Gizmodo uses Elon Musk to make absurd argument for censorship

April 17, 2023

By Tim Worstall

Gizmodo tells its readers in a new piece that businesses cannot criticize government spending if they receive any funding from the government.

Getting Social Security means you can’t argue against the Pentagon – which kills much of Bernie Sanders’s political argument. But jokes aside this really is the argument that is being put forward – a recipient from one part of government cannot argue against another such money collector from another part, in an article headlined, “Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla Get Far More Government Money than NPR.”

This follows Musk’s Twitter designating NPR as “government-influenced media.”

That apparently isn’t allowed, as those two Musk companies gain lots of government money themselves. Yes, but out of the money flowing in that direction, we get rockets, a solution to climate change. In the other, we get NPR. But that’s to jest again and worse to pretty much steal a P.J. O’Rourke joke.

We also get the preaching moment: “In the modern economy, it’s rare that any successful enterprise succeeds without government support, whether that’s direct funding, basic R&D, or effective regulation.”

Oh. Like Twitter, then? Or Facebook, or TikTok, or Amazon? We weren’t aware of their subsidies, support, and R&D from the government. For most of them, regulation seems to be trying to stop them from doing anything – that’s definitely true of TikTok.

There are two problems with the claim that Gizmodo is trying to make. The first is that if the government is using you to do something – provide rockets, solve climate change – then you cannot have opinions on anything else the government is trying to do.

Given that government is some 30% of everything these days (that’s about how much of GDP, the economy, it is) that means that none of us are allowed to have an opinion on anything else the government is doing.

Yet it’s also more specific here. Government spending on media outlets could be described as just informing people. It could also be described as propaganda. And, let’s be fair about this, we’ve rarely heard the NPR program insisting that government should be smaller, spend less money, tax less and generally do less now. That is, the leverage of government spending on media outlets is different precisely because of the leverage of it being the media. Those rockets, those cars, don’t conduct respectful interviews with people who want more of ours so that they can spend it themselves – for our own good of course.

It’s not just that the original argument – you get cash so you can’t criticize – is nonsense, it’s that it is especially so when considering media spend.

After all, why do we think the government spends money on the media if it’s not to persuade us? And the persuasion ain’t gonna be for less government now, is it?


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