Does Elon Musk Understand...
Plus: Nazi dinner fallout
Bear with me here, but it’s possible that Elon Musk, the planet bestriding cosmic genius savior of civilization and world’s richest man, may not have any idea what he’s doing anymore.
Sad, I know. But entertaining as hell, if we don’t dwell too deeply on the mess he’s creating.
On Monday, Musk took time away from dismantling Twitter, sh*tposting, and engaging with his army of troll whisperers to launch a pre-emptive war against Apple.
He began by complaining that Apple “has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.”
“Do they hate free speech in America?” he asked.
This raised the question whether he actually understood either free speech or the free market. As David French (and a host of other economically literate commentators) noted, “A private corporation's decision to advertise (or not) on a given social media platform is an exercise of free speech. So are Musk's/Twitter's moderation decisions. If Twitter wants to be more like Gab, it can be! But other free citizens get to choose their level of participation.”
Musk then shifted his attack to what called Apple’s “secret 30% tax on everything you buy though their app store.” Once again, it wasn’t clear that Musk understood what he’s talking about. There’s nothing “secret” about Apple’s deal.
Apple’s App Store fee policy has been public knowledge for years. It was also the subject of an antitrust suit Epic filed against Apple in 2021.
And, as David Frum (and other economically literate critics) pointed out, Musk’s complaints appear somewhat inconsistent.
Despite that, Musk seemed to be promising total war… or at least more mean tweets. Which seems like an odd decision, given that it could result in an even deeper financial nuclear winter than he is already facing. As Kara Swisher noted, “Frontloading a fight with [Apple CEO Tim Cook] with specious nonsense isn’t going to work. Why? For one, he’s not a manic toddler hopped up on Twinkies and weaponry cosplay. Plus, no advertiser likes to spend their marketing money in [a] Thunderdome of toxic asininity.”
If one didn’t know better, Musk’s tantrums look like… panic. In this case, the panic may be merited.
Oh. Via the Wapo:
If the company were to block Twitter from its App Store, new users would be unable to download the Twitter app on their iPhones and iPads, and existing users would be unable to access updates. The alleged threat adds to the advertiser pressure, staff departures and regulatory scrutiny confronting Musk as he seeks to overhaul years of Twitter policies and account suspensions in his quest to push a “free speech” agenda.
In other words, Musk desperately needs Apple.
Musk’s stab at Apple’s App Store fees comes as he attempts to pivot the company away from relying heavily on advertising and more toward subscription services. Of Twitter’s $5.1 billion in total 2021 revenue, $4.5 billion came from advertising…
Musk’s attacks on Apple are a dangerous move, as well. Twitter needs Apple to ensure that its services are available to the hardware maker’s more than 1 billion active iOS devices. Without Apple, Twitter would suffer a significant setback in terms of available users.
Meanwhile, Musk seems to have fallen down a rabbit hold of crankery:
Maybe as a result of hanging out with his new friends, Musk has taken to tweeting out images of Pepe the Frog, a popular symbol of the alt-right movement.
Adding to the strangeness: Amidst the very occasional call for civility, Musk has launched attacks on prominent democracy advocates, including Garry Kasparov and Alexander Vindman. Because this is all about freedom, right?
Perhaps a wellness check might be in order?
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Pence was most clear in his condemnation, saying in an interview with NewsNation, “President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table. I think he should apologize for it, and he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”
He joined several Republican senators who also directly criticized the former president in statements disavowing the dinner with Fuentes and Ye.
Good. But this was better:
“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney said.
“I voted to remove him from office twice… I don't think he should be president of the United states. I don't think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024. And I certainly don't want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”
Trump’s dinner party seemed to be going the way of prior Trump scandals over the holiday weekend — a lot of noise in the press, a handful of attention-getting condemnations from Republicans, but mostly silence within his party. On Monday, it became clear this wasn’t going to be another story that gets quietly swept under the rug.
Overall, it was the most widespread Republican rebuke Trump has received since January 6th. And it came just two weeks after the former president launched his reelection campaign, and three weeks after a disappointing midterm election that many Republicans blamed on Trump-backed candidates who voters perceived as extreme. Trump has made it through worse, and rank-and-file votes are the ultimate judge of his place in the party. But he also can’t afford to bleed support when Republicans have other options in a competitive primary.
1. A Letter to the DeSantis Fan-Boys From a Real Never Trumper
Dear Residents of DeSantistan,
It’s nice to hear from you. I notice you have had some harsh words for Mr. Trump of late. You might even think he’s a Bad Orange Man? Concur! So lucky for you to have been awoken from your torpor on this matter at the most convenient time imaginable.
Before we get to the meat of my correspondence, I do have to mention that we missed having you on board these past few annums: During the 2016 general election, Impeachment One, the 2020 Republican primary, the 2020 general election, the alarming interregnum, the 2021 Georgia run-off, Impeachment Two, opposing the Trump election deniers in the 2022 midterms, and the recent FBI raid on the former president’s home.
Better late than never.
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Bill Lueders counts the blessings: Family man. Nimble thinker. Not afraid to be politically incorrect—or simply incorrect. Able to simplify complex issues. What’s not to love?
In sum, it’s little wonder that leading Republicans are thrilled by the prospect of having Herschel Walker join the world’s greatest deliberative body, representing the party of Lincoln with the thoughts that he’ll be thinking. The people of Georgia have the chance to make this happen. Will they seize this opportunity, with all of its power and promise, or fumble it away?
3. What to Expect From a Kevin McCarthy Speakership
To get a sense for what we might expect from a McCarthy-run House, I reached out to several of McCarthy’s old House Republican colleagues—all now critics of the Trumpfied GOP. These former representatives are all intimately familiar with the amped-up partisanship of today’s Congress, the varieties of dysfunction in how the House works, and Kevin McCarthy’s personal attributes. So I asked them a few questions aimed at figuring out what we can expect from a McCarthy speakership.