This week the House Oversight Committee has held a number of hearings related to what Republicans hold as the most important issue confronting America—Twitter’s suppression of Hunter Biden’s dick pics. These hearings have featured some absolutely spotlight moments from Republican lawmakers, including:
- Marjorie Taylor Greene accusing an innocent man of promoting pedophilia and declaring how happy she is about people losing their jobs;
- Republicans speculating that Iran had seized control of the Capitol’s electrical system when the lights went out during the hearing;
- Jim Jordan accusing Twitter of “shadow banning” people who were actually full-on banned for repeatedly violating Twitter’s rules of operation;
- Clay Higgins telling Twitter employees they were going to be arrested for “interfering with the United States of America 2020 presidential election”;
- Every Republican on the committee accusing Twitter employees of working with the FBI to suppress information about Hunter Biden, with absolutely no evidence; and
- Nancy Mace ecstatically declaring, “Thank God for Elon Musk!” followed by Greene also declaring, “Thank God Elon Musk bought Twitter,” followed by Pete Sessions shouting, “God bless Elon Musk!”
And there’s a very good reason for that last bullet point. Republicans are so, so thankful to Musk. Not just because he’s thrown the rules out the window and made Twitter a welcoming place for white supremacy, antisemitism, and calls to violence. But because he’s feeding these conspiracies to them, one goopy spoonful at a time.
Back in early December, Hunter covered the then-breaking story of the “Twitter files,” and summed it up neatly.
Whether you work for Twitter or simply use the platform, Musk has now demonstrated that he's willing to publicly release your work for the purposes of backing his own conservative agenda.
But actually, there’s a way of saying this even more succinctly. As a general practice, we don’t link to stories at Fox News. However, I’m making an exception here, because the first line of this Fox headline tells you all you really need to know.
How do you say this is a completely nothing story, generated for no purpose other than to provide Republicans with an excuse to call innocent people pedophiles in a congressional hearing? You really can’t do much better than this: “Elon Musk chose us to report on the Twitter Files.”
That article is from Fox News’ Mark Shellenberger, who starts off by saying that, over the past month, he has “… enjoyed extraordinary access to the internal emails and other documents of the social media platform Twitter.” He’s very happy to say that he was part of Musk’s hand-picked team of reporters who were willing to dig right in and report on just the carefully tailored portions of information Musk provided them in just the ways he wanted it reported.
Just two days ago, Laura Clawson looked at the hearings going on in the House Oversight Committee and showed just how utterly ridiculous this whole hearing really is:
Committee Republicans brushed aside concerns of actual insurrection. They were here for what really mattered … to Fox News: the two-day ban on links to that single New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, and Biden campaign requests to take down specific tweets relating to Hunter Biden. Tweets with dick pics, specifically.
Why are Twitter execs sitting in front of Greene as she points at them and tells them how happy she is that they were fired? Why are they getting treated to Higgins’ threats of being arrested for throwing the election? Because, for the space of just two days, they put a hold on links to a story in The New York Post after being burned by previous stories that turned out to be genuine Russian disinformation. They also blocked pictures that were not only a violation of privacy, and not only simply distasteful, but a violation of Twitter's rules of service.
For that, they are getting to sit in front of Republicans throwing the vilest insults at them imaginable. And why not? They’re only doing exactly what Musk wants.
Musk promoted that Yoel Roth Is a pedophile
Back in November, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, was forced to resign after Musk rolled out his $8 “Twitter Blue” plan in spite of Roth’s warnings that the plan would create a swamp of false accounts that made it impossible to sort out truth from fiction. Which is exactly what happened.
Previous to this point, Musk had been supportive of Roth, and directed journalists his way to understand the truth about how Twitter arrived at decisions that resulted in some accounts being suspended or some tweets being removed.
But when Roth failed to support Musk’s doomed-to-fail take on blue checkmarks, Musk took it as a personal betrayal and immediately flipped to attacking Roth. It didn’t take long before Musk, fresh off of winning a lawsuit against someone he defamed as a pedophile, was throwing the same accusations at Roth.
Even the clip of text that Musk carefully framed shows what Roth actually intended: services like Grindr needed to have safety policies in place to protect young people, who would inevitably find their way to the sites. However, Musk framed this as Roth supporting gay porn for kids.
Why? Because pedophilia is literally the worst accusation that can be hurled at someone. It’s a stain that doesn’t go away … unless you happen to have a few billion dollars and a lot of Republicans on your side.
Within two days of Musk lobbying this dirtiest of dirty bombs at Roth, the guy he had been so supportive of just a week before was forced to flee his house following threats of violence—a result that had The New York Post ecstatic. Roth’s family and friends were also subject to threats, and most were forced to delete their Twitter accounts after being served a constant stream of online harassment. Harassment that Musk’s new safety team seemed strangely unable to stop.
Musk suppressed information connecting Twitter to Republicans
That Musk’s attack on Roth was entirely made by selective framing of a small portion from a lengthy document is representative of the entire “Twitter files” affair. In addition to hand-selecting the “journalists” who were guaranteed to build the story to fit his requirements, that story was also based on a select subset of documents, the ones that would best make the case that Twitter was going out of its way to block conservative speech.
During the hearings this week, Greene saved her greatest invective for Twitter officials who, at one point, suspended her personal account. And there’s absolutely no surprise about how she did it.
Greene: “Here’s something that disgusts me about you. In your doctoral discussion … you argued that minors should have access to Grindr, an adult male hookup account. You know, Elon Musk took over Twitter and he banned 44,000 accounts that were promoting child porn. You permanently banned my account, but you allowed child porn all over Twitter.”
Where did Greene get that 44,000 number? From the same place she got the rest of her script: Musk. When in doubt, or simply lying, pull out the pedophile accusation. Because once that accusation is leveled, nothing else matters.
Greene’s account was blocked. It was blocked because she repeatedly and maliciously violated rules around disinformation on COVID-19. It was blocked after she was temporarily suspended, given a warning outlining why, and then she came back to do it repeatedly, providing false information on ineffective treatments and making false claims about both masks and vaccines that almost certainly got people killed. But don’t worry. Elon Musk put that account right back.
What’s been missing from the carefully edited “Twitter Files” story is something that came up this week in the congressional hearings — while Twitter was unable to produce any evidence that President Joe Biden had done anything to encourage blocking the story around Hunter Biden’s laptop, the same cannot be said for Republicans.
Donald Trump contacted Twitter asking to have other people’s tweets removed. That included a reply that Chrissy Teigen posted after Trump posted a tweet—from the White House—in which he accused her of being “filthy” and her husband, John Legend, of being ungrateful.
Twitter ignored the request from Trump, just as they ignored other requests from government officials to have other unflattering posts removed. Somehow, the fact that Republicans had communicated with Twitter and made requests to have tweets taken down or accounts suspended had failed to appear in “the Twitter files.” Because that didn’t suit the narrative that either Musk or his hand-selected team wanted to build.
What genuinely did not appear, either in those files or in the hearings, was any evidence that the FBI had acted in any way to convince Twitter to hold back on allowing links to the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story, or that federal agents had gone dick pic patrol.
That didn’t stop Jim Jordan—and every other Republican in the room—from making accusations that Twitter had somehow worked with the government to suppress the laptop story. That included Jordan directly accusing the former Twitter executives of blocking the story because of instructions from the FBI.
“I think you guys got played by the FBI,” said Jordan. Again, there was no evidence for this claim.
It would also seem to completely ignore the fact that, at the time, the FBI was run by Republican Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Donald Trump, and that Wray reported to then Attorney General William Barr, who was appointed by Donald Trump, who reported to Donald Trump. How exactly was this FBI conspiracy supposed to work again?
Just like “pedophile,” an accusation of “deep state” doesn’t need any evidence. Or logic.
Speaking of lacking logic … Clay Higgins.
For future reference, storming the Capitol? Okay with Clay Higgins. Hiding dick pics? Not okay.
Twitter admitted to many mistakes, and to actual disinformation
As it turns out, the government really did work with Twitter, though that testimony went by in a flash because Republicans were utterly uninterested. Roth testified that Twitter had worked with the U.S. Department of Defense to “whitelist” disinformation accounts directed at hostile governments in the Middle East. Twitter cooperated, which is something that Roth now believes was a mistake.
Likewise, all the Twitter officials questioned now believe that preventing links to the NYP story from being shared, if only for two days, was a mistake. They made it out of an excess of caution, and any unbiased review of the documents that have been released so far makes it clear that there was a lot of internal back and forth conducted in a very brief period before that decision got made.
Timing is something that got little mention in the hearing, but one of the things that shows up again and again in all these documents is just how under-the-gun employees at Twitter felt in making these decisions. They didn’t have weeks in which to debate. While now, two years after the fact, they may feel they made a mistake, the truth is they made that mistake in a discussion that lasted just minutes. Because it had to. Taking longer was tacit to making a decision that distributing the story was fine, and Twitter had already come under heavy criticism for making exactly that decision in the past. The Post story was temporarily blocked, starting on Oct. 14. Links to the story worked just fine again by Oct. 16, three weeks out from the election.
For anyone to suggest this was somehow “rigging the election” is ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as suggestions that it was done at the behest of the government; the government was then run by Donald Trump. But still … pretty ridiculous.
That Higgins used his moment in the spotlight to threaten witnesses with arrest wasn’t ridiculous. It was just disgusting. But he wasn’t alone.
The entire hearing was just an excuse to repeat baseless accusations at President Biden, including claims about ties to Ukraine and to China that have long been debunked. And they were, of course, just a way to thank the new boss at Twitter for his help in spreading disinformation and championing right-wing conspiracy theories. Getting back at those people he saw as insufficiently loyal was just a bonus. God bless, Elon!