Elon owns Twitter, Jeff owns the Washington Post, Mark owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Now, Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, owns Parler.
Following in the footsteps of Donald Trump, who started his own social media network, Truth Social, after being kicked off Twitter, Ye has announced that he will be acquiring the social media site popular with far-right conspiracy theorists.
“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Ye said in a statement.
Parler’s parent company is owned by George Farmer, the husband of the conservative opinion-haver Candace Owens, who appeared alongside Ye wearing a ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt at Paris Fashion Week.
“This deal will change the world, and change the way the world thinks about free speech,” Farmer said in a statement, apparently without sarcasm.
“Ye is making a groundbreaking move into the free speech media space and will never have to fear being removed from social media again. Once again, Ye proves that he is one step ahead of the legacy media narrative. Parlement will be honored to help him achieve his goals.”
It wasn’t disclosed how much Ye has paid for the social media site, which is used by roughly 15 million people, but he probably didn’t have to buy the whole damn thing just to talk trash on it. The deal is secured on paper and ownership will be transferred to Ye later in the year.
Ye was kicked off of Instagram and Twitter last week for writing death threats against Jewish people, and seems to think Parler is the new home for him and that kind of chat. He’s probably not wrong.
Every day there’s another billionaire buying up a media outlet and, although rich people owning the media is nothing new, it’s not a great look for the future of democracy and accountability.
As others have pointed out, the ultra-wealthy are basically buying themselves iron-clad defences against consequences for their horrible beliefs. Proving yet again that cancel culture is not a real thing, they’ve made themselves entirely un-cancellable. Refusing to play by the rules of the game (decency, decorum, not being a dick), they would have once flipped the table and stopped us all from playing. Now they just buy the game.
This all being said, Australia doesn’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to the wealthy influencing public discourse. We are, after all, the country that basically exported the concept of media monopolies to the world via Rupert Murdoch. No print publication in the state of Queensland is owned by anyone other than Murdoch. A plurality of world views we are not.
When Elon announced he would be buying up Twitter, users went into panic, assuming, with good reason, that the Tesla CEO would allow more hate and discrimination to flourish on the platform. Elon has said previously that he would like to see more conservative voices on the platform and that, currently, it leans too left-wing.
Although the world’s richest man has yet to get his hands on the controls, if his lame tolerance of Ye — someone who was just kicked off Instagram for being anti-Semitic — is anything to go by, we could be in trouble.
Bezos, in his purchase of The Washington Post, has at least shown some restraint in his ownership of the paper. The only critique levelled against him was from the Bernie Sanders camp in that WaPo coverage of his 2016 run was unbalanced. But this particular billionaire might be the exception.
If Ye goes ahead with the Parler deal, he’s unlikely to change the fortunes of the struggling company by much. But he will be able to create his own little kingdom where all of his inexcusable thoughts can run wild, at least until the company inevitably collapses.
Parler’s loss is not going to cause too much grief, but if Elon manages the same thing with Twitter, we could lose a vital public resource. Zuckerberg has almost finished off Facebook and is trying his hardest to run Instagram into the ground. The only social media platform we’ll soon have left will be TikTok, and Lord knows many of us are too old to get on that.
Chalk this one up to just another example of why allowing the ultra-wealthy to control the public channels of information exchange is a terrible, terrible idea.