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Mr. Beast please save us!
Abortion pills and Twitter feuds fuel moral panic of epic proportions
Where to start? It’s like when I open a new box of Deez Nuts flavored Feastables and wonder which one to gobble up first. And I don’t have to wonder what the formerly-richest man in the world has in common with most 14-year-old boys, and with one of the most popular YouTubers in the world: I get texts promoting Feastables coming from the shortcode that makes all of them chuckle reflexively, 69420.
Enough laughs. To launch into serious at a 45 degree angle, I’m going to talk about abortion. (No, seriously. Stop the laughing.)
The drug mifepristone, since January, has been available over the counter at many pharmacies in states where the pill is legal, and through the mail in states where it isn’t legal. So 14-year-old girls who have spent an ill-advised few minutes with said hormonal boys could in theory procure it without telling mom and dad. As a dad, and as a Christian, I oppose this, and not just because I believe abortion is a sin.
Just as pregnancy is a big event—the biggest not-kill-you thing that can happen to a human body short of being born—begun by a relatively small event, a two-pill medical abortion is a big trauma begun by swallowing a drug. The first pill, known by its trademark RU-486, inhibits the hormone progesterone, which causes the growing zygote or fetus to starve to death in its mother’s womb. I know, I wrote that intentionally stark and cold, but clinically, it’s how the drug achieves its intended affect.
The second drug, misoprostol, induces uterine contractions to expel the “products of conception,” the euphemistic phrase for the dead fetus. A woman wants to take misoprostol a few weeks after the first drug. There is a potential for complications, taking mifepristone without the followup misoprostol. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that misoprostol alone works fine for most early pregnancies. The fuss about RU-486 is mostly about women being absolutely certain the pregnancy is ended. In any case, no matter what method a woman chooses to end her pregnancy, they are not without discomfort, risk, and mental trauma.
For a young teenager with an unwanted pregnancy, making big, stressful, medical decisions on her own is not how a society based on families raising kids should work. Despite whatever encouragement she gets from abortion providers, the government, and doctors, once the event is over, these people expect her to go back home to mom and dad, sometimes holding on to a giant secret, and grow up “normal.”
Parents must be involved in a decision this big. As much as I’m against abortion, if I had a teenage daughter decide, against my advice, she wants one, how could I cut her off from my love and my family by forbidding it; and when she defies my will, what then? From my point of view, it wasn’t my will for her to get pregnant in the first place, and from a Biblical perspective, it’s sin. While answering sin with more sin isn’t any ideal of a Christian, the ability of Christ to forgive is in no way diminished by it. In other words, to the forgiven Christian, an abortion does not send one to Hell, beyond redemption.
I am not in favor of characterizing abortion as a “right” or some inalienable privilege bestowed by the dignity of being human (sadly ironic, at the cost of the dignity of a human). I do, however, recognize that God gave each of us free will, which includes the moral agency to do immoral things. A parent’s job is to dispense wisdom to our children. It’s their job to follow that. If they don’t, a parent’s job doesn’t change—we love, provide and raise our kids. If RU-486 is available as an over-the-counter drug, girls are going to take it and not tell their parents. Those girls are going to carry an awful secret, and we know where that kind of mental stress can lead.
As much as I hate abortion, and sharply disagree with those who say it’s a virtue, I take major issue with the Texas federal judge who wrote a defective and legally incoherent opinion to take a drug that has been prescribed for decades and rule that the FDA should, retroactively, have not approved it. He did it because he knew it would end up in the Supreme Court (and it will). He did it because he knew the Supreme Court, for the first time in 50 years, has a majority who oppose abortion. It was a political move for political reasons, and a judge has no business playing that game.
I don’t think the “abortion pill” should be sold over-the-counter without a prescription. I don’t think the FDA should approve that. But I also don’t think a federal judge should try to take it off the market based on some very shaky legal, and medical, grounds. Even if the ruling survives, it will take its place as bad law, like Roe v. Wade was bad law. And if RU-486 is off the market, it won’t stop girls from obtaining the second drug, misoprostol. But I don’t think it will survive. It might even lead to an expansion of abortion at the federal level in a backlash.
This is an example of immature thinking about a very serious issue.
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Well, that got stratospherically serious really quick after beginning with chocolate, Beavis and Butt-Head humor, and Elon Musk. Can we put some air back in the room?
So let me tie it together a bit.
It’s about maturity. Young boys are immature; young girls are immature. Elon Musk is immature. The only thing that separates them is a genius level IQ and his ability to read pages of formulae in “Rocket Propulsion Elements” for fun.
Republican politicians are, by and large, immature, as are many Democrats in the same boat. This is why we have political “culture wars” and moral panics. Gov. Ron DeSantis fighting against drag shows is a moral panic. There have been guys dressing as gals for fun and profit as long as there has been theater. The difference is that the kind of drag that adorned a Bob Hope comedy tour would attract venom from the people who celebrate the kind of drag DeSantis is trying to ban. Many of the parents who cheer on efforts at killing the First Amendment for drag queens have no problem with Honey Boo Boo-style sexualizing of young girls in beauty pageants. Sexualization of young kids is sexualization regardless of the political or social views of who’s doing it.
But politicians argue that it’s the other side doing the sexualizing, while they are preaching tolerance and love. Elon Musk said he was a “free speech absolutist” who hauled a sink into Twitter HQ, “let that sink in.” He then used and abused journalists who, as Matt Taibbi said, “would have accepted such an invitation from Hannibal Lecter,” by enticing them to pore over thousands of pages of the “Twitter files”—his predecessors’ notes and communication proving they were indeed censoring and colluding with our government about it.
When Musk decided to make Twitter into an everything soup that charged $8 (now $11) a month for a blue checkmark, and is now supposed to compete with all the services it used to aggregate, he couldn’t understand why Taibbi wouldn’t abandon Substack (where every dime he earns comes from subscribers) and write long-form pieces on Twitter. Then Substack launched, to almost no fanfare, its “notes” feature, that looks a lot like Twitter, or Truth Social, or Parler, or Gab, or Post or any of the other microblogs that look like Twitter, the OG microblog.
Musk reacted with moral panic, that Substack is “trying to kill Twitter.” Maybe it is, using a tiny pen knife against a Buffalo chopper, but maybe Substack saw coming what Musk brought forward immediately. Anything Substack-related is no longer welcome on Twitter, and tweets can no longer be embedded here on Substack. As for Taibbi, it was “goodbye.” He now posts on Trump-owned Truth Social.
(And thank you, Matt, for naming your site Racket News. Always remember, The Racket News was here first, and ours sounds less like a tennis blog.)
The overdramatic overreaction from the world’s second richest man is fit for middle school lunchroom conversation. The ritual unfollowing, why-do-you-hate-me whining, and scorched-earth idiocy has driven reasonable people like Taibbi away from Twitter forever. So much for “free speech absolutist” which apparently got thrown out with that sink.
Musk is doing more to kill Twitter than a hundred Substacks could ever do. Maybe Elon knows something the rest of us don’t—like Substack has some code base or developer access that Twitter lost when he took over. I don’t know. If in government, personnel is policy, in tech, HR is destiny. Twitter runs lean these days, and as smart as Musk is, he can’t run it alone.
Which brings me to my final point.
YouTube is the most wonderful, horrible, censorious, hilarious, open, closed-minded, poor and super rich contradiction on the planet. YouTube is where TikTok sensations go when they grow up. (TikTok pays, but the most popular creators pale in comparison to YouTubers, income-wise.) The hottest creator on YouTube is Jimmy Donaldson a.k.a. Mr. Beast. He has grown from a kid giving away $10,000 briefcases full of sponsor-provided cash to a philanthropist who took criticism for paying for 1,000 people to have sight-restoring eye surgery. Donaldson is also a sharp marketer who has built a burger chain out of ghost kitchen capacity during COVID-19, and most recently, a hugely successful candy company out of—well, thin air.
At one point, Mr. Beast kidded Elon Musk on Twitter, offering to become CEO, when Musk announced he would step down. Then Musk backed off his promise, preferring to play stupid middle school games to letting mature people run the place. Honestly, Musk—and I admire him—is much better at taking businesses through their biggest stress, than he is at running them. Most of the stress in his businesses is due to himself. Tesla is a great company, but had Musk not left to drag Twitter through a mountain of elephant dung, it might have crashed due to his poor judgment and SEC-baiting tweets. Tesla still has a lot of growing to do, but it’s better when Elon is spending less time there. Same for SpaceX.
But Twitter is Musk’s greatest challenge, and he needs someone whose instincts are as good as his own, with the added benefit of not being perceived as an unstable butt-hole. Mr. Beast is about the most wholesome image that doesn’t come across as saccharine or goody-two-shoes. Sure, Jimmy was raised as a Christian, and many of those values still cling to him, but he wears his doubts on his sleeve, and his best friend is beginning transition (after marrying a woman, having a son, and divorcing). Jimmy doesn’t judge.
Elon Musk wants Twitter to become what YouTube is, along with what Substack is, what Facebook (well, Instagram) is, and everything else he can stuff into a social media empire with himself as meme-lord. But there’s just no way he can pull it off by cutting off his digital nose to spite his face. Breaking Substack does nothing to help Twitter, and everything to help Substack Notes steal eyeballs from Twitter.
Musk needs a champion content creator to save Twitter from himself. He needs Mr. Beast to come and run the place. If Donaldson was in the least bit serious, Musk should consider moving Twitter HQ from San Francisco to North Carolina. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 employees still working at Twitter. You could hire double that number without increasing the total payroll if you replaced every position in the Bay City with one in suburban Charlotte. Of course, that wouldn’t work, but it’s certainly possible to move a quarter of the staff across the country, the part that deals with creative ventures, for instance.
The only thing Twitter would have to worry about is YouTube pulling an Elon move and banning its content from Twitter. I wouldn’t worry about it, because Alphabet/Google, YouTube’s parent, doesn’t behave like a jilted middle school boyfriend. (Unless we are talking about LLM AI chat bots, but that’s a different story.)
As much as I admire Elon Musk and his billions, his brain, and his vision, he’s not a 24-year-old with Crohn’s disease, who started with absolutely nothing, no college, and built a $100 million business without a single big investor, startup funding, or even partners. And Donaldson did it by giving away as much as he gets. While the rest of the world eats its heart out in moral panic and immature, paranoid and pointless gestures, Mr. Beast is probably the adult in most rooms these days.
Twitter is a sewer, and Musk has made it more of a sewer. Even so, I spent $84 to buy a blue checkmark, because I don’t want Twitter to fail. I hope Musk will step down soon, and if not Jimmy Donaldson, find some adult to run the place well.
Maybe maturity will begin to spread, even to judge’s chambers and the halls of legislatures.
Don’t laugh. I can dream, can’t I?