Note to Readers on the “Twitter Files”
Explaining a few things I couldn’t before, and getting back on schedule here at TK
Later today, an annotated version of last night’s “Twitter Files” thread on the removal of Donald Trump, along with new commentary on what’s been published so far, will appear here on TK. After a crazy week, during which I’ve been in the unnatural position of feeling a need to keep quiet, I can get back to writing as usual on this site.
More importantly, I can now explain some things to TK subscribers, not only about the events of the last week, but about where the Twitter project stands and where it may be going. But first, a few words about what’s happened to date:
The “Twitter Files” story came together quickly. In fact, things happened so fast that the note I wrote to you all last week just before publishing the first thread represented the first real pause across four frantic days of traveling, writing, and reporting. The timeline will show I participated in the Munk debates in Canada two Wednesdays ago: after, I slept for a few hours, had a hotel wake-up call at 2:45 a.m., and flew to San Francisco. There, I spent a day at Twitter digging through the first data set, got on a redeye back to New Jersey, stepped off the plane and immediately started writing.
In the rush to get all this done, I chose words poorly. A lot has been made about the line about how I “had to agree to certain conditions” to work on the story. I wrote that assuming the meaning of that line would be obvious. It was obvious. Still, the language was just loose enough to give critics room to make mischief, and the stakes being what they are, they of course did. That’s on me, and a lesson going forward. For the record, the deal was access to the Twitter documents, but I had to publish on Twitter. I also agreed to an attribution (“Sources at Twitter”). That’s it.
Everyone involved with the project, including myself as well as Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger, has editorial control. We’ve been encouraged to look not just at historical Twitter, but the current iteration as well. I was told flat-out I could write anything I wanted, including anything about the current company and its new chief, Elon Musk. If anything, the degree of openness on that front freaked me out a little initially, being so far from any other experience I’ve had.
In our initial meeting, Musk talked about how he thought a “full confessional restores faith in the company,” and everything I’ve seen since seems to confirm he’s sincere about his desire for full open-kimono transparency with the public. He says we’re “welcome to look at things going forward, not just at the past,” and until I run into a reason to believe otherwise, I’m taking him at his word. I’d be crazy not to, considering the access we’ve already been given. This is a historic opportunity, and I think we’re all trying to treat that opportunity with the appropriate respect, which among other things means staying as focused as we can be on the documents, and trying to make as much sense of them as we can, as quickly as we can.
One last quick note. I was very skeptical at first about using Twitter to break these stories. Not only am I not exactly a skilled Tweeter (as, sadly, people have seen in the last weeks), but I worried about the logistical challenge of telling complex stories in 140-character chunks. It seemed impossible.
Two weeks later, I feel differently. In this particular instance, the story has to come out on Twitter. There’s the obvious deep irony of using the familiar drip-drip-drip format and uncontrollable virulality of Twitter to roast Twitter itself. We’re also using an inherently destabilizing medium to expose efforts to turn Twitter into an authoritarian instrument of social control. There’s genius in this. Now I would feel wrong even thinking of doing it any other way.
This is especially the case since a major subtext of the Twitter Files project is what a burn it is on conventional/corporate media, whose minions tried for years to turn Twitter into a giant conformity machine, and cheered each new advance in censorship and opinion control. Those same people now have to watch in helplessness as one horrifying revelation after another spills out, guerrilla-style, into what was not long ago their private playground. This, too, couldn’t be scripted better. It’s like sending an intercontinental shit-missile screaming into the dais of the White House correspondents’ dinner at 15,000 m.p.h. If you can’t see the humor in this, you probably never had a sense of humor to begin with.
Of course, this describes a lot of figures in media today, which I imagine accounts for at least part of the astounding paroxysm of overreaction and faux-outrage from the conventional press in the last week or so. They hate this thing, they can’t stop it, and their condemnation doesn’t matter, factors they’re unused to and can’t reconcile, at least not so far. I’d say more, but I’ve learned never to underestimate the capacity for pettiness in this crowd. They’ll find a way to hit back. They just haven’t yet.
In any case, I wanted once more to extend apologies to subscribers for recent silence. Across much of the last week I felt saying anything at all might jeopardize the project. Things are different now that I know that it will continue, with or without me. A new story about the events inside Twitter after J6 is set to drop tonight, in a thread by aforementioned bestselling author of Apocalypse Never Mike Shellenberger, at his Twitter account, @ShellenbergerMD. Mike has great stuff, and I’m looking forward to seeing it all together. It should be powerful.
Lastly, to correct a grievous oversight from last night, I’d like to thank TK’s own site manager Emily Moore, along with old friend Matt Bivens, who both flew out to San Francisco this week and helped dive through the material (in fact, they found most of the best bits from last night’s thread). Best of luck also to Mike, Bari, and the other reporters involved as they move this thing forward, and please check back in this space soon for updates, including the print version of last night’s thread.