Elon Musk Picks Fight With Apple, Tim Cook. That’s How Bad He Is At This.

Elon Musk Picks Fight With Apple, Tim Cook. That’s How Bad He Is At This.

Time for another Elon Musk, Super Genius post. Mobsters deliberately running Twitter into the ground so they could set fire to the place for the insurance money probably would've done a better job than Musk, and major advertisers have noticed. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that General Mills, Audi, and Pfizer had paused advertising on the social media site, partly due to concerns about content moderation. Twitter continued to bleed advertisers through November, including United Airlines and Chipotle.

Monday, Musk tweeted that Apple “has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.” Then he started ranting like a scorned lover, asking if Apple hates “free speech in America.” He demanded, “What’s going on here @tim_cook?” as if the Apple CEO would publicly discuss advertising decisions in his Twitter mentions. Musk further claimed that "Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.” It’s all the unrestricted hate speech, you ninny.

Obviously, Apple hasn’t violated the First Amendment if it refuses to give Elon Musk money, but right-wing Musk supporters feel otherwise. Podcaster Lex Fridman tweeted, “Apple should support free speech.” Once again, Apple is under no moral or legal obligation to subsidize anyone’s speech. If that were true, I’d expect a check for my untitled Elizabeth Olsen musical.

Michael Saylor, founder and executive chairman of the Microstrategy analytics firm, replied to Fridman, "Monopolies should be subject to the same limits we placed on our government in the Bill of Rights: ... make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So that’s absurd. Apple isn’t a monopoly. It has competitors. Musk cultists are already threatening to toss their iPhones into the sea and replace them with Androids. Failed Republican congressional candidate Jason Nelson even suggested that Musk is deliberately alienating Apple as part of some ridiculously circuitous plan to launch his own smartphone company. Yeah, the House lost a winner there.

More to the point, though, Apple is not the government, which is also under no obligation to fund everyone’s speech. Remember when Republicans wanted to kill the National Endowment of the Arts,shut down PBS and privatize "Sesame Street?" Now, apparently, American democracy itself depends on advertisers saving a single billionaire’s corporate Xanadu.

Musk whined, “This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.” Free speech involves choice — from both consumers and advertisers. Movies regularly flop. TV shows are canceled. Theatres shutter. Publications that aren’t just safe spaces for Nazis shut down. You can’t compel people to support your platform.

Always eager to claim her title as the dumbest person in any room, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called private companies pulling their advertising from Twitter “corporate communism,” which is a nonsense term consistent with the level of intellect that reflexively labels everything it doesn’t like “communism.”

She said “corporations” are "using their economic power to force their political agendas. They need to go back to the 'Customer is King’ mentality, not corporations are king.” There’s no clear evidence that Apple’s decision is politically motivated. Musk made dramatic changes to Twitter and its overall product. It’s not personal. It’s business.

The Financial Times reports that Musk has jeopardized Twitter’s $5 billion a year advertising business with his "ad hoc approach to policing content and decision to axe many of its ad sales team.”

After several waves of job cuts and departures, Twitter’s ads business team has shrunk so much that many agencies no longer have any point of contact at the company and have received little to no communication in recent weeks, according to four industry insiders.

Some brands have been unable to get feedback on how previous campaigns have performed because of the staffing shortages, one media buyer said. Others are complaining Twitter’s ads systems have also become buggy, making it difficult or even impossible to run campaigns.

This is arguably “corporate communism” in the sense that Musk’s Twitter runs like an East German car manufacturer.

Musk’s solution to his self-inflicted crisis is apparently to personally call chief executives of brands that have paused advertising and yell at them. He’s also still trash-talking Apple and its business practices. These are all genius moves from a super genius.

Today, Musk’s BFF and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended Musk’s decision to let COVID-19 misinformation run wild again on Twitter. He even suggested that Congress should “respond” if Apple denies Twitter access to its online store, arguing that this would prove "a really raw exercise of monopolistic power.”

You know, because you just knew Ron DeSantis was out there babbling about this.

[Wall Street Journal / Financial Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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