Here’s a rare dispute involving Trump in which I’m more inclined to believe him than the other party.

Does it seem plausible that a guy whose businesses rely heavily on government subsidies might have flattered a new president by claiming to have voted for him?

It does to me.

Of course, Trump has unrelated reasons to hold a grudge against Musk. And I don’t just mean the rivalry between Twitter and Truth Social.

Yesterday on social media I saw some Musk fanboys trying to cope with him bailing out of the Twitter deal by reasoning that his purchase offer must have been a clever intelligence operation all along. By forcing Twitter into a legal dispute, Musk and his lawyer will now be able to do pre-trial discovery. And that means they’ll uncover the secret algorithmic data proving Twitter’s deep anti-conservative moderation biases.

Which makes no sense, particularly when you remember that Musk declined to do due diligence on Twitter’s business practices before agreeing to buy the company. He could have demanded disclosure of their algorithm as a condition of the purchase before committing to spend a dime, but he didn’t care enough about it to do so. Now, having signed the deal, he’s at risk of a Delaware court ordering him to fulfill his obligations and complete the purchase. Which would mean, under the “intelligence” theory, that Musk will end up paying $44 billion for the privilege of exposing Twitter’s liberal tilt.

He may care about anti-conservative bias but he doesn’t care that much, I promise. The fact that righties are straining to come up with some virtuous motive to explain him welshing on the deal goes to show, though, that if you’re a person of sufficient notoriety who’s achieved a certain degree of ideological allyship, you’ll continue to get the benefit of the doubt beyond all reason.

If Musk’s goal in trying to buy Twitter wasn’t to expose its biases, what was his goal? Theories are kicking around. My guess was, and continues to be, that he sincerely wanted to close the deal initially but then got cold feet after Tesla’s stock and Twitter’s stock began to tank this summer. His wealth had diminished and now he was about to overpay extravagantly for his new toy, so he began to contrive excuses (“bots!”) to justify backing out. That’s also the theory favored by Slate’s Alex Kirshner:

Whatever the outcome, it will be a test of what really matters in billionaire business in 2022. In one corner, there are laws and contracts and old-school conventions about the way negotiations work—most notably, the concept that when someone signs papers agreeing to do something, they have to do it or pay a penalty. In the other corner is complete and total bullsh*t, wielded by a bullsh*tter who is attempting to worm his way to a preferred outcome on the strength of being not just the richest person in the world, but also the most annoying. It is a heavyweight bout between how business is done by most people and how it is done by one person. We are all about to locate the outer limit of what hucksterism can achieve.

There’s another theory, that Musk was looking for an excuse to redeem Tesla stock options before they expired and found that excuse in the Twitter deal. The math here works — unless Musk loses in court and ends up having to fork over $44 billion for the company.

The point for Musk fanboys to remember in all this is that he framed his acquisition of Twitter as altruistic in nature, a good deed he was doing to improve the marketplace of ideas. Twitter was the virtual public square, he said, and he felt obliged to make that public square welcoming to everyone for the long-term civic health of western civilization. Viewed through that lens, his whining about bots as an excuse for ditching the deal looks completely ridiculous, writes T.C. Sottek:

But let’s assume just for fun that Musk is right. After he started the deal and looked under the hood and laid out his plans for Twitter’s staff, he discovered Twitter’s bot population is more like 20% than 5%. So what? What’s a spread of 90 million users when TikTok and Facebook are ahead of you by billions? If your position is that Mark Zuckerberg is an unelected tyrant of speech, how is abandoning Twitter going to help you take him on? And why would you argue in your SEC filing that revenue from active users is at stake? That doesn’t sound like “not caring about the economics at all.” That sounds like only caring about the economics…

We’re left with two possibilities. Either Musk doesn’t think he can do the job he promised at Twitter, and he’s not the world-changing force he’s been made out to be. Or, he was lying about the kinds of lofty ideals and visions that built his companies and his image.

What kind of man trolls the world about a better future?

I don’t know if Musk bullsh*tted Trump about voting for him but I do know that Trump is right that Musk is a bullsh*t artist. And in this case his bullsh*t may end up wrecking Twitter.

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