By Charlie Sykes, MSNBC Opinion Columnist
Just days after Elon Musk assured advertisers that Twitter would not become “a free-for-all hellscape,” the social media site was swamped with an outpouring of racist, sexist and antisemitic posts, along with election disinformation and bizarre conspiracy theories. The ugliest of these conspiracies were amplified by Musk himself.
The Anti-Defamation League reported that an anonymous post on 4chan instructed followers to disseminate antisemitic content on Twitter following Musk’s takeover. “The post,” the ADL tweeted, “was shared almost immediately in several extremist Telegram channels.”
The dawn of the Musk era was also celebrated by MAGA conspiracy theorists and election deniers, who used the occasion to push out disinformation about vaccines and gleefully repromote gross anti-transgender talking points.
But the real test of the new Musk regime came with the violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband, Paul.
Filmmaker and former felon Dinesh D’Souza gushed that “Twitter has become fun again,” and (like other right-wing figures) spread a false homophobic smear about the hammer attack on the speaker’s husband. D’Souza baselessly claimed that the attack was the result of a gay lovers’ quarrel.
Police have since debunked these theories — the attacker was not in his underwear, for example, and the suspect was completely unknown to Paul Pelosi. And yet, D’Souza’s lies quickly rocketed around Musk’s newly liberated social media site.
For a brief moment, it was unclear how Musk would react to this cataract of falsehood.
Then he joined in himself.
As NBC News reported, Musk “tweeted and deleted an unfounded anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory Sunday morning about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband from a website that has a history of publishing false information.”
In response to a tweet by Hillary Clinton calling out the GOP and its “mouthpieces” who “regularly spread hate and deranged conspiracy theories,” the new owner of Twitter linked to an article espousing a thoroughly debunked conspiracy about Paul Pelosi bringing home a male prostitute. “There is a tiny possibility,” Musk wrote, “there might be more to this story than meets the eye.”
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