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“Much ado about nothing,” Shakespeare used to say. The Twitter Files were expected to be a document drop, but Elon Musk quickly turned them into access for only one journalist. The chosen one, Matt Taibbi was given exclusive access to the files he then broke the story about, one tweet at a time. Clearly, he is milking it, but is the teat dry?
There’s no article, there’s no in-depth reporting, just snippets of what Elon gave him access to see and tweet about.
By the end of the telegraphed Twitter thread, I was left disappointed. Not because there was no news in the Twitter Files like the establishment journalists had predicted. I felt disappointed because Musk missed the opportunity to allow everyone to investigate and interpret the information. Whatever information there is, it will all be seen or not, through the filter of a single journalist Matt Taibbi.
Musk, who would really like to be Snowden and Assange combined and did not block out personal e-mails, failed by creating Elon Musk’s solo journalism club of one.Matt Taibbi has failed independent journalism by agreeing to a format that can not deliver the depth of the Twitter Files story and by not fleshing out the real news.
While there were promising elements in a handful of e-mails Matt posted, they did not rise to the level of expectation that was on Matt. Perhaps the killer e-mails are not really there?
One story seems to be there, but Musk picked a messenger who could not deliver. Taibbi called Ro Khanna’s attempt to protect the First Amendment “a subplot” and characterized the exchange between Ro Khanna and Gadde as “humorous,” which shows that Taibbi is out of his depth in reporting on a critical topic of the First Amendment.
“In one humorous exchange on day 1, Democratic congressman Ro Khanna reaches out to Gadde to gently suggest she hop on the phone to talk about the “backlash re speech.” Khanna was the only Democratic official I could find in the files who expressed concern,” said Taibbi.
Congressman Ro Khanna, a lawyer by training, made it clear that journalists have the right to report even on hacked materials, provided that they have not participated in a hack. His attempts to provide legal facts fell on deaf ears. Congressman also made it clear that his conversation should only be kept between Gadde and Jack Dorsey, but as we will later find out in one of Tibbie’s disjointed tweets, Jack had no say in the decision to censor the NYP.
If the information is really there, the Twitter Files story by Matt Tibbie could have been better done and lived up to the promised treasure trove Musk indicated he is sitting on.
“Tune in for Episode 2 of The Twitter Files tomorrow!,” Musk announced after Matt checked out for the night, but this was the case in point that Elon, as brilliant as he is, does not know journalism.
“Episode 1 was weak,” I responded to Musk. “There was no bombshell revelation. At least, the analysis would have been stronger. You picked a messenger who can’t deliver the news.”
Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” is carefully spoon-feeding the information from Twitter Files by his messenger of choice. He should familiarize himself with the word “absolute,” as curated transparency does not get him anywhere close to it.
The new owner of Twitter wanted to keep the cake and eat it, control the story and boost Twitter engagement to be a public forum and the publisher. The truth is, Elon wants it all and wants to be all, but does not know how and neither does Matt Taibbi.
Elon Musk wants to claim journalism, but Twitter can’t deliver on that promise. What Elon Musk can do, and what he has done to a large extent lately, is topple the establishment of journalism sources as the exclusive guardians of information. Still, journalism fundamentals cannot be transferred exclusively into one tweet at a time. Not if anyone wants to be taken seriously.
Twitter Files: limited access journalism
“I was not paid to do this story,” said Matt Taibbi after Elon Musk gave him the story to break, but he was given much more. Access.
White House journalism I am deeply familiar with, is all about limited access. You will get a scoop if you toe the line, have the target audience voters and the people in charge of presidents’ communications think you’re useful. What Elon Musk did with Twitter Files is nothing but limited access journalism. He assigned one journalist only to tell the whole world where the story is. And the journalist failed to do it.
Mike had good intentions in delivering the story by the tweet, but he did it poorly. This story should have been told by someone who, apart from the reporting abilities, also can connect the dots. If Elon really wanted an independent press to write about Twitter Files and bypass the mainstream New York Times and WaPo, he should have given it to more reporters who would develop multiple stories. This is not a job for one person to interpret for everyone else what Twitter did or didn’t do in bed with the political parties in suppressing free speech.
The shared goal was to help Biden win the election in 2020 and by any means. Now, would a suppressed New York Post story decide the vote in Trump’s favor, we may never find out, but what’s telling is that the Biden team thought its suppression important.
The Twitter Files release could have been historic in showcasing the political pressure on free speech and how everyone knew that what happened with Hunter Biden’s story was wrong. They either could not move a needle, like in the case of Ro Khana, or they stood on the sidelines watching the abuse of the First Amendment.
Tibbie only says in passing that based on a poll of 12 members of congress, 9 Republicans and 3 Democrats, from “the House Judiciary Committee to Rep. Judy Chu’s office,” said that the First Amendment is “not absolute.”
That along with Ro Khanna’s e-mails and, I would assume with other documents that were not shared, would have been one of many bombshell stories that Matt failed to deliver.
One journalist only access journalism does not provide the answer: Are the killer e-mails really there?
If Elon wants to give me access to write a comprehensive series of articles that would look at the treasure trove, present the information and analyze it, he should get in touch. “The public deserves to know what really happened,” said Musk. Well, he should allow access to tell the whole story or shut up. MUSK, DO BETTER.
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