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The Babylon Bee is one of the last English language satire sites left on the internet and no, we’re not counting The Daily Beast or The Atlantic Magazine—neither of which make people laugh on purpose. The Babylon Bee, by contrast, is intentionally amusing, and it succeeds mostly because it is sharp, and it’s honest. This March, the site published a piece with the headline “The Babylon Bee’s Man of the Year is Rachel Levine.”
The article is funny because it pointed out that Rachel Levine is himself, pretty funny. Here you have a man dressed up like a woman in makeup and purple glasses, wearing some kind of admiral’s uniform, pretending to be the assistant secretary of Health when he looks like a candidate for imminent heart attack himself. So, the whole outfit is a riot. It’s like a Halloween costume some clever drunk college student dreamed up. “This year, I’m going as an obese transvestite health admiral.” You’d laugh if you saw him at a party.
But the Biden administration can’t allow you to laugh at Rachel Levine or at Karine Jean-Pierre or Kamala Harris or any of the other transparently absurd figures they’re pretending are running our country, or, for that matter, at Biden himself, who somehow they tell you got “81 million votes” despite being senile and rarely going outside.
It’s all pretty funny when you think about it, but you can’t laugh and you can’t laugh because humor is the most subversive thing. Once you start noticing the pure, hilarious ridiculousness of the people in charge, you may be much less likely to obey them. So, it’s absolutely vital that somebody wipe that smirk off your face by force if necessary. Twitter immediately banned the Babylon Bee from its site for the crime of making fun of Rachel Levine.
You’ve heard that story for other stories like it, but here’s what’s interesting about this one. Elon Musk, wherever he was at the time, noticed this happening and he was appalled. He wasn’t appalled because he’s an ideological conservative. Musk is the richest man in the world and he didn’t get that way by being a right-wing political activist. He’s a business guy. To the extent Musk has politics, they seem to be traditional, civil liberties, oriented liberal…but banning a comedy site for mocking someone in power? That seemed totalitarian to Elon Musk.
Musk called the head of the Babylon Bee, Seth Dillon, and told him that he “might need to buy Twitter” and he wasn’t kidding. Yesterday, after months of legal drama, Musk did that. “The bird is freed,” he tweeted. Then he fired several of the company’s top executives, including its CEO Parag Agrawal. Within hours, he pledged to let people laugh online if they wanted, to let people who’ve been excluded from our public conversation speak, lifting the ban on the banned commentators on Twitter. That would include, presumably, Donald Trump, the former president; Project Veritas, a group of journalists; Alex Jones and many thousands of others. Then Musk promised to make Twitter’s algorithm transparent.
What is Twitter’s algorithm exactly? Well, we don’t have any real idea because no one’s seen it. We will now. Twitter will no longer be a publicly held company. It will be a privately held company and Musk has said he will show us exactly how it works. Apparently, the algorithm has effectively existed to censor conservatives on the basis of their political views. Now, in one day, people who could not speak will be allowed to speak. The playing field will be transparent, which is a prerequisite for fairness and if you want to laugh on social media, you can.
It seems like a big day. This seems like good news. And if your job was to defend freedom of the press – and it is the job of journalists to defend freedom of the press because they rely on it – you’d think he’d be pretty excited about this, but they’re not excited. Instead, journalists are panicked by this development. Watch.
DONNY DEUTSCH: I think he’s a jerk. I think that he’s cavalier. I think there’s something dangerous when the richest guy in the world controls one of the most important political social platforms in the world. I think, just as a guy who ran a business, to come in a business and to fire the people before you even sit down with them just shows a cavalier recklessness. Reminds me of a Bond villain, as I said, when the richest guy in the world buys a social media platform, it’s just not a good equation. I think he’s a dangerous fellow.
It’s scary when rich people own media companies, says Donny Deutsch, who inherited a media company from his own rich father, but he doesn’t mean it. There’s no principle here. No one at MSNBC means it. How do you know that? Because they’re not complaining about, say, MSNBC’s corporate owners, its billionaire owners at Comcast. They’re not upset about the fact that Jeff Bezos, probably the second-richest man in the world, owns the hometown newspaper of the government—The Washington Post. The Washington Post, owned by another billionaire, just published a tweet telling users how they can crush Twitter now that Elon Musk owns it. “If you do only one thing,” The Post wrote, “locked down (your) ad settings on Twitter.” Starve them out!
The Washington Post’s reporters are also panicked that free speech might be back on Twitter. Taylor Lorenz, one of their most famous and thoroughly ridiculous reporters, had a particularly rough night “It’s like the gates of hell opened on the site tonight,” she wrote.
“The gates of hell.” People in the media may have noticed, spend their entire lives online. No, the gates of hell will open when we run out of diesel fuel and the airlines don’t work and people freeze to death. The gates of hell don’t open when people get to say what they want on social media. Sorry. Get some perspective, honey. But none of them have perspective.
“It is sad,” responded Frank Shaw who works as the head of communications at Microsoft. Lorenz was upset because she makes her living by defaming people and then harassing them personally, but until last night, Twitter protected her and many journalists like her from any criticism whatsoever. Here is Vijaya Gadde. Gadde was the chief censor at Twitter, the head lawyer, explaining why Twitter bans anyone who mocks journalists because it’s dangerous to mock journalists. Watch.
VIJAYA GADDE: We were trying to understand the context of what was going on and take action on them because, again, I don’t know, Joe, if you’ve ever been the target of a dog piling event on Twitter, but it is not particularly fun when thousands of people or hundreds of people are tweeting at you and saying things and that can be viewed as a form of harassment and it’s not about the individual tweet. It is about the volume of things that are being directed and so in that particular case, we made the judgment call—and it is a judgment call—to take down the tweets that were responding directly to these journalists that we’re saying “learn to code” even if they didn’t have a wish of harm specifically to touch them because of what we viewed as coordinated attempt to harass them.
See how this works? When you’re a journalist, you can destroy people’s lives in this country on behalf of a political party. You can totally crush them, get them fired from their jobs, attack them to the point they literally lose custody of their children, which has happened, is happening now by the way. You can do whatever you want if you’re a journalist, but if anyone criticizes you, they have to be shut down because their criticism is violence. In this case, Twitter objected to the phrase “learn to code.”
Now, that’s a phrase specifically used to mock journalists, because that’s what journalists told coal miners to do when they lost their jobs, learn to code, it’s not a threat in any way. It’s not violence. It’s a joke, but until last night, you couldn’t say it on Twitter. Of course, you could aim it downward. You can still tell coal miners to learn to code, but you couldn’t tell people with power to learn to code. That’s the point. When you eliminate free speech, who do you help? The people in charge. Only the powerful benefit from censorship.
The editor of The Daily Caller, was banned for telling “The Daily Show” to “learn to code.” The propagandists had protection from Twitter. That’s the point and they’ve lost it and blogs like The Verge are very upset. The Verge just published a profanity-laced screed that included this amazing line, “Most people do not want to participate in a horrible, unmoderated Internet spaces. Also, everyone crying about free speech conveniently ignores that the biggest threat to free speech in America is the f-ing government.”
Well, that’s true, but it’s also a lie by omission because in fact, Twitter was acting on behalf of the government. That’s the point. We know that thanks to lawsuits filed by Alex Berenson and others we know for a fact that Twitter censored political views at the behest of the White House and also at the behest of Pfizer.
The biggest company in the world, the biggest government in the world, get together and tell less powerful people they can’t talk and that’s what the media are defending right now. So, obviously, they don’t understand the concept of freedom of speech or why it’s important or why Elon Musk bought Twitter. Joe Cirincione, a “natsec expert” member on the thoroughly-discredited Council on Foreign Relations, wrote this last night, for example, “I now approach every Tweet as if it could be my last.”
Well, the self-dramatization of these people! They’re such drama queens. Democratic Party lawyer Marc Elias was hysterical as well, “I am here until he kicks me off.” The thing is, Marc Elias isn’t going to be kicked off Twitter. We don’t want him to be, by the way. We think everyone should be able to speak, period, because that’s the basis of a free country. When you don’t have that, you have totalitarianism and only people who are benefiting from it support it.
The whole point of the transaction is to make certain that everyone can talk. That’s why Elon Musk did this. The point is to stop censoring all people, period. As the popular account, ComfortablySmug, put it “We’re celebrating because we’re free to say what we want. That’s what they took from us and that’s why they’re terrified now.” Exactly. The people who’ve always been able to say whatever they want are upset, not because their right to speech is under threat, because you now have the right to speech and they hate that because now it’s more of a fair fight. Restoring free speech is the main reason that Elon Musk fired Parag Agrawal—that would be the head of Twitter, the loathsome head of Twitter, who went on the record in 2020 saying his goal was to block people from saying what they believe to be true. Watch.
AGRAWAL: Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation. The kinds of things that we do to work about this is to focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed. One of the changes today that we see is speech is easy on the internet. Most people can speak, but our role which is particularly emphasized is who can be heard.
Free speech isn’t just a prerequisite for freedom, of course. It’s not simply the first right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. It’s our civic religion. It’s what America is. Without free speech, it’s not America. Period.
Here you have a guy who comes to America (Clearly, a smart guy does very well here. Good for him. Made like $42 million last year. Great) and within a few years of getting here, decides to overturn our civic religion and nobody says anything about it. Begone!
Elon Musk, also an immigrant to this country by the way, comes here because he understands that freedom of speech is the whole reason you would want to live here in the first place.
The thing about Twitter before yesterday was that it was censoring people before you even knew you were censored. This is called shadow-banning, using algorithms to suppress information like the New York Post’s accurate reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop. They did a lot of that. Remember?
VIJAYA GADDE: One of the things I’m most excited about in our efforts is to switch to proactive enforcement. I think that for too long we relied on people reporting things to us and I’m sorry about your experience and the reports that you get. I don’t, I can’t address those specific ones, but I do think enabling Twitter to be more proactive and actually identify this content to the extent that we can is going to make a big difference for people so that we can take action on this content before it even gets seen.
We can censure you before you even know you’ve been censored and we’re so confident in our total power over you, that we can brag about it on TV. That woman and her boss and a lot of other people at Twitter, the enemies of free expression, the enemies of freedom itself, they’re all gone walking down the road, taking their lunchboxes. This is a huge deal. It’s hard to overstate how transformative this could be. The activist left believed it owned Twitter and the public conversation in this country more broadly. Why do they think that? Because for many years they have owned it. They had a monopoly and that monopoly has been broken.
Once everyone can talk—rich or powerful, poor or powerless, doesn’t matter—when everyone can talk, nothing will ever be the same and the Democratic Party will be forced to defend its positions on their merits.
Democrats pulled a sitting president off Twitter. Now, apparently, he’s running again. How could you possibly defend censoring that candidate, Donald Trump, if you support democracy? Are you really going to argue that a presidential candidate can’t talk? They’re going to have to argue that. They’re going to have to say that in public. What’s that conversation going to look like?
The Biden administration is in trouble because of this. Everything depends for them on censorship—everything! They’re going to do everything they can to shut Twitter down again. They’re going to do their best to destroy its new owner, and Elon Musk must know that. He’s doing it anyway and that’s the definition of bravery. People assume always the billionaires can afford to be bold. You can do whatever you want. You’re rich!
But the opposite is true actually. Look around. How many brave billionaires are there? Not many. Why? Because the more you have, the more you have to lose. There’s no such thing as f-you money. There’s only f-you poverty and yet the richest man in the world is risking it all to save free speech. Whatever you think of Elon Musk and however this ends, that’s a remarkable thing to watch.