There’s a great irony in the fact that Twitter is now owned by Elon Musk, one of the site’s most prolific, influential, and most-mocked users.
Some of the wittiest posters on Twitter lean on irony, surrealism, or just vomit out whatever half-baked thought happens to be pulsing through their neurons, but Musk is a big fan of puns – the cornier, the better. His tweets read like the musty pages of an out-of-print joke book, and his replies inevitably attract sharp-tongued responses from funnier users, along with his hoard of simpering sycophants, painting the screen yellow with cry-laughing emojis.
That quaint, out-of-touch humor was on full display the moment Musk first stepped foot into Twitter headquarters carrying a sink, so he could tweet, “let that sink in.” He followed up that killer punchline by laying off half of his new employees (the funny part is, Twitter is reportedly rehiring many of them).
Thus far, Musk’s leadership has proved as clunky and humorless as his posts; despite declaring that “comedy is now legal on Twitter,” Musk soon found that he was the butt of the joke.
In response to Musk’s takeover, and official “legalization” of comedy, the site was inundated with a barrage of racial slurs, prompting the comedian Trevor Noah to quip that perhaps Musk should charge white users to post the N-word, in response to Musk’s plan to charge $8-per-month for a verification checkmark.
Musk spent several days responding to high-profile, verified users who were critical of his planned paywall, haggling with author Stephen King like a used car salesman, and responding sarcastically to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Whatever one’s opinion of Musk, it isn’t the most professional way to run a business, and didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the site’s userbase.
Fearing that Musk was going to tank Twitter, many of the site’s verified users took it upon themselves to troll Musk, impersonating his account and writing a variety of absurd and offensive posts.
Following the wave of impersonators, Musk suddenly reversed his stance on permabanning (which he previously stated should only be reserved for bots and scammers), and announced that any accounts impersonating others without clearly labeling themselves as a parody would be permanently suspended.
Watching Musk react, in real time, to being mercilessly mocked by the userbase of the platform he just bought for $44 billion, is surely the funniest thing he’s ever done. It’s like an ambitious, out-of-control Nathan Fielder sketch (incidentally, did you know that Musk reportedly made a habit of inviting Fielder to parties, and would attempt to make the deadpan comedian laugh?).
Musk seems to want to leave his mark on Twitter, to leave an inimitable imprint on the site, the way that the psychedelic ramblings of former President Donald Trump used to, before he was permanently banned. But Musk simply doesn’t share Trump’s talent for turning deliriously petty feuds into pure poetry; you can’t buy that kind of unhinged talent.
It’s wildly unclear what the future holds for Twitter; the most cynical predictions of a glitchy site riddled with paywalls, intrusive ads and crypto schemes might actually come to pass. Or perhaps things will settle down, as Musk shifts gears in a panic, accelerating back to a more sensible direction in response to backlash.
No matter what happens to Twitter, it’s surely a safe bet that Musk’s posts will remain “cringe.”