If you had a bajillionty gajillion dollars, what’s the first thing you would do? Like the very first thing? Would you call your boss and give ‘er the old “take this job and shove it?” Would you walk up to a stranger and give them $1,000? Would you tell no one and go about your business?
The freedom of unlimited money could lead to some pretty entertaining stories. For me, I’d probably give my boss a piece of my mind first – but only after the check cashes. Freedom, for some, means financial freedom. For others, it’s the freedom to say whatever they want without recourse or recoil.
I’d think that if I had a bajillionty gajillion dollars, I could get away with both.
Over the last couple of weeks, you’ve heard from one of those bajilliontaires and you’ve heard how he plans to ensure that he has the ability to say whatever he wants whenever he wants. Oh sure, you’ve seen Elon Musk’s name on the side of the Tesla or his penis-shaped space rockets – but now he wants to bring that level of disruption to free speech and buy our favorite horrible social media site — Twitter dot com. Free speech, and the access to it, has been the cornerstone of Musk’s pursuit of the company and his hostile takeover of it.
Recent years have dropped Twitter right in the center of the scalding cauldron that is the hot take dumpster. Twitter has made efforts to control speech on the left, the right, and the middle through robotic bans and efforts to amplify accuracy. To say they’ve failed miserably would be putting it kindly. All it’s done is managed to tick everyone off.
Musk’s solution? Turn everything back on like a spigot from a hose and let the site have free reign for anyone to say everything. A million monkeys and a million typewriters. Only we know that won’t recreate the works of Shakespeare. What it is liable to do is sow even more discourse in the world and, very likely, harm people.
We saw this week how a crackpot theory directly resulted in 10 killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. We’ve seen how “free” speech doesn’t equal “right” speech and how it’s taken over communities, news organizations, and even political parties.
There is no doubt that Elon Musk is a smart guy – a genius even – but this isn’t a problem he needs to wade into. Or maybe he is the right guy. The problem itself seems unfixable to me, but then again so are self-driving cars.
I do know a thing or two about Twitter, however, and I can tell you that letting people say whatever they want would be worse than yelling “fire” in a crowded theater – it would be setting fire to a crowded theater. No amount of money can fix that. Trolls only gain joy from trolling and if they are unfettered and uncontrolled, there is no limit to the damage they can cause.
So think carefully about your answer about what you’d do with a bajillionty gajillion dollars. Maybe cussing out your boss without any fear should be second or third on your list. Maybe buy a self-driving car instead.
(Chris Kamler needs help. You may have already known that. But a different kind of help. He is approaching 500 columns for The Landmark, and he’d like to hear from you on your favorites. He plans to re-publish some of the best in book form. If you have one or two of these 500 that stand out, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)