Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life—but no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list, too. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we’re pleased to present our semi-regular racism surveillance machine. Stay woke, and keep your head on a swivel out there.
No, that’s not Tucker Carlson’s group chat featuring a deluge of hate speech predominately directed at Black, Jewish, and queer people—that’s your timeline on Twitter. I mean, all that could very well be happening on Carlson’s phone, but right now, we’re focusing on why Twitter is full of people with anime profile pics posting vile content. It’s because, after a long, drawn-out saga, Elon Musk has closed in on a deal to buy the social media platform. And since he’s a self-proclaimed free speech advocate, edgelords are testing the waters, and Nazis are shedding their skin.
Musk posted a note to the site explaining in his own words why he purchased the bird app. He says he believes in a “common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner without resorting to violence.” Musk claims he believes Twitter cannot be a free-for-all hellscape with no consequences, even though it’s basically immediately become just that. He says he wants to help save humanity—which is the type of narcissistic hubris you expect from a billionaire—but instead, he’s accelerating our descent to the point of no return.
As Musk begins to clean house, content moderators on Twitter are left in purgatory, unsure of what to do. If Musk is truly a free speech absolutist and finds value in people openly using racial slurs, making statements that tepidly hint at genocide, and dehumanize marginalized people, I wonder if he’ll actually live up to this promise. It’s a tricky game being a free-speech absolutist because everybody has a limit. If Musk is fine with a Richard Spencer-type Nazi posting their filth on Twitter, he should be fine with bringing ISIS back to the platform to post theirs—in the spirit of debate, right?
In record time, Twitter has transformed from an awful website into a despicable one and it’s all because of one man who thinks he’s a hero but is ultimately a supervillain.