A lot has been written about Elon Musk’s move to buy Twitter. However, most of the stories I have read so far miss what I consider his ulterior motive for purchasing the company. Sure, he says he wants it to be the “town square” and be a truly open platform for free speech. Good luck with that goal, as it is much easier to claim this goal than to deploy it. And you can bet if he owns Twitter, he will be in front of Congress to defend his Twitter decisions often, something he would not like doing given his feelings about the U.S. government and regulatory agencies.
After Musk bought 9% of Twitter, I tweeted that, “This would assure that Musk has clear access to promote himself and his vision and products well into the future.”
As a well-known tech commentator and investor, Om Malik put it in his newsletter recently, “Musk is too intelligent to care about politics. After all, politicians are fungible, but billions are forever. Elon’s desire to buy Twitter has nothing to do with free speech and some well-meaning concepts of cleaning up the platform or making the company efficient and innovative. However, all those would be nice.
Instead, buying Twitter ensures that he is never locked out from the platform that gives him the bully pulpit and power. His ability to put together a $46 billion offer for Twitter faster than a short-order cook whips up breakfast is quite impressive and only reinforces my point — the man needs the megaphone to achieve his final goals. “
Mr. Malik goes on to say, “Musk’s power comes from his millions of followers (including the machine-made followers who have helped spread Musk’s digital musk.) He needs them for the only thing he has to sell: the future. Elon doesn’t need to invent anything — he needs to believe in something and then get people to buy that.
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Whether it is electric vehicles, flying and landing rockets, setting up space colonies, humanoids, cryptocurrencies with dog images, doing brain implants, or boring tunnels to travel underground — Musk needs to sell the future loudly, garishly, and without the interference of the malcontent naysayers in media and old industries. It needs extraordinary conviction to get the Germans and the Japanese to buy a Tesla. It needs special chutzpah to get rockets flying and landing.”
Mr. Malik’s take on Musk’s purchase of Twitter mirrors my Tweet, and his view that this gives Musk a “bully pulpit” is fascinating. Musk would have complete control of his tweets and never cancel his comments and commentaries. Follow his various Tweet storms where he chastises competitors and government officials and agencies alike and can increase his unobstructed views with total control of Twitter. He could become the most powerful and controversial tweeter on Twitter, and nobody could stop him.
You might say that paying $44 billion as a personal advertising vehicle for his visions and products is a lot of money. However, as of the second quarter of 2021, Twitter had 206 million subscribers worldwide who he could influence in ways advertising campaigns could never do. And he has not only become the world’s richest person, but he has also become the kind of personality that millions of people listen to when he speaks.
As I write this, some think Musk will back out of this deal when he realizes how difficult it will be to run Twitter as he genuinely wants to, given the challenges he would face in the future. While that could happen, I am more in the camp that says that Elon Musk having Twitter as his bully pulpit is worth the risks as he uses it for more personal reasons than he officially stated.