It’s on. Elon Musk has already done it. Officially filed to terminate his own Twitter acquisitionTwitter is calling Musk’s bluff. They’ll see Musk in court. And while it’s only going to get messier from here, one important verdict has already been rendered by Elon Musk himself: he doesn’t have what it takes to run Twitter. And that’s a damning blow to his own central mythology.
We’ll look at the specifics of Musk’s formal SEC filing in a minute, but first it’s important to remember what he’s said about the deal and why he wanted to do it in the first place. It’s not like the world forced the acquisition of a relatively small social network on the world’s richest man. And Musk’s conduct surrounding the deal has been marked by a lot of obvious troll behavior. Reasonable people would conclude that Musk was not serious about the deal. This is leading to many Musk stans and Twitter haters interpreting a 4D-chess narrative to make Musk’s blunder seem intentional. But.
There are some things Musk said in the frenzy of the Twitter takeover that can’t be ignored. That’s because they strike at the heart of what built his original reputation: as a visionary, a bold industrialist, a futurist, and maybe even the guy who would solve climate change and multi-planetary civilization. Musk has been tirelessly working to attract a large number of right-wingers and social reactionaries who are more interested in his trolling than Tesla’s or SpaceX’s missions. But Musk’s real credibility — if he ever had any — was being the face of genuinely huge and ambitious efforts to change the world and make it better.
He probably didn’t need to, but he brought that same world-saving energy to the Twitter deal:
- Musk said he was motivated by the fact that Twitter had become a “de facto town square” and that it’s “really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they’re able to speak freely.” (He talked about “free speech” a lot during this time.)
- Talk At a TED conferenceMusk stated that the deal was not about making money. Some of his exact words: “it’s about the future of civilization, but you don’t care about the economics at all.”
- Later, Internally speaking to employees of Twitter, Musk said “I want Twitter to contribute to a better, long-lasting civilization where we better understand the nature of reality.”
- Musk: “Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.”
These statements are unique because (a) Important things for the future of human existence These are not things that you would typically trolling people about. This is especially true if your name is Elon Musk. He has spent his entire career, starting with Tesla, promoting the idea that he is on mission to save the future for humanity and spread civilization across all stars. Do he often tweet dumb memes? Yes. Yes. Did he just send a car into outer space as a joke. Sure. However, his missions for his companies are very serious. Tesla’s mission is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” Neuralink wants to build devices that help people with paralysis to “regain independence.” And SpaceX? That’s about nothing less than “enabling people to live on other planets.”
So: Musk has intentionally spent his career leaning into some of the world’s most difficult-to-solve problems. Musk is a big speaker, has many ideas and promises, and gives many keynotes. Interestingly, his campaign to save the planet earned him one the largest and most active fan bases. Follow us on Twitter. And let’s be real: the man loves to tweet. Elon Musk may be the only person who loves tweeting more than anyone else in the world. The United States Congress has twice banned him from the platform.
But remember: Musk didn’t say “I want to buy Twitter because I love tweeting and I command an army of users here.” He said Twitter was crucial to the future human civilization. Spiritually, the deal was accepted by the SpaceXs and Teslas around the globe.
What kind of problems would prevent this man from unlocking Twitter’s true potential? To steer it and to help humanity prosper in the future, along with his other businesses. In his SEC filing, he only makes two statements:
- Twitter won’t give him data necessary for him to figure out how many spam bots are on the platform.
- Twitter lost some of its executives and fired others.
This is poor crybaby stuff.
Musk has been harping on the bot issue for some time, even though it is not his first. Participating in public beef productionTalk to Twitter CEO about it. I’m not going to unpack this whole spat — the Delaware Court of Chancery is about to examine that in some detail — but the TL;DR is that Musk wants to tank a huge deal over a problem known to every social media company on the planet, who have all dedicated vast amounts of resources toward fixing over several decades. It’s just a fundamentally unserious position from a guy who is willing to solve world-shaking problems like climate change
But let’s assume just for fun that Musk is right. After he started the deal and looked under the hood and laid out his plans for Twitter’s staff, he discovered Twitter’s bot population is more like 20% than 5%. What are you waiting for? What’s a spread of 90 million users when TikTok and Facebook are ahead of you by Billions? How will you abandon Twitter if your view is that Mark Zuckerberg has become an unelected dictator of speech and tyrant? What’s the point of arguing in your SEC filing that revenue is at stake from active users? That doesn’t sound like “not caring about the economics at all.” That sounds like only caring about the economics.
The deal was blown when a few Twitter executives fired employees while still operating normally and rolling out new features (hi co-tweeting! — get real. You’re buying Twitter for $44 billion. It’s yours now. You have the power to clean up and reverse any ill-advised actions that led you to this platform. You won’t be stopped! The SEC couldn’t even get you to stop tweeting!
There are many theories about why Musk decided to fool Twitter and the rest of the world. But in the end, Musk wrote a check his myth couldn’t cash.
We’re left with two possibilities. Either Musk doesn’t think he can do the job he promised at Twitter, and he’s not the world-changing force he’s been made out to be. He was lying about his lofty visions and lofty goals that helped him build his companies and his image.
What kind man would want to troll the world for a better tomorrow?