Now, surely part of that is a pitch — Musk wants you to pay for Twitter Premium (sorry, X premium) so you don’t have to see ads while you consume X’s content. But there’s a big dollop of sincerity too. Elon Musk genuinely feels that advertisers are a threat to free speech. Why? Because many advertisers fled X after Musk eagerly endorsed a bigot’s articulation of anti-Semitic theories, including that Jews promote hatred of whites and that Jews are importing “hordes of minorities.” Unsurprisingly, many companies aren’t cool with that. That’s a mix of corporate leadership thinking that such bigotry is bad business and thinking that it’s immoral.
Private companies have a First Amendment right to make such a decision. They have the right to express their values — and choose their marketing strategy — by deciding what kind of media content to promote. They have freedom of association to refrain from advertising on platforms that repulse their customers. Those rights are held both by the corporate advertisers and by the individuals making decisions for them. Elon Musk’s sullen yawp amounts to a claim that he has a right for companies to sponsor his speech, no matter what he says. That’s nonsense, both legally and philosophically.
It doesn’t stop there. Musk is also a fan of the theory that when he speaks, your criticism of him violates his rights. His latest articulation of this theory came after Media Matters published an article claiming that X is running ads for prominent companies next to bigoted content on X. Musk responded with an extravagant, mostly incoherent threat to file a “thermonuclear” lawsuit against Media Matters and its board and donors “to protect free speech,” whose criticism “seeks to undermine freedom of expression on our platform.”