Washington Post's Max Boot frets Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover bid is a threat to ‘democracy’

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Washington Post opinion writer Max Boot is not taking well to the idea that Elon Musk could buy Twitter.

After tweeting earlier he was “frightened” at the prospect, Boot doubled down in a Thursday column decrying Musk’s offer to buy the social media company for more than $43 billion and defending himself for believing that the billionaire shouldn’t have a hand on Twitter because he “engages in online bullying and traffics hyperbole.”

“Anyone who thinks the problem with social media is too much content moderation, rather than too little, should not own one of the most powerful platforms online,” he wrote.

Boot said Musk, who seeks to end censorship on Twitter, will not bring “badly needed reform” that the columnist believes needs to occur on the platform and that ultimately Musk’s takeover bid will pose a threat to “our embattled democracy.”

The column began with an explanation of Boot’s earlier anti-Musk tweet, which was met with derision from “an online flash mob” of Twitter users. 

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Boot’s tweet read, “I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter. He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition March 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Musk answered a range of questions relating to SpaceX projects during his appearance at the conference. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 09: Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition March 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Musk answered a range of questions relating to SpaceX projects during his appearance at the conference. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The columnist argued the critical reaction he received for his tweet was the exact reason Musk should not change be in charge.

Citing criticism from figures like Mollie Hemingway and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., he wrote, “too much name-calling, too much dishonesty, too many conspiracy theories. And there is a disturbing tendency for online flash mobs to create an echo chamber of crackpot opinions.”

Boot was an enthusiastic proponent of Russiagate conspiracy theories, once appearing on CNN to promote his column outlining 18 reasons why former President Trump could be a “Russian agent.”

The columnist then went into a lecture referring to social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s views that “Facebook’s ‘like’ button and Twitters retweet function have helped make some Americans ‘stupider.’” Boot also mentioned Haidt’s claim “that posts that trigger emotions — especially anger at out-groups — are the most likely to be shared.”

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Boot said the kind of “online flash mobs” that ripped his fear of Musk’s takeover were the sort of extremists who wouldn’t be suppressed by the potential new owner. 

This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
((AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

“This kind of badly needed reform is unlikely to occur at Twitter if Musk, who calls himself a ‘free speech absolutist’ succeeds in buying the company,” Boot declared. “He engages in online bullying and traffics in hyperbole and outrage, such as comparing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler for imposing public health regulations.”

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