Black Twitter/Elon Musk

http://With Musk, it’s the beginning of the end for #BlackTwitter Erika D. Smith, Los Angeles Times It’s all rather disturbing and yet somehow fitting in these doublespeak-steeped times. Elon Musk, the founder of a company that California is suing for allegedly silencing thousands of Black employees who complained about racism, is buying a company that has given millions of Black people a megaphone-like voice to complain about racism. And the California-hating billionaire insists he’s doing it all to protect free speech. “Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said Monday, announcing that he had succeeded in taking over the San Francisco-based social media company for $44 billion. Consider this the beginning of the end of #BlackTwitter. Not of Black people on Twitter but of #BlackTwitter — the community of millions that figured out how to turn a nascent social media platform into an indispensable tool for real-world activism, political power and change. And entertainment too. Where do you think the best memes and GIFs come from? #BlackTwitter gave us hashtags that turned into movements. #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe became rallying cries for hundreds of thousands of protesters after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. And for years before that, when fewer Americans were paying attention to the disproportionate number of Black women being killed by police, there was #SayHerName. It was #OscarsSoWhite that led to pressure for changes at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And let’s not forget that #MeToo, which roiled the halls of power in corporations and government, was started by a Black woman. There’s also #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoyJoy, both celebrations of the beauty of Blackness in a country that so often devalues it — and us. On Monday, the mood on #BlackTwitter was neither magical nor joyful. “There goes #BlackTwitter — new owners will call it CRT and ban it.” “Um… #BlackTwitter we need to schedule a meeting ASAP! Where we meeting up when we leave Twitter?” “So, where’s the back of Twitter? Asking for #BlackTwitter” “It was nice getting to know you all. Especially everyone on #BlackTwitter. Now a white South African man owns it. Bye Y’all. #RIPTwitter” Meredith D. Clark, an associate professor at Northeastern University in Boston who studies race, media and power and is working on a book about #BlackTwitter, wasn’t surprised. “I think you will definitely see more people move off in larger waves,” she said. “I think there will still be a remnant left, but you know?” The problems with the Twitter deal are multifold for Black people. First, there’s Musk himself. He’s the world’s richest person. Or, as Clark put it: “This is yet another example of how we’re falling prey to oligarchies. Men with billions of dollars who get to decide what our communications look like.” He’s also a businessman with questionable ethics. Musk’s company Tesla is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. It’s the largest racial discrimination suit ever brought by the state and was filed on behalf of more than 4,000 former and current employees, all of whom are Black. Some of those employees described their experiences to The Times. They alleged that they were often the targets of racist slurs by co-workers and supervisors and that Tesla segregated Black workers, gave them the hardest work at the Fremont, Calif., manufacturing plant and denied them promotions. And they say the company ignored their complaints about the treatment. Given the long-standing diversity problems at tech companies, including at Twitter, this is troubling. Even more concerning is the climate on Twitter itself, which — despite the content moderation that happens now — is still full of racist trolls. “With the knowledge that I have about Musk as a businessperson, and as someone who seeks to have great influence over culture, I’m concerned,” Clark said. “I’m concerned about some of the statements that he’s made in the past and how they reflect on his character and his mind-set.” The second problem is what Musk plans to do with Twitter. He has repeatedly complained about the content moderation, even though it is applied sparingly and inconsistently. If he has his way, he could very likely get rid of it altogether. Prominent white supremacists who got kicked off the platform for good reason could return — among them former President Donald Trump, who, through his account, helped incite the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Perhaps more troubling, conspiracy theories could become easier to find and share and, therefore, grow in complexity and number of believers. We’ve already seen the effects of disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and of QAnon, including the latest tall tales linking gender identity to pedophilia that are being echoed by reckless Republican politicians. What happens when those conspiracy theories, bolstered by more than a dash of white supremacy, escalate into violence? It happened once; it can surely happen again. #BlackTwitter knows this. On Monday, Musk tweeted: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter because that is what free speech means.” #BlackTwitter also knows that, no, that’s not what free speech means, because Twitter is a company — soon to be privately held — and has no obligation under the 1st Amendment to allow racism, transphobia, homophobia or misogyny to percolate through its platform. And so, rather than safeguarding the “bedrock of a functioning democracy,” as Musk describes free speech, he just destroyed it — because the people whose tweets were the most effective at that are leaving. “I don’t think that you’re going see the same sort of replication of a Twitter-like climate or #BlackTwitter on another platform. I don’t think you’ll ever get that lightning in a bottle back,” Clark said. “But I do think that you will see Black people doing what we have always done. And that is bend communication and other technologies to our needs and our will. And find ways to thrive in those various areas of the internet.” ____ Erika D. Smith is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times writing about the diversity of people and places across California.


After loss to Macron, far-right
Le Pen plots parliament win
Elaine Ganley, Associated Press
PARIS — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen gathered her party’s troops on Monday, not to mourn her loss a day earlier in the French presidential election but to plot out how to orchestrate a victory in June’s parliamentary vote and capture a majority of seats in the National Assembly.
Centrist President Emmanuel Macron beat her 58.5% to 41.5% to win reelection Sunday but Le Pen produced her highest-ever level of support in her three attempts to become France’s leader. That gave the 53-year-old nationalist firebrand momentum as she charged into what is called the “third round” of voting, hoping to turn the tables on Macron’s majority in parliament.
Le Pen called a national bureau meeting of her far-right National Rally party on Monday.
Le Pen’s high support Sunday laid bare a European Union nation that is fractured between those she refers to as the “France of the forgotten” — the vulnerable working class that has been hard hit by rising inflation and the fallout from sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine — and what she calls the “elitists” of Macron’s staunchly pro-EU voters.
Whether Le Pen can break through the ceiling of voter fear that has blocked her party in the past is central to capturing enough seats in parliament.
Still, the fear factor played a large role in her presidential loss.
Le Pen’s program, which would crack down severely on immigrants and diminish the role of the EU and NATO in France, sent many voters into the arms of Macron. That was not due to their support for the 44-year-old president but to their desire to block his populist opponent. Le Pen also questioned why France is sending arms to Ukraine.
A revamped France under Le Pen — with less Europe — also pushed some voters aside. Her goal was to create a “Europe of Nations,” replacing the current system with a patriotic version that would have returned some powers to EU countries, whose sovereignty she and other populist leaders feel has been diminished.
Italian right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, a close Le Pen ally, pledged to continue their common project toward this vision.
“Onward, together, for a Europe founded on work, family, security, rights and freedom,” he said in a tweet late Sunday.
Many voters already expect that Le Pen will gain more seats in parliament, the question is only how much.
“The gap (between Len Pen’s and Macron’s parties) is closing, and the National Rally party is going up,” said French music teacher Valérie Jacquet, 56.
She said that shows the French are worried about their purchasing power — Le Pen’s main campaign theme — and security.
“But I think that Mrs. Le Pen’s platform is too extreme. She pushes people apart,” Jacquet said.
The National Assembly currently has 577 seats, with Macron and his allies controlling 313 of them. Le Pen’s party has only 8 seats now but would like to upset Macron’s majority with a broader far-right movement to hobble his ability to get his agenda passed.
But France’s voting system stands a bit in the way of a far-right conquest in parliament.
The legislative vote comes in two rounds on June 12 and June 19. Candidates who win a majority in the first round are elected. If no one does — a common occurrence in France’s fractured political landscape — those who get at least 12.5% of the vote in a race go into a runoff on June 19.
If Le Pen’s party had enough members to form a group in parliament, it would get more precious speaking time and clout. Had she become president, she would have switched to a largely proportional system that would allow her party to muscle its way into relevancy.
But Sunday’s presidential defeat is still breeding tomorrow’s hope for far-right militants.
“The movement we created, we’re at the start of the beginning,” said Jordan Bardella, who held the party’s presidency while Le Pen campaigned.
“In reality, everything is about to start,” he told BFMTV outside party headquarters.
Alex Turnbull in Paris and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed.