Would you believe? (Twitter is real)
Bridges for sale, Russian disinformation, Birds aren't real and other truths
It’s Friday the 13th and if you own Twitter stock, it just walked under a ladder past a black cat through the shards of a shattered hall of mirrors. I was going to write about things reasonable people would never believe, and reality poked its grizzled head into my room this morning and whispered “boo!”
Let me begin spinning this thought thread with the first question: would reasonable people agree that Twitter is 95% pure?
"We have performed an internal review of a sample of accounts and estimate that the average of false or spam accounts during the first quarter of 2022 represented fewer than 5% of our mDAU during the quarter," Twitter said in the filing. "The false or spam accounts for a period represents the average of false or spam accounts in the samples during each monthly analysis period during the quarter."
"In making this determination, we applied significant judgment, so our estimation of false or spam accounts may not accurately represent the actual number of such accounts, and the actual number of false or spam accounts could be higher than we have estimated."
Now, the sub-conspiracies, which grow in fractal perfection as if Queen Elsa stomped on Elon Musk’s tweet. Did Twitter and Elon concoct this unbelievable situation in order to scotch the deal and nobody is the wiser? Did Twitter employees purposely engage in fake-moon-landing theorizing in order to induce Musk to bail? Or does Twitter management really have such terrible judgement to believe that @bulbo67286344 is a real person? You decide.
As of March 22, the Russian Ministry of Defense estimated just under 500 deaths from its “special military operation” in Ukraine. I think Twitter applied the same counting techniques as Putin.
North Korean Trump-lover Kim Jong-un admitted Thursday that the hermit kingdom has seen its first case of COVID-19, only 28 months after it probably happened. He has locked down his country, as if it’s not already locked down. Reasonable people know better than to believe anything coming out of Pyongyang.
Now, some harder questions.
Would you believe that Google’s gmail service is completely transparent in its spam filter algorithms and therefore Republican political emails are not unfairly marked as junk? Snopes says it’s false, with the only evidence being Alphabet says it’s false. Reasonable people realize that spam algorithms, like most things developed by Google, depend on self-learning neural networks that create impenetrably complex conditions to decide A/B, is it spam or is it real decisions.
Google can no more explain how its spam filter works than Nabisco can explain what makes Oreos taste so darn good dipped in milk, or Coca-Cola can explain why people didn’t like New Coke. The machines just develop their own quirky preferences based on tens of thousands of generations of filter-bots. If you made an AI filter-bot see nothing but Alex Jones and QAnon emails for a year, then released it into the wild, it would mark your doctor’s appointment as dangerous disinformation. Reasonable people say, at least.
Would you believe there are sea serpents at the bottom of Lake Tahoe? No? But there are likely the rotting bodies of dead mobsters down there, clutching their perfectly operating Rolex watches, which divers are now harvesting to clean up the lake. Reasonable people say that Frank Sinatra knew at least half of them.
Would you believe that Stalin said “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”? Reasonable people would nod because that’s the kind of thing you would expect from Stalin. But why would he need to say it when its was objectively true without saying it? The fact that Stalin, with a wave of his hand, could have you, your whole family, and your ancestors shot in the head and erased from history is enough, don’t you think? In fact, Stalin never said it.
History is replete with all kind of these weird things. It was not enough that Napoleon conquered most of continental Europe. Did he really appoint his brother as King of Spain? Don’t look up the answer or click on the link until you think hard, or if you know, that’s fine too.
Did astronaut Jim Lovell really say “Houston, we have a problem?” Obviously, he was talking to controllers in Houston, and obviously we know how that Apollo 13 had a problem. But did he say it? Reasonable people would think, sure. But does the record bear it out? I’ll let you Google it, if you trust Google’s algorithm to give you the truth.
Now into the real tall weeds. Did we land on the moon? Anyone with a powerful enough laser and a chronometer can prove that someone did. There are retroreflectors on the surface that if you aim a laser at them, in an exact period of time, you will see the reflection of your beam from the moon. Either Einstein is all wrong, or there’s something shiny and perfectly reflective at any angle on the moon. Reasonable people would say it’s a much bigger story if Neil Armstrong and others didn’t put them there.
Was the 2020 election stolen? No reasonable person would believe that, Sidney Powell’s lawyers said. But grifters still peddle their own theories, like “2000 Mules,” which purport to prove beyond the shadow of a fake moon landing that a huge Democrat-led conspiracy, going straight up beyond God, was perpetrated upon America. Those sets of facts, like flat earth physics, only operate outside a courtroom, because under sworn testimony, lawyers tend to value their own careers over the “truth” they peddle in their spare time.
Is Donald Trump a Russian asset? Is the “pee tape” real? In 2017, you’d have had a hard time walking into a CNN news room and finding someone who didn’t believe it. They fully believed that the entire Dossier was the real thing, and were ready to fight you over it. The same people fully believed that the Hunter Biden laptop story was a Russian disinformation effort. Those people pressured Twitter into declaring the story a hoax.
Now you’ll find those same people cheering that Elon Musk probably won’t buy Twitter after all, despite the fact that Twitter employees with stock options, and everyone who owns the stock, are about to have a wallet biopsy. They’re happy that Twitter is replete with spam, bot, and disinformation accounts. They’d rather embrace those conspiracies than to admit the truth in some of the stuff nobody reasonable should believe.
Happy Friday the 13th. May you stay clear of sidewalk cracks, mirrors, ladders, black cats, and Atlanta drivers. Oh, and birds aren’t real.
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Update: the NYT notes that Twitter’s 5% figure is “not new” so for Musk to claim a material change in condition seems to be a stretch. This could very well be a negotiating play for a lower value. Maybe Musk has cold feet.
"Since the terms of the deal were established, there have been significant market shifts for both Twitter and Tesla, the source of the lion’s share of Musk’s personal wealth. Tesla stock has dropped more than 25 percent since Musk made his offer on April 14th as part of a broader market downturn."
"The falling share price could have a material impact on Musk’s ability to close the deal since a portion of the funding was initially secured through loans against Musk’s stake in Tesla. However, recent reporting from Bloomberg suggests Musk has arranged for new equity partners to assist in financing the deal, obviating the need for the loan."
"Twitter has also struggled, announcing an overcount of user numbers in its most recent earnings and continuing to operate at a loss. More recently, CEO Parag Agrawal abruptly fired two senior executives, raising significant questions about the company’s future. Combined with the market downturn, that has led some analysts to believe Musk might attempt to renegotiate for a lower price."
Despite the rough week I've had, I'm glad I'm miles and miles away from anything to do with Musk or Twitter at the moment. (And on that note, I'm off to replenish my popcorn supplies.)