Why blue-check pundits and pols are trashing Twitter as Musk seeks control

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The debate about Twitter, as fierce, raucous and mean as the social app itself, is finally moving beyond Elon Musk.

A slew of prominent journalists and politicos are either bailing on the platform or urging others to wean themselves from its additive lure. In short, some charter members of the blue-check elite are staging their own revolt.

Make no mistake, the bid by the world’s richest man to take over what he calls the de facto town square is fueling all the commentary and consternation. Musk is at the center of it, given his immense wealth, pugnacious persona and constant online provocations. 

But other hotshots have had enough. The incoming president of CNN, Chris Licht, just announced that when he takes over the company in two weeks, he’s gone from Twitter because, despite its strengths, “it can also skew what’s really important in the world.” 


Outgoing New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet (whose role will be filled by Managing Editor Joseph Kahn, the paper announced yesterday) has urged his staffers to reduce their Twitter presence, writing:

“We can be overly focused on how Twitter will react to our work, to the detriment of our mission and independence. We can make off-the-cuff responses that damage our journalistic reputations.”

Now comes Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, calling it an unrepresentative in-crowd:

“I mean, I use Twitter. Every reporter uses Twitter. I don’t think we should deny it. We all use it. But we’re basically talking to ourselves right on Twitter, on cable. All of these things,” she said in a podcast interview with Jessica Yellin.

“And if you look at the statistics, you know, only about 20 percent of the public, maybe less, is on Twitter. Twitter is very White, it’s very liberal, it’s very coastal. And sometimes it becomes a self-perpetuating thing. Where Twitter drives media coverage, media coverage drops Twitter. It becomes this circle that may not be identified with where people in the public are.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Washington. 
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

I’ve always argued that Twitter is way more liberal than most rank-and-file Democrats. That’s why so many of its voices mocked or dismissed Joe Biden’s candidacy, because he wasn’t Bernie or Elizabeth.

I have my own love-hate relationship with Twitter, as is common for journalists as well as public figures of any kind. It’s great for breaking news and for plugging into all kinds of disparate voices and news sources. It’s an ongoing conversation that you get to curate. It can be fun when people prattle on about their problems and puppies. 


But it can also be a toxic wasteland, filled with misinformation and folks bullying other folks. Not to mention a partisan hatefest in which you get personally vilified for perfectly reasonable posts that link to columns and videos which the online mobsters refuse to read to watch.

Elon Musk didn’t create this world, and I don’t read him as saying he believes in zero content moderation. But he’s a free speech crusader who wants to let most people have their say–and a libertarian who would undoubtedly lift the Donald Trump ban as Twitter most frequently penalizes big-name conservatives. 

Yet Musk himself is getting pulverized on Twitter, which he once called a war zone, as if he created all these problems.

It’s even reached the Washington Post sports section, where columnist Candace Buckner wrote that Musk resembles a “Bond movie villain,” and “we’re all doomed” if he takes over Twitter. “If anything goes, as Musk wishes, there would be no recourse in stopping verbal abuse from the Twitter Thugs who feel emboldened to post their most vile thoughts under the cover of anonymity.”

The billionaire Elon Musk bought 9.2% of Twitter, an investment of $3 billion. Musk is making a move to take the company private, offering to buy all outstanding shares for $54.20 a piece for a total of $43 billion.
(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

But the rest of the column explains how that’s happening now, at least on sports Twitter, thereby undercutting its premise.

The Twitter outrage machine yesterday went after Post reporter Taylor Lorenz, who disclosed the identity of the former Brooklyn real estate saleswoman behind the “LibsofTikTok” social media account. Lorenz, a controversial figure who previously worked for the New York Times, broke down in a recent MSNBC interview, saying she was so depressed by online abuse that she considered suicide.


But why, her detractors ask, did she engage in “doxxing” the woman behind “Libs,” and visited the homes of her relatives? Lorenz justified this by reporting that the account has 648,000 Twitter followers and its videos are often featured by Fox News, Joe Rogan, the New York Post and other outlets. 

As an example, “Libs” put up a video of a Kentucky woman teaching sex education to children, and called her a “predator.” 

I’m not a fan of doxxing anyone, and Lorenz knows what happens when the mob is unleashed. But the unnamed woman hasn’t exactly been low profile. She has granted interviews, anonymously, to the New York Post (“I don’t do this for money or fame”) and Fox News, among others. Twitter briefly suspended the account a second time last week for allegedly violating its rules against targeted harassment.


It’s all pretty head-spinning. No wonder some journalists are getting off Twitter, and Musk, if he can pull off his hostile takeover, will have his work cut out for him.