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The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 13: Burying Bad News

As loyal Musk shills, The Media Research Center didn't want to talk about how his dismantling of Twitter's blue-check system resulted in chaos, or how "Twitter files" writer Matt Taibbi acrimoniously split with Musk.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/30/2023

When it wasn't gushing over Elon Musk for arbitrarily putting a false "state-affiliated media" tag on NPR's Twitter feed, the Media Research Center was doing PR for Musk in other ways as well. Joseph Vazquez cheered Musk spouting the MRC's narrative against so-called "liberal media" in an April 3 post:
Twitter owner Elon Musk identified what many Americans know to be true about the leftist New York Times: Its incessant propaganda isn’t even good enough to line a birdcage.

Musk tweeted April 2 that the “real tragedy” for The Times is that their “propaganda isn’t even interesting.” In addition, Musk said in a follow-up tweet, “their feed is the Twitter equivalent of diarrhea. It’s unreadable.” Musk is right and it doesn’t take much digging into the NewsBusters archives to see the kind of brain-melting nonsense that The Times spits out on a regular basis.

Catherine Salgado happily repeated Musk repeating right-wing talking points about Donald Trump's indictment in an April 5 post:

Don't kill the messenger... er, realtor? Elon Musk brought humor to recent news, as he mocked the ridiculousness of Donald Trump’s indictment on Twitter.

Musk reacted to the April 4 temporary arrest and arraignment of Donald Trump in New York. He tweeted a meme mocking the Democrats’ irrational hatred and attacks on Trump. “If the Dem Party had a time machine,” Musk joked, with a meme showing a younger Trump and the comment, “‘Why do time travelers keep trying to kill me? I’m just a realtor!’ -Donald Trump, 1980.” Musk previously shared a March 18 meme showing a man saying, “The banking system is collapsing” with a woman screaming in reply, “Arrest Donald Trump”!

In a more serious vein, prior to the official indictment, Musk predicted how a Trump arrest might affect Trump’s reelection chances.

On March 18, he responde to a reshare by Viva Frei of a Fox News clip and a tweet in which Mario Nawfal remarked, “Trump may be HANDCUFFED and arrested next week. This is as a result of a possible indictment. Could this be the end of Trump?” Musk disagreed. “If this happens, Trump will be re-elected in a landslide victory,” he insisted.

Also on March 18, Musk critiqued Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s financial tie to leftist billionaire George Soros.

In fact, Bragg arguably has no "financial tie" to Soros -- he never directly contributed any money to Bragg's campaign, though he did give money to an organization that campaigned for Bragg.

In an April 12 post, Vazquez giddily wrote that "Twitter owner Elon Musk took the leftist U.K.-based BBC to the woodshed when the latter accused the platform of being plagued by a rise of so-called “hate speech.” Never mind, of course, that numerous studies have shown an increase in hate speech on Twitter since Musk took over.

The MRC's unpaid (as far as we know) Musk PR stenography continued on other fronts as well:

Meanwhile, the MRC had little to say about the debacle Musk's attempted revamping of Twitter's blue checkmark system had become. In hyping Musk's attack on Twitter, Vazquez waited toward near the end of his post to note that "Musk’s mockery of The Times comes as the newspaper lost its verified checkmark status on Twitter reportedly due to refusing to pay the verification fee like everyone else. Musk lambasted in response how The Times was being 'incredibl[y] hypocritical here, as they are super aggressive about forcing everyone to pay *their* subscription.'"

In fact, "everyone else" was not paying Musk for a blue checkmark, which contrary to Vazquez's assertion offered no meaningful verification -- it simply showed that someone was paying Twitter $8 a month. (Also, paying Elon for a checkmark that means nothing is not the same thing as paying for a newspaper subscription.) Meanwhile, despite announcing that legacy checkmarks would disappear for people who didn't buy one would start on April 1, that didn't happen, and the only account that seemed to have lost its checkmark was ... the Times, which arguably indicates a certain level of arbitrary enforcement, something we thought the MRC hated. When those checkmarks finally did start disappearing, impostor accounts popped up, and so few people actually paid for the checkmarks that Musk resorted to slapping them on celebrity accounts whether they paid for them or not (including dead celebrities).

That pro-Musk stenography, however, was still being mixed with complaining that Musk still hadn't given right-wing hate a sufficiently free space to spread on Twitter. Gabriela Pariseau served up another example in a March 31 post:

Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced late last night that Twitter’s “Algorithm goes open source at noon Pacific Time” (today). But the tweet begged a couple of questions: What does that mean and why is he doing this? MRC Free Speech America asked industry insiders.

Musk released the news just hours after the Media Research Center released a damning study revealing that Twitter censorship has actually increased under Musk’s leadership. But the move seems to be more of a distraction from Twitter's ongoing problem with censorship.

In fact, that "damning study" is mostly whining that right-wing hate is still monitored and blocked. Also, Pariseau's list of "industry insiders" is highly dubious, given that one is her boss, Dan Schneider. Three are anonymous -- two former Twitter employees and "a high-level employee at a social media company who asked not to be identified," which would seem to run counter to the MRC's regular attacks on anonymous sources. Her final source was Nathan Leamer of something called the Digital First Project, which we can assume that beyond its website's platitudes is nothing more than a right-wing advocacy group given Leamer's previous employment at Republican strategy firm Targeted Victory, whom you might remember is the firm Facebook hired to plant stories in right-wing media -- including, presumably, the MRC -- attacking competitor TikTok. The MRC has never told its readers about this, nor has it disclosed whether it was a beneficiary.

The MRC reverted to its Musk-fluffing norm soon enough. Mark Finkelstein spent an April 21 post whining that a TV host expressed a little schadenfreude over Musk's public failures (which the MRC didn't really talk about otherwise):

Elon Musk has become the liberal media's second-most-hated man, behind only Orange Man Bad. Witness today's opening of Morning Joe, wherein Mika Brzezinski proclaimed "Thursday was a very rough day for Elon Musk," gloated over Musk's SpaceX Starship exploding shortly after liftoff yesterday.

To our knowledge, after countless hours of suffering through Morning Joe, Mika has never been equally enthused about a North Korean rocket going kaput! Then again, Kim Jong-un is merely a nuclear-armed dictator and enemy of America. Whereas Musk occasionally makes life a bit uncomfortable for liberals!

Brzezinski also exulted over Musk's Twitter travails, with his plan to eliminate free blue checks running into opposition, and Tesla's share price having dropped. We can report the Twitter accounts of @Morning_Joe, @JoeNBC, and @MorningMika now reflect they haven't paid for their Twitter Blue check.


Warning sent to any entrepreneur who dares to cross the liberal/ESG line: the MSM will revel in any misfortune that might befall you!

Finkelstein is being utterly hypocritical, given how his employer repeatedly takes pleasure in the misfortune of its sworn enemies.

Luis Cornelio baselessly tried to claim victory in an April 24 post by cheering a Twitter policy change that will allow right-wingers to maliciously misgender transgender people:

Elon Musk’s Twitter halted part of its hateful conduct policy that has explicitly been used to censor those who oppose transgender ideology on the platform.

On April 18, Twitter removed parts of the policy that prohibited the “deadnaming” and “misgendering” of transgender individuals, marking a partial victory for free speech.

The policy change, which was not publicly announced, came after MRC Free Speech America tracked hundreds of censorship cases of individuals who cited the scientific fact that there are two genders. A March MRC study revealed that Twitter censorship is shockingly on the rise after his takeover.


The platform implemented similar anti-speech policies to muzzle individuals who affirmed the existence of two genders or pointed out the biological differences. In December 2021, MRC Free Speech America tracked 100 examples of Big Tech censoring content that stated the scientific-based statement that there are two genders. Big Tech companies, and particularly Twitter under its previous regime, identified such content as so-called “hateful conduct.” Meta and YouTube labeled similar content as “hate speech.” LinkedIn, in contrast, used “bullying” and “harassment.”

Cornelio didn't explain what purpose it serves for right-wing activists to deliberately misgender transgender people. His post also weirdly contained the MRC's "Anti-Americanism" tag, as if malicious misgendering is some sort of American virtue.

Pariseau was back to fretting that Musk wasn't kowtowing enough to her fellow right-wing haters in an April 26 post:

While Twitter is still throttling content, the platform will now notify users when it limits an account’s reach. It was the least the platform could do.

“Freedom of Speech, not reach,” Twitter Safety euphemized in a Monday tweet announcing that the platform rolled out its new visibility filter labels. A Twitter Safety blog post last week explained that the platform would soon “add publicly visible labels to Tweets identified as potentially violating our policies letting you know we’ve limited their visibility.”

Twitter Safety attempted to justify its “freedom of speech, not reach” stance in its blog post. “Twitter users have the right to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship,” Twitter Safety wrote. “We also believe it is our responsibility to keep users on our platform safe from content violating our Rules.”

Twitter Safety attempted to justify its “freedom of speech, not reach” stance in its blog post. “Twitter users have the right to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship,” Twitter Safety wrote. “We also believe it is our responsibility to keep users on our platform safe from content violating our Rules.”

While the new policy marks a victory for transparency, MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider warned that policing speech is not Twitter's responsibility. “Our skepticism of Twitter becoming a haven for free speech has just been justified,” he said. “It’s not Twitter’s responsibility to limit speech. That should be left up to individual users who can decide what they like and dislike. Censoring or throttling speech is what authoritarians do. It should never take place in a free society.”

Yes, those repeated paragraphs exist in the original.

Of course, Schneider and Pariseau very much want speech censored or throttled -- as long as it's speech they disagree with. They, however, don't believe they should be subject to any rules even though those platforms don't belong to them.

Matt Taibbi's bad month
Elon Musk stenographer Matt Taibbi had a rough April. First he came out on the losing end ("smoked like a salmon," as one observer noted) of a contentious interview with MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan in which he was called out for falsehoods in his "Twitter files" stories (you know, the selectively edited "files" Musk gave to hand-picked writers like Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger) and his refusal to criticize Musk for censoring content in India at the apparent request of government officials. The interview ended up exposing and destroying the entire "Twitter files" narrative.

Shortly afterward, he split acrimoniously with Musk because Twitter was blocking links to Substack -- where Taibbi had an account and which had just announced a Twitter-esque platform of its own -- complete with back-and-forth allegations about who was telling the truth, Musk posting (and then deleting) screenshots of said feud, and Musk shadow-banning Taibbi's tweets, and ultimately, Taibbi removing his "Twitter files" tweets from Twitter. (It got so bad that not only did Musk reportedly stop following Taibbi's Twitter account, he also stopped following accounts of Shellenberger and another early "Twitter files" stenographer, Bari Weiss.)

But because the MRC is a key part of Musk's PR operation, you read nothing about this at any major MRC outlet. Instead, there was an April 9 post by Tim Graham that touted Taibbi opining about something else entirely:

One article hotly circulating in conservative media circles is Matt Taibbi's breakdown of MSNBC's complete collapse of journalism standards under Trump in a piece titled "Eat Me, MSNBC."

Taibbi begins by describing a January 13, 2017 appearance on the Chris Hayes show to talk about the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory in its infancy. His opponent was Malcolm Nance.

That's right -- Graham and Taibbi are commiserating about six-year-old stories. Graham didn't mention that Taibbi's post began with noting that he was about to be interviewed by Hasan -- indeed, there's no mention of Hasan at all by Graham -- which suggests that Taibbi's post was intended to be a prebuttal of sorts in case the MSNBC interview went south for him (which it did). Instead, Graham tried to insist that Taibbi was not a right-wing hack despite uncritically pushing Musk's right-wing narratives:

Leftists can claim that Taibbi switched sides, and it's certainly true that all his fans now are largely on the right. But if people cared about journalistic accuracy first and ideology second, they'd do more to consider how much the "mainstream" media distorted the 2016 election throughout most of the Trump presidency.

Graham, of course, is much less concerned about journalistic accuracy when right-wing outlets like Fox News are the ones not engaging in it.

Hasan's interview with Taibbi finally got (briefly) mentioned by the MRC a couple weeks after the fact -- in an April 21 column by Jeffrey Lord complaining that a Democratic congresswoman reminded Taibbi that false testimony to Congress (based on errors in his "Twitter files" work) could be considered perjury. Lord declared that this was a "threat" and that Taibbi had simply made a "typo" (it was actually much more), going on to uncritically repeated a claim from the right-wing Daily Caller that the claim was based on a "debunked allegation" by Hasan, then rushed to impose the tired right-wing victimhood narrative on the situation:

Taibbi’s offense? As Fox News reported, Taibbi had merely made a typo in a Tweet, in which he cited an MSNBC journalist, which Taibbi corrected. And note? The irony here is that Taibbi is famous as a left-leaning journalist. No matter.


They want to threaten a journalist with jail, have the government “regulate” Fox - read: silence - or simply set about “trashing (‘redecorating’) the offices of legislators who resist” their policy proposals.


For silencing both conservative media and conservatives anywhere, using government when possible or flat-out threats of violence if needed. They are, in fact, the real threat to democracy.

If the whole Elon Musk Twitter files episode has revealed anything it is the massive degree to which the U.S. government colluded with lefties running Twitter to silence conservatives, whether former President Trump or just Joe Average. Whether it is conservatives on social media or college campuses or in Hollywood or on woke corporate boards (hello, Budweiser) and more, the instinctive response of those on the Left is not to debate it is to silence.

Lord didn't actually discredit anything Hasan said in that interview, nor did he mention that Taibbi split with Musk over his censorship of Substack links.

Still pushing "Twitter files"

Despite being critical of Elon Musk for not giving right-wing hate the impunity it demands, the MRC was still hyping the release of selectively chosen "Twitter files" through hand-picked reporters (while censoring from its readers the fact that Taibbi acrimoniously split with Musk, along with other early Musk stenographers). There was a double drop of "Twitter files" -- meaning one effectively negated the other from a publicity standpoint -- the MRC devoted two separate articles on April 27 to hyping them. Gabriela Pariseau wrote up the first:

When every major sector of elite society promotes censorship using the same words like misinformation and "information pollution," it almost seems like these people are working in tandem. The Twitter Files part 20 indicates that they are doing just that.

Former Executive Director of EngageMedia Andrew Lowenthal wrote this recent batch of The Twitter Files showing just how enmeshed academics, journalists, government workers and tech executives actually were.

“In a functioning democracy there’s dynamic tension between government, civil society organizations, news media, and industry, all advancing their own interests, in theory keeping one another honest. In the #TwitterFiles we find them all working together, cartel-style,” he wrote.

Pariseau didn't explain why misinformation must always be allowed to spread unchecked, or why she smears efforts to do so as "censorship." A half-hour later, Catherine Salgado wrote up the second:

The latest Twitter Files reveals how the old, Orwellan regime’s quest to find Russian bots spiraled out of control and ended in the wanton censorship of innocent Americans.

Independent journalist Matt Orfalea released Part 21 of the Twitter Files April 25, “How to Find Russians Anywhere.” A Senate Intelligence Committee request to identify Russian agents on Twitter led to false identifications.

“After Twitter's early attempts to identify Russian accounts resulted in such low numbers, they used different methodologies, tallying ever-increasing numbers of ‘Russians,’” Orfalea explained.

This appears to be a rehash of previously discredited attacks on Hamilton 68 for trying to alert Twitter about Russian bots. And, of course, if Orfalea is serving as Musk's stenographer like the other writers, he's not an "independent journalist."

The MRC doesn't care about facts, of course -- they care about clicks and narratives. So the MRC's Curtis Houck and Stephanie Hamill ran to Fox News on April 28 to push the "censorship" narrative, with Hamill stating that ""the Twitter Files really exposed a lot of what many of us already knew was going on, but now it's official. Now there was actual evidence to show that maybe the possibility of the government persuading, having Big Tech censoring conservatives and dissenting voices." And Houck effectively demanded that lies and misinformation be allowed to spread: "Houck said you had to appreciate ABC's transparency in announcing what they had decided was too dangerously wrong to include [in its reporting on COVID], but that doesn't mean 'the speech should be silenced.'" Actually, it's the responsibility of a news organization to report facts and not amplify falsehoods and misinformation.

A May 2 post by Autumn Johnson lashed out at Twitter founder Jack Dorsey for starting a new Twitter rival and regurgitated old attacks on him about purported "censorship":

Anti-free speech Jack Dorsey created a new social media app that looks a lot like Twitter.

CNN Business reported Friday that Dorsey’s app, named “Bluesky,” is gaining attention from prominent leftists, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and anti-Trump social media influencer Chrissy Teigen. But as Twitter is allowing more free speech on the platform Dorsey could be taking his anti-free speech ideas to his new platform.

The Twitter Files revealed late last year that Dorsey reportedly played a key role on Twitter’s censorship team and was aware of the concerted effort to ban former President Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump did not violate the platform’s rules. Interestingly enough, Dorsey admitted his mistake in a blog post last year. “The Twitter when I led it and the Twitter of today do not meet any of these [listed] principles,” Dorsey wrote.

Johnson also claimed that "MRC’s exclusive database has years of records of Twitter’s one-sided censorship" -- but CensorTrack is a partisan tool that complies examples of purported "censorship" only against conservatives, so citing it to claim "censorship" is "one-sided" is false.

Pariseau hyped someone else's Musk-fluffing in a May 10 post:

Entrepreneur and tech investor David Sacks got candid in an interview with podcaster Benny Johnson about the government's attempt to silence speech.

Sacks applauded The Twitter Files for unveiling how federal agencies weaponized their authority against Americans in an interview on Benny Johnson’s The Benny Show Sunday. He credited Twitter owner Elon Musk for releasing the files. “I think we would have very little knowledge of what was actually happening inside these social media companies if Elon hadn’t opened up The Twitter Files,” Sacks said. “The only conclusion you can come away with is you know we have these security agencies that have been weaponized against the American people. They’re propagandizing the American people. They’re surveilling the American people. They’re censoring the American people. They’re completely out of hand and unacceptable.”

Pariseau didn't disclose that Sacks is a buddy of Musk's, or that Johnson has a history of plagiarism and promoting conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, amid reports that Musk's Twitter approved more censorship requests from other countries than pre-Musk Twitter did, the MRC had to run to his defense again. Salgado drew the short straw and endorsed Musk's capitulation in a May 17 post:

The newest Twitter Files defended Twitter CEO Elon Musk after Twitter complied with Turkish government censorship requests.

Musk went along with Turkey’s censorship demands leading up Michael Shellenberger highlighted three key points from the new Twitter Files, providing context on the apparent anti-free speech collusion. First, he wrote, “Twitter sought compliance with Turkey’s censorship demands long before @ElonMusk bought the company.” Shellenberger also wrote that Twitter is more transparent than Google or Meta, and that even some of Musk’s harshest critics have defended him in this instance.

Platformer writer and Musk “hater” Casey Newton and senior reporter at The Verge Zoe Schiffer actually defended arguing that non-compliance could result in an outright ban, Shellenberger reported in The Twitter Files. “It’s typically better for the cause of speech to have at least some content available,” Newton and Schiffer wrote in an article for The Verge.

Salgado then quoted an MRC official making the bizarro-world claim that censorship is freedom when Musk does it:

“It’s good to see that Musk is attempting to push back against foreign government censorship operations and providing a platform for people to speak all across the world,” said MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “But more can still be done. American companies like Twitter should be exporting the American ideals of free speech and expression, not importing the globalist notion of top-down, totalitarian suppression, control and censorship.”

Salgado did concede, however, that "The Twitter Files, however, did not address whether Musk permits censorship of content at the request of other governments," though she refused to present evidence available elsewhere that he, in fact, does.

Pariseau touted yet another selective "Twitter files" release in a May 18 post: "This week’s Twitter Files reveal that The Washington Post columnist Taylor 'The Troll' Lorenz and NBC’s Ben Collins had privileged access to Twitter and its censorship apparatus under the prior regime." (Yes, the MRC is still angry at Lorenz for using factual public records to reveal the hateful homophobe behind the Libs of TikTok account, Chaya Raichik.) She credited "independent journalist Paul Thacker" even though, by definition, a truly independent journalist would not be slavishly following Musk's orders to do stenography for him.

The MRC doesn't care about bad things happening on Elon Musk's Twitter unless it directly affects them and their fellow right-wingers. Thus, you will never hear the MRC complain about, say, the plethora of animal torture videos on Twitter. Instead, it hyped Twitter accusing Microsoft of misusing data, and it published a column by Ben Shapiro headlined "Will Elon Musk Break the Legacy Media Stranglehold?" And Gabriela Pariseau touted a new "Twitter files" release in a May 24 post:

Many shocking reports of Australia's draconian COVID-19 lockdown measures have come out over the last couple of years but the latest “Twitter Files Extra” show how far those measures went online.

The new supplemental Twitter files centered around the “The Covid Censorship Requests of Australia's Department of Home Affairs (DHA)” and reportedly helped confirm a report by The Australian. Andrew Lowenthal, author of the Network Affects Substack, tweeted that The Twitter Files team “found 18 DHA emails, collectively requesting 222 tweets be removed.”

He added that “Jokes & true information were included in censorship requests, which came from the “Social Cohesion Division” of the DHA’s ‘Extremism Insights and Communication’ office.”

Pariseau failed to mention reports that Musk's Twitter has approved more censorship requests from other countries than pre-Musk Twitter did; still, she unironically whined that "it’s telling that Twitter bowed to a foreign government repeatedly pushing the platform to behave like a state actor."

Because no criticism of Musk is allowed unless it comes from the MRC itself for not letting hate and misinformation go completely unchecked, Vazquez was in full Musk defense mode in a May 25 post:

Apparently attempting to promote free speech on a Big Tech platform is now “right wing.” At least, that’s what The Atlantic is suggesting in its latest conniption over Twitter 2.0 under owner Elon Musk.

Atlantic Staff Writer Charlie Warzel bemoaned in his whiny May 23 piece how “Twitter has evolved into a platform that is indistinguishable from the wastelands of alternative social-media sites such as Truth Social and Parler. It is now a right-wing social network.” Warzel — apparently disturbed that Twitter 2.0 isn’t the Orwellian censorship cesspool it once was — laced his headline with nutty agitprop: “Twitter Is a Far-Right Social Network.” In Warzel’s view, “It can no longer be denied.” Apparently more people being allowed to speak freely is the bogeyman The Atlantic sees in its nightmares. The Atlantic’s tweet of Warzel’s story tried to smear Musk’s Twitter as a “right-wing, alt-tech” platform.

Warzel doubled down on his December 2022 assertion that Musk was some kind of a “far right activist” simply because he decried the “woke mind virus” and allowed conservatives more ground to express opinions on hot button issues:

"Woke mind virus" isn't actually a thing, but Vazquez won't tell you that. Instead, he quoted a fellow MRC employee spouting pro-Musk talking points:

“Liberals used to claim to stand staunchly in favor of promoting free speech,” said MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “But apparently that speech only extends to the ignorant spewing of expletives and denigrating the American flag and Constitution, not to conservatives in the new digital town square of the internet. Shame on The Atlantic for not rallying behind free speech online.”

Musk still has a bad habit of suspending the accounts of anyone who criticizes him or his other companies, so it's laughable for Morris to hold him up as a paragon of "free speech." Presumably to counter that, Autumn Johnson contributed a slice of fawning Musk PR in a May 26 post, gushing over how "Elon Musk is once again warning about the dangers that unchecked artificial intelligence poses to humanity."

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