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The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 15: Carrots And Sticks

The Media Research Center is still serving as Elon Musk's PR agency -- while also taking the occasional whack at him for not giving right-wingers total leeway to spread hate and lies.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/3/2023

The Media Research Center has been complaining for a while now that even though Elon Musk has given right-wing hate more exposure on Twitter, the platform has continued to flag anti-transgender hate -- it even issued a report complaining that anti-transgender hate was being blocked. Nevertheless, Autumn Johnson kicked off an April 26 post by (dishonestly) portraying Elon Musk as a champion of free speech:
Twitter owner Elon Musk is raising the alarm about the dangers of losing “freedom of speech.”

Musk responded to an April 24 tweet of a video that included comments from investor, tech entrepreneur, and All-In podcast co-host David Sacks. Sacks said that Musk faces so many attacks from the left because he opposes one-sided censorship and stands for free speech. “Well, on Elon criticizing the woke mind virus, what he's really criticizing is this intolerant agenda that involves censorship, and de-platforming, including economic de-platforming, and this collusion between the state power and the security state, and these tech monopolies and the media,” Sacks said in the re-shared clip of an interview from December of 2022. “This idea that we have all the right answers. This is fundamentally an illiberal agenda.”

Musk appeared to agree with the sentiments Sacks laid out and implied that Twitter would support free speech in a Big Tech environment where it is constantly under threat. “Exactly right,” wrote Musk in a tweet. “If we lose freedom of speech, it’s never coming back. Beware of censorship lest ye censored.”

Musk later doubled down in another tweet on April 24: “Censor not, lest ye be censored.”

The thing is, even the MRC knows this is a bunch of hooey, even by its own partisan definition of "free speech" that right-wingers should never be held accountable for their words no matter how malicious or hateful. Johnson repeated the MRC's previous attacks on Musk and Twitter for not being hands-off enough on his fellow ideologues:

“Musk is absolutely right to warn about the dangerous road Big Tech companies and governmental entities have taken our nation down in attempting to squash freedom of speech in America,” said MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “And his strides toward creating a more free and open platform are laudable, but rhetoric alone will not safeguard our nation’s first freedom.”

Musk’s self-described vision has hit some roadblocks. An MRC Free Speech America study found censorship is alarmingly on the rise under Musk’s leadership, with 293 cases of documented censorship since he took over Twitter and began terminating the previous regime’s employees from Nov. 4, 2022 through Mar. 4, 2023. The study showed the most recent censorship tally is 67 more than the 226 documented cases in from the platform a year prior (Nov. 4, 2021 - Mar. 4, 2022).

The carrot-and-stick approach to Musk continued:

Musk also stated on April 24, however, that while Twitter was making efforts to end one-sided censorship on the platform, it still has a long way to go:

“We’re rapidly improving transparency & fairness on this platform, but there is still a lot of work to do.”

Indeed, Twitter changed its “misgendering” policy three weeks after the aforementioned MRC Free Speech America study. The policy had previously been used to censor users who oppose transgender ideology on the platform.

But Twitter has taken its policy down another dangerous road as well. In the name of freedom of speech, it is attempting to justify censorship.

Twitter Safety announced that the platform would be rolling out new “visibility” filter labels, euphemized in a tweet Monday, “Freedom of Speech, not reach.” 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.”

The MRC followed that mild ideological scolding with a couple of pieces of Musk PR:

But it was soon back to scolding in a May 4 post by Gabriela Pariseau complaining that a fellow MRC employee got busted by Twitter for spreading nastiness:

Twitter says “freedom of speech, not reach” but actions speak louder than words.

Twitter slapped a “visibility limited” label on NewsBusters News Analyst & Staff Writer Kevin Tober’s tweet when he shared a recent article he wrote. Tober’s tweet simply included the title of his article, "'Seen Him Stumble' ABC's Raddatz Confronts Chris Coons on Biden's Age." Yet, the platform labeled the tweet falsely claiming, "This Tweet may violate Twitter's rules against Hateful Conduct" and prevented Twitter users from commenting, retweeting, liking, bookmarking, sharing or embedding the tweet.

Freedom of Speech, not reach? But freedom of speech for whom? Sure, Tober could hit send on his tweet, which now appears on his feed, but not one of his nearly 6,500 followers could share the tweet if they even saw it. What about their freedom of speech? The Twitter 2.0 approach ignores the reality of secondhand censorship.

"'Freedom of speech, not reach,' is a catchy phrase, but it belies the fact that limiting and suppressing reach is in fact still censorship," said MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris.

What’s worse is that when Tober attempted to expose the blatant censorship in a second tweet, that tweet received the same label and restrictions.

Pariseau did throw Musk a bone, again cheering that Twitter is allowing misgendering and deadnaming of transgender people after complaints that under previous rules, "a large section of Musk's Twitter censorship silenced those critical of the transgender ideology." Of course, Pariseau's definition of "a large section" should read "right-wing transphobes." And, no, she didn't explain how, exactly, being transgender is an "ideology."

Then it was back to gushing as Christian Toto (who's supposed to be a film critic) praised Musk's appearance on Bill Maher's show in a May 6 post and complained that others mocked the Musk's silly "woke mind virus" thing:

Rolling Stone, which once represented both free speech and the counter-culture, similarly framed the summit in the most negative way possible.

The headline is almost comical in its bile.
Elon Musk and Bill Maher Warn Against the ‘Woke Mind Virus,’ a.k.a. Historical Fact
The story is even worse.

Their conversation ... included a strained discussion of the “imaginary” woke mind virus.

Imaginary? Tell that to readers who grew up on books by Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and Agatha Christie. Their classic tomes have been infected by said virus.

Those "classic tomes" by Fleming, Dr. Seuss and Christie were altered (or taken out of print entirely) to address casual racism in those books that doesn't fly today and adds nothing to the story (or is irreversibly ingrained into the story). Toto didn't explain why such racism must be considered anti-"woke," or why their works are so sacrosanct that removing the racism irreparably changes them. (Dahl is a separate case.) Toto concluded with more glurge for both Musk and Maher:

Why would media outlets go out of their way to negatively spin the Maher/Musk conversation?

it’s simple.

Maher uses his HBO platform to slam woke overreach, defend free speech and criticize his fellow liberals.

Every. Single. Week.

Musk’s crime? He bought Twitter, streamlined the operation, let many banned accounts back onto the platform and, best of all, opened the books on pre-Musk Twitter.

The Twitter Files exposed a massive, speech-suppressing operation that overlapped with the Biden administration’s attacks on the First Amendment.

For that Musk is now a supervillain. Never mind his groundbreaking work on the electric car front or his spectacular space innovations.

Musk and Maher heart free speech, and that’s put a media target on their back. And boy, do they have little interest in hiding it.

But Maher can't possibly be a liberal, based on how often the MRC praises him. And ConWebWatch recall when the MRC was not a fan of Maher's free speech -- that is, when he made jokes about conservatives. It even rooted for the cancellation of his then-TV show "Politically Incorrect" for remarks he made after the 9/11 attacks.

Kevin Tober seemed to express hope that Musk might allow more right-wing hate -- in the form of a anti-transgender film -- in a May 23 post under the headline "HUGE":

Conservative media & entertainment company The Daily Wire announced Tuesday that starting May 30, they will be streaming all nine of their podcasts on Twitter for free. The move comes after Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing revealed a massive censorship campaign by YouTube which demonetized many Daily Wire videos and podcasts in the platform, including The Matt Walsh Show.

“At this moment, Twitter is the largest free speech platform in the world,” Boreing announced. “The overwhelming amount of positive feedback from our advertisers and audience after putting ‘The Matt Walsh Show’ on Twitter signals to us there is tremendous opportunity, which is why we’ve decided to distribute the rest of our shows on Twitter."

Walsh, of course, is a raging homophobe and transphobe whose lies the MRC has helped to spread. But when Walsh's anti-trans film ran into Twitter policies, a June 1 post by Luis Cornelio helped the Daily Wire to complain about it and play the victim:

Twitter can’t make its mind up on the radicalized gender ideology of the left and initially “canceled” a deal with The Daily Wire to promote a documentary.

The Daily Wire Co-CEO Jeremy Boreing slammed Twitter, accusing the company of thwarting a partnership to premiere What is a Woman? free of charge on the platform. Boreing said Twitter alleged that the documentary violated the platform’s policy on “misgendering” and it threatened to censor the film if shared on its platform.

Twitter apparently backed out of the deal after it had already signed a deal with the news outlet, which included a package that permitted the movie to be hosted on a dedicated Twitter page.

Boreing declared in a tweet: “After reviewing the film, though, Twitter let us know that not only could we no longer purchase the package they offered, they would no longer provide us any support and would actually limit the reach of the film and label it as ‘hateful conduct’ because of ‘misgendering.’”

Musk responded to the reported bombshell claiming that “[t]his was a mistake by many people at Twitter. It is definitively allowed.” The Twitter owner also added that not using preferred pronouns is “at most rude” but warned that misgendering individuals “certainly breaks no laws.” Musk condemned threats of violence as a result of deadnaming, saying in his tweet: “However, for the same reason, I object to rude behavior, ostracism or threats of violence if the wrong pronoun or name is used.”

MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider reacted to Musk's response, stating, "It's more clear than ever before that Elon Musk is fighting a civil war within his own organization. Many of his employees refuse to follow his leadership to make Twitter a platform for free speech. We applaud Musk for standing up for the First Amendment and American values."

Cornelio then tried to frame Musk as pro-transgender despite his behavior clearly indicating otherwise:

Twitter’s blatant threats of censorship mark a stark reversal of Elon Musk’s dubious promise to make Twitter 2.0 a free speech platform. However, these developments should surprise no one. Twitter previously removed parts of its policy that barred “deadnaming” and “misgendering” transgender individuals. The move was championed as a victory for free speech, but the platform still considered “gender identity” a “protected category” against its so-called hateful conduct policy, as MRC Free Speech America reported in April.

The new policy echoed Musk’s publicly announced support for the transgender community. “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic [sic] nightmare,” the Twitter owner said in a tweet on Dec. 16, 2020. Musk also tweeted, “What is a woman?” on May 29, 2023, responding to a question from Spotify Founder and CEO Daniel Ek, who asked in a tweet, “If aliens were to visit us right now, what’s one thing we’ve chosen to do as a society (that feels relatively simple or obvious) that would be super hard to explain?”
Cornelio didn't mention that Musk is such a terrible father to his transgender child that the child has moved to sever all ties with one of the richest men in the world -- more evidence that he really doesn't "support the transgender community."

(This wasn't the only simping the MRC did for the right-wing Daily Wire. A June 12 post by Cornelio asserted that YouTube "censored" videos from Daily Wire personnel like Candace Owens, Michael Knowles and Jordan Peterson because they "push[ed] back against the left’s radicalized gender ideology," followed two days later by a post from Autumn Johnson noting YouTube's explanation that the hosts violated the platform's "hate speech" policies and Knowles denying that his transphobia is hate speech.)

Well, all that right-wing whining paid off for Walsh, the MRC and their fellow haters. A June 15 post by Gabriela Pariseau touted a new MRC study showing how more anti-transgender hate and disrespect is spreading on Twitter:

Many have suspected an internal rebellion at Twitter against owner Elon Musk’s vision of a free speech platform. And now we have evidence to show that Musk’s moves to make Twitter more of a free speech platform have been successful despite attempts by his disgruntled anti-free speech employees to thwart him.

In recent weeks, Twitter has begun to slow its censorship of those criticizing the “transgender” movement. The shift came after the platform changed its “deadnaming” and “misgendering” policy on April 18, and following several staff resignations, including the head of Trust and Safety chief Ella Irwin’s departure on June 1.

Twitter saw a 261 percent drop in censored users and posts critiquing the left’s radical “transgender” ideology in the month after the policy change (April 18 through May 17, 2023) compared with the month prior (March 18 through April 17, 2023), according to data found in MRC Free Speech America’s database.

The month prior showed an unprecedented spike in censorship of content related to the “transgender” issue. Although it is too soon to tell whether this recent free speech win will last, the drop from 142 cases of censorship the month before the policy changed to just 37 cases after shows considerable promise.

Pariseau touted how Musk himself touted Walsh's transphobic film in the wake of the controversy. She then gave the game away by effectively admitting that getting others to hate transgender people is the point, and that Twitter was an obstacle to that agenda:

Musk’s efforts to promote free speech on the “transgender” issue have come just in time. A new Gallup poll found that “A majority, 55%, consider ‘changing one’s gender’ to be more ‘morally wrong.’” In October a similar poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates found that 75 percent of voters “believe that the transgender movement has gone too far by encouraging underage minors to use drugs and surgery to transition to the opposite sex.” Now the majority of Americans can enjoy true free speech and speak their minds on Twitter.

Musk standing his ground is a good start to making Twitter a free speech platform, but it is impossible to ignore the massive amount of censorship that has occurred under his watch to date.

Censorship of those who speak out against the left’s radical “transgender” ideology tripled over the last year, largely because of unchecked censorship on Twitter. Using the MRC database, MRC Free Speech America found that Big Tech collectively silenced 689 accounts or posts from users who dared critique the left’s “transgender” narrative between June 10, 2022 and June 9, 2023. That’s a 359% increase from the year before when platforms censored users 192 times between June 10, 2021 and June 9, 2022. The overwhelming majority of this year’s cases (635 of 689, or 92%) were a result of Twitter censorship.

The platform silenced mothers concerned about children being indoctrinated by the left’s woke, “transgender” narrative and detransitioned women sounding the alarm about the horrific reality of medical transition. The platform also halted users from exposing which children’s hospitals offered transition treatments to minors.


Obviously, Twitter, although the primary culprit, is not the only platform with a censorship problem. Video platforms particularly targeted those attempting to share their personal experiences with gender “transition.”

Pariseau didn't mention that those transphobic attacks on children's hospitals resulted in violent threats against them, nor did she explain how being transgender is an "ideology." She also didn't disclose that McLaughlin & Associates is a right-wing pollster best known for doing polls for Donald Trump's 2020 campaign with whom the MRC worked to manufacture a narrative that the 2020 election was "stolen" from Trump.

Clay Waters offered his own defense of Musk in a May 30 post:

PBS is an echo chamber for arrogant liberals who think they should manage everyone's information. PBS NewsHour hosted a conversation on Elon Musk's recent Twitter moves Thursday evening. The guest was liberal Washington Post columnist Philip Bump, who is no friend of Musk and his moves to, as Bump himself said, “equal [the] playing field” on Twitter by ridding it of the management of verification badges (i.e. “blue checks”) beloved by liberals.

In Bump's view, the move gave so-called “objective” journalists relatively less influence compared to “partisan” conservatives spreading “unvetted” and false information. As if liberal journalists didn't further demonstrate their bias and partisanship on Twitter, a cause for ineffectual hand-wringing among their editors for years.


No matter the reams of evidence from the "Twitter Files" and other sources, demonstrating left-wing cancel mobs pressuring Twitter to ban conservatives, and Twitter squelching the accounts of prominent scientists who strayed from the authoritarian party line on fighting the Covid pandemic, Bump sided with the censors.

The only "prominent scientist" Waters is actually referring to here is Jay Bhattacharya, who proved he was wrong about the COVID pandemic by signing the Great Barrington Declaration, which irresponsibly pushed "herd immunity" at a time when thousands of peopole were dying of COVID daily and no vaccine yet existed.

Waters went on to complain: "After Bennett noted Bump’s argument that Musk was out to 'dismantle' certain communities on Twitter, Bump argued that he’d taken over Twitter to mute his bad press. (So Musk spent $44 billion just to avoid bad press?)" Given Musk's penchant for suspending the Twitter accounts of his critics, that's not an unreasonable take.

More Musk PR, hiding bad news

There's lots of bad news about Elon Musk that the MRC won't tell its readers. It has censored continuing criticism of Musk for bowing to censorship demands from foreign countries. Some of that criticism has come from Enes Kanter Freedom, whose criticism of Musk the MRC has previously published -- then shoved down the memory hole when he showed interest in buying Twitter. And it's certainly not going to tell readers that Musk's decision to no longer block anti-transgender hate could be a bad thing for transgender people -- it spent too much time haranguing Musk into doing so to ever admit that. Instead, it continued to suck up to him by serving as his PR operation. For instance:

Luis Cornelio spent a June 2 post portraying the reluctance of Twitter employees to spread anti-transgender hate from the likes of Matt Walsh as an "internal revolt against free speech," touting how Musk's interference in decision-making by allowing Walsh's anti-transgender film "What is a Woman?" had "amassed nearly 63 million views in less than 24 hours, marking a victory for free speech and common sense amidst a bevy of radicalized rainbow mafia propaganda sweeping across the United States and schools." In fact, Twitter's "views" metric is highly unreliable.

Meanwhile, Musk was still letting hand-picked writers promote selectively released "Twitter files" despite the diminishing returns. Ignoring all that, Joseph Vazquez breathlessly wrote in a June 7 post:

Just as CNN didn't blink twice when it described "fiery but mostly peaceful protests" in 2020, the joke of a media outlet is telling Twitter Files readers "don't believe your lying eyes" when it comes to Big Tech-Big Government censorship collusion.

CNN published what amounted to a Big Tech-Big Government press release June 6 headlined: “Twitter’s own lawyers refute Elon Musk’s claim that The ‘Twitter Files’ exposed US government censorship.” CNN’s sources? The lawyers for the censorship-obsessed, pre-Musk Twitter regime in Donald J. Trump v. Twitter, Inc.

Wow, who would have thought that people paid to defend pre-Musk Twitter would do just that! “Twitter’s own lawyers are disputing those claims in a case involving former President Donald Trump — forcefully rejecting any suggestion that the Twitter Files show what Musk and many Republicans assert they contain,” CNN claimed.

Talk about awful timing.

Just a day after CNN’s spin, The Grayzone News host Aaron Maté released a batch of “New Twitter Files” showing that the FBI actively assisted Ukrainian intelligence in censoring Twitter users and journalists accused of spreading so-called “disinformation” and “fear.”

Vazquez hyped how "Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi" hyped the latest release, but he failed to mention that not only has Taibbi stopped being a "Twitter Files journalist," he acrimoniously split with Musk over Twitter censoring links to Substack, where Taibbi mostly writes.

This was followed by another post that day, by Catherine Salgado, hyping Taibbi's comments. Like Cornelio, she called Taibbi a "Twitter Files journalist" without disclosing that he no longer was.

Salgado returned for a June 13 post complaining about the guy who founded Twitter: "Anti-free speech Jack Dorsey just claimed that his pro-censorship tenure was generally characterized by 'fairness' and that the platform remains 'the most important public square.'" She concluded by touting and lecturing Twitter's current proprietor:

New Twitter owner Elon Musk arranged for the release of The Twitter Files to expose its previous heavy censorship. Musk has repeatedly affirmed his dedication to free speech, although censorship did initially increase under his ownership, and has still continued amongst the rank-and-file under his leadership.

Is Salgado admitting that the "Twitter files" released are biased and designed to peddle a preferred narrative instead of telling the full truth? It appears that way.

Salgado touted another "Twitter Files journalist" in a June 21 post:

Twitter Files journalist Michael Shellenberger said the war on free speech has taken “the form of a world war.”

The Twitter Files and The Facebook Files showed direct government-tech collusion to censor free speech. MRC Free Speech America exposed a government anti-terror program, the “Targeted Violence & Terrorism Prevention Grant Program” (TVTP), weaponized against Christians, conservatives, and Republicans. Like the now-defunct Disinformation Governance Board, TVTP came out of the Department of Homeland Security. In light of all this and global efforts to suppress speech, Shellenberger warned in a June 19 article on UnHerd of the fight against free speech. He said, “You can see its shadow in every Western country, from the US and Canada to Ireland and Australia, as well as in every multinational organisation, from the EU to the UN.”

Actually, that MRC Free Speech America report was so filled with misinformation that even Fox News felt compelled to debunk it. Salgado continued:

Much of the censorship work is justified by the claims that digital hate speech is sharply increasing, but that’s simply not true, Shellenberger argued. It’s an excuse for the suppression of information, often true information. Ultimately, Shellenberger insisted of leftists’ “misinformation” and “hate speech” cant that “[w]e need to train our ears to hear such language as pretexts for government censorship.”

An “elitist, anti-populist strain” is coming from governments and NGOs around the world, Shellenberger soberly noted. Even many private entities that are calling for censorship have received government funding, he explained. This created the “Censorship Industrial Complex,” partly exposed by The Twitter Files.

Salgado didn't mention that Shellenberger, like Taibbi, is no longer a "Twitter Files journalist." And she certainly didn't say a thing about reports showing that Musk is signing off on more "censorship" requests from other countries than pre-Musk Twitter did.

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