A gas station burns after Russia attacks Kharkiv. (Fadel Senna/ AFP via Getty Images)

TGIF: Villains, Heroes and Phantoms

Russia pounds Kyiv. Antisemitism rises. Twitter melts down. And more.

Welcome back to the news roundup from Common Sense.

→ Explosions in Kyiv: Hours after Ukrainian President Zelenskyy held a press conference with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, Russian forces bombed the Ukrainian capital—and cities and towns throughout the beleaguered country. “Russia pounded targets from practically one end of Ukraine to the other Thursday,” reported the AP

→ Last stand in Mariupol: No place in Ukraine has endured more horrors than the southern port city of Mariupol. The Russians have set up concentration camps there, according to survivors who describe the place as hell on earth. The U.N. Secretary General called the situation in Mariupol an “apocalypse.” The city’s last defenders are holed up in the Azovstal steel plant, which Russian forces have been pounding for days. Now Biden is asking Congress for $33 billion in Ukraine aid. “It’s not cheap,” Biden said on Thursday. “But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.”

→ The American economy is contracting: The economy shrank by 1.4% this past quarter. Causes cited: supply chain issues, rampant inflation, China’s zero-Covid policies, Russia’s invasion, you name it. The Federal Reserve can’t do much since they have to hike interest rates even more to rein in that runaway inflation. (I just paid $20 for two eggs and toast at the Burbank airport.)

→ Despite inflation, Biden indicates he is ready to forgive student loan debt: The president has been indicating this week that he will propose a plan for the federal government to pay off unpaid student loans. It would cost Americans $321 billion to forgive $10,000 in debt per borrower. (Elizabeth Warren has long wanted it to be $50,000 per borrower.) By every measure, student loan forgiveness is regressive—a bailout for highly educated elites by our middle class. Why would the so-called party of the working class have non-debtors—who are poorer than the debtors—do such a thing? Perhaps because those highly educated elites also happen to be the core of the Democratic Party.

You gotta hand it to the activists for working so hard to make it look otherwise. But even the Washington Post is against it. 

→ Government launches disinformation panel: The dream of every “disinformation” activist is finally coming true: The Biden administration is launching a Ministry of Truth. The new so-called Disinformation Governance Board, which will operate as an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, launched this week and is to be run by a Twitter #resistance #Russiagate figure, Nina Jankowicz. Readers of this newsletter know how I feel about a government Truth Ministry and the absolute fools in media and academia who fought for this to exist.

→ Rage at the dying of the Twitter reign: This week, Twitter agreed to sell itself to Elon Musk for $44 billion dollars, and the drama hasn’t stopped. Among the highlights: Elon has implied that the New York Times bought fake followers; has personally criticized Twitter employees on the platform; is chiming in to agree with Twitter’s critics; and continues to share trollish memes. We cannot get enough. If you haven’t already, just spend an hour looking at the man’s output from the past few days and tell me you’re not laughing. 

The White House is furious. Here’s Jen Psaki on the acquisition: “The president has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms, the power they have over our everyday lives, has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harms they cause.” Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, announced that he wants to pass laws to control social media company algorithms to promote justice: “We must pass laws to protect privacy and promote algorithmic justice for internet users.” Algorithmic justice!

It goes without saying that the mainstream media is in an uproar, but some of the claims are wild enough to still surprise. MSNBC host Joy Reid claimed the acquisition is an effort to bring apartheid to America: “Elon Musk, I guess he misses the old South Africa in the 80s. He wants that back,” she said. On The View, Sunny Hostin said Musk only wants white men to have free speech: “So when Elon Musk says, 'wow, this is about free speech,' seems to me that it’s about free speech of straight white men.” This was echoed by grifter/activist Shaun King, who said: “It’s about white power. The man was raised in Apartheid by a white nationalist.” The bestselling author Anand Giridharadas talked about the need for “equitable speech” rather than plain-old free speech. Times Columnist Charles Blow announced he would quit the platform in protest. Bloomberg’s Max Chafkin came out swinging: “Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has sealed his bond with the American right.” 

The Times ran raging op-eds one after another like “Twitter Under Elon Musk Will Be a Scary Place.” Funny how no one is upset that Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. Or that Marc Benioff owns Time Magazine. Or that Laureen Powell Jobs owns The Atlantic. 

But my absolute favorite was MSNBC’s Ari Melber warning about what might happen with Musk at the helm: “You could secretly ban one party’s candidate . . . secretly turn down the reach of their stuff and turn up the reach of something else and the rest of us might not even find out about it until AFTER the election.” Which is . . . sort of what Twitter already did.

→ Brief list of things that could get you kicked off Twitter over the past few years

(This is just off the top of my head, but I’m sure I’m missing a ton. Give me more examples in the comments!)

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