Guest: Media activist (and Musk's former corporate PR trainer!) 'Spocko'; Also: Oregon Guv commutes all state death sentences; Schumer says ECA reform to be included in lame duck spending bill...
By Brad Friedman on 12/14/2022, 6:36pm PT  

So, I've sorta been trying to avoid coverage on The BradCast of the idiocy underway at Twitter following Elon Musk's takeover of the social network for a ridiculous $44 billion six weeks ago. But today, as things are quickly turning much darker and dangerous, we're jumping down the rabbit hole. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

First up, however, two much more encouraging stories from elsewhere. In Oregon, outgoing Democratic Governor Kate Brown, who will be replaced by Democratic Gov.-elect Tina Kotek in January, has commuted the death sentences of every prisoner in the state on death row! There are 17 of them in all. They will now face life without the possibility of parole instead of being murdered by the government. Brown has also ordered the dismantling of the state's execution chamber in hopes of ending the practice for good there, describing the gruesome punishment (correctly) as "both dysfunctional and immoral."

In other encouraging news before decks are shuffled in January following this year's midterm elections, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that the long-overdue Electoral Count Act reform measure (which we discussed on this program in detail back in February), as negotiated over the summer by a bipartisan group of Senators, will be included in the omnibus spending bill that lawmakers are scrambling to adopt this week before the deadline for a government shutdown.

The ECA reform measure, a version of which already passed in the House, would clarify the poorly-written 1887 law regarding procedures for certifying Electoral College votes following Presidential elections. In addition to making clear that a Vice President does not have the power to unilaterally toss out Electoral votes during the joint session of Congress to confirm Electoral College results, the bill would also raise the requirements for lawmakers to challenge slates of Electors and make it more difficult for a state Legislature to simply select different Electors than those chosen by state voters. All of that in response to Donald Trump's various attempts to exploit the original ECA on January 6th, 2021 to steal the 2020 Presidential election.

Hopefully there are enough Republican votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, and House Democrats will find the Senate version acceptable during this lame duck period. Otherwise, it'll be next to impossible to adopt ECA reform in advance of the 2024 Presidential election after the GOP takes over the House majority in January.

Then, it's down the Elon Musk Twitter Rabbit Hole, but with an eye toward potential solutions to the increasingly dark chaos he's unleashed since taking over the once-popular social network. While we've largely been trying to ignore the idiocy and hard-right political turn by Musk in his six weeks since taking over Twitter, what has largely been dumb has now arguably turned dangerous.

Over the past week or so, Musk has given a few journalists selective access to internal communications of former Twitter executives, resulting in online stories he refers to as "The Twitter Files". Rightwingers have pretended the published threads somehow confirm some sort of political bias against Donald Trump and fellow political travelers. Trump is pretending they prove that the 2020 election was stolen. They don't. In fact, they largely show Twitter execs wrestling in good faith with difficult internal decisions.

At the same time, Musk has restored previously suspended accounts to many on the far-right, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis, QAnon conspiracists, COVID deniers and 2020 election fraudsters.

More disturbing, however, are Musk's own recent tweets. They've grown darker and increasingly menacing, with attacks on transgender people, the revival of long-debunked COVID conspiracies and false accusations of pedophilia against named Twitter employees. One former top executive was reportedly forced to flee his home this week in response to growing threats. On the same day, Musk suddenly dissolved the company's volunteer Trust and Safety Council, an advisory group which AP describes as "around 100 independent civil, human rights and other organizations that the company formed in 2016 to address hate speech, child exploitation, suicide, self-harm and other problems on the platform."

That's just a taste of how all of this is quickly devolving. We're joined today by longtime media activist and pseudonymous progressive blogger 'SPOCKO', who has some thoughts on how people can push back against all of this. As it turns out, Spocko, who has worked to organize campaigns against a number of Rightwing media outlets and personalities over the past two decades, actually worked directly with Musk before he became unspeakably wealthy with the creation of PayPal.

At the time, Spocko was helping to train high-tech execs on how to speak to media, customers and investors. He shares his thoughts today on what he learned about Musk even back in the 1990s, when he was called in because Musk wouldn't listen to the female communications experts initially hired to help him.

Now, Spocko explains, "the thing we are talking about with Musk is what do you do when somebody has so much money and so much power, and then he gets rid of the checks and balances?" That becomes dangerous, especially for someone like Musk who he describes as a liar who "makes promises that he doesn't keep."

We discuss a number of campaigns --- both potential and underway --- to hold Musk to account for his increasingly threatening behavior, including the use of "free speech" tools that the billionaire claims to believe in (despite evidence showing he actually doesn't) to target advertisers that Twitter relies on to survive as well as companies like Apple, whose app store is critical to that survival, and the potential filing of civil lawsuits to hold Musk to account for defamation. There are also international efforts underway in places like Europe where the EU has informed social media networks that, by law, they must have measures in place to reduce potential harm or face being cut off entirely.

There is lots to dig into on today's program, whether we're happy to dig into it or not...

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