“Love it or hate it, but Twitter is a million times better and more fun since @elonmusk took over.” wrote the conservative troll He has a pseudonym called, yes, unfortunately, “catturd2”. The darling of the tech world, podcaster Lex Fridman, proclaimed that “Twitter is better than Netflix right now.” Venture capitalist and writer Mike Solana pointed out the lack of the national press of understanding when it comes to Silicon Valley, saying “there are engineers in San Francisco who are trying to work on Twitter right now because they think it might be difficult,” something political writers “genuinely can’t fathom.” In short: liberals and even many establishment conservatives just don’t get the philosophy that Musk is bringing to Twitter, and his dismay at his changes is proof enough in itself.
That makes Musk’s ownership of Twitter more than just a billionaire’s vanity project or a tech world skirmish over content moderation. It is a window into a different mindset, common to Silicon Valley but not exclusively its, which glorifies individual dynamism over group consensus building; borderline, cool, buttercup-style discursive norms about restraint in crowd-pleasing; and old-fashioned ideas about the “wisdom of the masses” on the prescriptions of the “experts”. The result is a new-school spin on technological libertarianism that fuses the world’s “founder” cult with modern-day conservative critiques of liberal institutions. It’s no different from the asterisked form of business-friendly conservatism and culture warfare practiced by the governor. Ron DeSantis in his “free state of florida”, but his fans are not limited to red states, just check his Twitter account.
Antonio García Martínez, author and technological entrepreneur, summed up this mentality and its complaints well in a Twitter thread which declared Musk’s inauguration a “revolt by corporate capital against the professional-managerial class regime that dominates everywhere (including and especially big tech companies).” In other words: a revolt of billionaires against… their own employees.
These positions, in the aggrieved language of Martínez, the “DH regime, ESG scammersthe folks with Skittles hair and mouse-clicking jobs who are considered bold social crusaders rather than a parasitic weight around any organization’s neck,” vs. another twitter horseflyThe hypothetical “100 passionate libertarian engineers” with shares in the company, capable of changing it overnight with the sweat of their brow and sheer self-interest, and who implicitly believe that they are capable of going from being “employees ” to Musky Tycoon overnight through hard work and a stroke of luck.
Those engineers, along with right-leaning figures in the tech world like Musk and his close friend David Sacks, a venture capitalist and adviser to the Twitter project, share a classically libertarian passion for free speech and the free market. where that tried and true, bottom right of political compass This mindset finds its modern twist in the particular conflict Martinez describes: Mainstreamers like Musk are now fighting not just the greedy, parasitic welfare bureaucrats of Ayn Rand’s imagination, but a cultural regime that seeks to cement its dominance through corporate governance (not to mention academia and the media).
A dynamic “builder,” after all, is nothing without an obstacle to fight against, and all things considered, post-Reagan America is still pretty capital friendly. Silicon Valley’s history since the 1980s is one of unrestricted freedom and “innovation without permission”, with some notable exceptions. That level of comfort could be what leads a self-described “free speech absolutist” like Musk to reflect on his support for DeSantis, a man who used the power of the state to punish one of his top employers for… speak out against the law. I didn’t like it. Libertarians and culture warriors now have the same goal in “woke capital.”
The libertarian tech world offers a few theories for the rise of awake capital. A particularly popular characterization of his opponents is, as Martinez put it, the “professional management class,” or “PMC,” a concept borrowed from World War II-era political philosopher James Burnham. Although his understanding of it is slightly distorted by Burnham’s actual writings, it has become so widespread that it is worth considering on its own: “PMCs” are the college-educated middle managers who dominate the ranks of bloated corporations and dictate their preferences. cultural values in such corporations even though they do not actually making anything.
This criticism, it should be noted, is not limited to right. But on the libertarian right there is no sin as big as “actually doing nothing”, which makes the “DH regime” and its allies an especially potent bogeyman. Martinez’s use of the word “regime” to describe them is, intentionally or not, revealing: Ohio Senator-elect JD Vance used the term incessantly during his campaign as a sweeping characterization of PMC-dominated institutions in business, government, and the media, based on his intellectual influence Curtis Yarvinthe monarchist blogger and software engineer.
One might read the word “monarchist” and think we’ve come a long way from libertarianism in the span of a single paragraph, but worlds collide more often than one might think. Writer John Ganz recently compared the philosophy shared by Yarvin and Republican Party megadonor Peter Thiel to apartheid-era South Africa. concept of “baasskap”, in which “highly competent technical administrators with crystal clear vision, the engineers”, rule without dissent or democracy over a subservient population.
It is a mistake to directly equate, as some liberals have done, the woolly and unpredictable libertarianism of Musk with the more hard-line far-right ideology of Thiel. The former might have made a favorite game, if not now a large part of his business empire, of “owning the liberties,” but he has expressed nothing like Thiel’s practical obsession with shaping American political life (a unless it counts tangling with the National Labor Relations Board). But the two share a fundamental commitment to a kind of wronged, hyper-individualistic view of their rightful place in the world, namely, at the top: borrowing a catchphrase from another era of industrial hero worship“Silicon Valley does, the world takes.”
It all sounds, again, very Randian. Ayn Rand’s hardcore free-market dogmatism is decidedly passé among the newer, more energized parts of the post-Trump right. But it wasn’t all that long ago that she encouraged the backlash to Barack Obama’s presidency, the Ron Paul movement, and even the cult of Bitcoin. The modern “builder” is libertarianism’s rand allergy to the state but maintains its glorification of the railroad architect and builder—now, the coder—in a world of liberal scolding, censors, and regulators.
This is what makes Musk’s ownership of Twitter such an inspiring event for his followers. Pre-Musk Twitter was a corporation like any other corporation, with a professional culture and goals driven by its board of directors and the wishes of the company’s advertisers. Musk bought the company and, in essence, declared “I advise you, c’est moi”, dissolving that board and taking custom governance over the company to turn it back into a startup.
If you don’t share the philosophy of Musk and his fans, and thought Twitter was a flawed but important “digital public square,” that’s reason enough to “freak out.” But if you believe in the power of Musk few “hard core”it is an unprecedented opportunity to show the world the power that has been stifled by a sclerotic liberal establishment, a dynamic that is defining this era of politics as much as this wild moment in the business world.