The problem with Elon Musk’s political spectrum meme

For two weeks, Elon Musk has been making headlines around the world. The billionaire’s $44 billion takeover bid on Twitter has sparked controversy since it was accepted by Twitter’s board, and Musk has continued to grab headlines thanks to the tweets he tweeted. he has posted since announcing his potential takeover of the social media platform.

Musk’s latest debate started with a meme about American political polarization that shows he thinks the political climate in the United States has pushed Musk to the right of the political spectrum, even though his views haven’t changed, and that some people were fired. at the top.

In a meme Musk released on ThursdayMusk can be seen as an initially happy stick man in 2008, standing on the center-left of the political spectrum.

Over the years, the character representing Musk is seen standing in exactly the same spot on the graph, while the political spectrum shifts in 2012 and 2021 to place him first closer to the center and then to the right, like “his comrade liberals” can be seen running away to become what the billionaire calls “the woke ‘progressives'”.

Some users shared Musk’s sentiments, with Dogecoin creator Shibetoshi Nakamoto writing, “10 years ago I would have called myself a progressive because I believed in equality and wasn’t an asshole about things. insignificant; now I consider myself a moderate because I believe in equality and not being an asshole for trivial things.”

“Same,” Musk replied.

While the graphic showed Musk’s view that progressives have moved more to the left, some have disputed that in Musk’s meme, the right hasn’t moved at all.

“Imagine thinking that the right has happily stayed in place for the past 15 years. Pass that common momentum,” wrote journalist Siri Srinivas.

“Leaving aside the left…do you really think the Tories have stayed where they are for the past 20 years?” writes entrepreneur Can Gurses.

Don Moynihan, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC, responded to Musk’s post saying this evidence from the Pew Research Center actually showed that it is not the left, but the right that has become radicalized in recent years.

According to a study released by the Washington-based think tank in March, Democrats and Republicans are further apart ideologically today than they have been at any time in the past 50 years, with Republicans moving further on the right than Democrats on the left.

The research – which used lawmakers’ roll-call votes to place members of Congress in a two-dimensional ideological space – found that both parties drifted away from the ideological center beginning in the 1970s, with Democrats becoming in average more liberals and Republicans “much more” conservative.

A montage recreating the same graph of Musk commenting on the polarization of American politics. In a tweet this week, Musk claimed the left had become more radical while implying that the right had not budged.
Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images and Canva

Previous research published in 2020 by the Swedish think tank V-Dem Institute and cited by The Economist showed similar results, citing findings proving Republicans have become less liberal under former President Donald Trump than at any other time in recent history.

Musk has never confirmed his political position, but has previously described himself as a “politically moderate”. He pledged to make Twitter “the platform for free speech in the world”, meaning that all speech that is not illegal should be able to be shared on the platform.

The billionaire said Twitter would also have to upend “far right and far left” to be seen as a trustworthy, neutral platform and to be trusted by users.

Newsweek reached out to Musk for comment.

Twitter Elon Musk
This week, Elon Musk sparked debate after he tweeted a meme graphic showing his position on the political spectrum. In this illustrative photo, Musk’s Twitter account is displayed on an iPhone screen.
Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images

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