The Problem Is Billionaires

My social media footprint is light. Is that how you say it? Light? Faint? Slight?

I was an unenthusiastic Facebooker until I deleted my account some years ago now because, well, I can’t really remember, to tell you the truth. I don’t Instagram. Snapchat, what? TikTok unsettles me. It just seems to be the Domain of the Young.

Basically, I’m a late-adopter, adapter?, late-adapter? Either one, I’m tech inept or, at least, tech clumsy. I don’t clue in quickly but do get cranky quickly if things refuse to just fall into place easily. If it’s counter-intuitive in any way, shape or form, I will not figure it out or, I will eventually, and when I do, I come bearing a grudge.

There is already so much in my life that I don’t understand. Succession, for example. You like that?! Why? I am loathe to introduce new modes of frustration into my life.

I do do the Twitter, though. At times, prodigiously, in the quantitative more than qualitative sense, obsessively even, more so back in the day, much to my consternation and that of some of my loved ones. Who has time for the other modes of social media? There are only so many hours in the day.

As you may or may not know, Twitter was purchased last fall by the world’s purportedly richest man, by all accounts, wildly overpaying for it. Less than a year in, it seems the acquisition may be worth a third of the purchase price. During that period, we’ve witnessed almost a daily shitshow of egregious mismanagement including regular outages, massive company layoffs, overdue bills and a steady rise of toxic content making a reappearance, some of it boosted by the new owner’s personal account.

Twitter was never a glitch-free, positive public commons space platform that might have been its creator’s original, rosy intentions. Certainly not by the time I joined in 2011. It was a business, hardly a money-making one for anyone outside the smallest of closed circles. Like Facebook, whatever revenue it did generate, it did so through an alchemic process of selling ads and user data. Or something like that. Like I said, I am a bona fide idiot when it comes to understanding how exactly our new media environment actually works.

Fixated user engagement is the key. That much I do know. The more engagement by and between users the better.

And what we have discovered, probably to little surprise to those knowledgeable about such matters, the more outrageous, outlandish, offending the content, the bigger the uptick in engagement. Both sides of the coin tend to weigh in. The boosters and cheerleaders versus the indignant and objectors. A win-win for the business model. A demoralizing loss for healthy public discourse.

Enter the Elon.


Because he could.

Because there won’t be any repercussions for him even if he burns the entire operation to the ground. What’s $44 billion, even borrowed, to someone worth five times that? (According to their accounting.) Not pocket change but nothing more than a manageable setback.

Because we’ve lionized hoarders of great wealth. Because, Why them and not You? They must have a special something, a certain spark. Savvy. They work harder, longer. They’re shrewder. They’ve got big, fat GeniusBrains. They’ve earned every single penny secreted away into their personal vaults all over the world!

Wealth establishes a meritocratic hierarchy that we can all understand.

Even when we know that isn’t true, the meritocratic part.

It simply isn’t possible that the rich, the 1%, the 0.1%, the SuperDuper Rich work 80X harder than the average person. Or are 150% more diligent or dedicated. Or have blood, sweat and teared it 1000X more than the hoi polloi. Not these days, that’s for sure, when the average person is struggling to keep up with the average person from twenty-five years ago, never mind barely clinging on to the side of all those boats being lifted up on the tide of gazillionaire’s growing accumulation.

How much is too much?

Having access to $44 million to light fire to a compulsive burst of petulance?

A 3rd home? A 4th?

An offshore bank account?

We know such grotesque income inequality, so much wealth concentrated in too few hands, destabilizes societies and works contrary to a properly functioning economy. It has proven to be antithetical to a healthy and resilient democracy. Money means power. Inestimable, incomprehensible amounts of money mean limitless, uncontested access to power. The game’s rigged and the results baked in. A sense of great unfairness stalks the land.

Exacerbated, I think, as we look on and watch the likes of Elon Musk, the Richie Richest, dismember an entire enterprise in real time, either by design or sheer ineptitude. How did this guy get to be that guy? we ask. Forget the talk about the undeserving poor for the moment. Our problems start and end with the undeserving rich. The whole fish rotting from the head business.

If Musk succeeds in failing Twitter to the ground, it won’t be any great loss in the scheme of things. Twitter was always a mere accessory, a bauble app. But it should serve as a lesson, reconfiguring our view about wealth and those who attain huge mounds and mounds of it. It was never about talent or smarts or an inexhaustible work ethic. Great fortunes owe much to good fortune and luck, and an absolute venal inhumanity.


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