To the Twitter End | Crooked Media
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December 09, 2022
Positively Dreadful
To the Twitter End

In This Episode

Elon Musk’s Twitter seems unsustainable. At the same time, with all of his apparent grievances and conflicts of interest, Musk now owns digital megatons of user data, which he can abuse to settle political scores or to appease the governments that his other companies depend on for revenue. He recently  leaked internal communications, including the personal emails of a Congressman, putting us in dangerous territory. It’s almost like we’re in a race to see how much damage Musk can do before everything falls apart. But what happens when Musk outlasts his critics? How valuable is it to the global consortium of reactionary, wealthy people to keep Twitter alive, in right-wing hands, churning out propaganda, disinformation, and hatred? Kara Swisher, host of Pivot and On with Kara Swisher, joins to talk about how this all ends, if it ends at all.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Brian Beutler: Hey, dread-heads. We’re opening up the old holiday mailbag and want to hear your burning questions. We’ve done episodes over the last several months on everything from the election to COVID to climate to Top Gun. But now we want to hear from you. Let’s talk about politics, technology, movies, music. Anything you want to know? Send your questions to our producer, Olivia at martinez@crooked.com. And we’ll answer some of them on the show. 

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Brian Beutler:  Hi, everyone. Welcome to Positively Dreadful. With me, your host, Brian Beutler. So you may remember an episode we did a few weeks back with the journalist Frank Foer, where he and I tried to kind of anticipate what the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter might look like. And this was back in October, just before Musk completed his purchase. So it was all hypothetical. And in keeping with the theme of the show, all the scenarios we chewed over were not great. On one end of the spectrum, we imagined something like benign neglect, where Musk would quickly grow bored or frustrated and then delegating management of the company or maybe even resell it at a loss to, real nightmare scenarios. Musk, with all of his apparent grievances and conflicts of interests, was about to come into ownership of digital megatonnes, of user data. Like, what if he decided to abuse that power to settle political scores or to appease the governments that his other companies depend on for revenue? So it’s only been just over a month. But I think we were right to worry, at least to some extent, because it’s already been a wild run. In that time, Musk has fired something like half of Twitter’s staff, leading to speculation and rumors that the site might just break down. It has not collapsed, but its function has definitely been degraded, both at a technical level and at the level of user experience. It’s probably not a huge deal for casual Twitter users who maybe don’t notice the glitches or the change in who’s using the platform and for what purposes. But for the power users who make Twitter something like the nerve center of global politics, it’s pretty striking and quite bad. So back in 2015 or 2016, as Donald Trump was bringing his brand of politics, mainstream social media platforms and particularly Twitter, were becoming pretty unusable for anyone in politics and media who weren’t interested in just heaping abuse on other people. The problem had actually been brewing before Trump announced his candidacy. But it really exploded with Trump, with his supporters who’d inundate anyone who stood opposed to reactionary right wing politics with death threats and Holocaust imagery. Really sort of the most vile stuff you can think of. And this, as you might expect, metastasize into menacing real world stuff like reporters receiving death threats in the mail. Right wing complaints about content, moderation on social media stemmed from that experience. They liked it better that way. And I think it’s safe to say that Elon Musk has already taken us some of the way back. It’s not just that he’s restored accounts that were banned in the intervening years, including Donald Trump’s. He’s more or less actively placed himself the chief twit, as he calls himself, on their side of the cultural fight over whether discourse should be civil, liberal, tolerant, or the kind of Hobbesian zone of chaos that favors unscrupulous individuals and groups. That drove a predictable exodus of advertisers, which in turn drove Musk to attack the advertisers. And now, on top of that, he’s ventured into orchestrating that kind of faithless information warfare himself. He’s handed over troves of internal Twitter communications that he inherited to a couple of reactionary writers under some formal or tacit agreement that they portray Twitter under the old leadership as woke and corrupt and essentially an arm of the Democratic Party angling to defeat Donald Trump. These are the ominously dubbed Twitter files, which prompted Trump himself to propose terminating the Constitution and installing himself as a dictator. And one thing that’s slipped by a bit unnoticed in all this is that Musk included in these files outside communications, that is, emails from people not employed by Twitter to Twitter employees. Specifically, I saw an email from Congressman Ro Khanna offering some gentle criticism of Twitter’s brief effort to control the spread of a dodgy New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. I don’t think Musk leaked that specific email to hurt Ro Khanna, who doesn’t come across badly at all. But he did leak the email, which seems to put us on a very slippery slope, because Musk now controls a ton of private global communications, including from dissidents in authoritarian regimes and from his own political enemies here in the United States. So right now it feels to me like we’re in a race to see how much damage Musk can do before something changes. Because between the bloated price he paid for the company and the revenue he chased away with his antics. Musk Twitter doesn’t feel like it can go on like this for very long. But at the same time, I’m less and less confident in my intuitions because this whole spectacle has been so surreal. It’s kind of hard to fathom that it’s gone on as long as it has. So what happens when Musk outlasts his critics long enough to get a good round of publicity about how he proved everyone wrong? And even if you can’t dig Twitter out of this financial hole, how valuable is it to this global consortium of reactionary, wealthy people to keep Twitter alive and churning out propaganda, disinformation, hatred, all the things that keep society a bit unstable? So I want to check my intuitions with someone who’s closer to the story, who knows the characters better, and who probably has a clear sense of how this all ends, if it ends at all. Kara Swisher is a journalist for Vox Media, where she co-founded the tech news site Recode and is an editor at large for New York Magazine as well as host of the podcast Pivot and On with Kara Swisher and she’s our guest this week. Kara, welcome to Positively Dreadful. 

 

Kara Swisher: Thank you very much. 

 

Brian Beutler: So early-ish in this whole saga, I guess early-ish after the purchase was complete, you wrote a short thread on Twitter, I think in the spirit of if you’re a believer in Elon Musk. Here’s how you might squint and see a method in all of this madness. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: Like, it isn’t necessarily just a complete mess. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: Do you think that kind of interpretation is still available or is it is? Would it be purely delusional at this point? 

 

Kara Swisher: I’m not sure which one. I’ve written a lot. [laughter] Most of them have been negative about what’s going on there. So I think what I said in one of the posts, which I was mostly criticizing him actually in that post, was that most people felt like if anyone could do it, he was on the top of the list or one of the one of the few people who could pull it off. He was a heavy user of Twitter. He loved the product. He understood it. He’s got obviously tech chops and he’s got the support of Silicon Valley. And most of all, he’s got a whole pile of money. And so many people felt bringing Twitter private and able to sort of cut costs by cutting staff, for example. That was it was. Most people felt it was overstaffed. Might be a great way to do it in quiet as you fixed it and then maybe took it public again. And I think a lot of people felt that Musk would have been a good person to do it because he did understand it and love it. And what he’s decided to do instead is make it a giant circus, a sort of a toxic circus where there’s always an act and one of the rings, and he has to have attention at all times. And so he likes to create it and distract away from their real problems, which is essentially a business problem, which is it’s a terrible business. It was a terrible business before. And now it’s an even worse business now. 

 

Brian Beutler: There was there’s maybe a 72 hour stretch a couple of weeks back where Twitter was kind of like on death watch for itself. 

 

Kara Swisher: And that was not true. I mean, that was just people that was just people being dramatic on Twitter. 

 

Brian Beutler: Well, so in hindsight, in hindsight, it feels that way. But by my read, the sense that it was maybe like on the brink— 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: Was driven by former Twitter employees telling reporters that the systems couldn’t really function— 

 

Kara Swisher: No, no, it wasn’t. Actually, that was you know what I mean? Was interesting cause I put out a tweet that’s not going to fall down. Sorry. Let me just say one. It’s not going to fall down. It’s a very robust system and it takes a lot of things to make a go kaflooey.  Essentially, it’s not like it’s a toaster or something. And so and if you stick a knife in it, we’re all finished, essentially. I think what you had to do was see that that if he did anything significant to the data, the code that would introduce new features, etc., etc., that would have been an issue. Another was if something went down, there weren’t as many stop fail safes, you know, there to to stop it from something else cascading into a problem. It doesn’t mean there’s a problem all the time. It’s just that, you know, they have one fire extinguisher and they used to have ten. And that’s not good if there’s a big fire, right. That’s pretty much the way these things work. And then the third thing was people worried with what the institutional knowledge there that he was firing so haphazardly that you didn’t know who you had left and who was critical. He wasn’t taking a moment to assess who was critical to the to the functioning, the continued health of the platform. And then, I guess, lastly, people are worried about the hacking that people could and they started to do that right away. People started to flood with trolls and bots and things like that. And that’s why you saw that hate speech rise rather significantly. 

 

Brian Beutler: So but the I definitely read in the press accounts, I think mostly anonymous from people who had been who left Twitter voluntarily or been— 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: —pushed out that it can’t it will eventually kind of clog up and becom— 

 

Kara Swisher: Oh, well, yes, yes. Eventually. Sure

 

Brian Beutler: Where were they? Okay. So what I want to get a sense of is were they wrong, intentionally or otherwise, or were they right? And is it just that Musk realized that he he couldn’t actually let the fail whale return and he kind of regrouped and stopped it from failing. 

 

Kara Swisher: No he didn’t. No, no, there’s no thing happening. There’s no something has to happen for it to happen. It’s sort of like a house doesn’t just fall down, right? It’s sometimes something happens to it, whether, you know, a meteor or there’s you know, that’s got to be a hacker or, you know, the basement floods or something like that. It doesn’t. Most things usually stay up and most things built like this over time and over many years stay up. It’s just that they he had cut so many people. It put it if something were to happen, they didn’t have the backups. That’s that’s really all it was. They were saying if you actually read them. And so people were worried about that. The possibility of it shutting down was higher than ever. And that’s actually true because all the all the stopgaps had been removed or many of the stopgaps have been removed. It takes something something has to happen to make it happen. And I don’t think, you know, there was a lot of drama on there. And again, I went on there, I said, it’s not there’s no way it’s shutting down. It’s going to seem degraded on the edges, like you couldn’t get your two factor authentication email and if you signed off, you couldn’t sign on again or you were trying to get your archive. A lot of people will try to do that because they were worried about, you know, what would happen to their data. You couldn’t do that very easily. And so everything was slowed down. And so along the edges you’d see things like just like this week, Snapchat and Ubers ads were that are remaining in the system and I’m pretty sure they’re going to stop doing them. Now we’re placed next to a white supermacist, a very well-known white supremacist that Musk just let on to the platform. And they had been assured by marketing people at Twitter that this would not happen, that the brand safety was. So stuff like that that happens. It’s I don’t know, it’s kind of like being on an Amtrak and then you notice everything’s a little dirtier and a little messier and you know, oops, that, that thing when getting off, that looks like something you could trip over. That’s the kind of thing that’s happening there. 

 

Brian Beutler: Got it, got it. Got it. Okay, so I’m wondering if you can put yourself in Musk, Musk’s head or the the collective head of the C-suite at at Twitter headquarters. 

 

Kara Swisher: It’s just Musk. It’s just Musk. 

 

Brian Beutler: [laughter] Okay. What is he thinking about how this is all going? Like, what is he telling software or are they telling themselves? 

 

Kara Swisher: I think he thinks it’s going great things. Thinks it’s going great.  It’s great that advertisers have abandoned it. 80% of advertisers abandoned. It’s great that he’s cleaned it out. He’s great that he was a jerk to employees. It’s great that he insults everybody who disagrees with him. I think he thinks it’s great. He’s got to be worried. I mean, because the money and everything else. But on some level, he’s sort of. Trumpian in that regard, it’s like, well, what are they going to do? I, I have the money. Like, I think he has that attitude. I think he in fact, he I think he kind of hopes the banks have to sell off his his shares because because then he can buy them and then he’ll own the whole thing. So I don’t think he you know, he’s got them over a barrel even though he’s committed all his money to it. The money’s committed. This is the most equity of any leveraged buyout anyone’s ever seen. And it’s it’s just gone now. It’s in his Twitter property. So. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. [both speaking] That’s interesting. That’s. I hadn’t considered the scenario where his own. Catastrophic management of the company allows him to purchase more of it cheap. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: I was I was I was thinking of the Trump analogy because there is a very Trump White House in 2017 vibe where everyone keeps showing up every day knowing that things are going off the rails, but but also knowing that they’re supposed to act like everything’s going great. Like the most in command, people in world history are in charge. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: But like in politics, you can kind of fake your way through it for a while because all you need to persist is enough people to believe you in the public. Right. But if you run a private company and owe debt, people are going to come knocking for it. And I was thinking that’s going to eventually reality’s going to collide with the dellusion— 

 

Kara Swisher: Well if if if he can buy the debt, you know, say they go they have to put the debt on the market at some point is $13 billion in debt. And the banks can’t hold that they’ve already lost. It doesn’t matter. They’ve already. So they have to acknowledge the loss. Right. They have to say, oh, we lost what everybody knows we lost. And then put it on the books at some point. They don’t have the latitude to pretend it’s not there. And so it’s just sitting there like a big piece of shit on their on their books [laughter] and so and so they have to sell it. And they right now the discount, I think is $0.60 on the dollar. It might be lower and it’s just whatever someone’s willing to pay. So there’s a lot of investors that buy this stuff, distressed debt. And, you know, Apollo, for example, management is a famous one and they could come in and they’re pretty mean. They’re pretty you know, they’re not they don’t think Elon Musk is charming in any way. They don’t care. You know, they might, but they don’t care. And they could come in and buy it and then put it throw him out, essentially, you know, owning the debt. That said, he could also buy it. They offered, you know, $0.45 on the dollar. He’ll say 50. And then here that’ll be $6 billion, which he has, and then he’ll own the whole thing. And then he just he’ll just lose that if he loses it. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. 

 

Kara Swisher: But it’s his to lose, right? It’s his money and his friends and his rich friends. And so, you know, there’s a there’s a scenario where he could do that in a couple of years, clean it up and take it public again and get it all back. That’s the kind of mentality he has. You know. 

 

Brian Beutler: He’s sort of like corporate raiding himself. [laugh]

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah, kind of. Yeah. Yeah. You might as well eat his own lunch, right? Someone’s going to eat it. 

 

Brian Beutler: Do you have any sense of what Musk’s investors think? Not his buddies, but like Morgan Stanley, for instance. Like— 

 

Kara Swisher: They’re horrified. They know they’ve lost. They shouldn’t have done the deal in the first place. They’re probably going to their own fault. I mean, you know, it’s their own fault. And I don’t think there’s no pressure that they can place on him whatsoever. 

 

Brian Beutler: Well, I mean, from two directions. One is like, obviously, I think their their public position is don’t bet against Elon Musk— 

 

Kara Swisher: Right, mm hmm.

 

Brian Beutler: —which they you know, they can’t they can’t be like, oops, we fucked this up now. 

 

Kara Swisher: Mm hmm. 

 

Brian Beutler: But but, you know, in all the talk about brand safety, does does Morgan Stanley have anything to lose through association like financing this this entity that is essentially like a like a like a right wing rat fucking operation? 

 

Kara Swisher: No, no. They’d be they’d be in business with Stalin if it helped them. [laughter] I, they were I’m sure they were someone of banker was. So no, that’s what they do for a living, I think they just. Why wouldn’t you take the deal, the richest man in the world who has all these other very fantastic companies that are you know, they have rockets and cars. And of course, you would you absolutely would take this deal. But I think they found that they were going to lose money on it privately. They’re all like, God, Jesus, can you believe this? [laughter] And, you know, publicly they’re not going to say anything because they what if he does another deal someday? They want to be in on it, right? You can’t crap on rich people. You know, that’s the rich people are their business. So that’s not they’re not going to do that. 

 

Brian Beutler: Talk to me a little more about you sort of pointed to like a hypothetical scenario with Apollo coming in and— 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: —buying it up and kicking him out like more scenarios where if we can’t go on like this forever, which I guess in theory we can. What, what, what does the breaking point look like? Like. Well, we know that he either financially or just as a as a as a brand issue, has gone past the point of no return. And there’s going to be a change. Or would it? 

 

Kara Swisher: No. 

 

Brian Beutler: Would it be subtler than that? 

 

Kara Swisher: No. Well, no he owns it. No, no, no. Nothing’s going to happen. I mean, as long as he wants to keep paying for it, it’s like owning a yacht or a rich person owning a yacht or too expensive spouse. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t know what to say that he doesn’t. That nothing has to happen. It can continue to just disintegrate. And if he wants to keep owning it, he can keep owning it and paying it. He’s got to get more money from people. He has a lot of money like it. It’s not like he doesn’t have his own money. I mean, he is the world’s, well, not probably, not for much longer. The world’s richest man. It’ll probably become Jeff Bezos again. But, you know, he can continue to pay the debt or he can buy the debt or he can fund the business, you know, make enough money to keep it break even possibly. You know, the issues he has is of Tesla’s shares, which are declining even as we speak. If they’re, you know, facing enormous competition now, suddenly there’s a lot of competition in the EV space. You know, if that those shares are off quite a lot over the last year, they continue a downward spiral, which many think they will. And he has some issues in China now with demand. They’re saying it’s untrue, but it’s give me a break. Everyone in China is having issues with demand. They’re just not telling their it’s just okay. Sure. They’re selling lots of cars in China with the people, you know, lockdown. But they you know, if that breaks down, he does have as much money. And do you want to put all your I mean, is he a shoot the moon kind of guy, right? Who knows? So he certainly can. But and then maybe again, maybe take it public someday and all his fans will buy the stock, whatever. And he could do something like that. 

 

Brian Beutler: But I mean, I mean, in this in the scenario where where the people he owes, he he doesn’t purchase them or somebody swoops in. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: And buys them. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: What is that going to look like an eruption or is that going to look like a slow— 

 

Kara Swisher: Sad violin of an end. I mean, you know, it’ll be interesting because, you know, his he’s lost the brand. Think about Elon Musk, the brand. What a decline in brand. You know, lots of people my sons were like, loved Elon, and now they’re like, what an asshole. Like, you know? I mean, it’s like like that goes on and on. People are returning their Teslas. They’re, you know, everybody’s like, you know, I just bought a Chevy Bolt. I might have bought a Tesla, but I’m not buying a Tesla. You know what I mean? Like, I actually wanted a smaller, less expensive car. But, you know, I think a lot that’s one issue. He’s got a lot of very complex relationships with the U.S. government, which he who is also fighting with over StarLink and everything else with his with Space X, which is a really magnificent company in many ways, but still not profitable and but but promising and innovative. And so he’s got a lot of balls in the air and he’s got these other things that he keep talking about which are not, you know, nothing burgers, essentially. And he’s spending his time on silly things like the Twitter files or tweeting at people or letting on white supremacists onto the site. He seems like he’s spending an awful lot of time letting white supremacists onto the site. It’s, or kicking them off, you know, kicking off anti-Semites when they’re after letting them on. [laughter] That would be Kanye West. He seems to be doing a lot of stuff. That is time wasting, but he may be behind the scenes doing something. I don’t I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like they’ve come up with new products recently, but they maybe they will. 

 

Brian Beutler: So let’s talk a little bit about— 

 

Kara Swisher: Twitter Blue didn’t work rather, he introduced it. And of course, it failed miserably. 

 

Brian Beutler: I still see those accounts that are blue checked because they paid eight dollars—

 

Kara Swisher: No, no, no. They paid the eight dollars but it created all kinds of brand problems for everybody. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. 

 

Kara Swisher: You think Eli Lilly’s going to going to advertise on Twitter anymore? I don’t think so. 

 

Brian Beutler: Let’s talk a little bit about the the sort of info-sec or data security concerns that a lot of people have and how they might— 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah, they do. 

 

Brian Beutler: —intersect with how Musk has decided to steward the platform. What did you what did you think in the you know, the first few hours of the of the Twitter files imbroglio where— 

 

Kara Swisher: Nothing. 

 

Brian Beutler: —where [laughter] where we saw where we saw the you know, that the Ro Khanna email that I alluded to in the intro and— 

 

Kara Swisher: Good email. 

 

Brian Beutler: —probably others. Yeah, he comes across looking well but I mean if I, if I were Ro Khanna and maybe we should reach out to Ro Khanna and ask him, but—

 

Kara Swisher: I’ll be talking to him tomorrow, so— [laughs]

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. Well, I mean, we’ll, we’ll listen back before we post this but  I mean, I’d be pretty pissed, but I’d also be worried. I mean this is it seems like a beach— 

 

Kara Swisher: Oh about what? It’s just his email, just another email. 

 

Brian Beutler: It’s, it’s an it’s but it’s an email that you know, I think— 

 

Kara Swisher: No, he got doxxed. No question he got doxxed, his email, his private email got doxxed, he’s gonna have to change his email that’s all. That’s all. 

 

Brian Beutler: But I mean not not for Ro Khanna per se. I mean, what what it says about the fact that that Elon Musk came in, took possession of all the emails that ever came across a Twitter server or through through people’s direct messages and in at least one case released one— 

 

Kara Swisher: Mm hmm. Released a lot. 

 

Brian Beutler: —as part of, as part of a unrelated political vendetta that he’s waging. I mean, beyond being pissed about being doxxed, I’d be I’d be really concerned about what the limits of that are. 

 

Kara Swisher: Oh, we can do it. It depends on what’s there. Like, I’m sure I’ve written emails to, I’m sure he’ll release those. He’ll release whatever. I think what you know, I think the question is for users is what do you have there? You don’t have a credit. Some people have credit cards there. I do because I use Twitter Blue a long time ago to try it out when they first introduced it and didn’t find it useful. And so I turned it off. So they have one of my credit cards at least, although I think that credit card has expired. They have my phone number and they have my password right for this particular thing. And so you have to think about and then they have all my DMS between me and private ones and I guess I could, you know, if they, that they let them out into the wild I’d be pretty pissed because and then, then they’re in trouble for all kinds of reasons for violating people’s privacy if they do that. These are internal documents, corporate documents. So he’s welcome to release them, but he’s also welcome to be sued by people he hurts when he does it. Right. That hasn’t happened yet. I don’t think Ro Khanna is going to do a lawsuit because his weird Gmail is out.  

 

Brian Beutler: I’d be curious to hear you say more about what either legal or regulatory or civil restrictions there would be. 

 

Kara Swisher: Well if he starts releasing people’s DMS. That’s illegal. That’s private. You know, there’s there’s there’s there’s all kinds of privacy laws about that. 

 

Brian Beutler: And would it be would it be something that— 

 

Kara Swisher: You know, one of the regulatory agencies I mean, there’ll be lawsuits. There’s already lawsuits around severance. That’ll be a bunch of users who are like, you took my DMS and let them out into the wild. I get, you know, it’s got to wend its way until he doesn’t mind lawsuits he’s like Trump that way he doesn’t mind a dozen lawsuits hanging over his head. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. Well, and also, you know, presumably it wouldn’t be like me where I you know, there’s probably embarrassing shit talking [laughing] or whatever in my DMS, but not like anything. 

 

Kara Swisher: Right. If he does that, I mean, that’s it’s going to be more a hacker that does that. 

 

Brian Beutler: But I mean— 

 

Kara Swisher: That’s really what’s going to happen. 

 

Brian Beutler: It feels to me like you have the potential here for him to orchestrate, like when all of John Podesta’s emails ended up on Wiki, or was it WikiLeaks? WikiLeaks, whatever, on the internet— 

 

Kara Swisher: Well, yeah, it’s gonna be a hacker. It’s going to be a hacker. That does—

 

Brian Beutler: So you think. Okay, so do you think. A, under Musk. The security of that data has gone down. And B, do you think Musk himself is a risk? 

 

Kara Swisher: Oh yeah, I never thought it was secure with the other people. The other people I thought were always sketchy and now I’m like, no way. It’s probably some guy with a ham sandwich with a key. You know what I mean? [laughter] I don’t think it’s safe at all. I don’t think it’s safe at all. 

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. And you think that that’s a bigger concern for people, somebody like a like like [both speaking] foreign state actor or whatever? 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. I don’t know what they’re going to find. Right. What are they going to actually find? I’m more concerned with some of the investors. Like what do they get for their bucks? Right. I think the government’s probably looking into that like what exactly is Saudi Arabia and Qatar getting for their investment? What are they promised? What are they allowed to look at? You know, in the old Twitter, nothing in the new Twitter, who knows? Like, you know, who knows?

 

Brian Beutler: And that, and that would be on the Musk side of things, right? Like— 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah. I don’t say they are. I just don’t know. [both speaking]

 

Brian Beutler: And like, how does how does one go about like sort of ascertaining that apart from like a secret government investigation that may or may not ever be— 

 

Kara Swisher: Right. Well, that’s what it would be. And that is that is happening with the government has to be looking at that because it’s communications medium. And that’s what the government looks at. It’s looking at TikTok. It looks at all these things. You know, I think more to the point is that, you know, like these Twitter files, it’s just what he feels like releasing. It’s not like everything you you didn’t did you see any Trump stuff in there? Well, I’m sure the Trump administration talked to Twitter during this time period. 

 

Brian Beutler: Oh, yeah. 

 

Kara Swisher: They were the actual government. And so you saw Biden campaign. You know, he’s just embarrassing himself all over the place until I see it. Look, there could be something that comes out and all of a sudden we’re like, oh, look, this is what they did. But right now, all they have is these penis tweets that they [laughter] wanted down, which I feel like was a good decision on the part. And by the way, I interviewed Yoel Roth, who was in charge of this at the time, and he said exactly what was in the emails. Everything he said publicly to me was exactly it was in the emails as they had a big struggle over what to do and different people have different opinions. There was a decision made, it was a mistake and they turned it around. It it feels like a normal corporate event, you know what I mean? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Kara Swisher: I don’t find it that weird. They it doesn’t look like there was any undue influence except around the penis stuff. And that seems reasonable. [laugh] And so, you know, I don’t know what to say. What he’s all said to me publicly is what the emails say so far that we’ve seen. We don’t know which one they cherry picked. We don’t know what they have. They haven’t released all of them. You know, it’s just a circus. It’s just it’s it’s a ridiculous. Now they’re waiting for Twitter, Twitter files two and like Twitter fils one was a terrible movie. Are we going to have to see Twitter files like a sequel to a terrible movie like no, thank you. [music break]

 

Brian Beutler: [AD BREAK]

 

Brian Beutler: I guess. I guess what unnerves me about the whole thing, even though, like, I. I’m with you, that it was like a fiasco and it’s a clown show. Is that is that they seem pretty clearly to want to try to create a miasma of scandal like validate their— 

 

Kara Swisher: But it didn’t work it didn’t work because there was no there there— 

 

Brian Beutler: Well it didn’t work on us. But it who knows who. 

 

Kara Swisher: Didn’t work on anybody. Twitter, Twitter executives look great. They made Twitter executives look great is what they did. 

 

Brian Beutler: But. So the level beyond that. So they want to validate this this phony scandal that has been brewing in the background about the Hunter Biden laptop and The New York Post story. And so he he releases all these things to kind of create this, oh, there’s the Twitter files. And so, you know, something scandalous must have gone on involving Joe Biden and, well, okay. That that required a level of intentionality on his part. 

 

Kara Swisher: Sure. 

 

Brian Beutler: Like he he decided I am going to feed— 

 

Kara Swisher: Yes. Feed a very, to a reporter who is going to do what I say— 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. And just the willingness, even if even if you face-planted in doing it and even if it like it makes it makes the people who are involved behind the scenes look like they were being like really good faith arbiters about this thorny question why? Why why is he? Why did he decide that, okay, the thing I want to do with my Twitter ownership is use it— 

 

Kara Swisher: Because he’s a troll, because he’s a troll. Because he thinks it’ll make him justify of why he bought it. I bought it because I wanted to bring Babylon Bee back on. And and there are 100% more unfunny than before, you know, and I would agree with that. It was so stupid. It was a mistake by Twitter, but it was a mistake. So what? You know, everybody makes bad calls. So I want to bring Babylon Bee on. He wanted to bring Kanye West back. That didn’t work out so well. He wanted to bring Jordan Peterson, whatever, if he wants to keep slagging trans people, okay, Jordan, enjoy yourself. But you’re an asshole. And so he’s you know, that’s what he’s doing is trying to create this idea that that any sort of an anything goes kind of platform when he pretends he cares about moderation. Moderation council. Yeah, I’m having a moderation council. Oh no. I just make the decisions myself. He’s just enjoying himself. He’s too old for a midlife crisis. [laugh] I don’t know what else to say. He’s close to my age, so I’m like, okay, it’s not that, you know, he’s just enjoying himself. I don’t know what else to say he’s gotten. This is his enjoyment. 

 

Brian Beutler: Here’s why I find that explanation a little unsatisfying. And it’s well— 

 

Kara Swisher: You think he’s got some bigger plot? I dont think so. 

 

Brian Beutler: Well I don’t know, this is so so when like when when like, the GRU steals a bunch of emails and puts them on the Internet, right? Like the purpose is to tip the outcome of an election because they think that putting these other people in power will be good geopolitics for them. When Rudy Giuliani goes and shops the laptop store around, it’s for the same basic purpose. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yeah, sure. 

 

Brian Beutler: We want the power. We want to set policy and we, you know, will play dirty tricks to get there. Elon Musk. Like to me an explanation along those lines. Fits the facts better and makes sense when you’re talking about a very powerful billionaire. 

 

Kara Swisher: He’s not very good at it. 

 

Brian Beutler: Not yet. [laughter]

 

Kara Swisher: For what? But for what? What does he get? He wants to, like— 

 

Brian Beutler: Lower taxes. I don’t know. 

 

Kara Swisher: What? Well, he didn’t win in the elections. He was for the Republicans. So glad the Republicans won.

 

Brian Beutler: Not this one. Yeah cuz he did the Twitter files after the election. [laughs] But I mean, like but like, could this be practice for like more, more and more of these like—

 

Kara Swisher: No, no. We’re not in a James Bond movie. He’s a very wealthy guy who’s bored. And this is his, you know, imagine a rich guy buying a baseball team and fucking up. That’s what’s going on here. Like, oh, he’s traded this person. Now he’s doing this. That’s what he’s doing. He’s he’s he’s there’s no he doesn’t unless, you know, you could you could go into all these your own conspiracy theories about who he is and who is owned by. And that’s all over the Internet. He’s a Chinese asset. He’s a Russian asset. Okay. It seems like he’s doing it in plain sight. So, you know, maybe he’s part of some 4D, people are like he’s a 4D chess. He’s not doing 4D chess, he’s emotionally responding to some empty hole inside of him that he needs to fill. I don’t know what I think you’re you’re overthinking what could be his plot to what? To what?

 

Brian Beutler: Well I mean is— 

 

Kara Swisher: Twitter is not the world.

 

Brian Beutler: On the one hand I hope you’re right because like it would be great if this was just for our entertainment. 

 

Kara Swisher: Let me point out, nobody uses Twitter. Twitter is small. It’s not the world. It’s a world of a bunch of you know, it’s the world of of of right wing politicians fighting with liberal journalists, fighting with a democratic, you know, blue, blue, blue, blue staters kind of people all in a mosh pit yelling at each other. Regular people don’t use it. They don’t it’s not big. You know what’s big? TikTok is big. Instagram is big. Facebook still is big. It’s not big. It’s not big. And it’s just it’s just has the attention of the chattering class. And so what’s the impact precisely? If you could tell me what it could do to hurt— 

 

Brian Beutler: Okay, I— 

 

Kara Swisher: It makes journalists feel bad. 

 

Brian Beutler: Well I hear you and I hear you. And I hope you’re right that we’re just we’re just going to get to enjoy, enjoy this spiral. [both speaking] Twitter doesn’t, Twitter doesn’t directly have the same, like, echo chamber effect as like Facebook. But it does it is like an assignment editor for news media. Right. And that effect, I mean, that has this cascading effect through politics and that happens a lot. 

 

Kara Swisher: I think Fox News does what it wants to do with, with or without— 

 

Brian Beutler: Sure, that’s true. That’s true. But like what? Like what what what appears on on the other cable channels on the front page of The New York Times is influenced by what the political elite on Twitter do— [both speaking] 

 

Kara Swisher: I dont think so. I think the political elites say things as they’re as things happen, and that’s where they commentate and that’s what happens. Again, if you look at the numbers, they’re very small. They’re very small. I can’t I can’t underscore how small they are compared to everybody else and including in their business. It was a shitty little business. It was a $5 billion revenue business. You know, people sell more ice cream sandwiches than they, then Twitter makes.

 

Brian Beutler: Here’s the scenario that not like a conspiracy theory that he’s like being like a like puppet mastered by anybody but in the in the in the same way that conservatives are buying up media of all kinds because they think controlling what people hear and see is the is sort of the key to persuasion and mobilization and and so on. Is that Twitter him purchasing Twitter is just part of that trend and that the Twitter files are an example of how he can try at least, although in this case maybe he failed to commandeer other media. So we’re talking about kind of like we were talking about Hillary’s emails in 2016. We’re talking about the Twitter files and the Hunter. 

 

Kara Swisher: Mm hmm. 

 

Brian Beutler: And and so you just get this constant rolling miasma of scandal around his political enemies. And it’s all with the intent of trying to get people he wants in power, in power. And if it works, great, he gets— 

 

Kara Swisher: But he only gets so many shots. This one didn’t work. There’s not that much in there. There’s not going to be much in there. And so this one was a big belly flop of a of nothing. So unless he’s got Joe Biden saying here, Jack Dorsey, I want these are the ten things I want you to do today. I don’t feel like he’s got, he’s got squat. [both speaking] So what else does he have? What else does he have? 

 

Brian Beutler: I don’t know. I mea—. 

 

Kara Swisher: Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham making a, you know, a day to go to a Liberal Party. I don’t know, like what could he have like that blackmail. That’s where you put your dirty little bits on DM’s of Twitter. Sure. Well, then, you deserve— 

 

Brian Beutler: Know, there’s just a big question mark. Like, who knows? [both speakin] Like, like so far it’s Hunter Biden dick pics. But like, maybe Hillary Clinton had a second email server and that’s buried in her Twitter. [laughter]

 

Kara Swisher: No she didn’t. Its just not. You know, it’s just not just anyone who nobody was transacting over Twitter, nobody. 

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. 

 

Kara Swisher: It was all in plain sight. Most of it is. 

 

Brian Beutler: I’m halfway to feeling better about this, thanks to you telling me that I’m being ridiculous. [laughter]

 

Kara Swisher: There’s a there’s an explanation of things where you say, you know, intelligence has its limitations, but stupidity is infinite. Maybe he’s just stupid. Like, maybe he’s just—

 

Brian Beutler: I like that. 

 

Kara Swisher: —Maybe he’s just an impulsive person who sometimes succeeds and sometimes doesn’t and is acting emotionally. And maybe he’s mad at the world and he’s mad at the Biden administration, and he absolutely is, because they didn’t invite him to the EV Festival, which they didn’t. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. 

 

Kara Swisher: Maybe he’s mad that Pete Buttigieg in an interview dissed him to me. Maybe he’s mad about that. Like I said, you know, we’re all special Kara, like making fun of him. Maybe he’s mad he’s not getting the credit he deserves as a visionary he is in electric vehicles. I think the Biden administration has been terrible in the way they’ve treated him. But whatever that’s you know, that they can pick that fight and they’re doing it because of the unions and his his, you know, whatever. Okay. But they shouldn’t he should get the credit he deserves and that maybe he’s you know, maybe he’s got a factory in China. He’s got to be nice to the Chinese. So do that. So does Apple. By the way, let’s be clear. There’s lots of people with all kinds of conflicts of interest in China, American businesses. Those are the two principal ones. Tesla and Apple are the two principal ones with exposure. Maybe he doesn’t like war and that’s why he’s geofencing Crimea, you know, with StarLink, who knows? Like is he working for Putin? Probably not, you know. Is he is he. Does he really think this or he doesn’t want to sell his goods to this? Maybe. I mean, I think one of the things is that you have to imagine that these people are very human in the way they’re doing it and it’s not calculated. I do think the people around him have a right wing bent right now. Some of the people he’s brought in and they want to make it so right wing people can scream on Twitter and they weren’t allowed to in the last administration and now they have a place they can scream. I think the problem is everyone else is going to leave and the people they like to scream at is not any fun anymore. If they’re screaming at each other, that’s that’s what that’s Truth Cocial, which isn’t working. That’s Gab. That’s not Gab is working a little better, but that’s that’s GETTR that’s all of these aren’t working very well because it’s the same people who agree with each other yelling at each other, which, you know. 

 

Brian Beutler: Is Is it safe or why is for so much unaccountable power to be vested in one erratic person? 

 

Kara Swisher: It’s just one company. What can we do? He bought it. It’s a private.

 

Brian Beutler: No, no, I don’t just mean in Twitter. You like because you just [both speaking] Tesla, StarLink—

 

Kara Swisher: Well, Tesla, there’s competitors. Now, look, he’s not going to be the king of that mountain very much longer. They dominate the luxury market, but the non-luxury market is dominated by Ford and GM right now that the EV market, if you look at the statistics, they absolutely dominate the luxury market. But there’s Rivian there’s a BMW has a terrific little car, Mercedes has a car. All the Japanese manufacturers, he’s going to get his head handed to him in this market. You know, eventually it’s eventual and people are and he’s not helping by tarnishing the Tesla brand. He also is quite exposed in China and they’re not buying cars in China. So, you know, he’s got a lot of real it’s a great car. It’s a great car and he’s built a nice car. But it doesn’t mean other people can’t build great cars right. At this point. Porsche’s going to weigh in with one. So that’s that problem. So I don’t really care about the car business because it’s going to he’s going to he’s going to be competitored it out and he’s got to compete then and maybe he will. And in the rocket area, yes, he’s way far ahead of everybody else because he’s been innovative and tried other things. But you think Lockheed’s sitting on their hands on this one? No, they’ll they’ll figure out a way to get back in there. 

 

Brian Beutler: But I feel like in the last 20 minutes you’ve referred to him ringfencing Ukraine with StarLink. We don’t know what his foreign investors in, Twitter— 

 

Kara Swisher: That’s the Defense Department’s fault for not having more vendors, right? That’s the Defense Department’s fault. He, one, he should be paid for his. Lockheed does charges for javelin missles. You know, I don’t know if you’ve heard that, but we pay them a lot of money for their Javelin missiles. And so if if he is providing a service, the Defense Department or to Ukraine, he should be paid for it. No, he was not being paid for it before. And he can. And if he decides he doesn’t want them to use it in a certain way, they could abandon him. The problem is there’s not another option right now out there. And so that’s the fault of Ukraine and the Defense Department for picking someone who that’s their only choice. Right. What are they going to do? They’re going to make them. They can’t make him. It’s his company that. But again that’s not— 

 

Brian Beutler: I don’t know if they can make him or not. [laughter] 

 

Kara Swisher: They might. They might, but they can’t. That that’s the thing. They should they should be developing other alternative ways to communicate. If that’s the problem, if they have someone who’s someone who has absolutely no geopolitical expertize telling them how to conduct their war, it’s a it’s akin to Lockheed saying, you know what, we don’t want to send Javelin missiles there. We want to send them there. You just buy them and you get to do what you want with them. Right. Can you imagine if the head of Lockheed so like I don’t like war I don’t think you should be bombing that bridge? No, no. They’ll get mad and they’ll bomb is back. And, you know, it’s just funny when you actually think of another vendor having that kind of power, it’s kind of laughable in some ways, but it’s not funny because lives are at stake. 

 

Brian Beutler: So you mentioned early on that Silicon Valley still has Elon Musk back or something to that effect now. 

 

Kara Swisher: Oh they love him. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, tell me about that. 

 

Kara Swisher: Well, Reed Hastings— 

 

Brian Beutler: Like this, they on balance, they think this is good and they’re rooting for him? 

 

Kara Swisher: No, they’re rooting for Twitter to be better. And I would I would be in that camp like I wish someone was able to fix this thing because it’s a really cool product, right? It could be. And it could be a pretty good business. It’s never been that way. And maybe we were all wishing that something that isn’t going to happen. No, I think they want to bet they, you know, don’t count them out as one of the favorite things they’d like to say about. You know, they they always point to Steve Jobs in that regard. Don’t count him out. Right. But he’s the only one who did it who actually did that. None of them do. None of them recover. They all end up, you know, with one great hit and a bunch of shitty little hits, you know what I mean? [laugh] That’s usually most of them. They’ve got one in them and that’s it one and done essentially. And that makes their fortune. And then they think they’re geniuses and so they’re always hoping for innovation. So I kind of that part I like about them, like let’s there’s a way to do this. He can do it. Let’s ignore you know, I had a conversation with one of them who has said something very positive about him on Twitter. And I said, how do you like the anti-gay tweets and the anti-female ones? And they’re like, oh, I didn’t see those. Those aren’t good. And I was like, okay, but just try to keep that keep the whole picture in mind. If you want to praise someone, say, you know, sort of like Trump right there, all the Republicans are like, you know, he’s Trump. And what do you think about the Constitution? Well, [speaks gibberish] and more and more, they’re starting to say that’s wrong. Right. But for a long time, the thing in Charlottesville was I don’t listen to everything he says. I don’t see all his tweets. That’s what that’s the mode they’re in now. They’re with them. And so many of them off the record will say, I hate that guy, but most of them publicly want to be seen as an entrepreneurial, friendly group of people. And so, you know, and I think in him, they see a lot of their own struggles with the press and with detractors and shareholders and Wall Street. And so they love someone when they see someone seen sticking it to the man, when in fact, they are all the man. They they’re the man. Right?

 

Brian Beutler: Right. It’s kind of amazing to me that they would think that this might be the second coming of Steve Jobs and not like— 

 

Kara Swisher: He’s not. 

 

Brian Beutler: —Steve Bannon. Right. Like descending on Silicon Valley. 

 

Kara Swisher: You know, he’s a brilliant guy in a lot of ways. He’s not Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs would have abhorred this. He would not have this is not the way he operated in any way. 

 

Brian Beutler: It’s just weird that—

 

Kara Swisher: He was not a meme dunker. He wasn’t. [laughter] I knew him very well. So.

 

Brian Beutler: I guess I feel like there must be some very intense bubble. If if if you are in Silicon Valley and. And kind of still think you might pull this out and you’re rooting for him, at least in part— 

 

Kara Swisher: Well, no. It’s like he’s he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch. Right. 

 

Brian Beutler: But it seems to me like he’s he is setting up old Twitter as one of several fall guys for for giving Republicans in particular a story about why they lost that absolves them and their their policies and their political style of blame for the— 

 

Kara Swisher: They know why they lost. I think for today, they know why they lost. They do.

 

Brian Beutler: What they will what they will insist is that there’s I can’t I guess they will start by saying we lost because Twitter shadow banned Hunter Biden’s dick pics which is obviously very silly and he has— 

 

Kara Swisher: The penny has dropped with most of the repub— the voters have spoken let’s just say, you know, vox populi, whatever Elon says, the vote, the actual voters not a Twitter poll have spoken. And guess what they said, this is nonsense. The voters [both speaking] Republicans, yeah, but you have to stop living in the media world. Like like look, the real world—

 

Brian Beutler: I wish they would. 

 

Kara Swisher: No, but real world, real world of real people said no. Who won? Warnock won, not Herschel Walker. You know, and of course, liberals would go, oh, but it was close. But it wasn’t. He lost like it doesn’t matter. He lost, right? He got close. Doesn’t matter. He lost. Like it’s kind of it’s a really interesting thing. The left does that’s exhausting in a different way. But, you know, the voters of this country in the last election rejected election lies. They rejected it. They were they rejected the abortion thing. They rejected all kinds of things that everyone on the right wing media was screaming about. They don’t care about Hunter Biden. They don’t care about it in in in reality. And so if it animates a certain part of it, there’s nothing we can do about it. [both speaking] I think the actual voters have spoken. The real people have spoken. 

 

Brian Beutler: It is wonderful that the election deniers did so badly in the election and that and that Herschel Walker lost. But like even even with all that behind them, like you can see Musk and the Republican Party already inching towards a story where this is just part of a wider, you know, tech world conspiracy— [both speaking]

 

Kara Swisher: It didn’t work. They don’t like it and let me tell you, I’d love them to double down on it because voters don’t like it. They don’t like this story, and they want them to move on and fix the roads and fix the economy and give them better things for their kids. They don’t like this story—

 

Brian Beutler: I agree. But I think Republicans are going to, too. And this is why I think it’s so weird that the tech world likes Elon because he’s going to drag them into this dragnet. Right. Like where they’re going to start hoovering— 

 

Kara Swisher: I don’t think its gonna, but it’s not working. It’s not [both speaking] so they’re doing it. What are they? Of course they’re going to try it. There’s a case in in Capitol Hill, I mean in the Supreme Court now of like a website designer who’s never been subjected to any government scrutiny, saying, if I were like, this is what they do. This is like if I were to be subjected, I don’t want now it’s a Supreme Court case. I mean, I don’t I live in the real world. And I all I can see is the voters rejecting this. And so that’s where I— 

 

Brian Beutler: But but but but I’m trying to get in the mindset of the Silicon Valley exec type, maybe another like people— 

 

Kara Swisher: They they aren’t that big, they just like his entrepreneurship. They’re not going to back him no matter what. If he starts Kanye West-ing, up the place, they will cut him like you can’t believe. 

 

Brian Beutler: If he becomes the reason why they’re hauled in front of Congress–

 

Kara Swisher: That is correct.

 

Brian Beutler: —to explain their emails. Right. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yes, yes, yes, of course. 

 

Brian Beutler: Like that’s, that’s where I think that they he wants this to end up.

 

Kara Swisher: Of course, because they all they care about is money. Like, you know, honestly, they’re, they’re just like everybody else, every other business person. And so, you know, they would like to believe that they’d like they they their default position is to believe the entrepreneur even if they seem crazy. They did the same thing with listen, I argued with the investors of Uber up until they fired him. Kara, you’re being too hard on him. Oh, he’s great. He’s not [?] look what he’s done. He can pull it off. And then they called me right that minute after they fired him. We we knew. We know he was bad. Like, that’s how they are. They’re going to back. They backed that guy, literally. I had discussions. Some of the people I had discussion with they’re working with you on a Twitter, which is funny. He’s a carrot. You don’t get them. You don’t get well, I’m going to keep writing these stories where he’s doing terrible things and we’ll see how it comes out. And they eventually had to get rid of him. That that’s what they do. That’s that’s what they do. They do it in Hollywood, too. They do it everywhere. 

 

Brian Beutler: Do you think Twitter, as reformed, reshaped by Elon Musk, is becoming too valuable to the institutional right to ever go back to ever like in the same way that Donald Trump can’t really fail financially while he’s the factional leader of the American right. Do you do you think between Musk’s own wealth and his wealthy cheerleaders, that they would ever let Twitter fall back into more conventional hands where they’d be? 

 

Kara Swisher: Sure. Yeah. 

 

Brian Beutler: They would? 

 

Kara Swisher: They would. Well yeah. Someone might make a play for it. Well, he owns it. He doesn’t have to sell it again. It’s a private company. If he got into a real financial pickle. Sure, sure, he’ll have to. He’ll not be able to sustain it. But h— 

 

Brian Beutler: Could his, you know, his big network, of very wealthy people— 

 

Kara Swisher: No, they don’t. They’re not like that. They’re not— 

 

Brian Beutler: They’re not just going to throw good money after bad—

 

Kara Swisher: At some point. They won’t, but they will. They will do anything to make them all sell because they look like chumps. Like look how much they stuck with Elizabeth Holmes until the bitter frigging end. And those were some emails. Now those were emails if you [laughter] want to see some real emails, you know, and she was convicted. And so until I see and believe me, maybe there are I’m not going to even like maybe Twitter files two will be oh, look at look at what they did. I, I so far I would assume they put out the best ones first, right. Instead of, or make a better first movie so that it looked like another one was coming and they didn’t. And so let’s just see what happens and what do you have and I don’t know why he spent he should spend his time on the business and not put you know at the same week is doing all this advertisers that are remaining on the platform, which are fewer and fewer and far between, were put on white supremacist sites. Maybe he should fix that. And they were assured by Twitter marketing that that wouldn’t happen. Maybe that’s what he should focus on or get out of the ad business altogether and figure out a good subscription business. He should be spending time on the business. That’s if I was him. You know, I’m not that wealthy compared to him. And so if I were him, that’s what I spent time fixing the product and making it a great product, and that’s the only way he’s going to be successful, period. All this other stuff is toxic nonsense. It’s nonsense. 

 

Brian Beutler: And so I, I, I take from that, as you know, we can’t predict the future, but the, A, future where Twitter becomes, again, a more tolerable place than it is under him. [both speaking] That’s not foreclosed, is it? 

 

Kara Swisher: No, no. But I think something else, you know, all these companies, guess what? Remember [?] no you don’t, Peach? No. MySpace. Sure. You remember kinda. AOL. Remember how big that was? Yahoo just was sold for $5 billion. It was worth, you know, 50, $60 billion at one point or more. I forget how much it was worth. A lot. And and a lot of these things tech it tech has a way of eating its young, right? I mean, the old the young eats its old and something else will come along at some point. People are tired of the product, you know, like I have turned off. I used to love comments on Twitter because I like to hear from people. I can’t turn on the comments now. My trending thing is all weird Chinese porn. Like, I was like, why is my trending Chinese porn? I never request Chinese porn. I mean, I would if I did, I could understand it. And so, you know, the product is getting worse. And so if the product gets worse, people will leave and go somewhere else. And one of the things I’m sure of all of Elon’s friends will find other things to compete with him if there’s an opportunity [laughter] that they’ll do a thing and they are doing it. Andreessen Horowitz is is funding Post and gave money to Elon. Why do you think they did that? It’s called a hedge. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. Yeah. And if if if if it all works out that way, I can just shutter my account and live a healthier inner, richer life. 

 

Kara Swisher: Yes probably. You know, I think you’re addicted to it in the way a lot of people. I’ll tell you something. I’ve been trying all the others, and they’re just as good. And, you know, they’re not the same way. Not quite. Not yet. But, you know, everything is on its way to something else. That’s an old it’s a chemistry thing. Everything is going to be, you know, this microphone’s going to be something else someday. And and Twitter is on its way to something else. And if it lasts, it lasts. If it doesn’t, it’ll be just one of the many tech things that were big. And then were not. And that’s fine. That’s great. Actually, it’s the best part about tech. 

 

Brian Beutler: Kara Swisher, thank you so much for your time and insights. 

 

Kara Swisher: No problem. [music break]

 

Brian Beutler: So I guess it turns out that, Kara and I [laugh] have very different senses of how consequential for the world and politics Musk’s ownership of Twitter might turn out to be. But in a way, it’s on me because I don’t think I actually articulated why I find the situation so alarming. As clearly as I could have until after our conversation. Fortunately, here’s the B-roll. 

 

Kara Swisher: Don’t worry so much. He really is not a genius. 

 

Brian Beutler: I mean, whatever. Like, it’s not, like, the biggest worry I have, but like— 

 

Kara Swisher: I know. But a lot of people— 

 

Brian Beutler: The mischief, the potential for mischief is like. I think it’s—

 

Kara Swisher: All right, but. But carry out that right. One on one. It used to be there was a thing where they’re like, oh, they’re going to get Donald Trump. I go, okay, how? And they’re like, well, they’re going to do it. I’m like, but walk me through it. [both speaking] No, I know that, but walk me through it. 

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. So I think I can. I think I can in a way that maybe maybe— 

 

Kara Swisher: Okay. 

 

Brian Beutler: Will, like, help you understand why I think it’s worrisome is like it’s like the is like is it’s the it’s the being snake bit by 2016 experience where an election turned on this dumb question about emails right. Like both I mean two dumb questions, right? Like Hillary Clinton’s email server and then the emails from the DNC and John Podesta that were like hacked and dumped and it was like clearly not the most important problem facing the United States. 

 

Kara Swisher: Mm hmm. 

 

Brian Beutler: But if those two things hadn’t happened, like the election probably would have come out different. So you have these dumb things that the kinds of stupid things that Elon’s doing that can under the right circumstance— 

 

Kara Swisher: Guess what? We don’t have an election for two years. We don’t have an election for two years.

 

Brian Beutler: No, I know I like this, [both speaking] but we’re trying to look ahead. 

 

Kara Swisher: Right. All right. Right now, I don’t even think Biden’s not even on Twitter. There’s not going to be anything you’re gonna find from Biden. I was with Anita Dunn, and she’s like, he doesn’t even know what it is, so it’s not like you’re going [both speaking] and he doesn’t have an email. And so, you know, it’s just not there’s just this I think it’s going to end in a big, fat whimper is what’s going to happen. Then he’ll get tired of it. He gets tired of things. 

 

Brian Beutler: So her pushback is well taken in general. But to me, I think her answer there is actually the most reassuring. These guys just aren’t very good at the rat fuck game. They’re very transparent and clumsy. And we just had the election and and the Democrats and liberal institutions have hopefully gotten better since 2016 at not getting caught flat footed by these kinds of over orchestrated propaganda schemes. And and and while we were prepping this episode, Raphael Warnock held on to his Senate seat in the Georgia runoff. So, as Kara said, people are rejecting Musk’s style information antics. And with 51 seats, Democrats will have the agenda setting power in the Senate that they need to make sure our political discourse isn’t overrun by whatever horseshit Musk and House Republicans want it to be. [music break] Positively Dreadful is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is Michael Martinez, our producer is Olivia Martinez and our associate producer is Emma Illick-Frank. Evan Sutton mixes and edits thw show each week. Our theme music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.