(Todd A. Smith)
Elon Musk thinks if a company does not advertise on his social media platform that it is blackmail.
For some reason, he thinks that brands are not particular about who and what they associate with even though associating with the wrong people or wrong ideology could cost them a fortune.
During an interview, the billionaire said, “If somebody’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money. Go F*** yourself. Go. F*** yourself. Is that clear.”
He singled out Disney CEO Bob Iger in his outburst after several companies stopped advertising with X, formerly known as Twitter.
However, based on his tantrum, it is amazing how little he must know about actual business and consumer choice.
As a billionaire, he must have become so detached from reality that he thinks a person choosing not to do business with him is equivalent to blackmail when all those companies and CEOs are doing is exercising their free speech rights.
And being the self-proclaimed free speech absolutist that he claims to be, Musk should be praising Iger for taking Disney’s money away from him.
First off Elon, you are not being persecuted although your words make it seem like people are ganging up on you simply for doing what is in their best interests.
No one is doing you wrong.
No company is doing you wrong by pulling their ads from your social media platform X.
And come to find out, you obviously do not understand what free speech means.
Many Americans struggle with the meaning of free speech and the First Amendment.
The First Amendment, which grants Americans freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of religion, with a few exceptions, prohibits the government from infringing on those rights.
In essence, the government cannot shut you down or put you in prison because you said something they do not like.
Free speech even covers hate speech.
But you just cannot turn that hate speech into threats.
Furthermore, you cannot perjure yourself.
The First Amendment never applied to private businesses, except for the fact the businesses, business owners and business leaders have First Amendment rights too.
For example, as a media business owner no one can tell me what I can and cannot publish or broadcast.
I do not have to allow certain people on my talk show.
Additionally, I do not have to allow certain people to write for RegalMag.com.
Even if a reader violates my rules when commenting on an article, I do not have to approve of their post.
As the owner of the company and with my First Amendment rights, I can delete their comment.
To force me to approve comments with profanity and slurs against certain demographics would violate my rights.
To make me do something or say something that I do not believe is called compelled speech, and that is prohibited under the First Amendment, assuming it is the government trying to force me to say something.
Therefore, Musk’s beef with businesses that pulled ads from X because of antisemitic posts on the platform makes no sense at all, especially coming from a so-called free speech absolutist.
If those companies were forced to advertise on platforms that they do not approve of it would violate their freedom of speech.
Musk always said that he wanted X to be like a town square where people could discuss the issues of the day without fear of controversial comments getting their accounts deleted.
But just because a person is at the town square, does not mean they have to support everyone and everybody at the town square.
And forcing them to take sides at the town square debate would violate their free speech rights because of that dreaded compelled speech thing.
Forcing companies to keep their ads would mean that those companies are taking sides when their ads appear next to antisemitic posts.
And because brands value all their customers, not just the antisemitic ones, those businesses made the right decision.
Nevertheless, Musk supporters ran to social media to decry cancel culture and its latest victim.
But people need to realize the difference between cancel culture and consumer choice.
Cancel culture is when the powers that be prevent you from doing what you want to do, not when others do not want to support you because of your bigotry.
Consumers, sponsors and everyone in between have the right to do business with whomever they want to.
And the fact that Musk throws a profanity-laced temper tantrum because a company does not want to do business with him is the definition of petulance.
Musk must realize that being a genius in one field, does not make a person a genius in another field.
One of the most profound statements ever uttered on Earth is “stay in your lane.”
The media business has a model that largely depends on advertising dollars because a lot of media content is free like access to websites, broadcast television and radio shows, etc.
So why Musk might not have liked Twitter’s old policy on hate speech, fake news and making threats, there is a reason why many platforms have such guidelines.
While many people look at social media and websites as a means of getting their views across and conversing with others, the business model often requires those companies to make money from advertising revenue.
And many brands want to avoid controversy and appeal to a broad section of the population.
Brother, that is not blackmail.
That is just smart, common-sense business.