Look, Elon Musk just hosted the Ron DeSantis presidential campaign on Twitter Spaces and I could say a few things about hypocrisy - Musk claims that "In order for Twitter to gain public trust, it must be politically neutral"DeSantis promises"hold big technologies accountable". But we all grew up here. These people are not rational or consistent. They just want you to lick their bootsthose great white bats. Instead, let's talk about something that Twitter Space has made obvious: when it comes to politics, TV still reigns supreme.
The basic facts of yesterday's post are pathetic. Musk's first attempt to hold onto Twitter space failed whenover 600,000 users joined simultaneously. (For comparison,BuzzFeedwon 800,000 viewers when he put rubber bands on a watermelon2016 on Facebook live, no technical issues andTravis Scott drew 12.3 million peopleFortnite, similarly flawless.) DeSantis managed to join another space with David Sacks, Musk's PayPal colleague and moderator of the event. This attracted as many as 300,000 listeners, allowing DeSantis to finally make his announcement via the famous conference call, along with the questioner who had trouble muting the sound.
But there are a few things going on here. First, Musk and DeSantis are trying to reclaim the lightning in a bottle that Twitter had with Donald Trump. Second, Sacks is applying for the role of power broker in Silicon ValleyotherPayPal's old friend Peter Thiel is not working. And third, a tipsuccessionThe theme is that Musk clearly wants to be the internet's Rupert Murdoch.
Trump and DeSantis are currently the top contenders for the 2024 Republican nomination. Musk's friend Thiel made a name for himself in Republican politics by throwing money around, but it looks like he'll have to sit out the next election, and his absence makes Sacks seem more important. Murdoch's influence on American politics cannot be overstated, but he comes from a different era, and so does his audience.
More,CNN's Trump City Hall attracted 3.3 million viewers, also without technical difficulties. This is one battle the internet has yet to win.
In the shadow of Trump
Trump has made Twitter the center of the conversation in a way that no other politician has because it has a kind of loveless anti-poetry about it, as ifFilip Larkinwent to advertising. Trump, who has cut his teeth on reality TV, knows how to write and say things that "even haters and losersstays permanently in their brains. (Say it with me, "One of the wettest we've ever seen,from the water point of view”, „at seven is marginal”, „very stable genius").") I find it hard to even think of "Ron DeSantis" without thinking "Meatballs Ronor thinking about that timeTrump called him "Rob".
Put Trump's sense of slogans aside for a moment, though, and consider how he used Twitter: He tweeted live on TV. Trump's real platform has always been television; Reality TV has made him a household name out of reachNew York Post Office'Spage six, and was regularly placed on Fox during the Obama administration - damn it's CNNstill ventilates its rooms! As president, his TV commentator was probably the most effective way to find out what his political agenda is, whether you have an interest in politics or not. This made Twitter incredibly powerful.
For Trump, Twitter and TV worked synergistically. Almost every journalist in the world is also online, and most of them are (or were) on Twitter. Sending a weird tweet basically guaranteed him airtime. The ultimate goal has always been television, which his constituents watch from an early age with their noses an inch from the screen. Twitter was (and is) a niche internet platform, and even more soniche among boomers; therefore, the Trump campaign focused on Facebook ads.
For Trump, Twitter and TV worked synergistically
Now, having a direct line to every political reporter in the country isn't a bad thing for a politician, so you can understand why DeSantis thinks it's a good idea. Somehow. If you squint your eyes. But not only does DeSantis lack a sense of Trump's slogan, Twitter Space also suggests that he misunderstood what Trump was doing. Capturing and retransmitting Twitter space is more technically demanding and labor intensive than simply flashing a screenshot. Broadcast sound on TV is visually dull. Many journalists got involved – I certainly did – but the motivation to promote DeSantis on their platforms was less. Placing DeSantis in the Twitter space is great for Musk, whose goal is simply to get more people on Twitter. But all DeSantis has done is lock down a platform with a small user base that is less likely to vote.
And at the risk of repeating the point: Compared to Trump, DeSantis is boring. The Twitter space consisted mostly of complaining about the media, covid restrictions, the "awake crowd", central bank digital currencies and for some reasonrespect for Chevron.
And of course Trump, the softest boy in the worldhe moaned constantly— that John McCain had "the longest funeral in the worldfor example - but was punctuated by surreal digressions about how people should, I don't know,put disinfectant in their lungs to fight covid. People will tolerate whining if it's fun, but if it's some nerdy shit like Chevron? Bad luck, my friend.
PayPal created men
On hisEverything inpodcast last year, David Sacks confidently predicted a big Republican red wave in mid-term.It didn't come true. I heard an explanation that I believe is credible and it came from Peter Thiel.
The last time I saw Thiel speaking publicly at the Reagan Library in December, he began his remarks by saying that he was going to "start thinking a bit about the catastrophe that happened in 2022. The form of the catastrophe, as Thiel put it: failure to defeat one incumbent Democratic senator and defeating only one incumbent Democratic governor. Although the 31 incumbent Democrats in the House chose not to run, the Republicans won "only" nine seats. All this despite inflation and what Thiel called "Biden's dementia."
"Part of what's not only catastrophic but also depressing is just the feeling that if we don't do something else, we're just going to be on Groundhog Day where something like this is going to happen again in 2024 or by the end of this decade." Thiel said. He went on to argue that the Republican Party had run out of steam and had not figured out how to attract new or undecided voters with a Paul Ryan-style political miracle or Mitch McConnell-style nihilism. According to Thiel, Reagan had a popular idea: to defeat Communism.
In this sense, Trump also had a popular idea: to show the existing political system a middle finger. DeSantis thoughIssystem. And while Sacks has been in the DeSantis bandwagon for some time, that enthusiasm isn't common among the donor class. president of BlackstoneSteve Schwarzman declined to donate to DeSantisbecause he is "pragmatic and wants to back the winner." Several other top donors have also expressed distaste for DeSantis' book bans and abortion bans, though they have not ruled out donating directly.According toReuters. Sam Thiel said he was waiting for the 2024 cycle becausethinks culture war is a bad fight.
If you want to be the next king-maker in Silicon Valley, you have to give a king
This leaves a hole. Although Sacks is not as rich or important as Thiel, he wrote a book with him:the myth of diversity,today best remembered by invitationdate rape "late regret".(Sacks later said that the book "does not represent who I am or what I believe today.") Indeed, Sacks brought PayPal to Thiel, which set the stage for the rest of his career.
Thiel is really powerful and therefore doesn't have to say more than he wants to. But Sacks positioned himself as a kind of influencerEverything inand appearances with Megyn Kelly, Dave Rubin and Glenn Beck. Although his checkbook is smaller, he can consult itother Silicon Valley conservatives-he ismobingirani. And Sacks has ties to Silicon Valley's biggest influencer of all: Elon Musk.
But if Sacks wants to be king himself, he needs a winner. This puts a lot of pressure on DeSantis to deliver. Maybe DeSantis will do better elsewhere than this Twitter space, but starting his campaign, he just didn't have the chops.
In December, Thil asked the question: What do Republicans stand for anyway? His own answer was… still Communism. "Perhaps communism has not been completely defeated," Thiel said. “And perhaps that is a really big problem even today. Not in the form of the Soviet Union, but in the form of China, the Chinese Communist Party, Red China, whatever you want to call it."
Perhaps Thiel was just having fun in front of the audience that showed up at the Reagan Library event. But he is not mistaken that he has a unifying idea. DeSantis's simply unifying idea - along with that of many other Republicans - happens to demonize queer people. Except "Don't say happy"right, he islimited medical care for transgender people,banned drug showsand strangelyregulated use of the bathroom- which means if the women's restroom is out of order, the yew women must be peeing in the bushes, because commanding the men's restroom is now illegal in the great state of Florida.
But DeSantis stepped inspecialmade a very strange decision to take overformer wedding venue, Disneywho madepowdery mildew oppositionto his "Don't Say Gay" law. Taking on America's most classic megacorporation, timid Coca-Cola, is the furthest thing from Thiel's vision and requires a certain level of skill. But so far, DeSantis can't convince even Musk's true followers.
"I willgo watch the paint dryso I can have more fun," he tweetedmusky friendCatturd2. He then retweeted several other users who were fed up with DeSantis as well.
Imitation of Murdoch
Shortly after Musk announced his deal on Twitter,Om Malik noticed that buying Twittermeant that Musk would "never be removed from the platform that gives him a tyrannical pulpit and power." Musk needed a pulpit, Malik continued, to make sure "enough people would believe in his mindset to put hundreds of millions into his projects and thus enable him to see the future." But Muskovvision of the future narrowsIs it true?
While somecute summer kidsI think Musk can go hand in hand with Murdoch, there are some problems with that thesis. First of all, Twitter isn't television — and therefore isn't muted all the time in public. Secondly, the people most likely to vote are not the (small) Twitter audience. And third, Twitteralready failed on live video. Suggesting that Musk can compete with Murdoch underestimates Murdoch's media skills and downplays the importance of habit for viewers.
Musk scored one major TV exile with Tucker Carlson, who announced he would be moving his show to Twitter after Fox kicked him out. But I doubt Carlson's aging audience will go with him - television is still the path of least resistance. Assuming they decide to join Twitter, they'll be up against itsnuff movies, scams and other miscellaneous detrituseven Fox News won't allow it.
In some sense,Musk hires Linda Yaccarinoserve as CEO suggests similarities to Murdoch's relationship with Roger Ailes,the man whose vision most shaped the Fox News lineup. (Yaccarino served inTrump administration;Ailes from Richard Nixon.) But Ailes could control his programming, from "football camera"angles to"fair and balanceddeception - and he was like Murdochfun-focused laser. Twitter is full of user content and therefore only as good as its usersits moderate. In addition, Murdoch provided Ailes with free Fox News coverage for 20 years until Murdoch's sons turned him down; Musk fired the last non-Musk CEO of Twitter, Parag Agrawal, for the offense of implying that Musk was not publicly insulting the company.
There is one more thing: scale. On Fox, Carlsonan average of 3 million viewers in 2022. The original DeSantis space fell below 600,000 people, about 20 percent of that audience. And Carlson's viewers probably won't be appeased by some lame "breaking the internet" jokes.
There are many lessons to be learned from DeSantis' poor start to the presidential campaign, but for me it was a no-brand cocaine combination. DeSantis is not Trump; Sacks is not Thiel; comparing him to Musk is probably an insult to Rupert Murdoch. And Twitter can't really touch television, which is still the dominant medium for most politicians.as it has been since 1960.
Now I just have one question: Did the entire DeSantis presidential campaign just experience an unplanned rapid dismantle?
Correction on May 25, 11:00 AM EST:This story originally broke Tucker Carlson's viewership percentage, under which Musk's Twitter space crumbled. It's 20 percent, not 1 percent. We regret that in many situations we were weak in math, but especially in this one.