We write in early November. Anxious prognostications about the course of the midterm elections dominate the news. According to many outlets, the fate of democracy itself is “on the ballot.” What this appears to mean is that if the “wrong” candidates win, the election by definition will be undemocratic and hence illegitimate. This of course is a novel—even deliberately perverse—understanding of “democracy,” but such are the times we inhabit. In the new dispensation we are being asked to accept that, if my candidate wins, “our democracy” survives. If your candidate wins, “our democracy” perishes.
Two other stories are competing for attention. One is Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter for an eye-watering $44 billion. The purchase is the tip of the story. The main body is the outraged reaction of the woke establishment, including those cadres of the Twitter workforce who, just yesterday, were banning or suspending people from the online publicity organ and now find themselves expelled from the company by the mean ogre Elon Musk. Musk summarily dismissed the ceo, the cfo, and the company’s chief legal advisor directly he acquired ownership. As we write, he is in the process of unburdening the company of perhaps half its 7,500 employees. Nasty, unreasonable person that he is, Musk seems set on making the company profitable and reasonably open and unbiased.
The reaction of the Twitterati themselves is an unedifying wailing. More interesting is the wholesale abandonment of Twitter by major advertisers like General Mills, Audi, and Pfizer. How did that happen? Spontaneous defections sparked by an access of virtue? No. It was a campaign organized by a left-wing advocacy group called Accountable Tech. The group was organized in 2020 and sits atop a confusing set of interlocking companies. According to the journalist Jordan Schachtel, who provided an illuminating anatomy of the entity in his newsletter, it is financed by a nonprofit called The North Fund. The North Fund, in turn, is funded by a for-profit enterprise called Arabella Advisors. Arabella was founded by a Clinton apparatchik named Eric Kessler. Another Clinton cutout, Jesse Lehrich, cofounded Accountable Tech.
Arabella, Schachtel writes, is “the leading ‘dark money’ political outfit in the United States,” much bigger than the once-dreaded, now emasculated and semi-woke Koch network. Arabella’s nonprofit funding and expenditure is not open to public scrutiny. But its for-profit expenditure during the 2020 election cycle was an impressive $1.2 billion.
Where does the pelf come from? Some of it comes from George Soros, some from the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. A lot of it comes from overseas. Hansjörg Wyss, for example, an elderly far-left Swiss billionaire, has contributed more than $135 million to the fund.
This is the behemoth that Musk must battle. He seems ready. In a recent tweet, he noted that “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.” This, he went on to observe, is “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.” He got it in one.
And that leads us to the other big story making the rounds, the proliferation of people gluing themselves to, or next to, paintings or other works of art, which they also vandalize by pouring or spraying them with various substances. Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring got the glue-and-liquid treatment last month, joining works by Monet, Van Gogh, Constable, and others. Writing for American Greatness, the commentator John Zmirak suggested such vandals deserved the death penalty or possibly life in prison for their assaults on such masterpieces. Anyway, they should be punished, he concluded, and he makes this profound observation:
nobody targets dead sharks floating in formaldehyde or random “splash” paintings by Jackson Pollock that could pass for dropcloths. No, the self-righteous Malthusians who want to vandalize our economy, destroy the poor’s access to heat and electricity, and hand unaccountable power of life and death over billions to globalist bureaucrats only target real art, classic art.
Zmirak noted that he “joked on Twitter that museum officials should leave [those who glued themselves to the wall] there to starve: their skeletons would add a profoundly theological ‘memento mori’ element to the artwork—such as many pious Christian painters included in their works.” That got him tossed off Twitter, he said, but that was in the pre-Musk days. Back in October, Volkswagen took a step in the direction Zmirak suggested. When a group of employees glued themselves to a factory floor at the end of the day, the company just turned off the lights and heat and left them there without food or access to a toilet. The glued were not amused, but many of us reading about it later nodded in appreciation.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 41 Number 4, on page 2
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