Last month, noted homeless billionaire Elon Musk announced his intent to buy Twitter. The announcement whipped users across the political spectrum into a frenzy, as conservatives and proud neo-Nazis celebrated a victory for “free speech” (AKA a pass for their hate speech), and others expressed concern for what Musk’s plans to relax content moderation would mean for the safety of women and marginalized users.
A lot has changed since then. As of last week, with Tesla stock plummeting, Musk seems to be backpeddling. On Friday, he announced the $44 billion deal is “on hold” and, as of this week, it seems he’s looking for any reason to bail on his increasingly costly purchase. It’s unclear why he’s doing all of this, when he could just say what we already know: The man can’t afford it.
He should really just come clean about this. There are plenty of people (not me, though) who would want to help him—namely the hordes of basement-dwelling male Twitter users who love his epic memes and probably share a median annual income of around $45,000. I’m sure at least one of them has a spare couch he can crash on. The man loves to cosplay being poor.
In a series of erratic tweets (which have included inexplicably replying to a tweet from Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal with the poop emoji), Musk has been raising alarms about the company allegedly being less than transparent about how many Twitter accounts are bots. He’s cited this as the reason he’s losing interest, but experts are speculating that this is merely an excuse: One law professor told the Associated Press on Tuesday it seems more likely Musk has realized his $44 billion offer was too high, and he’s now looking for a way “to potentially walk away or negotiate the price down.”
As Media Matters for America’s Angelo Carusone has pointed out, even if Musk’s sudden claims about Twitter bots are true, Musk comes out of this somehow looking even dumber: “That means he put together a $44 billion offer without basic essential information. At best, it is reckless and business associates should run now.”
The AP notes that Twitter has long been transparent about the fact that it’s uncertain about the exact number of bots on the platform, and the company gave Musk the clearance to do his own due diligence early on in the deal, if that was so important to him. In a Tuesday statement filed with the SEC, the company said it’s “committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable.” The penalty for Musk backing out, you’ll note, is a fine of $1 billion. Your move, Elon.
Musk may be 50 years old and embarrassingly desperate to look cool in front of his neo-Nazi-haircut-sporting, chronically online fan boys, but the man knows what it means to “do it for the Vine”—which is basically what this whole Twitter deal was for him. It was fun for a minute there, but with Tesla stock in free-fall, Musk has to reckon with the reality of a $44 billion transaction facilitated largely via shit-posting.
To secure the $44 billion in funding to make the offer, largely through significant contributions from groups like Morgan Stanley and “other unnamed institutions” (not shady at all!), Musk had to put up a significant amount of Tesla stock to get credit. But he can only borrow up 25% of the value of these shares, and as that value sinks, the deal is becoming more costly to Musk by the day.
Now, I am no expert in the stock market, to say the least—it really just sounds like astrology for the most annoying men on LinkedIn. But it seems pretty illogical, if not entirely fucked up, that billionaires can whine about how they shouldn’t be taxed, because none of their money is real and all of it is non-liquid assets, while being able to leverage said non-liquid assets into billions and billions in credit that they can then use to buy an entire social media company. That seems a lot like real money to me!
Circling back to Musk’s increasingly desperate, bullshit reasons for backing down from buying Twitter: I get it. He’s embarrassed; he’s trying to save face. I’ve been around a lot of men who have written out checks that their bodies can’t cash, and this situation is, really, not so different. Musk also faces the added pressure of being a role model to so many young men he can’t let down; he knows he’s a symbol of hope to them and that if they can successfully exploit enough workers, bust enough unions, perhaps build a time machine and be born into a family with a massive, apartheid emerald mine fortune, they, too, can become billionaires—or at least, someday pay off their student loans.
In any case, for whatever reason (money, I guess?), Twitter seems determined to see this deal through. So, if I were Musk, I’d get to firing up the ol’ Go Fund Me.