Well, it doesn't look like Elon Musk's Twitter tire fire will be burning itself out anytime soon. After retooling the social media site into a pay-to-play disinformation service, more petty posturing that included an order engineers to remove the verified status of The New York Times' account, and the sudden replacement of the Twitter bird logo with the "doge" meme in what might have been a two-day-late April Fool's Day prank, it's been made clear that the reason Musk bought Twitter was because he was extremely pissed off that it existed and became willing to spend a substantial chunk of his fortune to make sure it didn't.
His latest stunt: Ordering Twitter engineers to designate NPR's Twitter account "state-affiliated media," a warning label the site typically uses to alert users that they're looking at a government-controlled "media" account that may be known for misinformation.
As Forbes points out, NPR doesn't meet Twitter's standards for such a designation. Twitter's Help Center defines the tag as "outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution."
Russian media site RT would meet that designation, for example. An assortment of dictatorship-controlled "news" sites do, with the defining factor being the ability of the state to control what gets reported and what doesn't.
NPR, on the other hand, was used by Twitter's Help Center as an example of a media outlet that wouldn't meet that definition. "State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy."
That was then and this is now, and apparently somebody must have told Elon Musk he looks like a shaved Cookie Monster going through a bad divorce because he is now extremely pissed and doesn't want NPR to play in his Nazi-infested troll sandbox anymore. First it was the Times, then NPR, and before April is out, we may see every American media outlet that's ever had a bad word to say about Musk have a "Was Mean To Elon" label attached.
NPR's CEO issued a terse statement blasting the designation as "unacceptable," but Twitter is now Elon's personal grudge site. We're going to be seeing more and more of this until the whole site collapses, and it's pretty clear at this point that "collapse" is Elon's end game here.
Still, we can mock Elon's childish and absolutely chickenshit style, and we're gonna. It wasn't until after Elon's new designation that Twitter got around to altering its Help Center text to scrub NPR as an example. He's such a clown ... and NPR still doesn't meet Twitter's own definition of "state-affiliated."
Why? Because NPR isn't state-affiliated. The government has no editorial control over what it produces, which has been a real thorn in the side of the minions of would-be autocrats like Donald Trump. It doesn't get a federal budget, either. Competitive government grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting may allow individual public radio stations to pay NPR for NPR program fees, but in total, even this indirect federal funding accounts for just 2% of NPR's revenue.
So Elon's just lying here. Or, more accurately, he's again spreading false information via the social media company he bought so that he could.
Elon's tantrum is, however, probably going to do him more harm than good. If we're going to start conversations about which corporations are state-affiliated, then Elon Musk personally is absolutely swimming in state affiliation himself. Musk's car company, Tesla, is a Frankenstein's monster of government subsidies; the 2021 Democratic infrastructure bill alone granted the electric vehicle industry $7.5 billion to build out new charging stations.
Musk has had his hand in the government coffers so often that he might qualify as a state-affiliated person. Between Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX, by 2015, a Los Angeles Times investigation found that nearly $5 billion in government funds had gone to Elon's companies.
He hasn't suddenly gotten any more self-sufficient in recent years, either. In 2019, Musk claimed Tesla was nearing bankruptcy—but the company was able to bail itself out by selling $2 billion in regulatory credits granted to them. Government tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles boosted Tesla car prices by billions.
And SpaceX, of course, wouldn't exist if it weren't for NASA contracts. It was only those NASA contracts that saved it from collapse fifteen years ago; Musk has been in a billionaire slapfight of late as competing space companies vie for whatever NASA funding they can sink their teeth into.
So that's a bit weird, if we're going to start pondering what counts as state-affiliated and what doesn't. NPR would barely feel the difference if all federal funding were cut off today. But Elon Musk would be worth approximately nothing today if it weren't for government grants and contracts bailing him out of his near-failures.
Musk couldn't have purchased Twitter if his state-affiliated status hadn't built him a fortune to do it with. I'm not sure you could make the case that Twitter itself is therefore "state-affiliated," according to the forever-whining Musk's new definition.
But Elon? That dude's filled with government funds more than Donald Trump Jr. is filled with cocaine. Elon wouldn't exist without his government cash.
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