Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has purchased Twitter for $44 billion. His media-generating flamboyance flowed as he arrived at Twitter headquarters carrying a sink, chronicling the moment in a tweet: “Entering Twitter HQ—let that sink in.”

Musk’s self-designation as a “free speech absolutist” was his battlecry in buying Twitter after the site was criticized in its efforts to combat disinformation, including banning former President Donald Trump from the site after the January 6 storming of the US Capitol.

Musk’s handling of the seminal social media platform has lacked the Midas touch seen over the years with PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX. His landmark companies have transformed marketplaces through methods established by Clayton Christensen (disruptive innovation) and Michael Porter (Five Forces—threat of substitute products/services). With Twitter, Musk is not starting with the proverbial clean sheet. It is an established brand with users, advertisers, and reputation (positive and negative).

In past years, Musk has experienced restrictions and criticism of his own speech. The SEC charged him with securities fraud over misleading tweets about publicly traded Tesla, resulting in fines and loss of his position as chairman for three years. He protested COVID restrictions (seen by critics as lashing out over shutdowns at his California factory) and standard treatments until acknowledging he had contracted the virus and his family had been vaccinated.

Musk’s brief reign at Twitter has been widely described as chaotic—mass layoffs, termination of remote work, resignations of key executives, increases in hate speech and impersonations on the site. Most crucially, major advertisers have paused spending on Twitter, fearful of having their ads appear alongside inflammatory and/or false content. Musk fanned this concern by tweeting unsubstantiated claims from a dubious publication about the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi. The particular post, sent as a response to Hillary Clinton, has been removed.

It could be said that Musk’s haters are destablizing Twitter; however, abusive content, disinformation, and shaky ad revenue predate his ownership. Twitter has enjoyed outsized importance, spurred by reporters and pundits who have used the platform as an ad-hoc wire service, repurposing tweets as major news. Donald Trump leveraged his Twitter presence when journalists on the left and right amplified his missives.

Twitter became social media’s version of a trophy wife—showy, shallow, hollow. Musk couldn’t resist the prize, although it took threat of a trial to get him to complete the purchase. The courts, his ego, and Twitter stockholders receiving an inflated buyout won in the end.

I respect Elon Musk’s myriad accomplishments. Unlike many larger-than-life figures, he is a doer in the mold of Steve Jobs. He pioneered financial systems for the online economy. He mainstreamed EVs. He reignited the glory days of the space race with reusable rockets, including the pending Starship—retro-futurist with fins, silvery skin, and vertical landing. In its NASA lander variant, the spacecraft will put people on the Moon a half-century after Apollo. Elon Musk is living science fiction—the model for Tony Stark in the Iron Man films, the inspiration for billionaire Baxter Moore III in my novel Brimstone 1. Nevertheless, he can’t bend Twitter or free speech to his will. He can’t yell “fire” in the crowded theatre of social media. Ask Alex Jones.

As Christians, we must reject feel-good (or get-angry) content masquerading as free speech. Scripture forsakes such fake prophecy:

Matthew 7:15 NLT
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

In codifying free speech, the founders of our country shared God’s love of balance:

Proverbs 11:1 NLT
The LORD detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will not right the scales with “better” information. Truth and wisdom don’t come with a blue check mark. They come with the sign of the Savior, adhering to the Sermon on the Mount and His other teachings. Media consumption means discernment, not feeding at the digital trough. After 2,000 years of being Christian, we know better.

Published by Jason William Karpf

Author, Professor, Nonprofit Pro, Four-Time Jeopardy Champ

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