"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"Musk is giving us an insight into a nexus between the state and the social media companies that reveal manipulation of what we, the public, can see."
As many folks will be aware by now, the so-called Twitter Files expose over-zealous censorship and truth twisting within the Twitter bureaucracy. The files, in the form of email copies, continue to drop, with a complete determination of their significance awaited. So far, the revelations have focused on the Hunter Biden laptop saga, although there are signs of much more intriguing stuff to come.
For starters, I'm not on Twitter. I was there for a short time a few years back. Still, I soon realised that the format and general milieu were not a place for constructive dialogue. In many ways, Twitter is the epitome of what has gone wrong with debate and rational argument.
And yet, I acknowledge the profound importance of the channel, its political impact, and the reach of Twitter's coverage. In effect, Twitter has become the worldwide public square without the moderating influence of face-to-face contact, with the possibility of getting punched for your comments.
What I find interesting about the stuff we've seen so far is the collaboration between law enforcement agencies, retired spooks and an ostensibly private Twitter platform to 'gate-keep' what gets a thorough public airing. Twitter exercises power to kill stories or push them into the background. But, of course, we used to call that censorship.
As I've discussed, the Hunter Biden saga illustrates the point well. We now know the laptop story is accurate and that Twitter, working with other social media outlets, sought to suppress it in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election in 2020.
We also know that former spooks led a disinformation effort to blame the Russians for the laptop story. A letter co-authored and signed by 50 former agents propagated this falsehood. But, we've yet to hear from the signatories of the letter accounting for their actions. Nor does the MSM appear interested in holding them to account. Odd that.
Interestingly, when Musk took over Twitter, he found former spooks working in the building. Moreover, Twitter granted Government agencies backdoor channels that allowed them to request that matters be withheld or played down. The emails reveal this process and the disquiet amongst Twitter staff.
Republicans and Democrats enjoyed similar rights of access to seek the suppression of stories. Yet, with Twitter staff having a 95% democratic party profile, their focus appears more aligned to support that side.
Much of the MSM is downplaying the information from the Twitter files. A few are active in clouding its significance, suggesting that Musk is attacking free speech. How you get this assessment involves an inversion of the cathartic powers of cleansing sunlight on a scandal. You know, the sort of thing journalists usually demand.
MSM outlets claim there is no smoking gun; we knew about these practices before, or there is nothing to see here. I beg to differ. Musk is giving us an insight into a nexus between the state and the social media companies that reveal manipulation of what we, the public, can see.
I guess most of us knew this was happening. Nonetheless, it’s gratifying to get tangible evidence.
Commentators have long suggested that social media companies operate as semi-autonomous digital principalities. What is emerging is that a traditional sovereign power exerted influence within social media to control the output. Musk, having captured the hypothetical Twitter principality, has flung open the doors and invited us to look. This move has unsettled the traditional state actors, and the reaction in the MSM suggests they don't like it either.
And how this sits with the first amendment right to free speech is intriguing. Certainly, to stop incitement and crimes, and on national security grounds, all governments have the right, and indeed an obligation, to intercede. But then the discussion switches to where the line rests.
So how this saga plays out, we will see, but by the looks of it, things could get very interesting indeed.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.