Even Twitter thinks Elon Musk’s tweets are out of control

Hello Raja. If inflation makes everything more expensive, why are stock prices falling? Looking for a 401(k).

The Plain View

In all the months since Elon Musk maneuvered to control Twitter, not once did his impulses seem to make sense. Here was a guy who concentrated on using big science to solve big problems. He leads two huge and inspiring corporations, Tesla and SpaceX, both with significant challenges to deal with. He has another company that wants to solve brains, and another one for tunneling under major cities. He has seven children…sorry, nine. He has to figure out how to get to Mars. Still, something made him obsessed with taking over a 16-year-old business built on short bursts of self-expression, to the point where he was sinking billions of his own dollars and endless distractions to do it, at least until he changed his mind.

The only explanation seems to lie in Musk’s use of the platform – 18,600 tweets. Twitter can drive people crazy. It makes them do and say things they wouldn’t normally do. And few have fallen for it as hard as Elon Musk.

So it’s no coincidence that after Musk withdrew his buyout offer, Twitter’s lawsuit demanding that Musk implement the deal relies heavily on… his tweets. Right in the filing, the company’s lawyers put them on tape to build their case, starting with the dishonest puns Musk used to indicate he was about to make a tender offer. (quoted Elvis’ song “Love Me Tender” and referenced F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1934 novel Tender Is the Night.) The filing uses Musk’s tweets to refute his claim that the deal is invalid because the company misled him about the volume of bot traffic on the platform. It also included multiple instances of Musk using Twitter to disparage Twitter, a company he reportedly wanted to buy. Perhaps most obnoxious was Musk’s response to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal’s thread about the company’s efforts to curb bots: a tweet consisting of a single emoji. To quote the summary: “To Musk, it appears that Twitter, the interests of its shareholders, the transaction Musk agreed to, and the court process to enforce it all represent an elaborate joke.”

While I’m not a lawyer, this seems like a smart legal tactic. I know from personal experience with a high school vice principal that people in power don’t like it when you think the whole process is ridiculous. Even the most impartial judge might be reluctant to accept Musk’s arguments as he thumbs his nose at the venerable regulations that give order to our financial system.

Is Twitter to blame for this behavior? I’m sure it’s pretty common for powerful executives to talk trash in the privacy of their corner offices. But Twitter entices impulsive people to share those private thoughts with the world at large. Musk, whose wealth must have made him feel invincible to begin with, has 100 million followers who reward his online activities with likes, retweets and supportive comments. It was apparently too easy — and apparently a lot of fun — to add trolling to the download.

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