You Should Get Off Twitter Because of What Elon Musk Is Doing to Ukraine
He's not as bad as Putin's worst apologists. But he's plenty bad enough.
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Patrick Frey (you may remember him as an OG blogger, “Patterico”) has a Substack now and this week he wrote about why he’s leaving Twitter. And it’s not because Elon Musk is in the process of turning Twitter into Gab. It’s because of what Musk has been doing in Ukraine.
Last week Musk’s SpaceX announced it had taken steps to prevent Ukraine from using its Starlink network in support of offensive operations.
Which is—I’m sorry—utter horseshit.
Frey explains why it was the last straw for him, too:
To me, and I assume to you, the war in Ukraine is a very simple issue of good vs. evil. It’s complicated only if you want to try to make it complicated, for partisan reasons. If you’re fair-minded and rational and not utterly blinded by tribal horseshit, you’re able to see that a country run by a madman dictator has invaded a peaceful democracy without any rational justification. The aggressor is committing brutal atrocities on noncombatants, and is engaged in an effort to commit genocide against the populace of the invaded democratic country. . . .
[Musk] reliably spouts dopey Putinesque propaganda. I’ve discussed that trait of his at length before. . . . This is a guy who floats peace proposals that sound like they were issued by the Kremlin, and regularly pals around on Twitter with the type of dunderheads who make excuses for Putin.
Musk has presented the SpaceX decision to restrict Starlink access in terms that come straight from the Putinites and the hyper-Trumpy fringe right (but I repeat myself). In response to Scott Kelly urging Musk to preserve full Starlink functionality for Ukraine, Musk portrayed Ukraine’s use of drones as a possible start to WORLD WAR III! . . .
Musk’s propagandizing for Putin is a key reason I don’t see his disabling Starlink as a business decision, or a philosophical stance that SpaceX should not be playing a military role.
Some friends have urged me to go easy on Musk, saying he has no responsibility to put a target on his satellites by allowing them to be used for offensive military purposes. But the idea that SpaceX is not a military contractor is, as Joe Biden might put it, malarkey.
Here, Frey goes on to detail the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military contracts SpaceX has with the Pentagon.
So Musk’s decision to disable Ukraine’s ability to use Starlink for drones is not motivated by a philosophy that SpaceX ought not become entangled with the military. Nor can it reasonably be viewed as a business decision, when viewed in the full context of Musk’s irresponsible rhetoric. It’s not driven by money or a desire to protect shareholder value or anything like that. Musk is just taking Putin’s side. He’s not taking as strong a pro-Putin position as he would probably like to—after all, he apparently is letting Ukraine continue to use Starlink for communications purposes—but that’s not good enough in a war between good and evil.
Yes. Period. The end.
You should read the whole thing because there’s lots more.
To my mind, there are an abundance of reasons for people to disentangle themselves from Twitter. Because it’s bad for you. Because it’s bad for the world. Because it’s a project for alt-right.
But Musk’s sympathy for Putin is the most compelling.
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2. The Perils of Contrarianism
TL;DR: All things in moderation.
If you accept everything you’re told, you’re a naif or a dupe. If you believe that all received wisdom is wrong, you’re a crank. The key to a healthy intellectual disposition is to have a measured sense for contrarianism.
Here’s Howard Anglin writing about the dangers of being a reflexive contrarian at the Hub:
One of the most remarkable examples of the contrarian temptation in my lifetime is the squandered career of Joseph Sobran. Sobran began as a prodigy of conservative journalism. A protégé of Bill Buckley, he was an undeniable polemical—and, indeed, literary—talent. . . .
A virtuoso contrarian at a time when America badly needed to be slapped out of its trippy revolutionary reverie, the signs of his eventual crack up were clear by the time he offered his pen to the Oxfordian cause. (The denial of Shakespeare’s authorship against overwhelming evidence is often a good sign that a contrarian has slipped the leash of sense.) After his relatively benign foray into the authorship question, Sobran began dipping his toe in hotter water.
In 1992, his boss and whilom friend felt compelled to address his increasingly lurid obsession with Zionism. In In Search of Antisemitism, Buckley concluded, unconvincingly, that Sobran’s columns in a small Catholic journal were at least “contextually anti-Semitic.” If there were any doubt, Sobran soon shrugged off his contextual cover. Within a few years he was addressing Holocaust denialist conferences, the ultimate perversion of the contrarian impulse.
Sobran is a contrarian cautionary tale.
Oh yes. And there are so many contemporary examples. For instance: How many people do you know, personally, who were cracked by COVID contrarianism? More Anglin:
[T]he idea is that people with extreme and unpopular ideas of one kind are susceptible to extreme and unpopular ideas of other kinds. . . .
It does seem that you can get so used to being on the other side of common opinion that it weakens your ability to differentiate between being right and in the minority and believing that you are right because you are in the minority. The fact that almost everything you read and everyone you talk to tells you that you’re crazy ceases to give you pause—worse, it confirms that you are on the right path. . . .
Reasoned opposition to mainstream elite opinion can easily morph into reflexive opposition, and from there into blind opposition. One day you are standing up for the benefits of the nuclear family and defending the importance of cultural tradition and the next you are proclaiming that you are “at peace with” a 21st century led by the Chinese Communist Party and burnishing the silver lining of a genocidal regime. We also saw this during the recent pandemic, when some people began by raising reasonable questions about public restrictions and vaccinations and ended up in a fever dream of ALL CAPS TWEETS ABOUT NUREMBERG TRIALS.
Also: I found this Anglin piece courtesy of my buddy Damian Penny, who also highlighted this tweet from the New Hampshire Libertarian Party, which is a near perfect example of the libertarian-to-fascist pipeline:
Subscribe to Damian’s newsletter, too It’s part of my daily reading and I get a lot of value from it.
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Hey Chris, thanks for the “high tech” answer to the Twitter problem. Your no insight answer is a bust. The problem is Twitter not a forgotten password. Cheer up pal!
I don’t know anything about Dennis Pratt or the people running the New Hampshire Libertarian party. I do know that there are a few libertarians who have the notion, absurd for those who believes in liberty and individual rights, that things would have been better if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. The idea usually is that since the present federal government is too large, too powerful, and too hostile to freedom, and since the union Lincoln saved has become that federal government, a confederate victory would have prevented that development. (They sometimes also throw in some complaints about Lincoln’s alleged overly harsh behavior toward the traitors.) The first error here is that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. No one can know what a confederate victory would have meant for the future development of government in a defeated or stalemated Union. The second and far worse error is that even if the conclusion were to be accepted, it would be irrelevant to the question of who was right and who was wrong in the Civil War. The confederates rebelled to preserve slavery and said so at the time. The Union was right and the Confederacy was profoundly, inexcusably wrong. It would be charitable to say that the self-labeled libertarians who do not see this are only confused, thoughtless and/or poorly informed about history. A less charitable but fair reaction would be skepticism of their understanding of and commitment to liberty and at least questions about their ideas on race.