Hyde Park Corner in London has for centuries been a mecca of free speech
, dating back to the 12th century when it was the site of Tyburn Gallows and the condemned were allowed to criticize the government with their last words.
Stroll about on a Sunday and you might find a Karl Marx doppelganger, replete with beard descending to the chest and hair down to the shoulders, grousing about missing a conference abroad on how best to unshackle the workers of the world because he refused on principle to pay the British government the fee to obtain a passport; keep walking and next you might hear the collective recitation of the Rosary, and calls for conversion from the Catholic Evidence Guild; further on you might encounter a self-styled comedian pretending to argue emphatically that the proof of Englishmen being made of tougher stuff than Americans is that they wear sweaters inside their drafty homes rather than pamper themselves with central heating. Close to every conceivable viewpoint or ideology has been represented.
What you won’t find at London’s famed Speakers’ Corner are fact checkers protecting the audience from disinformation, handymen on call to repair any rickety soapboxes, or investigators handing out blue check marks to confirm identities and prevent speakers from impersonating others.
Twitter is the 21st century’s Hyde Park Corner, or at least it’s supposed to be. Yet free speech’s move beyond the limitations of physical matter into the realm of cyberspace has somehow vastly expanded its regulation and maintenance.
According to Elon Musk, the company he just purchased for $44 billion was losing more than $4 million a day. Among the exorbitant expenses was the opening last year of an office of 20 employees in Ghana with jobs that include “product, design, engineering, marketing and communications,” purportedly because
“To truly serve the public conversation, we must be more immersed in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the African continent.
Musk is apparently laying them all off
, perhaps because he believes that “to truly serve the public conversation” everywhere across the globe, all that Twitter must do amounts to little more than giving everyone access to Twitter, comparable to the British parliament in 1872 setting aside Speakers’ Corner for universal access. In total, nearly 3,700 Twitter employees are getting pink slips. Musk obviously wants employees whose job is to make a high-tech company with 330 million users run smoothly, not engage in political activism behind the scenes via suspending disagreeable Twitter accounts.
Many who have for years used the platform as a free PR tool to feather their own nests are departing
in a huff, infuriated that voices with which they disagree that had been banished from the social media giant, will be restored, and prove persuasive, translating into votes for Republicans. And also because Musk is charging $8 a month for the coveted blue check mark authenticating celebrity accounts, or those with sizable followings. The emigres include Whoopi Goldberg, who remarked, “If it settles down and I feel more comfortable, maybe I'll come back”; pop singer Toni Braxton, whose farewell tweet raged, “Hate speech under the veil of ‘free speech’ is unacceptable; therefore I am choosing to stay off Twitter as it is no longer a safe space for myself, my sons and other POC”;
and TV crime series producer David Simon, whose parting words were, “Not for eight dollars or eight cents,” charging that Twitter is now “being tailored for organized disinformation and anti-Semitic/racist provocation. To stay is unethical … the technobrat can choke on his new toy.”
For these and countless other celebs, Twitter has been a priceless boon to their bank accounts and their fame; Twitter makes every left-wing actor a Paul Robeson whose opinions are heeded, every pop artist a John Lennon or Bob Dylan, every author a Norman Mailer making pronouncements on the Dick Cavett Show. For Musk to ask less than a hundred bucks a year is reasonable in the extreme; had ex-CEO Jack Dorsey and the previous regime at Twitter asked for an even larger fee, undoubtedly most of these celebs would have coughed up the pocket change and taken it in stride.
But they recognize that what Musk is doing is making Twitter into the true online Hyde Park Corner it has only pretended to be for so many years. It’s one thing to resent calls to vote Tory from someone standing before a crowd of onlookers on a Sunday in the park; quite another to see pro-Trump tweets on your phone app, knowing that they’re on a hundred thousand other screens too.
President Joe Biden even warned that the federal government might investigate the billions Musk secured
from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and Qatar Holding to help close the deal, as a possible threat to national security. But if political speech can really be so destructive, why not investigate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution while they’re at it?
The liberal Brookings Institution points out
that 7 percent of the outside financing comes from the cryptocurrency exchange firm Binance, founded in 2017 in China but now based in the Cayman Islands, and Brookings argues that “President Biden would have strong grounds for blocking Musk’s Twitter acquisition or at the very least compelling the minority foreign investors to sell their equity to parties that would not pose a national security threat.”
Odd the way the left is so quick to scoff at how in the 1950s the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s investigative subcommittee were so interested in Hollywood films being used by subversives within the industry to influence the opinions of Americans, but they insist that two or three sentences and a link to an article or two on people’s phone screens threaten the foundations of the Republic.
Why does an online worldwide opinion exchange need a “curation team” that enforces wokeness in viewpoints, an “ethical AI” staff, a human rights division, or even a Board of Directors for the now-private company, all departments on which Musk’s budget knife has landed?
Using tweets to engage in criminal activity, or impersonating another user, are activities that warrant monitoring, but when the Thought Police go further they become Big Brother–even when the government is not directly involved.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.