Yes, I'm actually serious: The British government should buy Twitter
It's the soft-power bargain of the century
I’ve always been secretly much more sympathetic towards Elon Musk than the average person.
In fact, one of my earliest posts on this Substack was about how he was a net positive for humanity.
My argument was that for all of the intensely annoying things he has done, ultimately the cosmic scales of history will judge that his role in the electric vehicle transition and how he has transformed the economics of spaceflight will outweigh the bad behaviour and worse personality.
This was always a fairly eccentric opinion, and is especially so following his purchase of Twitter at the end of last year.
According to one YouGov poll from July, Musk is viewed unfavourably by 61% of Britons, and favourably by just 19%. Those are numbers so bad that even Liz Truss would probably cross the street to avoid him.
And yet despite everything, I do still broadly stand by the piece I wrote. I think my argument about the balance of history still holds true. Just like how we have a richer, better world today because we have cars1 and mass production, despite the fact that Henry Ford was a massive antisemite who treated his employees badly. Sometimes terrible people do good things.
But I will concede that when it comes to Twitter2, everything he has touched has been an utter disaster3. His ownership of the platform is making the experience of using it worse in every conceivable respect, and his disastrous management has personally made my social and professional life harder, because so much of my existence is tied to the platform4.
This very much isn’t an eccentric opinion. The numbers prove it. In fact, according to internal company documents, after paying $44bn a year ago, Twitter is now valued at just $19bn – or about £15bn. That’s the sort of destruction of value that, again, might embarrass Liz Truss.
But weirdly, this shit-uation gives me some hope. Presumably even Musk will eventually hit his limit on the amount of money he is willing to lose to teach a handful of a New York-based ex-Gawker journalists a lesson. So I won’t be surprised if in the next few years, Twitter is finally sold off to Faceless Private Equity Inc, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
However, there is an even better possible future. One that wouldn’t just be good for us broken-brained Twitter addicts, but also one that is good for advancing British interests around the world.
So read on, as today I’m going to argue, with 100% sincerity, that the British government should buy Twitter from Elon Musk.
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