Through the tumult and dysfunction that has occurred like dominoes since 2019, there seems to be only one constant: billionaires convinced they know what’s best.
There’s a lot of reasons for this, not least of which is the erosion of public trust in the media.
That said, it’s worth examining how billionaires and centimillionaires have somehow positioned themselves as the most trusted names in news – and why this may be a problem in the near future.
Elon buying Twitter: the billionaire’s mouthpiece
As soon as Elon Musk bought Twitter, it became clear that it would become his personal bullhorn. What wasn’t as obvious, however, was how much it would embolden fellow wealthy individuals – many involved with the Twitter takeover, like David Sacks and Jason Calacanis – to spout their mouths about every single topic, regardless of prior knowledge. Nevertheless, this is exactly what occurred.
The signal:noise ratio began to creep to an uncomfortable level early on in the acquisition, with Musk and the All In podcast crew instantly turning up the volume on Russia commentary, Bill Ackman, and Kevin O’Leary defending Sam Bankman-Fried, and a general push from the wealthy to suggest that Twitter was in better hands under new ownership.
But this was only the beginning of the rich showing off their abilities.
The collapse of SVB made the wealthy flex
When Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) asked for a capital injection from long-time shareholders and depositors to stave off a bank failure, the executive leadership clearly didn’t know who they were speaking to. Apparently very shortly after the request from leadership, Peter Thiel and a host of other billionaires and centimillionaires did exactly the opposite by withdrawing all the cash they could, immediately.
The ultra rich quickly took to Twitter, with people like Jason Calacanis taking pictures of bank lines in Southern California to stoke fears and ruffle feathers. Meanwhile, David Sacks repeatedly demanded the US government and FDIC promise to insure every cent of every deposit.
Needless to say, their loud commentary did little to benefit SVB or its depositors – instead helping to cause a catastrophic bank run, culminating in the complete collapse of the bank on March 10.
The public soon began to grasp the sheer magnitude of public discourse-shaping tools that the wealthy have at their disposal. Soon enough the All In podcast gang, Jack Dorsey, and Joe Rogan were all out endorsing and amplifying RFK Jr.’s anti-vaccine, cell phone brain melting, and HIV/AIDS conspiracy theories across America, without any pushback or criticism.
To be clear: I have no doubt that the likes of the PayPal Mafia and the ultra-wealthy have long thought they know what’s best for everyone all the time, but instead of keeping their opinions to the pages of the op-ed section or paying gobs of money to fund think tanks and policy institutes, they’re now resorting to the one tool they hadn’t before – their own big mouths.
And while the opinions and altered realities of the ultra rich are easily mockable and often hilarious, they’re also incredibly annoying, and as the Jonathan Swift adage goes: falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.
When the wealthy actually do know
James Cameron’s estimated net worth is $800 million. He’s mostly known for directing some of the biggest box office grossing films of all-time, but on the side he’s become one of the most experienced and renowned submersible divers in the world.
As everyone’s attention turned to the tragedy of the Titan submersible unfolding in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, one person noticeably absent from the discussion was James Cameron — though media repeatedly mentioned that he had previously visited both The Titanic and reached the bottom of the deepest spot on Earth, the Marianas Trench.
Cameron was thoughtful enough to understand that his personal experience and understanding of deep sea dealings was of little use in the midst of a possible rescue operation, with numerous companies and countries working together to try and find the crew of Titan before they ran out of oxygen.
Once rescuers learned that the sub had imploded from pressure forces and the families of the deceased were notified, Cameron eventually took to the airwaves to discuss the likelihoods and concerns that had transpired before the ultimate end of the private submersible.
This is to say that Cameron didn’t insert himself into the conversation, he was asked numerous times by many media outlets to speak on a topic he was certain to be well-versed in and rather than take advantage of the bread and circus that was ongoing, he waited to express his expertise when it would do the least harm to the least amount of individuals possible.
Twitter’s collapse hurts news
The ongoing collapse of Twitter – from tweet viewing limits to Musk personally boosting numerous conspiracy theories — doesn’t help journalists and trusted news sources to spread verifiable facts, but it certainly helps push disinformation.
While actual news stories with objective information struggle to get likes and retweets, Musk replying with “interesting” or an emoji to blatantly false stories — like the hoax from the Santa Monica Observer — pushes millions of people to read nonsense.
This trend continues, with the likes of Mario Nawfal and Genevieve Roch-Decter — two individuals with dubious pasts and unclear journalistic credentials — hosting Spaces with hundreds of thousands of people and posting unverified stories regularly.
Unfortunately, it appears as though the ability to decipher between journalists and influencers, propagandists and news outlets, and financial advice versus shilling is only going to get more difficult in the months and years to come.
It also seems like the ultra wealthy are happy about this, pushing for it to happen faster than ever before, and are leaving the public with far more questions, far less answers, and almost no trust.
Maybe it’s worth asking which individuals and entities could benefit from a confused and distrusting public. And maybe, just maybe, it’s the centimillionaires, billionaires, and mega companies they control.