First off, I hate thinking about Elon Musk. I don’t have a position on Tom Cruise, on Beyonce, whomever is the new Justin Bieber these days (Zendaya?). Why should I be obligated to know anything about this other celebrity? I spent years blissfully ignoring his blatant propaganda to nerds I respected, and just letting my friend’s thoughts about Tesla just roll off my back.
And then now this set of stunts around buying twitter. I represent social media workers, including those who would be his employees. All of a sudden, I had to care.
That was cool.
But there’s more. It got me riled up enough to write up something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the years — the power of a giant pile of money. I tweeted it out, and posted on fb, and here it is for posterity:
Wrote a little thing about Elon Musk and twitter — it shows us the power of a Giant Pile of Money.
Big piles of money have so much power you don’t even have to *spend* the money to wield it.
Imagine if EM successfully walks away. He’s gotten many twitter employees to quit. Thrashed product roadmaps. Pushed out executives. Wasted (my guess) at least six months.
All this destruction of a company — without even spending any money! The big pile of money is still there, waiting to be used for the next deal.
This is not unusual. Sufficient money has a power of its own, just being sitting there.
An advertiser on a platform, spending money on ads, can *threaten* to pull them if they don’t get their way. They might get exemptions from the terms of service, or water down enforcement.
They get the win — WITHOUT changing how they move their money.
Even better, the *fact* that they are a big advertiser means that they get special favors and consideration: without asking for it, without even knowing about it. The power of a pile of money.
(I know advertisers *spend* money to make more, so the example isn’t perfect. But remember the money they spend gets them even more money back. I think it works)
Or, think about the realm of politics. A billionaire doesn’t like a congressman. He threatens to unleash 15 million dollars of ads if the congressman doesn’t change their stance on issue X.
The congressman folds. The billionaire wins — WITHOUT spending any money.
As a secondary point: From my understanding of the terms of the deal, he’s trying to do something illegal, or at least non-contractual. (I defer to Matt Levine on this)
And yet, here we are, having this conversation.
A white collar person is trying to evade accountability and use tricks to get out of following the law. And we think he might get away with it.
This is not rare. We face an epidemic of white collar crime in this country.
The giant pile of money has power. It sucks in and distorts reality around it. It doesn’t need to be spent, only to be referenced.
The giant pile of money buys silence (“do I _really_ want to piss off this guy?”) for free without effort. The pile of money dominates.