Elon Musk and the giant pile of money

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.

Long story short, a bunch of members got together, wrote an open letter, it was covered in the Washington Post, and then CNN.

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:

Everything below this line is a copy-paste from this FB post (which is slightly reworked from this twitter thread)

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.

And grows.


A twitter list of Noah Smith’s hidden gems

A little while ago, Noah Smith published a post that listed (and cheerled) a diverse set of different twitter accounts he really enjoyed.

It was pretty convincing, so I tried to follow those accounts. It was annoying — there’s a construct of a twitter list that makes it easy, but he hadn’t made one. I couldn’t find one via searching, either. (Turns out that Twitter Search doesn’t let you search for lists.)

(Side note — once you know to look for them, UX annoyances or bugs are everywhere. From the mightiest, techiest companies to industrially designed physical objects. Honestly, it’s better to be in blissful ignorance about this, so I won’t spend more time here convincing you).

So I made a twitter list for myself and shared it with the world — Noah Smith’s Hidden Gems of Twitter, a Twitter List.

(And, while we’re at it, here’s my favorite personal twitter list — the ~20 people for whom I want to read all their posts)