“Elon Musk struck a deal on Monday to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion… Mr. Musk has said he wants Twitter to fulfill its ‘societal imperative’ as a platform for free speech.” — The New York Times, 4/25/22
Hi there, I’m Elon Musk. I’m mostly known for rockets and cars, but what I really care about is free speech. I can’t get enough of it. In fact, I like free speech so much I’ve decided to buy it.
That’s right, it turns out free speech isn’t free—it costs exactly $44 billion. That might sound like too much money for one person to be allowed to spend, but that’s only because it is. And I’ve decided free speech is worth the cost. I’m going to make sure some board full of rich guys doesn’t get to define what counts as free speech. Instead, just one rich guy will get to decide what counts as free speech: me.
So what does free speech mean to me? Free speech means… well, anything you want it to mean. Free speech is magical. It’s amorphous. It’s undefinable. That’s the power of free speech: nobody in history has ever defined it—not our founders, or politicians, or judges, or even average citizens. There’s simply no definition of free speech.
“That’s not true,” you might say, “It’s pretty clearly defined.” And to that, I’d say, “That’s the beauty of free speech—it can be a lie. I was lying to you. And that’s allowed.”
And you might say, “That’s misinformation. Plus, private companies don’t have to abide by the more open standards of free speech allowed by the law. They have a responsibility to the public to curtail things like misinformation and prevent the incitement of violent acts like insurrections.” And to that, I’d say, “Blocked!”
Because guess what? Free speech means you can still block people from speaking to you. Isn’t that cool? I know that might sound like it goes against what I’ve been saying up to this point, but I’m allowed to make conflicting statements about free speech because, as I’ve made abundantly clear, I am the proud new owner of free speech.
“Free speech can’t be quantified by money,” you might say. And to that, I’d say, “Yes, it can. Think about free speech like an electric car. And now think about how expensive an electric car is. Free speech is the equivalent of one and a half to two million electric cars. Does that make sense?”
And it won’t make sense, but it also won’t matter—because you don’t own free speech. None of you do. I own free speech, and I get to decide what it is and when it is. Workers trying to unionize? Not free speech. A former president trying to overturn a legitimate election? Free speech.
And now that I own free speech, there’s only one thing left to do: I’m going to buy the free press. Wait, what? Jeff already did that? Crap.