As the old saying goes, you know you’re over the target when you’re taking the most flak, and, in the case of entrepreneur Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter Monday, a modern update of that metaphor might reference those catching the most shade.
While liberal tantrums ensued over the possibility of being confronted by actual free speech, the second richest man in the world was casting aspersions at the top-ranked billionaire in the form of conspiracy theories.
As founder and executive chairman of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos’ public reaction to Musk’s purchase of Twitter was to provide an unsolicited hot take that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might now be pulling the strings at the social media platform.
“Interesting question,” Bezos posted on Twitter. “Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage of the town square?”
Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square? https://t.co/jTiEnabP6T
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 25, 2022
The caption was part of a retweet of New York Times reporter Mike Forsythe’s post making connections between Musk’s electric vehicle company Tesla and the Chinese market.
Forsythe commented, “Tesla’s second-biggest market in 2021 was China (after the US), that “Chinese battery makers are major suppliers for Tesla’s EVs,” and “After 2009, when China banned Twitter, the government there had almost no leverage over the platform,” as well as “That may have just changed.”
The dig at Musk being tied to China also made direct reference to the new Twitter owner’s post about the importance of free speech. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” his tweet began.
“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans,” Musk went on.
After casting his conspiracy to the wind, Bezos continued his thread dismissive of the notion, presumably to absolve himself of any wrongdoing.
But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 26, 2022
“My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter,” he wrote. “But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.”
Detractors of the news outlet owner were not so quick to let him off the hook. Links were quickly provided to a December 2021 post by Reuters titled, “Special Report: Amazon partnered with China propaganda arm,” that detailed “Amazon’s compliance with the Chinese government edict,” to remove negative reviews of books published by Chinese officials and only display five-star ratings.
Is this you? https://t.co/bYVI2qlbG6
— Helen Raleigh (@HRaleighspeaks) April 26, 2022
Others pointed out an article published in Bezos’ Post titled, “Elon Musk’s Twitter Investment Could Be Bad News for Free Speech,” to reinforce that this was not some fleeting thought of the second richest man. Musk had called these musings out for what they were.
“WaPo,” he tweeted on April 5, “always good for a laugh.”
Another riff on the outlet’s slogan as a better way for Bezos to express his views was shared by writer Mark Hemingway.
Democracy Dies In Letting Billionaires Who Are Not Me Control Media Outlets https://t.co/lKcIoPSlE0
— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) April 26, 2022
Fox Business noted that in 2019, the Post had produced an eight-page “advertising supplement” filled with CCP talking points, boasting of their achievements and that the paper’s editors were not permitted to make adjustments.
Replies to the conspiracy theory were filled with other hypocrisies committed by Bezos.
Interesting that you ask this question about Twitter but haven’t said a peep about your concerns about Chinese influence over, say, BlackRock (the world’s largest asset manager). Or countless other companies. I wonder why.
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) April 25, 2022
How much leverage does China have over Washington Post given the percentage of goods sold on Amazon that are dependent on that country for supply?
— Sankrant Sanu सानु संक्रान्त ਸੰਕ੍ਰਾਂਤ ਸਾਨੁ (@sankrant) April 26, 2022
Almost everything on your website is crap from China
— Christina Pushaw 🐊 🇺🇸 (@ChristinaPushaw) April 25, 2022
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