Wealth vs. Government

On October 27, 2022, the world’s richest man bought the de facto global town square. Elon Musk‘s purchase of Twitter had been brewing since April when the South African-born tech magnate first offered (or threatened?) to take over the struggling social network to the tune of $44 billion.

He later tried to reneg on the deal, or at least made a big public show of trying to back out of it during the summer of 2022, claiming that Twitter had falsely represented the percentage of bot accounts on the platform. Company executives filed suit to force Musk to agree to the share price in his original offer — despite significant stock price losses due largely to Musk’s own disparagement of the site.

Forced to go through with the deal despite admittedly “overpaying for Twitter right now,” Musk and his set of investor backers took the company private and began an uncertain new era for the heretofore arguably closest thing to a public town square in all of history, with the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur at the helm. A self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” the billionaire immediately began pronouncing ideas wildly unpopular with its power user base of journalists, academics, and public professionals of all stripes, including:

Who actually owns Twitter now?

Amidst the chaos of Musk’s first weeks of ownership, many inside and outside of Twitter have speculated on the potential ulterior motives of the tech oligarch’s purchase. Theories range from intentional sabotage to gross incompetence — or potentially some mixture of the two. There is widespread disparagement of the idea that a billionaire can simply step in and upend what passed for a fledgling tool of democratic influence, and a bulwark against the march of right-wing authoritarianism around the world.

But who actually owns Twitter, outside of Musk himself? Perhaps the laundry list of investors can now or in the future shed some light on probable strategies behind the massive shakeup at one of the world’s most popular tools for the media-industrial class. Given the company’s privatization, it is now far less transparent about its financials — and it will be difficult to know at any moment in time if given investors have come in or out, or increased or decreased their holdings via their relationships with Musk or intermediaries.

As it stands though, this is the list of Twitter backers I have so far been able to find. Do you know of others I’ve missed, or changes to relative holdings? Please do give me a shout over — where else — on Twitter (while it stands — else on Mastodon) and let me know!

Twitter owners list

  • The number one primary owner is Elon Musk himself, who already owned 9.6% in shares of the company before taking it over. During the sale he put in $27 billion in cash from his own fortune, liquidated by selling shares of his Tesla stock
  • Original co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey owned 2.4% in shares and kept them, for about a $1B stake
  • Larry Ellison of Oracle — $1B
  • Qatar Holding, part of the Qatar sovereign wealth fund (Qatar Investment Authority)
  • Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia — transferred 35 million shares to Musk (about $1.9B according to Dave Troy)
  • Binance cryptocurrency exchange — $500M
  • $13B in bank loans from:
    • Morgan Stanley — $3.5B
    • Bank of America
    • Barclays
    • Japanese banks
      • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group
      • Mizuho
    • French banks
      • Societe Generale
      • BNP Paribas
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One of two major parties in our American first-past-the-post voting system of dual-party reality, the Republican Party, has evolved (or devolved…) into a full-throated authoritarian movement seeking to overthrow our democracy, The Constitution, and the rule of law in order to establish a fascist regime in the United States. It’s been a not-so-secret fever dream on the right for decades and even centuries — and the old guard reflexively senses their time is coming to an end.

The demographic changes underway in America are inexorable — by the 2024 election cycle 8 million new young voters who have turned 18 since the 2022 mid-terms, and 5 million seniors aged 65 and up will have died. The first group will vote overwhelmingly Democratic, while the second group represents the ever-dwindling base of the Republican Party. Although historically older voters have participated at much higher rates than the youth voting percentage, the rate of increase for the 18-24 group is much higher.

Faced with these realities and the census projection of a majority minority population in the United States by the year 2045, the Republican right-wing is struggling to keep piecing together a voting base that can achieve victories in electoral politics. The GOP is now 3 cults in a trenchcoat, having been hollowed out and twisted to the point of trying desperately to hold increasingly extreme factions together for another election cycle in which they can try to capture power forever through gerrymandering and other anti-democratic election engineering — or at least long enough to erase the evidence of their criminal behavior during the Trump years culminating in a coup attempt on January 6, 2021.

The 3 Republican cults are as follows:

  1. The Wealth Cult — led by Charles Koch and a collection of dark money groups including Leonard Leo’s Federalist Society and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
  2. The Christian Nationalist Cult — led by Mike Pence, Mike Flynn, and others under the umbrella of the Council for National Policy (CNP)
  3. The White Nationalist Cult — led by Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, with a parallel intertwined branch led by Peter Thiel and the Dark Enlightenment neo-Reactionaries of Silicon Valley. This group includes dominant private militia groups involved in the January 6 insurrection including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

The Wealth Cult

Led by Charles Koch et al, the mostly aging, Boomer crowd who controls much of the US government either directly or indirectly as a donor or operative is starting to panic for one reason or another: the fear of death looming, existential worries about thwarted or unmet ambition, economic turn of the wheel starting to leave their fortunes in decline (with inflation as a common boogie man since the Wall Street Putsch of the 1930s). Much of this crowd inherited the free market ideological zeal of the Austrian School of economics from their fathers along with their trust fund fortunes that some have squandered (Trump), tread water with (Coors, Scaife), or grown (Koch, DeVos).

Continue reading The GOP is 3 Cults in a Trenchcoat
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I’ve been reading John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” and reminded of the quintessential liberal definition of the term:

The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.”

— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
(emphasis mine)

It seems to me that Libertarian proponents tend to make a systematic error in portraying liberty as only commensurate with the first part of Mill’s description: essentially interpreting it as, “I should be able to do whatever I want, and have no constraints placed upon my person by the government whatsoever.” The idea of “cancel culture” is a reflection of this ideal, whereby the right wing complains that moral constraints that apply to everyone should not apply to them.

This mentality misses completely the essential boundary established by the second part of Mill’s quote: that doing what one wants has limits attached, and that those limits are a proscription on engaging in activities which either harm others, or deprive others of their own rights in pursuit of liberty. An essential part of the social contract, the concern for others’ rights naturally stems from concern for your own — as the collective will bands together to guarantee our rights in common, everyone has a stake in preserving the system.

Harm

Being fixated with avoiding taxation, the Libertarian will proclaim that the government is coercing him out of his hard-earned monies — but this fails to recognize the real harm being done to the lower classes by the deprivation of funds to support the basic level of public goods required to preserve life at a subsistence level as well as social mobility: the essence of the American dream.

In short, Libertarian dogma tends to be singularly focused on the self-interest of the upper classes without any attendant regard to the rights of others that may be trampled on by either class oppression or the capturing and consolidation of political power in the hands of the wealthy. It fails systematically to recognize the perspective of the “other side,” i.e. those who are harmed by the enactment of the Libertarian ideology — much as a narcissist lacks empathy — and with it, the capability of seeing others’ perspectives. You could in some ways consider it yet another form of denialism, as well as a cousin or perhaps even sibling to authoritarianism.

The Libertarian-narcissist Venn diagram is practically a circle.

Libertarianism sees itself in control

It believes its ideology should dominate others despite its extreme minority status. Libertarians want to get the benefits of the social contract and civil society, without having to pay back into the system in proportion to their usage of public resources at scale. The Libertarian political philosophy violates the fundamental, cross-cultural principle of reciprocity — exhibited in societies through the ages.

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