I'm guessing my use of his name in the headline will get me even further downgraded on Twitter/X when posting today's BradCast there. So be it. It's just one more example of how bad it has become. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
That is not just hyperbole. Ask the guy in Berlin who is now suing Twitter to have his account reinstated on the social media site after data he compiled was used by the New York Times and CNN to detail how Twitter restored accounts of far-right extremists after Elon Musk purchased the company last year. More on Musk in a moment.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found [PDF] on Wednesday that Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson's proposal to "pay for" $14.3 billion in emergency aid to Israel amid its war with Hamas by "offsetting" the cost with cuts to the IRS budget would cost the U.S. tens of billions in revenue and increase the federal deficit. The plan, according to the CBO, would prevent the IRS from enforcing tax laws against the wealthy and corporations to the tune of $26.8 billion in lost revenue and would add $12.5 billion to the deficit over the next ten years. The White House describes proposal as a "non-starter" and has vowed to veto it if it should ever show up on his desk. It won't. In the meantime, a bipartisan plan for emergency aid to Israel, Ukraine and for the U.S. southern border continues to move forward in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The U.S. House is hardly the only dysfunctional Republican-run legislative body these days. On Tuesday, Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Tony Evers filed suit at the state's Supreme Court against the gerrymandered GOP state House and Senate, accusing them of failing to carry out basic government functions, like signing off on previously-legislated pay raises for some 35,000 University of Wisconsin employees; blocking new state agency rules for updating commercial building codes and ethics standards for licensed social workers, therapists and other professional counselors.
Compared to the ongoing disaster in the Middle East, however, perhaps those issues are small potatoes. The death toll in Gaza continues to quickly escalate in the wake of Israel's unrelenting response to Hamas' barbaric attack on October 7. But, as bad as it all is, it has been made unnecessarily worse thanks to a flood of disinformation on social media, most notably, on Elon Musk's rebranded Twitter/X.
We're joined today by longtime investigative journalist RUSS BAKER, now Editor-in-Chief of Who, What Why and publisher of the "Going Deep" newsletter where he recently described Elon Musk as "Chaos Agent #1". (Don't tell Trump. He might sue for the title!)
"Let's be realistic about what X, formerly known as Twitter, is," Baker argues today. "It is the world's largest public address system ... Essentially, what has happened here is that the P.A. system has been taken over by the school bully. Normally, the school would never allow such a thing. But that's all gone out the window" now that the bully --- one of the richest men in the world --- actually owns the whole school!
We've discussed just some of the disinformation that has been flooding out from Twitter of late, and the increasing danger of disinformation via social media with expert Lee McIntyre in recent weeks. But what, if anything, can --- or even should --- be done about it? There are a lot of tricky Constitutional issues here, at least in the U.S. The EU, on the other hand, has recently begun to crack down on Musk for failing to moderate the increasing tidal wave of disinformation since he purchased Twitter, and the tsunami which has followed in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
Aren't our hands largely tied here because of the First Amendment? Says Baker: "I am a person who doesn't just automatically accept any such claims, including those who say we can't fix the Electoral College, we can't do anything about the Constitution. I think all of those things are up for discussion. I am not an expert, but I believe there are ways, if there is a will, that there are forms of regulatory relief, issues about monopoly practices, there are many, many things that could possibly be applied to him. I would like to see a discussion happening now about this."
And so we have such a discussion today. Or begin one. On the possibility of an outside council of news organizations and social media organizers, to develop best practices for social media and content moderation. On the necessity of independent media to counter disinformation both on social media and from governments. And what FDR and JFK had to say when it became clear that the "concentration of wealth and unbridled power, and our society's failure to address the threat that represents to the public interest" needed to be addressed in their times as well...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)