writing about Musk is just gossipy filler on his latest Twitter outrage. Keep in mind that Twitter is where many journalists spend a lot of their time working. In the last 15 years or so, something like 45,000 journalists have lost their jobs. Those that remain have more to do, and once journalists discovered Twitter could be used for man-on-the-street news gathering, they started spending lots of time there. It is, by far, the most used social media site for journalists, and as many of them are expected to turn in a couple of articles a day plus a couple of blog-type posts, the reason you see so much writing about Twitter is even the best journalists can't come up with something fresh or well-reported every hour or two.

The real story on Musk is scarier and evolving. As far back as 2017, the Guardian identified him as one of the rightwing power players lurking beneath Silicon Valley's liberal facade. More recently, Mother Jones has written about Elon Musk and Right-Wing Extremism: Part of the Problem, Not the Solution. He is also increasingly looking like a security risk to the U.S. government, and his twitter acquisition may be eligible for a Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review.
There are several components of the Musk acquisition of Twitter that are relevant to a CFIUS review: (1) the deal involves billions of dollars from foreign co-investors, including state-linked firms from Qatar and Saudi Arabia and a Chinese-linked cryptocurrency company; (2) Twitter itself stores the personal and sensitive information of tens of millions of U.S. citizens; and (3) Twitter is a key platform for U.S. political discourse, making foreign influence over it an election interference risk.
He's also recently been making pals with high-placed Russians on Twitter, including close Putin allies. And he's been playing games with Ukraine's access to Starlink. Long story short: he may not be so different from Trump, and that part of his story might be worth keeping an eye on.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:08 PM on December 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

I've basically stopped using twitter for the past month and it has given me a marked improvement in mood and mental health. I'm willing to allow journalists to do the legwork of circulating anything important the man says/does. (Same went for Trump, tbh.) It's very easy to get caught up in FOMO (fear of missing out) these days, but like others have said, nobody really needs to be on Twitter and the continuous stream of whatever isn't exactly a normal thing that people must pay attention to.

Arguably, given that a social network only has value when people are using it, the most direct way to fight against Elon would be to stop adding value to Twitter by continuing to use it.
posted by Aleyn at 12:08 AM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

One thing you can do is organize to get your representatives to pass bills that tax capital gains appropriately.

Sadly I don’t think I can ignore his actions entirely, but you can certainly ignore his tweets.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:15 PM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

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