Musk’s Twitter Takeover and the Reinstatement of Alex Jones: Are We Witnessing the Erosion of U.S. Democracy?

A specter is haunting the USA – the ghost of a Trump dictatorship. Paraphrasing this sentence published 175 years ago by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who used it to bring their “Communist Manifesto” to humanity, it can be said today that the fear in the U.S. of drifting into an autocratic form of government with presumably significantly reduced pseudo-democratic ties is quite natural.

According to a poll published by the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, 47% of Americans would currently vote for Trump and only 43% for Joe Biden.

The gravediggers of U.S. democracy are already working on the coffin nails. One person at the forefront is the world’s richest man, Elon Musk. He enjoys a 44-billion-dollar platform that he has turned into a propaganda machine. His latest nail in the coffin: he has reinstated one of the world’s worst conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones.

Musk reversed the previous management’s decision to ban Jones from Twitter in 2018 after he repeatedly violated the rules prohibiting harassment and hate. On Saturday morning, Musk posted an unrepresentative poll on his account asking platform users whether Jones’ account should be reinstated. By the time the poll closed on Saturday evening, about 70% of the nearly two million respondents had voted “yes.”

Musk responded to the poll early Sunday morning: “The people have spoken, and so be it.”

A year ago, Musk sounded very different in the Jones case: He reiterated that he planned to uphold Jones’ suspension there. Jones had repeatedly claimed on social media and in his podcasts that the shooting rampage at San Hook Elementary School was a hoax. At the time, 20 children and six adults were killed. U.S. courts recently ordered Jones to pay more than a billion dollars in damages to the parents and relatives of those killed. Jones has also been banned from YouTube, Apple, and Facebook for some time.

But what has changed between this weekend and Musk’s statement a year ago?

  • Trump’s re-election seems unstoppable – at least for now. The Democratic Party is stoically and foolishly sticking with its candidate, Joe Biden, who is more unpopular than any other presidential candidate despite his successful economic policies.
  • Trump’s recent statement that he would be a dictator on his first day in office has startled many but has caused wet dreams on the U.S. right-wing spectrum.
  • At a campaign rally in New Hampshire a few weeks ago, Trump uttered phrases that could have come from Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebbels: “I promise you, we are going to get rid of the communists, the Marxists, the fascists, and the radical left-wing thugs that are living like vermin in our country.”
  • In an October interview with the far-right online publication The National Pulse, Trump declared that immigration is “an unfortunate thing for our country; it’s poisoning the blood of our country.”
  • At recent rallies and events, Trump has compared immigrants coming across the border to Hannibal Lecter, the fictional serial killer and cannibal from the horror film Silence of the Lambs.
  • In a speech in California, Trump called for shoplifters to be shot.
  • Trump suggested that a military general he appointed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be executed for treason. Mike Milley had called his Chinese counterpart after the January 6 riots to reassure him that the United States was not under threat of attack.

An interview may have influenced Musk’s decision, which he gave a few days earlier to Tucker Carlson, the alt-right ex-Fox News host. Carlson’s fan community then pressured Musk to reactivate Jones’ account.

For its January/February issue, the political magazine “The Atlantic” published a 24-article project titled “If Trump Wins” to describe what a second Trump presidency would look like. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote an editorial titled “A Warning” to kick off the series, which primarily argues against another Trump term. Anyone who has read the Atlantic’s edition is likely to have felt queasy about the future viability of U.S. democracy.
This much seems inevitable: the fallout is getting closer.

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