Twitter CEO Elon Musk goes further down the right-wing rabbit hole, amplifying conspiracy theories about the Allen, Texas, shooting and other misinformation
BBC reporter Shayan Sardarizadeh: “These days, if you want to find the latest conspiracy theories trending on Twitter, the easiest thing to do is to check the tweets Elon Musk replies to, you’ll find most of them.”
Despite once claiming that “Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world,” CEO Elon Musk is using the site to amplify dangerous conspiracy theories and right-wing talking points. In just the last few days, Musk has peddled conspiracy theories about a mass shooting in Allen, Texas, fearmongered about migrants, and seemingly suggested that white people are being discriminated against.
After a gunman in Allen, Texas, killed eight people and injured seven last weekend, Musk followed the lead of right-wing media, undermining reporting that the shooter expressed neo-Nazi beliefs. In the days after the shooting, Musk tweeted, “this is either the weirdest story ever or a very bad psyop” and seemingly expressed doubt about reported connections to far-right ideology. (He did so without providing any evidence and disregarding multiple reports from research centers and outlets that confirmed the shooter had expressed neo-Nazi beliefs online.)
Musk has a history of flirting with bad actors and dangerous content on Twitter; he has previously amplified and seemingly given credence to conspiracy theories, boosted a QAnon influencer at least two dozen times, and catered to right-wing accounts that promote bigotry, extremism, and misinformation. And in recent days, he has done more of the same.
Here are a few examples of Musk amplifying and engaging with right-wing users and misinformation within the last few days.
Musk has engaged with right-wing figures to fearmonger and push anti-immigrant rhetoric
This week, Musk has engaged with multiple right-wing media figures about immigration, seemingly agreeing with Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk that “America is being invaded” by migrants and responding to anti-immigrant Fox News reporter Bill Melugin’s fearmongering tweets with “Wow.” After Collin Rugg, co-founder of conservative site Trending Politics, wrote that the end of Title 42 will lead to “an invasion along the southern border,” Musk responded, “This is next-level!” Musk also ostensibly agreed with right-wing account End Wokeness after it bashed the Biden administration for its immigration and other policies, responding with “!!”
Musk is engaging with dangerous rhetoric that is evocative of the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. Anti-immigrant “invasion” language has previously contributed to real-life incidents of violence, including the 2019 El Paso, Texas, shooting where 22 people were killed by a shooter who expressed similar anti-immigrant beliefs. Additionally, the Biden administration has already announced plans to further secure the southern border after Title 42 ends, and blaming the current White House for a broken immigration system is disingenuous, as the GOP has and continues to obstruct immigration reform policies.
Musk has engaged — and seemingly agreed — with far-right users who claim that white people are being discriminated against
After Jordan Neely was held in a chokehold on a New York City subway and later died, some on the far right have “pushed unsubstantiated, misleading, and false information to suggest that the media is only covering the story because Neely was Black” and the other rider was white — and Musk was quick to latch on to this anti-white bias narrative.
Musk interacted with a series of posts from QAnon influencer KanekoaTheGreat, who seemingly argued that the media are biased against white people, and thus are at least partly responsible for the “division and polarization of society.” (The posts included graphs created by two different employees at the right-wing Manhattan Institute, one of whom is a self-proclaimed “wokeness studies scholar.”) Musk engaged with these posts by replying with responses like “interesting,” “wow,” and “I wonder why.” Quote-tweeting another user who previously wrote an essay attacking the “Woke Left,” Musk also claimed that the media are engaging in “massive public manipulation” for apparently using the terms “racist,” “racists,” and “racism” more frequently within the last decade than before.
Popular Information debunked Musk’s suggestion that the media display an anti-white bias: “Since the 1990s, research has shown that the media propagates negative stereotypes of Black people as criminals.” Also, not only do the media struggle to fairly cover race, but the Center for American Progress found that Black Americans are actually overrepresented in the media as perpetrators of crime.
Additionally, Musk and his right-wing allies have shared these graphs about the media’s coverage without the necessary sociopolitical context of the last decade; police officers have killed scores of Black Americans, white supremacist violence is becoming an increasing concern, and former President Donald Trump “upped the ante on race.”
Musk has responded to bad-faith actors' suggestions for Twitter features and encouraged his followers to subscribe to their accounts
One doesn’t need to scroll long to see an example of Musk engaging with a right-wing user. In just the last few days, Musk has laughed at anti-trans content, instructed his followers to subscribe to at least two different right-wing users, and mocked Vice President Kamala Harris.
- After anti-LGBTQ bigot and Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dilion begged for people to subscribe to The Babylon Bee’s Twitter account, snarkily prefacing the ask with, “We know you have important things to spend your money on, like reparations and other people's student loans,” Musk responded, “I subscribed!”
- Wannabe governor of California Michael Shellenberger wrote a Twitter thread about “woke” culture war issues and pleaded for subscribers, to which Musk responded, “I recommend subscribing.” Musk is also evidently one of his subscribers.
- Musk responded to requests for new Twitter features from conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec and QAnon influencer Ron Watkins, who may have posted as “Q,” with “coming” and “coming soon.”
- Responding to right-wing personality ALX, Musk posted a laughing emoji on an anti-trans tweet and made fun of a decision to name Harris “AI Czar.”
Musk is working to court back advertisers that have previously fled his platform, but they should take caution, considering the sort of content their ads might run alongside. As BBC reporter Shayan Sardarizadeh wrote on Twitter competitor Bluesky: “These days, if you want to find the latest conspiracy theories trending on Twitter, the easiest thing to do is to check the tweets Elon Musk replies to, you’ll find most of them.”