DeSantis, Trump, Twitter: The Medium (#Musk) Is The Message
Republican contender for the U.S. presidency launched his bid on Twitter in conversation with Elon Musk. But the move backfired after numerous technical glitches — not the best start to his campaign.
The surprise came not from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' declaration of his candidacy, but from the way it was announced last night. No family staging and no declaration on Fox News. No, in 2023, when you're right in the United States, you declare your candidacy on the social network Twitter, in conversation with its owner, billionaire Elon Musk!
Except... the Twitter Space platform on which DeSantis was speaking last night crashed several times. The exercise was a technical failure. Donald Trump's supporters — the former president will be running against DeSantis for the Republican nomination — had a field day and called it a #DeSaster.
The form is important because it says a lot about a vision of the world, and about the evolution of political communication. By choosing a social network, DeSantis had decided to bypass the media for which he has nothing but contempt — including Fox News, which was for a long time the absolute reference point for conservatives.
He favored a social platform that allowed him to speak directly to the public, without a journalist, in "conversation" with Elon Musk, who has no less than 140 million subscribers — more than any traditional media.
Twitter, the core of disintermediation
The founder of Tesla and Space X, who acquired Twitter for $44 billion last year, is totally in line with DeSantis' approach. Elon Musk himself has announced that he wants to make Twitter the core of disintermediation, i.e. bypassing the role of traditional media.
Elon Musk's political positioning is a debate topic in itself. He admitted to voting for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020, but is leaning Republican this time. He has publicly stated that he prefers a "pretty normal president," implying not Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis fits that profile pretty well, if you are on the conservative side of the spectrum.
Elon Musk is often described as a libertarian, a movement that advocates the absolute freedom of citizens from the State. This may be true, but he has never refused the intervention of the American State and in particular the Pentagon, without which his space program, for example, would probably not exist.
The owner of Twitter has a more than ambiguous relationship with the American hard right, which is valued on Twitter. Just fired from Fox News, the ultra-conservative host Tucker Carlson announced that he would now be present on Twitter.
Tweet posted after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' declaration of his candidacy via Twitter.
An unmediated universe
The governor of Florida begins with a serious disadvantage over Donald Trump, who is leading the race for the Republican nomination. DeSantis needed a popular momentum to convince the financial contributors, the sinews of the electoral war, and he expected the buzz of Twitter and Elon Musk, but it has failed.
Donald Trump was the king of Twitter.
Donald Trump was the king of Twitter when he was president, and lost his account after the capitol assault on January 6, 2021. Elon Musk gave it back to him last November, but Trump invested in his own network, Truth Social, and hasn't started tweeting again. He should be happy about that today.
This social network battle may seem childish, but it shows to what extent the center of gravity of politics has shifted from the press and television to this unmediated universe. But I'm not sure democracy is the better for it.
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