Salvo 05.12.2022 4 minutes

The Jargon Wars

Call to action.

Elon Musk In the Age of Algospeak.

The Washington Post’s resident VSCO girl Taylor Lorenz raises breathless alarms about “algospeak,” the slang words social media users have invented to avoid wrong-think detection by content moderation algorithms. The head of our new “disinformation governance board” (itself a master class in verbal deflection) has vowed to weed out the purveyors of “malign creativity” lest their memes mocking transgender activists go uncensored.

But suddenly, in the midst of this celluloid nightmare, a champion seems to have arisen. 

The caveats some conservatives have raised about placing too much hope in what Elon Musk might accomplish by purchasing Twitter are well-founded and deserve heeding…to a point. When the world’s richest man waxes enthusiastic about inserting microchips into the heads of the populace, we should all take a pause. And while his fervor for free speech is certainly admirable, his philosophical defense of it doesn’t run much deeper than a Hillsdale freshman’s might. 

Additionally, given that it does, in fact, seem like the digital exile of the Babylon Bee for gendercrime was what lit his passion for open debate, it’s hard to know if he will keep his eye on the ball beyond the present news cycle. Should the combined power of the rest of the tech world and international oligarchs succeed in cowing him, conservatives could end up in a worse position than we started in. 

But if the confederacy of despots aligning against Musk is anything to go by, there’s already reason for cautious optimism. Perhaps too emboldened by their almost unblemished record of success against nearly every blue-chip brand from Disney to Walmart to Apple, the modern-day Stasi have launched nearly every intimidation tactic in their arsenal at Musk. All to very little avail.

A group of 26 leftwing activist groups authored one of their dreaded public letters, calling on businesses to boycott Twitter if Musk follows through on his promise to ease content moderation so that the platform functions more like the digital town square it purports to be. They employed their own algospeak, using words like “toxic,” “misinformation,” and “marginalized” that tend to get amplified rather than suppressed by other social media platforms. (Whenever this crowd puts the words free speech in quotes, you know they mean business).

Not a single mega-corp CEO has previously failed to issue the requisite boilerplate apology and invitation for further harassment once this launch sequence of press-release-to-media-boost has commenced. Elon’s response? To ask who is funding these groups and not so subtly shame journalists into doing their jobs by bringing a little sunlight to the situation. 

It turned out, as he knew it would, that the non-profits purporting to stand for black lives, gay teens, and mother earth, are flush with dark money from George Soros, the Clintons, labor unions, and even a host of European governments like Sweden, Denmark, Germany. Every hit the progressive mob has put on him in their effort to stop his purchase of Twitter has met much the same end.

The traumatized Twitter employees, crying over the prospect of having to mind their own business and leave people alone? Any other executive simp would have rushed to cable news to allay their freedom-phobia and insist that that he (or she) would take those crocodile tears into consideration. Musk shrugged and said at least a thousand of them better start packing their bags. 

The New York Times multi-page hit piece that implied he’s a racist because he had the temerity to be born white? He ignored it. (Though his mom, as moms will, had a few choice words for the Gray Lady.)

In short, every typical assault that has yielded bounties of capitulation for the Left in the past have come up short against Musk. It would be a mistake to overestimate what his purchase of Twitter might mean for the conservative movement, but with this auspicious beginning, it would be a mistake to underestimate it as well. 

Already, the winds have shifted. Musk’s example appears to be stiffening some C-Suite spines. The companies that received the letter asking them not to advertise on Twitter once he occupies the corner office were a murderer’s row of reliable submissives, including Coca-Cola, Disney, and Kraft. Yet, so far, not one has yielded to the blackmailers’ demands. 

The Left’s horror at “algospeak” gives the game away: only they get to corrupt the English language, on terms they set. The inverted jargon they repeat every day—from “misinformation” and “trauma” to “women’s health” and “antiracism”—turns language inside out to mean the opposite of what it seems. When conservatives do the same to evade censorship, their opponents are horrified to discover an unsanctioned use of slang. This tells you everything you need to know: the Left is fighting to make only one form of speech possible; the Right is fighting just to speak.

So Musk doesn’t have to be a politician to be a political boon to conservatives. He doesn’t even have to take our side. All he has to do is clear the barriers so we can take our own. So far, he’s doing that.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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