Musk is not known for his poise or self-control, but this is a new low.
BY: CONOR KELLY
It is strange to be a Twitter user these days, mostly thanks to the perpetual childishness of its current CEO, Elon Musk. Ever since he purchased the site, Musk has proven to be a thorn in the side of many a Twitter user; something I have not hesitated to point out. But recently, Musk has taken his irresponsible use of the platform to another level, smearing one of his former colleagues with disgusting accusations of pedophilia and child sexualization.
THE PERPETUAL CHILDISHNESS OF ELON MUSK
Consistent readers of my work will know that I have become increasingly annoyed by Musk’s faux crusade in the name of free speech. From his consistent refusal to moderate far-right bigotry on Twitter to his blatant attempts to engage in partisan manipulation of Twitter users, Musk has proven to be a consistent annoyance to many who hope for a more responsible Twitter CEO.
But more than just a poorly organized and irresponsible leader, Musk has revealed himself to be completely and utterly devoid of restraint in dealing with his critics.
In a recent example of this, Musk targeted Twitter’s former safety head Yoel Roth, after Roth criticized Musk’s management of the site in an interview where he retracted his previous position that Twitter was safer under Musk than it was under its previous owners.
This shift in position is notable because Roth was previously a staunch defender of Musk’s management, regularly arguing that Musk was being castigated as a villain. But what is more incredible is how far Musk was willing to go in retaliating against someone who had previously defended him and even tried to contextualize the decisions Musk made.
LIES AND REPRISAL
Not long after Roth gave this interview, a Twitter user by the name of Eliza Bleu, a conservative activist associated with conspiracy theorists Jack Posebiac and Mike Cernovich, pointed to a Salon article posted by Roth titled “Student-teacher sex: When is it OK?” Using the title alone, Bleu incorrectly suggested that Roth was in favor of underaged sexual conduct. Musk almost immediately accepted the argument before leaning into the lie.
It is worth noting that Roth merely posted a summary of the article’s topic and didn’t make any comment beyond the question presented by Salon‘s Tracy Clark-Flory. Additionally, the article in question does not involve any minors being abused at all.
Despite Bleu and Musk’s presentation of the article, and by extension Roth, the actual content was quite different than its provocative title suggests. Rather than endorsing sexual relations between minors and adult teachers, Clark-Flory was examining a case out of Washington involving an 18-year-old student and a 33-year-old music teacher several days before the student was set to graduate.
The issue in question, as Salon explains was that:
“The age of consent in Washington is 16, but a statute outlaws a few specific sexual relationships, including between a teacher and a “minor” student who is “at least sixteen years old.” In an appeal, Hirschfelder argued that the statute was meant to criminalize sexual misconduct between teachers and students who are aged 16 and 17 (i.e. over the age of consent but under the age of 18). This week, however, the State Supreme Court ruled that legislators had originally intended to outlaw teachers having sex with students under 21 (the age cap for high school enrollment).”TRACY CLARK-FLORY, Student-teacher sex: When is it OK?, Salon, NOVEMBER 20, 2010
Despite the student being of legal age by state and federal law, the state has a specific prohibition against teachers having sex with students, where it would be legal had the participants not had a student-teacher relationship. In other words, the article raised the ethical and legal conundrum over when it is appropriate for two consenting adults to have sex if power dynamics are involved. Whether or not a person agrees with the teacher’s actions, the article does not, under any circumstances, support or suggest that sexual exploitation of minors is acceptable or even desirable.
Musk and Bleu’s misrepresentation of Roth’s post, a post that was well over 12 years old, is demonstrative of the fundamental malice that seems to permeate this new Twitter-sphere of perpetual accusation and deception.
Some may argue that Musk merely didn’t read the article, and perhaps that could have been a cover for him, if it were not for his follow-up post, in which he again blatantly lies about Roth’s views on children and sexual exploitation, pointing to Roth’s dissertation Gay Data (2016), which examined the interconnected nature of a site like Grindr.
Musk took a screenshot of a portion of the paper and attempted to argue that Roth was endorsing the idea of children being on Grindr for sexual purposes, a claim that seems to suggest the Twitter CEO has no reading comprehension skills.
The paper itself does not endorse, under any circumstances, the idea of children engaging in sexual behavior on Grindr. Instead, Roth highlighted instances in which Grindr users falsely claimed to be adults and engaged in sexual conduct with other users who actually fit that bill, such as a case in 2012 where two adults were charged with sexual assault and endangering a minor (Roth, 2016, pp. 247).
Roth does not sugar-coat the severity of these instances and actively calls the case of the two adults engaging in a threesome with a child “chilling” (Rother, 2016, pp. 247). Instead, Roth’s concern, which Musk himself shows in the article, is that Grindr is attempting to avoid legal liability for its conduct by creating a false sense of security for minors while actively failing to protect them.
If Musk had shown the page just before his maliciously clipped quotation or even linked the original dissertation, then he would’ve had to admit that Roth was not endorsing sexual conduct with minors. The exact opposite is true. And the cost of this malicious approach is Roth’s own safety.
As of writing, CNN reports that Roth fled his home due to the deluge of threats issued against him, largely prompted by Musk’s ridiculous attempts to paint him as a pedophile. The consistent attempts by Musk to paint his critics as groomers or corrupt have largely been based on nothing more than spite and conspiracy theories.
Musk’s conduct is nothing more than an attempt to silence a critic of his that he can no longer hope to control. Instead of rolling with the punches and acknowledging that the current state of Twitter is far from perfect, Musk demonstrates that he is perfectly willing to put a former employee’s life at risk if it means keeping his precious ego intact. This is not the attitude of a man who should be running a major social website. This is the attitude of a coward who has never been told that his ideas, much like his underground tunnels, are garbage.