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Elon Musk on phone
via Instagram (@elonmusk)

Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover is dark and embarrassing

As Musk engages in excruciatingly corny banter, some of the most vicious far-right accounts on the platform are celebrating their new-found immunity

After months of tortuous negotiations and legal drama, Elon Musk has finally assumed control of Twitter – and honestly, it’s low-key giving when Scar took over the Pridelands.

After the news came through, Musk changed his bio to read “Chief Twit” (aping the peerlessly cool vibe of a Radio 4 topical comedy panellist in 2008), declared “the bird is freed” and then – reportedly – fired a number of high-up Twitter executives, including the woman who suspended Donald Trump. He then kicked off his leadership by walking into the company’s HQ while holding a sink and quipping “let that sink in!” Can you believe he did that? With his no-holds-barred commitment to japery, Mr Musk certainly ain’t your daddy’s billionaire!

We can mock his antics all we want, we can lambast him for being soy and Reddit, and we would be right to do so. But the crushing truth is that Musk will never realise how unfunny he is. For every waking moment of his life, he will be surrounded by chortling yes-men and insulated from the terrible truth about his own character. Yes, if he bothers to glance at the replies to his tweets, he will see thousands of people calling him a dork – but for every tweet slagging him off, there’s a breathlessly sycophantic “you’ve won the internet, my liege!” from a sales exec who listens to podcasts about entrepreneurship and uses the Blinkist app to read Paulo Coehlo. 

I can’t decide whether it’s comforting that one of the most powerful men alive is also such a colossal loser; on balance, probably not. Perhaps each epoch gets the oligarch it deserves: the 80s was defined by the lurid, gold-plated excess of Trump; the 90s by the mild-mannered but ruthless techno-utopianism of Bill Gates, and today, in 2022, we have an edgelord adult baby obsessed with owning the libs – even at the cost of sustaining a relationship with his own daughter – and posting screenshots of the least funny memes ever created. Musk is made in our image, and we are made in his.

Unfortunately, Musk taking over Twitter represents more than just an opportunity for hi-jinks, antics and larks. In a public statement to the company’s advertisers, he announced he wanted to “help humanity” and for “civilisation to have a town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.” That all sounds very lofty and high-minded, but in reality, this will almost certainly just mean more racism, more antisemitism, and more transphobia. While Musk also said he doesn’t want the platform to descend into a “free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said without consequences”, many of his supporters seem to believe his leadership augurs exactly that. In fact, a number of far-right accounts have already been celebrating their new freedom – real or imagined – to post slurs and harass minorities. The fact that the worst people on the platform – if not the world – are gloating about this doesn’t bode well for the future of Twitter, but on the plus side, at least we can look forward to more uproariously amusing, pun-based tomfoolery. I’m chortling already just thinking about it!