John Gruber asks:
I’m curious what else you think has surprised Musk about Twitter thus far. Not what you think Musk is wrong about, per se, but what he is already surprised about.
I think Musk is genuniely surprised he hasn’t been able (so far) to bluster his way through this.
I mean this sincerely. In an economy driven by attention, Musk uses bluster like a CDO, it’s how he became the world’s richest man and how he managed to just about single-handedly turn a public company private and rule by fiat.
I think it’s surprising because Musk’s bluster not only generates the attention he needs but acts as an ace up his sleeve, a way to guarantee a win. Musk leveraged, and then weaponized, the absolute worst tendencies of the social-era internet — fandom, brigading, the financialization of everything, the final merge of politics and identity. And Twitter was his weapon of choice.
Take Tesla, a real company that makes actual cars. Not so long ago, Tesla’s market value was higher than the nine leading auto manufacturers combined, despite the fact that Tesla sold fewer cars last year than Mazda. Obviously, this was absurd, but it happened because Musk is a master manipulator of attention, the currency of the day.
I think he thought he could just keep the bluster going. In fact, I’m sure he thought once he owned the braindead megaphone, it would be even more valuable to him specifically, enough to justify paying a 4-5x premium.
But he may finally be overleveraged, both literally and in his ability to command and corral attention.
In these finacialized times, I’m loathe to contribute to the further debasement of the language with this overwrought metaphor — strike me down if I ever declare myself “bullish” about something — but this kind of overleverage is something of an unavoidable theme this week.
FTX, the second largest cryptocurrency exchange, melted down in spectacular fashion. The Grand Old Party, representing one half of the American political system and still embarrassingly in the thrall of a TV-addled tinpot populist, humiliated at a midterm election that they should have handily dominated. And Musk’s disastrous management of a company that is famous for being disastrously managed — all are showing that even the ability to manipulate attention has limits.