Musk Rules Everything Around Me | Crooked Media
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April 25, 2022
What A Day
Musk Rules Everything Around Me

In This Episode

  • Elon Musk reached a deal with Twitter on Monday to take over the company for roughly $44 billion. Mike Isaac, a tech reporter for the New York Times, joins us to discuss how we got here and what comes next.
  • And in headlines: President Biden plans to nominate Bridget Brink to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, the Supreme Court will take up the case of Rodney Reed, and Beijing officials began mass testing its residents for COVID.


Show Notes:



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Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, April 26th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we’re entering the free love era of sharing our Netflix login.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, we don’t know how much time we have before the crack down, so we basically are going to turn our Netflix account into one big commune while we still can.


Josie Duffy Rice: We are all one, and we are all watching “Is it Cake?”


Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, President Biden will nominate a new ambassador to Ukraine. Plus, New York State is holding Trump in contempt of court until he cooperates with its investigation into his company.


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, the big news of the day: Elon Musk and Twitter.


[voice clip] We have some breaking news right now.


[voice clip] Elon Musk has agreed to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share.


[voice clp] This means that the world’s richest man is going to effectively control one of the most influential platforms.


[voice clip] Taking the social media company private and taking the free speech debate in America to a new level.


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, Gideon, what could possibly go wrong? That’s what I want to know.


Gideon Resnick: Nothing.


Josie Duffy Rice: We’ve been talking quite a bit about Musk and Twitter over the last few weeks, but Gideon, this all seems to have accelerated really, really quickly in the past 48 hours or so. Is that right?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. The deal was ultimately reached yesterday after this really kind of bizarre saga where Musk had bought up all of these shares at one point, then he made this offer without financial details, and it seemed like Twitter was going to rebuff it. And then he ultimately got the funding in order to make this happen—all in kind of quick succession. And over the course of this, no one really knew besides him, I guess, whether he was being fully serious. But in the end, I suppose he was.


Josie Duffy Rice: I honestly would have bet he was not being serious. I did not take this seriously until today. So I guess don’t take my predictions on anything seriously ever. Yeah, so it’s hard to wrap my head around this, but what have Musk and Twitter said about the agreements that they reached?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s been all copacetic so far. So once the deal was announced, Musk said in a statement that, quote, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy” and that he wants to make the platform’s algorithms open source, quote unquote, “defeat spam bots” and quote unquote, “authenticate all humans.” What that will inevitably mean for users in practice is where there are just tons of unknowns at the moment.


Josie Duffy Rice: I think we know that it means he is going to give everybody a blue check so nobody has a blue check, because deep down, we’re all blue checks, or something.


Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Exactly. And according to The New York Times, Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal told employees and his staff meeting on Monday that Musk, quote, “wants Twitter to be a powerful, positive force in the world, just like all of us.” There were a lot of questions from staffers, though, you know, some of whom have talked about being left in the dark through all of this, about what is actually going to happen to Twitter, the platform, what’s going to happen to their jobs, and a lot more, when the company inevitably does go private in this deal and the board of directors disbands. Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with Mike Isaac. He is a tech reporter at the New York Times, and one of the reporters who reported on that very meeting. And I started out by asking him, I think, what was on a lot of our minds: how the hell did we get here?


Mike Isaac: It’s just wild. Like, if you would have told me literally three weeks ago that I would be writing the headline “Elon Musk buys Twitter”, I would have laughed in your face. This seemed like such an improbable outcome to so many folks, especially because most of the past month it felt like a joke. Like, first it was like, Oh, he’s kind of buying up stock. Then it was, Oh, he’s going to join the board. Then he was suddenly not going to join the board. And then it became hostile. And so it was like very back and forth between, is this a friendly thing, is this not a friendly thing? And then only over the past week did it become clear he was actually lining up financing, he was actually talking to banks, and over the weekend is basically when Twitter’s board of directors had to convene and be like, is this something that we can accept? And so what they did was evaluate the offer, Can we get more than $54 and 20 cents per share, or is this the best offer we can get? And ultimately, they found that this was the best offer they can get. And now subject to closing of the deal in 3 to 6 months, Elon won the bid.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And was it surprising on the financial side of things that he was able to like amass this so quickly? I feel like there was a moment last week where it seemed like there was a question of does this person, who is the richest man in the world, have the liquid assets to do this?


Mike Isaac: He is the richest man in the world, and most of that is tied up in Tesla stock but like he’s not running around with 44 billion in his pocket or in the bank account even. So, he did have to do some maneuvering, which is why last week he was on the phone talking to other banks and other private equity firms to essentially pledge to loan him money to do this deal. I agree with you, it is wild that he did it in like a week. He lined up all this financing.


Gideon Resnick: So you were just in this all-hands staff meeting for Twitter. What were some of the initial reactions you heard there?


Mike Isaac: People at Twitter are really upset, mostly because they’ve been dealing with this in the dark. Their CEO and internal committee communications inside of the company have been pretty sparse. Part of that is just by the nature of how these deals work. Legally, executives are bound from saying much of anything, things get leaked. That said, I think beyond that, people who understand that also are concerned about what that means for the future of Twitter. Elon has said, I want to make this alternate free speech network. It’s unclear what that means, but I think people are worried. You know, we’ve done all this work over the past few years to make the product safer and so is this person, who is now our owner, who is taking us private, going to unwind a lot of the work we have done?


Gideon Resnick: What has he actually said that he wants to do in terms of implementation there? And also to that point, what can he do on his own unilaterally to make the changes that he’s talking about?


Mike Isaac: First of all, he said he wants basically all speech to be allowed except for like, what would be a crime. And even that is pretty vague. It’s not like one thing rules all, and Twitter already has to sort of abide by different countries and their laws. He sort of wants to get rid of advertising and the sort of subscription product that they have. He has a big problem with bots and like, robots who are shilling cryptocurrencies and stuff like that on the platform. So like he’s given some high-level stuff. But to your point, you know, what can this guy do? If the deal closes, which people expect it will, he has bought the company and is the sole owner. The board of directors is going to be going away because it’s going to be privately owned and he can do whatever he wants.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And the free speech conversation is often, I would say are, or you know, almost 100% invoked by conservatives on the platform, and we already saw, you know, former President Trump talking about the fact that he is not going to return to Twitter even given this news—I’m not totally sure that I necessarily buy that. But what could this conceivably mean for the, like, conservative media landscape?


Mike Isaac: You know, a lot of folks are sort of wondering, you know, whether Trump comes back or not. But I think you do have to think of it as like, Well, are they now lifting account bans for other folks, not just Trump? I think there’s a list of folks who you can go back and be like, Well, you know, these were sort of gone according to the old rules and now are those old rules still applicable? Or is it like all bets are off? Like, I imagine, to your point, a lot of this sort of media ecosystem that revolves and relies a lot upon Twitter is already sort of kicking into high gear and thinking, How can we use this version of it?


Gideon Resnick: Right. We’re not talking about something that is closing overnight, right? He’s not being given keys to HQ tomorrow, as it were. So what happens in the interim between what occurred on Monday and the eventual expected takeover?


Mike Isaac: Yeah, so regulatory review probably by the Department of Justice and the FTC. My colleagues in Washington think that’s going to pass. And it’s sort of like a period of basically the acquirer making sure everything is okay with the company being acquired. And they build in these things called breakup fees, which for any reason the deal falls apart, which is usually damaging to the company, they might charge Elon $1 billion or more, however much they agreed upon, as a result of that. There are safeguards in place for Twitter in case this does fall apart or some unforeseen thing happens. So it’s not guaranteed, but I think the next few months are just sort of every different agency, global agencies, sort of checking out the deal and seeing if it makes sense for them to intervene or not, as well as taking the temperature of the business and making sure everything under the hood is going well in due diligence.


Gideon Resnick: And Josie, that’s my conversation with Mike Isaac, a tech reporter at The New York Times. We’re going to keep following all of this as it develops and link to Mike’s work in our show notes.


Josie Duffy Rice: And later on in the episode, we’ll pay tribute to some life-changing tweets in the era of BEM. That means Before Elon Musk.


Gideon Resnick: What a time.


Josie Duffy Rice: Very life changing moment for all of us. But that is the latest for now.


Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: An update on Ukraine: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said yesterday that he hopes the war will ultimately reduce Russia’s military capabilities.


[clip of Lloyd Austin] We want to see Russia weakened to a degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.


Gideon Resnick: He made that comment after taking a diplomatic trip to Ukraine with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They also announced that the U.S. will give an additional $700 million in military aid to the country. That means that in total, America will have given about $3.7 billion for Ukraine to arm itself with weapons, defense systems, and more. Meanwhile, President Biden said that he plans to strengthen the U.S. presence in the region by nominating long-time diplomat Bridget Brink to be the next ambassador to Ukraine. That role has been vacant since 2019, when then-President Trump unceremoniously removed her predecessor—that came up during Trump’s first impeachment hearing. Brink’s currently the ambassador to Slovakia and if confirmed to this new position, one State Department official said she would be, quote, “uniquely suited for this moment in Ukraine’s history.”


Josie Duffy Rice: The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will take up the case of Rodney Reed, a death row inmate in Texas, whose execution was stopped in 2020 after his case garnered national attention. Reed was convicted of capital murder in 1998, but has maintained his innocence ever since. He and his lawyers have long said that running a DNA test on the evidence in Reed’s case will exonerate him, but a U.S. appeals court ruled that evidence couldn’t be tested because the statute of limitations had expired—meaning it had been too long since the conviction to revisit the case in court, but not too long to keep him in prison. That is the logic of the criminal justice system folks. Really unimpeachable. Reed and his team appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which accepted the case on Monday. The justices will look into whether officials can proceed with the DNA test, and its decision could set a precedent for similar cases. It’s unclear exactly when arguments will start, but Reed’s legal team says it’s looking forward to making the case for Reed’s innocence. The Supreme Court announced that it had decided to take up Reed’s case on the same day they heard arguments in Nance v. Ward, which considers the cruelty of lethal injection in some cases. Also following up on a Texas story we covered last week, the state halted the execution of death row inmate Melissa Lucio. On Monday, the highest criminal court in Texas ordered an indefinite stay on her killing just two days before she was set to be executed. Her case now returns to a lower court to review new evidence that could overturn her sentence.


Gideon Resnick: The COVID lockdowns in Shanghai are entering their fourth week, but Beijing might be next in line to go under an extensive citywide lockdown. Officials there announced they would begin mass testing residents for the virus. And the initiative came in response to a small spike in cases in the Chinese capital over the weekend and it will require residents to get tested at least three times for the virus over the next few days—getting them close to the point where it becomes unclear where the nose ends and the swab begins as is the case in many David Cronenberg movies. Officials also began, quote unquote, “targeted lockdowns” of certain high-risk neighborhoods on Monday, closing off some roads and apartment buildings. Beijing residents were quick to rush to the grocery store to buy food and other supplies in bulk, fearing that this would be the first step toward their own Shanghai-style lockdown that will require them to stay home for several days. Beijing officials do not want things to get to that point, hence their aggressive response to a relatively small amount of new COVID cases throughout the city. But such measures indicate the country’s overall determination to get ahead of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and stop yet another widespread outbreak.


Josie Duffy Rice: Trump’s “If I’m free, I’ll stop by” approach to being sued has caused him to be held in contempt of court in New York State. This pertains to the lawsuit against him by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which is investigating whether Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets for financial gain. James’s office repeatedly requested a set of records from Trump, including handwritten Post-it notes, and he has refused to send them. Under the new contempt order, the former president will be fined $10,000 per day until he sends those documents or provides sufficient detail indicating his office searched for and couldn’t find them. In more news about the far-right may be incriminating itself in writing: CNN obtained over 2,000 text messages that Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, sent and received in the days between Election Day 2022 and Joe Biden’s inauguration. These texts were provided to the House January 6th committee, and they pull further into focus the key role Meadows had in his party’s efforts to spread misinformation and overturn the result of the 2020 election. Among other things, the texts put Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene on the record in mid-January advocating for Trump to prevent Biden from taking office by imposing martial law. She spelled it like you spell the name Marshall with an S H because she skipped civics to do CrossFit. Notably, Greene testified last week that she did not recall whether or not she had encouraged the president to take this step.


Gideon Resnick: Josie, I think people are not understanding what she was saying here, which was invoking the kind of martial law where only Eminem would be played on every audio device throughout the country.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: Which is a far scarier thing to propose in fact. Uh, those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with our fondest memories of Twitter from when we still loved it unconditionally.


[ad break]


Josie Duffy Rice: It is Tuesday WAD squad and today we’re doing a segment called WAD Remembers, where we bid a fond farewell to something that’s not a person but has still enriched our lives over the years and is still about to be dead. The subject of today’s segment might strike some listeners as premature—it is the website that’s well on its way to being owned by Elon Musk: Twitter. Obviously, Gideon, you and I have both spent a bunch of our precious time on this planet using Twitter—sad. We’re not necessarily saying we’re going to get off of it right away once Elon takes over, because unfortunately our brains have developed in such a way that we now depend on it to survive, but it does feel like some of the tweets that made the site so special are going to lose their luster. We’re not going to be able to enjoy them anymore without feeling like we’re somehow putting money in Elon’s pocket, which we he will definitely use to build a tunnel that doesn’t work.


Gideon Resnick: A tunnel that will allow no outside liquid such as rain into it from an event such as a hurricane.


Josie Duffy Rice: Only on Twitter can someone not rich prove they’re that stupid, and that is the beauty of that website. So Gideon, you picked out a few life-changing tweets from a long history of Twitter. Would you read them to us so we can experience them without any feelings of inner conflict, maybe for the last time ever?


Gideon Resnick: It would truly be my honor. And Josie, you’re going to tell me which is your favorite, so we know which one to put in the time capsule that Elon Musk will send into space. This was genuinely difficult for me to only find these. So I would like to begin with a little crowd pleaser. This one is from a Twitter user @WillieMcNabb, as a reply to country singer Jason Isbell in 2019. Quote, “Legit question for rural Americans – how do I kill the 30 to 50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3 to 5 mins while my small kids play?”


Josie Duffy Rice: [laughs] I forgot all about that tweet.


Gideon Resnick: I, fortunately or unfortunately did not, and that’s why you, dear listener, are hearing this. Next, this one is from a Republican senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, in 2014. Quote, “Windsor Heights, Dairy Queen is a good place for u kno what.”


Josie Duffy Rice: [laughs] Chuck Grassley is honestly the most underrated person on Twitter.


Gideon Resnick: I’m telling you, I brought the heat. I brought the heat. But lastly, from the NBA All-Star, and just one of my general favorite people, Shaq, in the early days of Twitter, 2009. Quote, “im at knots berry farms n my butts 2 big 2 fit in da seats on ride. ahhhhhh (dats me yellin).” Oh, man.


Josie Duffy Rice: So now do I choose?


Gideon Resnick: Now you choose. What was your fav—as a reminder to everybody, we have—


Josie Duffy Rice: Feral hogs.


Gideon Resnick: 30 to 50 feral hogs. We have Dairy Queen: good place for you know what? And we have Shaq attempting to ride rides at Knott’s Berry Farm and his butt’s too big.


Josie Duffy Rice: I think the Chuck Grassley one’s my favorite. It is truly surreal. And if you’re wondering what Chuck Grassley is talking about, the answer is nobody knows, because—


Gideon Resnick: No one.


Josie Duffy Rice: —nobody knows what Chuck Grassley is talking about, ever, on Twitter. And that is the beauty of Twitter.


Gideon Resnick: In more than one occasion, when somebody has referenced a Dairy Queen in a location, I have told them this is the place for you know what? That’s how much that particular phrase has stuck with me ,with no further explan—like I’m a huge Blizzard fan so I think people assume that’s what I’m talking about. But like, whenever there’s a Dairy Queen, I’m like, That’s a good place.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.


Gideon Resnick: I promise that I wouldn’t read so many of the other ones that I submitted. I have one more that got close to the cut. Let me take you back to January 7th, 2019 @cher said, quote, “I Need To Shoot My Phone.” Every word is capitalized, by the way.


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, same Cher.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, same.


Josie Duffy Rice: Cher, really always summarizing what all of us are thinking.


Gideon Resnick: That was WAD Remembers. Tell a tweet that you love it while there is still time. That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, send Trump’s Post-it notes to court, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just Shaq’s tweets from 2009 like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And we’ll see you on our commune/Netflix account.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, everybody is invited.


Gideon Resnick: If you go subtitles on, and I go subtitles off—


Josie Duffy Rice: Do not go subtitles on again.


Gideon Resnick: —and we toggle like that, it’s not going to work.


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s not going to work. Absolutely not. Turn your subtitles off. It’s too much.


Gideon Resnick: We’ll have to set a ground rule.


Josie Duffy Rice: Um hmm.


Gideon Resnick: Yes.


Josie Duffy Rice: Agreed.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.