A Choice for Musk: Principles or Profit?

Back in April of this year, the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, stated, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”

A question: can you declare that you are for freedom of speech/expression and ban, or maintain a ban, on a person from expressing himself in a purportedly public forum and preserve your integrity? Whether the new owner of Twitter, Musk, steadfastly stands on the principle of freedom of expression looks like it is about to be revealed.

One question is whether the former president Donald Trump will be allowed back onto the Twitter platform.

When Elon Musk met Donald Trump (Image credit: Mashable)

Musk was critical of Twitter’s ban of Trump. He called it a “morally bad decision” and “foolish in the extreme.”

A section of the corporate sector (obviously, the corporate sector is not a monolith, as Trump and Musk both belong to this sector) is threatening a boycott of its advertising dollar if Musk allows Trump back on Twitter. This has set the stage for what could turn out to be a showcase of corporate infighting.

Does one section of the corpocracy predominate? Politically, the answer would seem to be no. In the United States, the Democrats and Republicans represent two wings of the corpocracy that alternate between them in forming the government, with, what many would contend, is minimal separation politically.

USA Today, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the US, pointed the finger at Trump as the instigator behind the riot on Capitol Hill that led to him being banned from Twitter. This is an allegation — borne out by the panoply of media takes on the Capitol Hill riot and who is to blame. Allegations, however, do not carry the imprimatur of certitude.

While supporting the principle of freedom of speech/expression is fine in the abstract, it should not be an absolute. For instance, the 2004 Halifax Symposium on Media and Disinformation participants unanimously held disinformation to be a crime against humanity and a crime against peace. In a moral world, lies that cause death and suffering must not be condoned or given a deceitful, argumentative free pass.

So the billionaire Musk seemingly finds himself on the horns of a dilemma: losing money or losing face. Musk has a choice. He can give in to corporate blackmail and uphold the ban on Trump and preserve advertising revenue for Twitter or he can reinstate Trump and, at least on this measure, maintain his integrity.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.