Thursday, January 4, 2024

#4 / Formerly Known As....

On Thursday, December 7, 2023, the San Francisco Chronicle had a front page story about the decision of the former Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, to retire from Congress at the beginning of this year. McCarthy retired before the end of his official term in office, and his retirement, along with other changes, has left the Republican Party with an extremely narrow majority in the House of Representatives. 

Kevin McCarthy, truly, is now someone who was "formerly known as...." the Speaker of the House. No longer true!

I am actually not writing today about McCarthy and his retirement. I am writing this blog posting to comment on a phrase that appeared in the Chronicle article that reported on McCarthy's retirement. The comment made in that article was not about McCarthy. It was about X Corp., owned by Elon Musk, one of the many billionaires who have such a major impact on this nation's economic, social, and political life. 

The Chronicle article said this, specifically, in referencing the political impact of McCarthy's retirement: 

McCarthy ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., highlighted that concern in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) Wednesday morning. “Well, Now in 2024, we will have a 1 seat majority in the House of Representatives. Congratulations Freedom Caucus for one and 105 Rep who expel our own for the other. I can assure you Republican voters didn’t give us the majority to crash the ship (emphasis added).”

I am not someone who uses X to follow what's happening in the world, or to comment on what's happening in the world. However, about 666 million people are active on X each month, at least according to the statista website. That's a lot of people, and I think that most of them began their relationship with X when it was called "Twitter." As most everyone knows, Elon Musk used some of his money to take over personal control of the corporation, and then made it a "private," not a "public" company. Once he owned it, Musk changed the name. 

So, for those hundreds of millions of persons who use this popular micro-blogging site, the name is now, "X." However, almost every reference to the site in articles in newspapers and online - as in the article on Kevin McCarrthy's retirement - describe the site and services operated by "X" as the Chronicle did: "X, formerly known as Twitter." 

That fact seems worth noting. What it indicates, to me, is that while the official, legal, "ownership" of X Corp. may be pretty clear (Musk owns X), the fact is that X is what I would call a "social utility," and in a very real way, the service is actually "owned," in a practical sense, by its users, and, really, by all of us. And most of us don't think that "X" is the right name. We are not going along with Musk's decision to change "Twitter" to "X." Most people continue to think that "Twitter" is the right name. 

Because this is true, newspapers and the online websites have to say, "X, formerly known as... Twitter," because the ordinary, non-billionaire users of the service have a very definite stake in the services it provides, and what they prefer has weight.

The "X, formerly known as....." example should help us all to remember that the world in which we most immediately live, the "political" world that gives its name to this daily blog, is a world created by and responsible to all of us, "collectively." The billionaires don't own that world, and everything that's in it. 

We do!

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