The Reddit Post
Titled “From woke to joke,” the post showed a screenshot of an undated tweet by @Eve6, but details like date and timestamps were missing from the image.
The title (“From woke to joke”) referenced comments Musk made, often in the form of tweets. In December 2022, Musk famously lamented “the woke mind virus,” tweeting:
One of the screenshot’s two tweets was by @Eve6, and it referenced “when Grimes left” Musk. Grimes (Claire Boucher) is a musician and a former romantic partner of Musk.
Grimes, Elon Musk, and His Acquisition of Twitter
In September 2021, Musk disclosed that his relationship with Grimes had ended:
“We are semi-separated but still love each other, see each other frequently and are on great terms,” explained Musk. “It’s mostly that my work at SpaceX and Tesla requires me to be primarily in Texas or traveling overseas and her work is primarily in LA. She’s staying with me now and Baby X is in the adjacent room.”
In March 2022, Page Six reported that Musk and Grimes had briefly reconciled before once again ending their relationship:
Hours after news broke that Grimes and Elon Musk secretly rekindled their romance and welcomed a second child via surrogate, the “Oblivion” singer revealed that she and the Tesla founder have split again.
On March 12 2023, Grimes tweeted:
Grimes wasn’t Musk’s first high-profile partner or breakup. In November 2017, Musk gave a tearful and exceptionally candid interview to Rolling Stone, repeatedly lamenting his then-recent breakup with Amber Heard:
Then he heaves a sigh and ends his effort at composure. “I just broke up with my girlfriend,” he says hesitantly. “I was really in love, and it hurt bad.”
He pauses and corrects himself: “Well, she broke up with me more than I broke up with her, I think.”
“I’ve been in severe emotional pain for the last few weeks,” Musk elaborates. “Severe. It took every ounce of will to be able to do the Model 3 event and not look like the most depressed guy around. For most of that day, I was morbid. And then I had to psych myself up: drink a couple of Red Bulls, hang out with positive people and then, like, tell myself: ‘I have all these people depending on me. All right, do it!'”
Repeatedly, Musk confessed to being easily wounded by romantic setbacks, and he described his inability to cope with the smallest amount of solitude:
“If I’m not in love, if I’m not with a long-term companion, I cannot be happy.”
“I will never be happy without having someone. Going to sleep alone kills me.”
Musk’s acquisition of Twitter sufficiently long and complex to warrant its own Wikipedia entry, which summarized the trajectory of the deal:
… In 2017, in response to a tweet suggesting that he buy Twitter, Inc., Musk replied, “How much is it?” On March 24, 2022, Musk began tweeting criticisms of Twitter, polling his followers on whether the company adhered to the principle that “free speech is essential to a functioning democracy[.”] Days later, he discussed the future of social media with Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey and explored the possibility of joining Twitter’s board of directors with private equity firm Silver Lake co-CEO Egon Durban …
Grimes tweeted about her second split from Musk on March 10 2022, roughly two weeks before Musk began eyeing Twitter. His 2017 interview spread virally, so readers naturally inferred that Musk’s sudden interest in Twitter was somehow related to his recent breakup:
The Wikipedia timeline noted that Musk “began tweeting criticisms of Twitter” on March 24 2022. On March 11 2022, Page Six published a rumor Grimes was romantically linked with former Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning:
Grimes is dating infamous leaker Chelsea Manning after her relationship with Elon Musk ended for the second time, Page Six can exclusively reveal.
“They’re getting serious. They U-Hauled it,” a source tells us of the fast-paced nature of their relationship. “They’ve been living together in Austin.”
Our source also says Manning still has her apartment in Brooklyn.
Page Six inserted a stereotype about lesbian relationships in the excerpt above:
The U-Haul lesbian or U-Haul syndrome is a stereotype of lesbian relationships referring to the idea that lesbians tend to move in together after a short period of time (e.g., after the second date). It suggests an extreme inclination toward committed relationships. Depending on context, the term can be considered humorous, complimentary, or pejorative.
Ultimately, Musk acquired Twitter on October 27 2022.
Twitter Under Elon Musk, Partisan Leanings, and the ‘Woke Mind Virus’
By December 2022, the content of Musk’s tweets had drawn sharp criticism for what seemed to be an explosion of far-right commentary.
The article explained:
In five words, Musk manages to mock transgender and nonbinary people, signal his disdain for public-health officials, and send up a flare to far-right shitposters and trolls. The tweet is a cruel and senseless play on pronouns that also invokes the right’s fury toward Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, for what they believe is a government overreach in public-health policy throughout the pandemic and an obfuscation of the coronavirus’s origins. (Fauci, for his part, has said he would cooperate with any possible investigations and has nothing to hide.)
Publicly, Musk appears deeply committed to the right’s culture war against progressivism in most forms. His purchase of Twitter was an explicitly political act couched in the notion of preserving free speech. But Musk’s notion of free speech is a broad course correction that involves amplifying and advancing the interests of right-wing reactionaries while trolling the left. Musk might argue that this is restoring balance to the system, but if we are judging based only on actions and outcomes, it is very hard to see his tenure at Twitter as anything other than a series of policies intended to benefit a particular ideology.
Vice.com’s November 29 2022 lengthy analysis, “Elon Musk Is Turning Twitter Into a Haven for Nazis,” described a rapidly devolving Twitter:
Twitter has a problem with white supremacist and neo-Nazi content proliferating on the platform—and Elon Musk is making that problem worse.
In recent days [in late November 2022], the platform’s new CEO has reactivated the accounts of known neo-Nazis; shared a picture of a white supremacist who said he’d like Trump to be more like Hitler; failed to prevent users from posting videos of the Christchurch massacre; tweeted a popular alt-right meme; used a known antisemitic trope; and, inadvertently or not, shared a dogwhistle that white supremacists interpreted as praise for Hitler.
Musk’s apparent embrace of the white supremacist community has already led to a rise in hate speech on the platform, and it’s about to get even darker. In far-right forums, extremists of all stripes are salivating at the prospect of being able to share their hateful ideologies on a platform with much greater reach when Musk reinstates accounts that were banned for spreading hate speech.
“As soon as he took over Twitter, we saw extremists trying to exploit the platform, we’ve seen hate of all kinds increase, so these messages that he’s sending have to be understood in the context of what is happening to that platform,” Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told VICE News. “As it’s becoming a hellscape for antisemitism and racism and bigotry, it just so happens that he is putting out the type of language that is appreciated by those who are doing that.”
On November 7 2022, less than two weeks after Musk acquired Twitter, he tweeted:
Musk was often quoted as identifying as a “centrist,” but his Twitter activity indicated otherwise.
Musk’s Twitter and LGBTQ+ Rights
Just as a bevy of articles identified consistent highly partisan leanings in Musk’s tweets, another set examined Twitter and the LGBTQ+ community.
On October 28 2022, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a statement, “Human Rights Campaign Responds to Elon Musk’s Purchase of Twitter.” Published the day after Musk acquired Twitter, the statement expressed strong concern about the LGBTQ+ community on Twitter:
We are very concerned about Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. Musk has pledged to restore the accounts of dangerous people who push extremism and disinformation. When this happens, Twitter – a place where many marginalized people, including LGBTQ+ people, find both community and face an onslaught of hate – will quickly become even more hostile. Adding insult to injury, Musk’s reported plans to cut staff levels – including employees who provide moderation – are deeply troubling.
As a company, Twitter has a right, and a responsibility, to keep its platform from being exploited to fuel a dangerous media environment. This isn’t about censorship or discrimination of ideas – it is about what kind of company they want to be and what kind of world they want to shape.
On October 31 2022, TechCrunch followed with “Elon Musk’s Twitter already looks grim for the LGBTQ community,” recapping Musk’s propagation of a conspiracy theory about an attack on the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
The world’s most credulous billionaire couldn’t help but respond to a tweet over [in October 2022] from Hillary Clinton denouncing Republican support for extremist conspiracies that inspire real-world violence … Musk, who now owns the platform, quickly waded in with a conspiracy of his own, pointing Clinton to a website with a track record of publishing outlandish and easily-debunked misinformation. The story Musk shared was headlined “The Awful Truth: Paul Pelosi Was Drunk Again, And In a Dispute With a Male Prostitute Early Friday Morning.” Pelosi is still hospitalized but false claims about a theoretical gay lover who broke out of the house instead of into it are dominating the far right information ecosystem — and Musk’s interpretation of the situation, apparently.
Musk’s superficial grasp of content moderation’s complexities and his apparent eagerness to enable homophobia, transphobia and antisemitism on Twitter do not bode well for a platform that’s long been a nexus of harassment for many of its users. Potential cuts to Twitter’s workforce, including its trust and safety teams, could set back recent product and policy changes designed to make Twitter a safer place.
TechCrunch revisited the matter on December 13 2022, with “Anti-LGBTQ slur takes off on Twitter after Elon Musk’s takeover.” As the site tentatively predicted weeks earlier, Twitter had quickly become much more hostile to LGBTQ+ users:
A new report from GLAAD and Media Matters shows how anti-LGBTQ hate has increased on Twitter since Elon Musk acquired the company. This data coincides with controversial content moderation decisions Musk has taken as the head of Twitter, like disbanding its Trust and Safety Council and reinstating accounts like James Lindsay, Jordan Peterson and the Babylon Bee, which were previously banned for violating Twitter’s rules on hateful content.
The researchers looked at nine popular right-wing accounts to chart their use of the anti-LGBTQ slur “groomer.” Overall, these accounts saw a 1,200% uptick in tweets or retweets that used the slur, an increase of 3,600 instances to 48,000. In July , before Musk had taken ownership of the social media platform, the term “groomer” was considered a violation of Twitter’s hateful conduct policy when used in the context of discussion of gender identity.
TechCrunch pointed to the same “my pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” tweet, adding:
[Elon] Musk himself has engaged in anti-LGBTQ dialogue on Twitter. [On December 11 2022], he tweeted, “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” somehow managing to mock both trans people and one of the nation’s most well-known public health officials in just five words. Before Musk’s ownership, Twitter enforced a policy to mitigate the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, but as of November 23 , Twitter is no longer enforcing that policy. Throughout 2020, he promoted vaccine skepticism and misinformation about COVID-19, while also targeting LGBTQ people with declarations like “pronouns suck.”
In March 2023, the Daily Beast reported that anti-LGBTQ+ content generated advertising money on Twitter. The outlet also linked outbreaks of real-world violence in response to Twitter’s spike in hateful rhetoric:
Under Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter, tweets linking LGBT people to “grooming” have skyrocketed, jumping 119 percent since Musk’s takeover in October 2022, according to a new report released by the Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).
The study also found that Twitter is making millions from big-name advertisers, whose brands are appearing alongside hateful anti-LGBT rhetoric … The study examined five high-profile Twitter accounts responsible for consistently linking LGBT to “grooming,” including Libs Of TikTok, the account run by Chaya Raichik; Gays Against Groomers, run by Jaimee Michell; right-wing commentator Christhoper Rufo; YouTuber Tim Pool; and James Lindsay, known for the phrase “Ok, Groomer.”
These five accounts alone are set to generate $6.4 million a year in advertising revenue for Twitter, CCDH researchers estimated …
On April 18 2023, GLAAD tweeted that Twitter had amended a policy to remove protections for transgender users:
An attached statement read in part:
(Tuesday, April 18, 2023) — GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today responded after Twitter removed a transgender-specific protection from its Hateful Conduct Policy.
Prior to the rule change, Twitter’s Hateful Content Policy stated:
“We prohibit targeting others with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
The final sentence, specific to transgender users, has since been removed. According to the Wayback Machine, the sentence referring to targeted misgendering and deadnaming was present on April 7th , but was stricken from the policy on April 8th. The previous version is here, the current version is here.
Twitter first enacted its policy against targeted misgendering and deadnaming in 2018.
Musk remained estranged from his transgender daughter, and in October 2022, he was quoted as saying of his children:
I have very good relationships with all the others. Can’t win them all.
Elon Musk’s Pride Tweet
As of June 1 2023 (when Elon Musk’s pride tweet re-emerged on Reddit), Musk’s public statements and Twitter management had long been perceived as hostile to the LGBTQ+ community.
Consequently, the tweet itself was of interest for demonstrating a pre-existing level of support for the community (or an abrupt change to Musk’s views on LGBTQ+ rights). On May 31 2023, @Eve6 tweeted the tweet seen on Reddit:
In that version, a date was visible — June 26 2018. @Eve6 did not retweet Musk, and instead attached a screenshot.
In fact, Musk’s tweet was one of several tweets in a thread about Pride Month and Tesla in June 2018. It was clear Musk was replying to users who objected to Tesla celebrating Pride, as he stated: “Don’t buy [a Tesla] if [Pride is] a problem.”
A version of the thread archived in July 2018 did not show the missing replies to which Musk originally responded. However, visible replies provided a depressing contrast with Musk’s more recent Twitter commentary.
In the replies to Musk’s pro-Pride tweet, commenters sincerely and effusively thanked Musk for his apparently fleeting support:
“It’s so sweet. I’m moved to tears, Elon! My sister and her partner participate in the Pride parade ????️????every year! You have a wonderful heart ❤️????. Happy Pride month everyone! May you find love. Period. # StraightNotNarrow ❤️????????????????????????”
“Just got back online from hours of traveling and this wa[s] the first tweet I saw. Thank you Elon, I needed that.”
“Elon, you inspire such a powerful message with your unwavering belief that a better world is possible. Your spirit of freedom brings such hope and light to the world. Thank you for being true to yourself&a defender of the goodness&tolerance we all desire & deserve. Makes me proud!????”
“Tesla just showed that corporation can too have a soul.”
On June 1 2023, a popular post to Reddit’s r/WhitePeopleTwitter purportedly depicted “Elon Musk’s Pride tweet,” in which Musk told an objector to Pride: “Don’t buy our car if that’s a problem.” After Musk’s acquisition of Twitter in October 2022, he began lamenting a “woke mind virus,” and mocked transgender people. The pro-Pride tweet was real; Musk indeed expressed unwavering support for Pride Month in a June 2018 tweet.