OPINION | Israel-Palestine war test for Musk’s free speech vision

todayDecember 11, 2023 199

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Since Telsa CEO, Elon Musk, took over Twitter, now X, technology stands revealed as a tool that can either oppress or liberate. Between censorship and freedom of expression, Musk is inadvertently the last man standing. Unscrupulous governments known for excelling in finding escape routes from accountability, are not impressed with Musk rooting to err on the side of freedom of expression than against it.

Depending on the role of Big Tech, the driving force of billionaires and hands-on advertisers and sponsors with itchy fingers to scrambling to cross editorial line in exchange for exposure of their respective messages to audiences on offer, the world can either thrive into greater heights of nobleness or be sunk deeper into the dark grave of ignominy for the burial of our common humanity. Truth should not be allowed to be put for sale or betrayed.

Truth was on the robes upon Musk’s acquisition of the social media platform. He was lauded as a billionaire rebel with a cause – for without that assumed crusade, there was no one to look up to for all voices to be heard.

Without means to do battle with oligarchic power, freedom of expression enthusiasts soon cast Musk as the biblical David facing the tyranny of the merciless Goliath. He was giving freedom of expression a fighting chance. As to how long the stance will last, was the lingering question.

American television host, political commentator, comedian and author Greg Gutfeld agreed: “Elon Musk may be the last man standing between the real freedom of speech and the suffocating block of the censorship industrial complex which is made of the media, government and tech forces. Musk realises that advertisers have no spine. They are easily cowed by special interest groups in cahoots with political allies. If you do not believe me, I have two words for you, Tucker Carlson.”

Gutfeld was referring to number one Fox News commentator, whose contract was terminated after Carlson had given the other side of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Taking over Twitter was as good as walking into the COVID-19 pandemic storm. Narrative fixers and perception shifters were hard at work shepherding the rest of humanity towards herd treatment in the name of ‘science’ the World Health Organisation (WHO) was championing. All else that thought otherwise were branded ‘anti vaxxers’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’ meriting to be de-platformed. Holding WHO line was reigning gospel to be preached.

Failure to hold that line made users stay on the social platform precarious. The political sass by which Musk was expected to exhibit as new owner of X, was not as prudent either. Musk’s irritable response to the EFF’s political haka of ‘kill the boer’ chant at the end of its 10th anniversary celebration in July was a case in point.

But that proved a passing storm that nevertheless did not eclipse pledge akin to a dictum attributed to Voltaire: “You may differ with me but will defend to death your right to say it.”

The striking hour of Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, presented another storm Musk had to sail through. Initial response by Musk was to the effect that the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ would be inappropriate for X.

This was in the face of increasing international opinion that could no longer tolerate the genocidal implications on the Palestinian population by Israel in the raging seven decades old conflict between the occupier and the occupied.

On 16 November, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had cited: “The billionaire had agreed with a post on X that said Jewish communities push hatred of white people.”

While denying his visit to Israel on the 27th of November to meet Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was no apology visit, by bending a knee for Israel it undeniably was a diplomatic coup for Israel.

Netanyahu milked as much as he could from that visit. One would be naïve not to see that X is much sought after in the communication war arsenal that Israel could wish to affirmatively have on Tel Aviv’s side. The 500 million X users and no less than 200 million posts per day is no idling heaven not to wish for by extortionists under any circumstances be it in war or peace time.

In a one-on-one meeting with Israel President, Isaac Herzog, was visibly pleased to hear Musk say: “Those killing civilian must be killed.”

But in an interview Musk had with the New York Times on his return from Israel he expressed an aversion to being extorted by advertisers. “They must go f*ck themselves.”

But co-hosts to Jimmy Dore’s podcast, Rusell Dobular and Keaton Weiss, hold that Musk’s political stance is difficult to decipher nor is he reputed to be a man of principle.

In an interview Musk gave, he was agitated to an extent of saying Disneyland could keep its advertising indicating that advertisers have no last word on what voices to keep or shut down on X.

Standing on the opposite side of Jimmy Dore is podcaster Dave Rubin, whose mind is decidedly on the occupying power to see any good in the cause of the occupied.

Rubin’s tear-jerking calmness characterises the Israel side of released refugees into an idyllic atmosphere of undisturbed air-conditioned intact facilities never touched by bombs to portray a resilient mark of surviving civilisation.

The exuberance characterises the chaotic side of Palestinian released refugees into an eyesore rubble that can never be a thing of beauty to see battered bloodied hands desperately reaching out for the grasp of liberation.

To this picture, Rubin sees things moving at breakneck speed featuring Elon Musk in flesh in Israel with events vigorously shaking the fence for the billionaire to pick a side. Judging by sound of Musk’s language during his visit to Israel, it was undeniably a battle for Elon Musk’s heart. From Netanyahu’s lens, Musk says those that kill civilians must be killed.

Since in the language of Netanyahu – Palestinians ‘are human animals,’ they fall outside the definition of citizens to earn Rubin’s empathy.

Albeit false, the story of beheaded babies and unborn babies ripped from their mothers’ stomachs was strangely and repeatedly played out. These are the claims US President Joe Biden and CNN retracted after South Africa’s International Relations Minister, Naledi Pandor, said were false with the backing information.

But ‘beheading babies’ is what ‘terrorists’ do. A tag has thus been concocted to be stuck on Hamas for the calculated smear to stick and for the bastardisation of the cause of the Palestinians.

From Rubin’s side as is Piers Morgan and Christiane Amanpour the line is clear for all to hold: ‘Do you condemn Hamas?’

Same has been the line of march with Ukraine: “Do you condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?”

And the ‘truth’ of victory that has been parroted since February 2022 on behalf of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, is proving difficult to get by.

The battle of the hearts and minds continues. It is not clear if Elon Musk’s heart has escaped his rib cage too.

The final judge to tell if it is so will be by show of voices that are allowed or not allowed on to be heard on X.  The events shaking the fence on which Musk sits to pick a side are far from stopping. Written by Corporate Strategist, Writer and Freelance Journalist, Oupa Ngwenya.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the content belong to the author and not Y, its affiliates, or employees.

Written by: Lindiwe Mabena

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