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The MRC Flips Over Elon Musk, Part 22: Payday Problems

The Media Research Center defends Elon Musk's absurdly huge payday for what is essentially a part-time job, as well as his racial attacks on DEI -- and it continues to fret that he hasn't made Twitter/X right-wing enough.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/13/2024


Right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro apparently followed Elon Musk around like a puppy on his image-rehab tour of Auschwitz to defect attention away from his endorsement of anti-Semitism, and the Media Research Center is there for it (without, of course, mentioning the image-rehab part). Tom Olohan again neglected to mention the rehab-tour part as he spent a Jan. 26 post gushing over more puppy-dog antics from Shapiro over Musk:
X owner Elon Musk touted his social media platform as a glaring and much-targeted news island in an ocean of elite media bias. 

During a conversation in Poland with The Daily Wire editor emeritus Ben Shapiro, Musk made the point that X was not only an exception among social media companies, but an exception among the media in general. Shapiro and Musk agreed that media elites abruptly changed their treatment of Musk after he purchased the social media platform.

“It was amazing to me how much the legacy media walks in lockstep — nobody breaks ranks, so now we have X that breaks ranks and doesn’t just go with whatever the approved narrative is,” Musk said. “I think for many in the public, they don’t quite realize just how much deception is really going on with the media. The biggest deception is the choice of narrative.”

[...]

Later on in the interview, Musk and Shapiro contrasted the current situation on X with the censorship regime that preceded Musk’s takeover. 

Musk told Shapiro that he generally tries to “increase the so-called Overton window of what can be discussed, what is okay to discuss without being ostracized.” He stated, “Certainly attacking DEI–would have been ostracized before and not anymore. And anything that’s sort of sensitive or that the media ignores, the public can then raise it on the X platform and make that an actual topic of discussion.” 

Olohan failed to mention that what comes in through Musk’s increased Overton window includes hate and anti-Semitism, and he certainly wasn’t going to bring up how Musk himself has helped to spread it. He also to failed to mention how Musk has engaged in his own “elite media bias” by regularly suspending the accounts of journalists who criticize him. Instead, Olohan gushed that Musk made transphobia acceptable on Twitter (well, X), dishonestly framing that hate as ”biological reality”:

In response, Shapiro brought up prior the rampant censorship of biological reality, when accounts were censored for referring to men as men and women as women. Since taking over the platform, Musk ended censorship around “misgendering” and “deadnaming” and ended the suspension of satire site The Babylon Bee’s account for the same reason. 

Olohan didn’t explain why the gender of other people is anyone else’s business.

From there, the MRC tried to portray Musk as a victim because his absurdly high pay agreement with Tesla was voided by a court. Tom Olohan suggested in the headline of his Feb. 5 post that subjecting Musk’s pay deal to legal scrutiny was somehow “lawfare” and insisted he deserved every penny because he lived up to the incentives baked into the deal:

A recent decision to strip X and Tesla owner Elon Musk of $55 billion in Tesla stock seemingly appalled CNN This Morning co-hosts Phil Mattingly and Poppy Harlow. 

Despite the leftist network’s history of criticizing Musk and supporting censorship on his social media platform, Mattingly and Harlow were willing to say that Musk might have deserved the pay package recently stripped from him by a Delaware judge. On Jan. 30 a Delaware judge voided Musk’s $55 billion pay package from Tesla, an incentive-driven deal which Musk had taken instead of a salary. 

In response to the judge’s order, Mattingly appeared to defend the deal saying such an arrangement “should be how you structure your pay package, I would think.” 

Both Mattingly and Harlow agreed that Musk had taken a big risk in forgoing his salary and attempting to unlock the $55 billion payout by growing Tesla to enormous heights. Among other difficult tasks, Musk had to grow Tesla’s market capitalization to $650 billion. 

“Structurally, it was designed in a way that was giving him money to take risks and hit high, hard-to-reach incentives,” Mattingly said of the Musk-Tesla deal.

Olohan’s “lawfare” narrative fails the fact test; the lawsuit contesting Musk’s pay structure was brought by a Tesla shareholder, not the government. Olohan also left out important details as to why Musk’s pay structure was voided: Many of the Tesla directors who approved the deal had close ties to Musk, and that board members had an obligation to find another CEO who would be paid less. and it’s an obscene (well, “unfathomable” according to the judge) amount of money to pay to someone who isn’t even devoting full time to running the company (Musk also runs SpaceX and Twitter/X, among other things).

Instead of mentioning any of that, Olohan complained that people were pointing out that Musk is kind of a jerk:

By contrast, CNBC reporter Courtney Reagan absurdly asked on the Feb. 1 edition of Power Lunch if Musk was being a “little petulant” by considering incorporating his company in Texas instead of Delaware. “Seems a little petulant, then, perhaps to leave because of this pay package.” 

It’s only $55 billion after all. At no point did Reagan mention that Musk’s compensation package was based on incentives tied to Tesla’s growth. 

Olohan didn’t explain how someone who’s essentially a part-time employee deserves $55 billion.

Olohan was back on PR/stenography duty in a Feb. 7 post:

X owner Elon Musk repeatedly blasted President Joe Biden’s administration for encouraging “illegal immigration” to benefit Democrats while leftist media outlets went out of their way to make excuses for the president.

In a Feb. 2 post on X, Musk pointed out Biden’s “Simple, yet effective,” two-pronged strategy to advance his anti-American agenda by exploiting illegal immigration. He accused Biden of attempting to  “get as many illegals in the country as possible” and to “[l]egalize them to create a permanent [Democrat] majority – a one-party state.”

He added, “That is why they are encouraging so much illegal immigration.” Musk continued to hammer this point over the next few days arguing that Biden was “rolling out the red carpet” for illegal immigrants. 

[...]

While Musk criticizes the Biden Administration on X for violating his constitutional obligations to secure the border, media outlets like NBC and ABC have done everything to downplay Biden and company’s culpability for the humanitarian crisis.

The replacement theory Musk is spouting is a racist conspiracy theory, but Olohan’s employer has a policy of insisting that it’s neither racist nor a conspiracy theory.

Olohan served up more Musk-fluffing the next day:

The world’s second richest man, X owner Elon Musk, is exposing and avenging diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) discrimination in a series of damning posts on X. 

Musk revealed on Tuesday alleged internal documents from Disney, showing what he characterized as the “mandatory, institutionalized racism and sexism” in Disney’s inclusion standards. Stunningly, Musk followed up with a major promise: the individuals whom Disney discriminated against will receive legal support. “Here is the full racist, sexist, etc discriminatory set of laws enforced by Disney’s DEI Gestapo,” Musk said, also sharing a screenshot of the alleged Disney document. The purported document showed Disney offered preferential treatment to “underrepresented groups” and other victims of DEI.

The alleged documents require that “50% or more” of actors, writers, and other employees of Disney productions “come from underrepresented groups,” while placing other discriminatory burdens on potential productions. 

Despite these requirements, which Musk called “laboriously vile” and “illegal” the other documents strenuously deny that this decision will harm people who do not belong to an underrepresented group. The documents gaslight employees by arguing that removing “systemic barriers” will achieve these mandatory goals.  The same documents claimed that productions are “encouraged” to hire job candidates who lack the needed experience.” 

In other words, move out of the way, we’ve got to reach our 50 percent quota. 

Musk has already offered his support to former The Mandalorian actress Gina Carano, who sued Disney for firing her with a statement criticizing her social media use.

That’s a strange statement, given how the MRC opposes labor unions and supports at-will hiring, meaning that a person can be fired for any reason or no reason. Still, the MRC has bestowed victimhood on Carano because she spouted right-wing talking points. Olohan then quoted Musk obsessing over DEI while claiming Disney was obsessing over DEI:

Musk went on to tie Disney’s obsessive focus on DEI and the onerous requirements from these documents to recent Disney box office failures: “No wonder most of their content produced over the past several years has sucked. Just trying to navigate the DEI minefield is going to crush the creative process!” Musk said that this ideology “crushes the spirit” of those who seek to “make great art.” 

Of course, by opposing DEI Musk (and, thus, Olohan) is effectively endorsing discrimination in hiring and the idea that non-white people are incompetent and cannot get a job without being labeled a “diversity hire.”

You’d think that with all this racism, Olohan would be pointing out that Musk is a racist the way his MRC colleague Nicholas Fondacaro loves to smear “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin with the tag, despite having less evidence to back up the claim. But he’s a Musk-fluffing activist, not a journalist of any kind.

Christian Baldwin ran defense for Elon Musk in a Feb. 16 post:

Australia’s Communications Minister threatened that X (formerly Twitter) will be in “big trouble” if it does not comply with the country’s proposed new censorship laws.

The Australian Financial Review reported February 12 that Australian Communications Minister and Member of Parliament Michelle Rowland is waging a “crusade” to address a “litany of recent issues” she claimed are afflicting X. These comments come as she pushes her “proposed mis- and disinformation laws” that will impose standards on what speech will be permitted online.

The laws will enable the Australian government to impose hefty fines on social media companies that violate standards set by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Note that Baldwin dutifully repeated his employer’s narratives by dishonestly portraying efforts to address hate, lies and misinformation as “censorship.” Baldwin went on to complain:

Rowland repeatedly called out X owner Elon Musk and his platform in particular as one of the main reasons why increasingly heavy-handed measures are needed. She reportedly noted that the platform reinstated 6000 previously banned accounts and brought up sexual exploitation concerns. “They will have to [change],” she told The Australian Financial Review.

This is the Australian government’s latest enforcement of censorship in a long train of abuses that have violated the natural rights of Australians and even some non-Australians. The Twitter Files exposed that during the COVID-19 pandemic Australia’s Department of Home Affairs  flagged 222 tweets for Twitter to remove. One of the flagged tweets came from British-based molecular biologist Tanya Klymenko who pointed out some of the flaws of the COVID-19 PCR test and said that COVID-19 was made in a lab.

Note that Baldwin failed to disclose exactly what those tweets said that made them a target — namely, spreading dubious misinformation during the COVID pandemic, when accurate information should be prioritized over dangerous conspiracy theories.

But a few days later, the MRC expressed a twinge of doubt bout Musk — which have been fleeting in the past — after Twitter/X suspended the account of the widow of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny after he died in prison. Catherine Salgado actually suggested that Musk was a hypocrite in a Feb. 20 post:

X owner Elon Musk ridiculed “digital tyrants” even as his platform made headlines for wrongly suspending a high-profile account.

Musk proudly posted a “vulgar and sarcastic” condemnation of censorship from his Grok artificial intelligence (AI) Monday, Feb. 19, just before a report of apparently mistaken censorship occurring on his own X platform. X suspended the account of Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny’s widow. While Musk posted a laughing emoji regarding Grok’s characterization of “content moderation [a]s a steaming pile of horse manure, and the platforms that enforce it are nothing more than digital tyrants,” the post’s timing seemed ironic.

Just last month, X CEO Linda Yaccarino proudly boasted that the platform had censored millions of pieces of content, including undefined “hate speech.” Hate speech is a label often applied by leftists to anything with which they disagree. This could be partly in response to the European Union’s anti-free speech Digital Services Act, as Yaccarino posted just this morning that X “had a productive conversation with [EU Commissioner Thierry Breton] today to discuss” platform health and DSA “compliance.”

[...]

Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny, who just died suddenly in an obscure Russian prison, found her account temporarily suspended Tuesday morning. Yulia had posted on her X (formerly Twitter) account a video in which she accused authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin of being guilty of Navalny’s death. While Yulia’s account was restored only 45 minutes afterwards, the suspension highlights the fact that censorship continues on X, despite Musk’s avowed free speech ideals. The X Safety team’s account acknowledged error in Navalnaya’s case, claiming the platform’s “defense mechanism against manipulation and spam mistakenly flagged” her account.

Still, Salgado quoted her boss in whining that the Community Notes function Musk added to Twitter/X is “censorship” because it fact-checks people:

“The X platform should be exporting American principles, not importing Europe’s,” said MRC Free Speech America Director Michael Morris. “And while Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter at a time when government pressure on social media companies to censor came as a boon to pro-free speech Americans, the X platform’s continued use of Community Notes fact checks and further censorship creep is beginning to look much like the platform of old — this latest censorship ‘error’ not excepted.”

Salgado whined that Musk has apparently decided to take a more active role in moderating content after all, which of course she dishonestly framed as “censorship”:

But is Musk’s stated devotion to free speech also a “load of bull”? After all, Yulia Navalnaya is hardly an isolated example. Besides the daily censorship MRC Free Speech America routinely records on its exclusive CensorTrack.org database of X Community Notes fact-checks, which can carry demonetization penalties, other forms of free speech suppression continue on X. Yaccarino previously bragged of censoring content to please advertisers, and the platform also reportedly planned to launch a new 100-person moderation team in Texas.

As long as X continues to silence free speech, Musk’s endorsement of Grok’s call to “give a big middle finger to content moderation and embrace the chaos of the internet” rings hollow.

The MRC returned to defense duty the next day, however, with a post by Nicholas Fondacaro complaining how super-rich people like Musk and Bill Ackman never face consequences for their actions:

It’s not often members of the liberal media openly whine, on-air about how they’re losing their ability to gatekeep the criticism their friends and allies received publically; let alone be so open about how they wanted those going around them punished for doing so. But that’s exactly what happened during the Tuesday night rage therapy session MSNBC’s The 11th Hour host Stephanie Ruhle and Puck News co-founder Bill Cohan took part in when they targeted investor Bill Ackman and entrepreneur Elon Musk for daring to be outspoken about things going on in the world.

Ruhle, a well-connected and well-off finance reporter and TV host with Ackman’s phone number, kicked off the segment with a pathetic attempt to rally populist outrage at the two. “America’s super-rich have been very loud lately on social media; complaining about pretty much everything,” she complained to Cohen. “But the ultra-wealthy have been trying to control the public discourse and policy since the dawn of time. How is that different now, that we’re just seeing now on social media?”

According to Cohan, part of the problem was that X no longer had a character limit on posts, thus allowing Ackman to write whatever he wanted (as if threads weren’t a thing). Without evidence, he claimed that Ackman was saying things so abhorrent that he would be fired from an employer if he wasn’t so rich:

He also unironically served up this complaint:

The MSNBC host also seemed to dabble in anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles. She suggested: “Traditionally, people” like Ackman (who’s openly Jewish) “wanted to be like the Wizard of Oz. They wanted to be puppet masters pulling strings without having to face the public.”

The MRC, of course, loves to smear Jews as puppet masters, whether it be George Soros or Jeff Zucker. Fondacaro offered no evidence that Ruhle was specifically referencing Ackman’s heritage — he’s the one who put the “Jewish” word in her mouth.

Not right-wing enough

On the rare occasion the MRC does criticize Musk, it’s usually because he hasn’t pushed Twitter/X far enough to the right. It published a Feb. 25 column by Larry Elder in the wake of media kerfuffles about how President Biden’s purported mental fitness issues, praising Musk while still playing victim:

This elevates the importance of outlets like the Elon Musk-owned X, formerly known as Twitter. Musk uncovered the extent to which Twitter suppressed posts of conservatives, suppressed posts questioning the then-conventional wisdom of the COVID vaccine, masking and shutdowns, and even briefly shut down the New York Post‘s account for its reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop story.

When Musk bought Twitter, things changed immediately. Conservatives saw a quick and substantial uptick in followers. But, since then, many conservatives say they experience pre-Musk sluggish growth. So, I recently posted on X the following:

“Dear @elonmusk,

“I can’t be the only one? I believe conservatives are STILL being suppressed — and that new followers are only painstakingly added — because of the anti-conservative, anti-Trump hostility of your deep state Twitter employees. This is a shout out to other conservatives/libertarians on your platform, please tell me if you’ve ALSO experienced the same sluggish growth in new followers, a stark contrast from what happened when Musk first took over when I — and many other conservatives — had an explosion of new followers. Please comment!”
Elder doesn’t appear to consider the possibility that his right-wing politics have a ceiling — that there’s only so many followers he will attract, so after that initial publicity-driven surge, he wouldn’t get many more. (Elder’s failed presidential campaign also suggests there’s a limit to his appeal.) Nevertheless, Elder had to keep the conspiracy theory alive: “Bottom line, Mr. Musk, a lot of conservatives still detect a serious deep state problem at X, a platform we need now more than ever.”

A March 1 post by Gabriela Pariseau whined that Twitter is apparently not letting right-wingers hate transgender people enough with their obsession with misgendering them:

Elon Musk appears to have resurrected Twitter’s infamous policy of censoring those who refuse to use a person’s preferred pronouns. What’s worse is that he is now trying to defend it.

In January, X (formerly Twitter) quietly changed its “Abuse and Harassment” policy to state that the platform “will reduce the visibility of posts that purposefully use different pronouns to address someone other than what that person uses for themselves, or that use a previous name that someone no longer goes by as part of their transition.” The changes echo the old Twitter regime’s deadnaming and misgendering policy. But the difference between the old gender pronoun policies and the new one is that X spun the latter with sanitized language and included a slightly lighter penalty. But censorship by another name still stinks to high heaven. 

The platform’s revised policy is ripe for abuse as X claims it will rely on the subjective opinions of transgender users to determine whether or not they have been harassed. “Given the complexity of determining whether such a violation has occurred, we must always hear from the target to determine if a violation has occurred,” the X policy reads.

Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik called Musk out on his platform’s censorship backsliding in an X post. “Apparently X might’ve reinstated their ‘misgendering’ rule so I gotta test it out...,” she wrote. Raichik proceeded to bluntly refer to a number of high-profile transgenders by their biological sex to test how heavy-handed X’s new policy would be: “Richard Levine is male. He is a man. Dylan Mulvaney is male. He is a man. Ellen Page is female. She is a woman. If I get suspended you can find me at @libsoftiktok.” She continued: “In all seriousness @elonmusk can you please clarify this? Why the change?”

Musk responded by weakly defending the policy. “This is just about repeated, targeted harassment of a particular person,” he retorted. Musk’s response fails to recognize that the new policy makes X the referee between transgender users who may arbitrarily claim harassment and non-compliant users who refuse to bend the knee to leftist activists and lie about a person’s sex and self-appointed pronouns. 

Raichik, of course, is a vicious transphobe, so her guidance isn’t exactly helpful or constructive — she’s just demanding a license to hate. She wants to harass transgender people — that’s what she gets paid to do. Still, Pariseau uncritically regurgitated her whining:

Raichik pointed out this exact problem and the resulting unequal treatment. “Using the correct sex based pronouns for someone is ‘harassment’? We’re being forced to lie?” she asked. “What about harassment in general? There are accounts who repeatedly target and harass specific individuals in an obsessive way. What constitutes ‘repeated’ and ‘targeted’ and why do only one group of people get this special treatment?” 

Musk tried to reassure Raichik: “You’re not going to get suspended.” But Racihik dismissed Musk’s assurances as just empty talk: “Yeah just shadowbanned and less tweet visibility.” 

Inciting violent threats probably constitutes “repeated” and “targeted” harassment, but Raichik will play dumb about her true agenda and Pariseau will refuse to tell her readers that’s what she does. Instead, she whined that Musk has apparently flip-flopped:

Musk appears to have a pattern of flip-flopping on this particular issue. Last April, Twitter took deadnaming and misgendering out of its “Hateful Conduct” policy after MRC called the platform out for a massive spike in censorship related to transgender-related posts. In June, despite the change, X pulled out of a deal with The Daily Wire after it had previously agreed to promote the What Is a Woman documentary reportedly due to “misgendering” in the film.

[...]

It seems X is returning to Musk’s preferences as opposed to trying to mirror the law as he has continuously claimed. 

Pariseau doesn’t explain why her fellow right-wingers are so obsessed with disrespecting the existence of transgender people, or why they think it’s their business what other people call themselves. Last year, the MRC and its fellow transphobes had successfully pressured Musk into permitting misgendering and deadnaming on Twitter/X.

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