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'Elon Musk Agrees With Twitter That Censoring the Hunter Biden Story Was Wrong,' the headline should presumably read.
The Washington Post has accused Elon Musk, the billionaire who is preparing to buy Twitter for $44 billion, of harassing the company's staff.
In reality, all Musk did was make some very reasonable complaints about a single, high-ranking employee: Vijaya Gadde, a top executive at Twitter who Politico once called "the most important Silicon Valley executive you've never heard of." And, if criticizing someone on Twitter is the same as bullying them, then hasn't The Washington Post done the same thing?
Saagar Enjeti, co-host of the podcast Breaking Points, dubbed Gadde Twitter's "top censorship advocate" for her role in the company's decisions to suspend former President Donald Trump's account and, more infamously, to prevent users from sharing The New York Post's Hunter Biden story, according to The New York Post's confused and contradictory reporting on the issue.
"Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for posting a genuine report was obviously highly inappropriate," Musk responded to Enjeti's tweet.
Not only is Musk entirely accurate in his assessment that muzzling the Hunter Biden story was a horrible idea, but Twitter also agrees. Former CEO Jack Dorsey has repeatedly apologized for the move, calling it a "complete error." He plainly regrets his efforts to keep the story hidden.
There isn't much of a headline here. Elon Musk Agrees With Twitter That Censoring the Hunter Biden Story Was Wrong, if there is to be a headline.
"Elon Musk intensifies criticism of Twitter officials, provoking online assaults," The Washington Post headlined this news.
Elizabeth Dwoskin, a Post tech journalist, characterized her reporting in the following way:
NEW: Two days into Musk buying Twitter, he’s using his megaphone to help target Twitter employees, prompting a barrage of attacks (including racist ones) from his fans.— Elizabeth Dwoskin (@lizzadwoskin) April 27, 2022
Twitter workers have repeatedly asked management for protection from this scenario. https://t.co/zfTXhKSeVn
This is a pretty strange line of thought. Musk did not make any racist remarks against Gadde; instead, he reinforced a fair critique of Twitter policy that she is directly responsible for. Obviously, he is not to blame for the nastier remarks she receives.
Dwoskin, on the other hand, is plainly blaming both Musk and Enjeti, who published the request for comment he received from her at 2:06 a.m. Enjeti's producer was questioned by Dwoskin if Enjeti was concerned "that naming a specific Twitter executive may result in assaults on that executive"?
"For instance, one of the Twitter commentators made racial remarks against Gadde, and others stated she should be fired," Dwoskin added.
Isn't Dwoskin's piece, carried to its logical conclusion, doing the same thing? After all, she's criticizing Enjeti and Musk—legitimate criticism, in her opinion, but criticism nevertheless. To use her own words, she "mentioned" them. Musk is presently receiving both heartfelt adulation and unrelenting demonization as a result of his Twitter purchase, so expect some heated denunciations. What is the appropriate approach to describe a Washington Post piece that incorrectly maligns Gadde if Musk is "targeting" him for harassment? Isn't Dwoskin going after Musk?
If Dwoskin and the Post reject that parallel, they are arguing that it is good and appropriate for the media to hold individuals accountable, but it is targeted harassment when those outside the media hold people accountable. The media then insists that these acts of targeted harassment (as defined by them) are noteworthy, and the cycle continues.
Last week's Washington Post exposé on Libs of TikTok, which revealed the identity of the lady behind the prominent rightwing Twitter account, had this as its subtext. By exposing the account, The Washington Post hoped to shed light on the inner workings of the rightwing outrage machine. Libs of TikTok collects and republishes videos depicting progressive teachers and activists making comments that conservatives mock; by exposing the account, The Washington Post hoped to shed light on the inner workings of the rightwing outrage machine. However, the woman's name was unimportant to the plot, and exposing it would very certainly have resulted in her being shunned.
As a result, fans of Libs of TikTok have been merciless in their attacks on the story's creator, Taylor Lorenz. Much of the anti-Lorenz effort was strange and ugly in its own right. However, unless one assumes the patently questionable premise that exposes constructed by journalists are de facto genuine, it's becoming increasingly impossible to distinguish legitimate reporting that serves the public interest from intentional highlighting of political adversaries.
At the very least, The Washington Post should let go of the notion that naming someone guarantees they'll be harassed, or accept the criticism for its self-serving double standard.