Florida’s Divestment From BlackRock’s ESG Hijacking Is Sound Public Policy

Newsweek – “Florida is where woke goes to die,” says the state’s governor and likely future presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis home drove the point last week, when he announced that our free state will divest $2 billion from BlackRock, the behemoth asset management firm run by lifelong Democrat Larry Fink.

At issue is BlackRock’s use of so-called “ESG”—”environmental, social, and governance”—principles to coerce companies in which it invests to adopt policies demanded by the radical Left. Instead of maximizing investor profits by addressing standard business considerations, BlackRock’s dubious priority, in effect since at least 2018, is to use its massive financial leverage to foster “progressive” social and cultural change and, in Fink’s guilty white liberal formulation, change the nature of global capitalism itself.

“Using our cash to fund BlackRock’s social-engineering project isn’t something Florida ever signed up for,” Patronis said in a released statement, “It’s got nothing to do with maximizing returns and is the opposite of what an asset manager is paid to do.” Accordingly, Florida will immediately remove $600 million in short-term investments from BlackRock and freeze another $1.43 billion in long-term securities, pending their reassignment to new management in early 2023.

The move follows an August 2022 resolution by Florida’s Board of Administration, chaired by DeSantis, which requires financial managers to invest in a way that “prioritizes the highest return on investment” and specifically excludes ESG considerations.

In October, Louisiana and Missouri also removed substantial amounts of capital from BlackRock’s management, while a total of five states have placed general restrictions on ESG investments.

BlackRock’s ESG integration policy statement mysteriously became “unavailable” on its website in the hours after Patronis’s announcement, but other material that remains accessible should sound off alarm bells for any responsible investor. BlackRock is “committed to putting sustainability at the center of our investment process,” one such passage reads, “based on the conviction that integrating sustainability-related information into the investment process can help our portfolio managers manage risk and make better informed investment decisions.” BlackRock makes no attempt to claim that a conviction-based investment strategy has ever created meaningful financial gain for investors, but it does seem worryingly at ease telling Americans that they should entrust their retirement savings—the firm’s major asset category—to somebody else’s idiosyncratic feelings.

In another odd statement, BlackRock insists “there is increasing awareness that material ESG factors can be tied to a company’s long-term performance.” Whether there is any actual evidence of such a connection is an unanswered question—likely because there is none—but the semantic sleight of hand seems intended to push woke ideology over the best financial interests of investors who might not be “aware” of where their money is going.

More mercenary considerations may also be at work. In 2021, no less an authority than Tariq Fancy, who served as BlackRock’s first “global chief investment officer for sustainable investing,” blew a whistle on the entire ESG-based investment industry and denounced it as “vacuous” and a “ruse.” He also alleged that investment firms bill higher management fees for ESG funds than for ordinary funds, thereby incentivizing their own promotion of ESG. According to figures reported by The Wall Street Journal, fees for ESG funds average about 40% higher than fees for standard funds. That’s a lot of greenbacks for green energy. But even then, as Fancy has suggested, “it’s not totally clear” if investments directed toward ESG goals, including more measurable ones such as environmental protection, make any practical difference. It could be that they only exist to signal virtue and pad revenue sheets due to the higher fees, allowing BlackRock to pay Fink his $36 million salary.

Regardless of the rationale, Paul S. Levy, who founded New York private equity firm JLL Partners and is now a Florida resident, told me that “BlackRock and its ilk are violating their obligations to the fiduciaries and should be held to account for infusing investment decisions with their personal values and political views.”

Levy’s new home state leaves no doubts on the issue. “I’m signing up to take care of the state of Florida’s money and look out for the taxpayers,” Patronis said in an accurate summary of his job description a day after his announcement.

There is ample evidence that the free market is joining with responsible state governments to reject BlackRock’s tomfoolery. Netflix, which aggressively adopted diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) principles into its corporate strategy—not coincidentally after receiving billions in investment from BlackRock—watched its stock price plummet from an all-time high of $690.31 in October 2021 to just $166.37 in June 2022. Defying projections that the streaming service would add 2.5 million paying subscribers in 2022, it instead lost 1.5 million subscribers in the first two quarters of this year.

No sane person could describe this outcome as a success, but Netflix began to recover as soon as it jettisoned DEI, embraced free speech principles, laid off hundreds of its “diversity”-minded content creators, and modified its content accordingly. As of last Friday, its stock price was back to $320.41. In the third quarter to 2022, the service added 2.4 million subscribers. BlackRock’s ownership stake has correspondingly declined, from 6.6% in March 2020 to 4.2% now. Coincidence?

Astonishingly, BlackRock still claimed to be “surprised” by Florida’s divestment. But now that it realizes not all of its investors are self-abnegating MSNBC viewers, BlackRock is clearly in defensive mode. Attempting to gaslight the third-most populous state’s investors, it issued a risible statement declaring, “We are disturbed by the emerging trend of political initiatives like this that sacrifice access to high-quality investments and thereby jeopardize returns, which will ultimately hurt Florida’s citizens.” One might wonder if “high-quality” is the same as “profitable,” or if the jeopardized “returns” are “financial” in nature, but the issue never would have arisen without BlackRock’s reckless politicization of Floridians’ investments.

“Fiduciaries should always value performance over politics,” the statement patronizingly continued. Maybe now BlackRock will do that, too.

The GOP Must Address Election Integrity Before It Is Too Late

Newsweek – On a rare visit to my Washington, D.C. place shortly before the midterm elections, an envelope in my large pile of mail read, “Official Ballot.” Inside, I found a full ballot and postage-paid envelope to ensure that my voice could be counted in District of Columbia elections. No identification or authentication was required.

It was heartwarming to know that the local election authorities were looking out for me, but I have not lived in the nation’s capital for any sustained period since 2005 and have never requested an absentee ballot there. I am registered to vote, liable for jury duty, and licensed to drive, hunt, fish, and carry concealed weapons in Florida, where I first voted in 1996.

Since I am not a criminal, I discarded my D.C. ballot and duly cast only one vote, in person at my local fire station in Palm Beach. In this, I mirrored many other registered Republicans, who typically vote in person on election day in much larger numbers than do Democrats.

This is only one person’s anecdote of failed election integrity, but those who allege the potential for abuse in mass mail-in balloting, ballot harvesting, large-scale absentee voting, and similar techniques often introduced during or just before the COVID-19 pandemic are routinely castigated as “racists,” “fascists,” “conspiracy theorists,” and evildoers nefariously determined to “undermine the integrity of our elections” and threaten “Democracy Itself™.”

Ostensibly intended to guarantee voting rights by removing perceived obstacles to reaching physical polling places, these broad and worryingly unsupervised measures have remained in effect in many states even as the pandemic has receded. Only a handful of state governments have walked some of these measures back to ensure that our elections are indeed determined by votes that count, rather than by those who count the votes.

After the 2020 elections, concerns about election integrity received little practical attention. Mainstream media disparaged even broaching the issue, and doing so became publicly taboo. It’s easy to understand why: Any challenge to the loosened system could have delegitimized the defeat of former President Donald J. Trump and imperiled future Democratic electoral success.

The federal courts almost uniformly punted legal challenges on the bases of jurisdiction or standing, which excused them from engagement with the underlying substantive issues. As it so mendaciously did with public health policy, Big Tech systematically banned or flagged dissenting posts, accounts, and even hashtags (e.g., “#StopTheSteal”) suggesting the 2020 elections reflected anything other than democracy in its purest and most unadulterated form. With those few state-level exceptions, Republican leaders largely went along with this narrative. Nobody likes to be called a racist, fascist, or conspiracy theorist—especially not bow-tied Washingtonians worried about their cocktail party invitations.

In 2022, however, the narrative fell apart. Under Governor Ron DeSantis‘s leadership, Florida had outlawed mass mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, and the use of funds offered by possibly biased third-party actors (e.g. “Zuckerbucks”) to help operate local elections. It also required photo identification to vote and vowed to prosecute individuals who allegedly violated state election laws. Criticism rained down on the governor before and after the election, but the results were undeniable as the “red wave” predicted for the entire country slammed Florida’s shores. DeSantis won reelection by 19 points, and similar margins of victory blessed Republican candidates down the ballot. Importantly, these numbers reasonably resembled pre-election polling data, taking into account the advantage of a few points that polling often inaccurately assigns to Democrats. What’s more, the Sunshine State’s 7.2 million total votes cast were counted within a mere five hours.

Compare with Arizona, where the state election system, which was questioned heavily in 2020, experienced few meaningful changes since that year. Additionally, the state’s chief election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, was also the state’s 2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Hobbs’s Republican opponent Kari Lake asked her to recuse herself, as numerous irregularities manifested around election day. These included the reported malfunction of over 20% of voting machines in Republican-leaning areas of decisive Maricopa County, as well as the state’s general inability to tabulate all ballots for many days, even as almost all other states completed their own counts. Hobbs refused to step aside. The final results, which showed Lake and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters both losing, while many other Arizona Republicans on the ballot won, left additional doubts in many minds about the integrity of the outcome.

More analysis could be done and more evidence could be gathered, but the upshot is this: Florida’s reformed system delivered results that no one doubts, while Arizona’s largely unreformed system delivered results that many mistrust. That fact alone is highly problematic for faith in the democracy we all share, regardless of which party benefited.

What is to be done? Constitutionally, each state manages its own elections. No law passed by Congress can force states to adopt the superior Florida model, revert to the problematic Arizona variant, or do anything else. To safeguard Our Democracy™, state-level Republicans should work diligently to reform election laws to ensure that we have accurate, qualified, and verified electorates that cannot be thwarted by procedural blind spots. In states where Republicans hold legislative majorities, this process can begin tomorrow and should be motivated by the cautionary tale of Michigan, whose Republican-controlled legislature did virtually nothing to address the issue after 2020 and now finds itself controlled by Democrats.

In other states, Republican minorities should reach out to Democrats who are honest enough to admit there are structural problems and wise enough to see that unsecured and easily manipulated processes could be turned against them if Republican activists get into the mail-in and ballot harvesting business, as many are now promising to do.

For its part, the new Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives must prioritize the Electoral Count Reform Act, a heretofore stagnant piece of legislation designed to modernize the thoroughly outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887, which prescribes how state votes are to be tabulated and verified in presidential elections.

Barring a legislative solution, legal action could also prevail in federal courts with the power to require states to abandon election practices that are fraudulent, discriminatory, or otherwise fail to secure constitutionally guaranteed equal protection. Like so many other issues affecting our polity—from abortion to gun rights to affirmative action—election integrity may ultimately be a matter for the Supreme Court to decide.

Time will tell whether Republicans have the organizational skill, attention span, or courage to take on these dull and difficult tasks in the branches of government where they still have a say. But if they don’t, they will become a permanent minority party in most states that don’t start with “F,” and much of the Union will become a banana republic.

Hate and hoaxes at Twitter headquarters as Musk takes over

The Spectator – The media were camped out in San Francisco as sullen employees learned their fate.

“The bird is freed,” tweeted Elon Musk last Thursday, when he acquired full ownership of Twitter. The day before, he strode into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters carrying a white ceramic wash basin to impart the message that his new ownership should “sink in.”

Musk has repeatedly signaled his intention to liberalize the platform by relaxing its limits on free expression. Since taking over, he’s stated that Twitter protocols and account bans will remain in place pending review by an internal, ideologically diverse “content moderation council.” Recently, however, he has also stated that the platform should be an open virtual public square with minimal controls on expression, that “comedy is now legal on Twitter,” and even that the most controversial user of them all, former president Donald J. Trump, would be welcome to return.

Left-wing Twitter threw its predictable tantrum. Many users compared Musk to Adolf Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan, the apartheid regime of Musk’s native South Africa, and other well known proponents of free speech. Some prominent leftists have vowed to leave the platform with the same dubious fervor with which they promised to move to Canada after Trump’s election.

But the most fanciful reactions of all were on display at Twitter’s headquarters. It had been a long time since I’d visited San Francisco, which now lives up to its dismal reputation as a progressive nightmare come true. But I happened to transit overnight in the City by the Bay on my way home from a two-week sail through the South Pacific, just as Musk’s possession of Twitter was being confirmed. After landing, I was fresh enough to enlist my host, the scion of an old San Franciscan real estate family, to take a ride downtown to see what was happening.

Twitter’s headquarters is in the city’s historic Western Furniture Exchange and Merchandise Mart Building, a splendid art deco edifice where Twitter has been an anchor tenant since 2012. Augmented only with a small rectangular column that says “@twitter” and features the company’s iconic blue bird logo, the building rests on a section of Market Street at the beginning of a “car-free zone.” My friend tells me this redesignation has devastated traffic patterns so the city can appear to look greener. A gaggle of French tourists was there Friday morning mocking a bike share facility, which dutifully reports the number of bicycles that have passed by (nearly 400,000 so far this year). The occasional derelict city resident ambled by to heap abuse on Twitter’s new owner, while another tolerant progressive had spray painted “FUCK MUSK” on the sidewalk nearby.

Much of the building’s interior has been stripped down to a functional brutalism, with bare concrete pillars soullessly standing guard as millennial tech workers flit to and from a bank of restricted elevators. A usually alert security guard unsurprisingly told us Twitter was not welcoming unannounced visitors, but the lobby remained open to the general public. It features an upscale market/takeout joint frequented by Twitter employees that boasts healthy Asian food, a wide selection of products described as “Alternative Milk,” and an ample supply of Astroglide. Periodic signs remind patrons, “Smile, you are on camera.”

A side entrance attracted a sizable contingent of serious-looking media types. The day before, Musk had summarily fired Twitter’s CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, general counsel Sean Edgett, and head of “legal policy, trust, and safety” Vijaya Gadde, with the top executives reportedly ejected from headquarters in haste.

Rumor held that lesser employees, reportedly including an entire team of data engineers, had also been fired and could be expected to spill out at any time. Two dejected figures were spotted doing just that later on Friday, carrying the requisite cardboard boxes of personal effects. One lamely raised a copy of Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming, in what looked like a limp act of solidarity with a progressive ideology literally on its way out. “Michelle Obama wouldn’t have happened if Elon Musk owned Twitter,” said one of the men, identifying himself as “Rahul Ligma.” The other, “Daniel Johnson,” claimed to be feeling “shitty.”

Local and legacy media diligently reported their sad stories. “It’s happening,” tweeted CNBC tech reporter Deirdre Bosa. “Entire team of data engineers let go. These are two of them.” The Washington Post’s resident crybully Taylor Lorenz quickly responded, tweeting that she was “gutted by their firing and what it means for Twitter.” “Please tell Mr. Ligma to connect w[ith] me on LinkedIn,” she exhorted her 343,000 followers. Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who was acquitted of shooting assailants during an August 2020 Black Lives Matter protest, also reacted, tweeting “these two guys were part of the effort to ban anyone who dared defend me in the public square. They silenced public debate and promoted hate against me and my family.”

As it turned out, they were victims of a hoax. Once reported, complete with video feed and abundant photos, Twitter employees denied any knowledge of these individuals. “Ligma,” others observed, is a well known internet meme originally referring to a fake disease but more recently used to initiate sophomoric “gotcha” jokes among tech bros since it sounds similar to “Lick my.” “Johnson,” of course, is an old-fashioned but still recognizable slang term for the male appendage. Musk himself played along, tweeting “Ligma Johnson had it coming,” followed by the eggplant emoji and the splash emoji. Later, he congratulated the imposters on their trolling skills and mocked CNBC for its “ace reporting.”

Theatrics aside, there was a palpable undercurrent of doom surrounding Twitter’s downtown digs. Recent press reports have held that Musk would lay off 75 percent of Twitter’s workforce. Musk has denied that the numbers would be that high, but his immediate purge of the company’s C-suite did not dispel their apprehensions.

Sullen employees entering the building during our visit had nothing to share. None made eye contact as they plodded by. Those who presented as female performed determined “take back the night” walks, delicately balancing cold avoidance with an unconvincing pretense of fearlessness. Musk seems to be following a methodical course as he reshapes social media, but one might wonder how many of his employees will still be on the payroll next Friday.

NYU sacks a professor because his class is too hard

The Spectator – Maitland Jones Jr. was an award-winning teacher of organic chemistry — then his students complained.

Just before the start of the fall semester, New York University fired the distinguished professor in organic chemistry Maitland Jones Jr. NYU’s dean for Science Gregory Gabadadze informed Jones in a terse letter that his work “did not rise to the standards we require from our teaching faculty.”

Jones is a legend in his field who literally wrote his subject’s 1,300-page textbook Organic Chemistry. He had been teaching at NYU on a renewable one-year contract since his retirement, in 2007, from a forty-three-year career at Princeton University. During his time at NYU, Jones won teaching awards. In 2017, he was named one of NYU’s “coolest” professors, a distinction he shared with only seven of his nearly 10,000 colleagues.

Jones’s offense? His class was too hard. Earlier this year, eighty-two of Jones’s 350 students signed a petition denouncing the difficulty of his organic chemistry course and bemoaning the high failure rates on his examinations.

Although more than 75 percent of Jones’s students did not sign the petition, and although the petition itself did not demand his dismissal, NYU scrambled to placate the disgruntled minority. Every NYU undergrad is, after all, a precious little bundle worth over $300,000 in tuition payments — in addition to potential alumni donations down the road. The students are also far more skilled in social media kvetching than any fortysomething Snopes who works in NYU’s recruitment operations. A bad class, a martinet professor — these things can easily become that afternoon’s widely shared Instagram post or TikTok reel.

NYU’s chemistry department offered to review the exams of Jones’s aggrieved students and, unusually, to allow students to withdraw from his class retroactively. The goal, its director of undergraduate studies explained to Jones shortly before he was fired, was to “extend a gentle but firm hand to the students and those who pay the tuition bills,” presumably their parents, though such reactionary terminology may no longer be acceptable at NYU.

“In short he was hired to teach, and wasn’t successful,” barked an NYU bureaucrat when challenged. This ignored that Jones had risen to the top of his profession over decades of employment at a much higher-ranked university, had his NYU contract renewed annually for fifteen years without issue, and won teaching awards. The idea that NYU students could not be successful is apparently unthinkable.

Organic chemistry is a vitally important course for determining medical school admissions. A good grade in it can go a long way. A bad grade can blight an aspiring doctor’s record so badly as to destroy any chance of admission. This likely accounts for why so many NYU undergrads lamented their poor grades in Jones’s class. But firing Jones goes so far beyond parody as to reveal something much uglier about academia.

In short, for all his accomplishments, Dr. Jones is dispensable, as are all of his colleagues at all American universities, regardless of their field. Every university administration knows full well that for every available teaching position, there are scores, if not hundreds, of acceptably credentialed people willing to do the same job. Savvier administrators have long realized that full-time professors, especially those protected by tenure, are also dispensable, and that their jobs can be done by so-called “contingent” faculty. That broad category includes people like Jones, who teach on temporary contracts, as well as adjunct instructors, who might be engaged for one or two courses on a semester basis, or graduate students, who can hold teaching responsibilities as a condition of receiving financial support or as part of their training.

Whether a class is taught by the preeminent scholar in a field, a first-year hire just out of graduate school, or a doctoral candidate who barely speaks English is immaterial. Students will pay the same tuition regardless. And since what most students really want is the piece of paper at the end, barely anyone ever complains. The only serious objections are limited to obscure industry publications in which a handful of insightful but powerless academic professionals whine about “adjunctification” diminishing career opportunities. Like so many betrayed Cassandras, they have idly looked on while the proportion of contingent faculty increased from 30 percent in 1982 to over 75 percent today.

All the administrators have to do is make sure the students pay, attract new students to pay more next year, and preserve their monopoly on issuing educational credentials in a society that continues to valorize them at a huge premium. The most effective way to run that racket has been to shift education to a disastrous “student-centric” model, which treats students — who are ironically on campus because they are insufficiently educated — as the proverbial customers who are always right. If the administrators do this even somewhat well, largely passive trustees will avoid asking any hard questions, happily approve higher executive pay and perks, and congratulate themselves at shitty retreats on the great “leadership” and “vision” they discovered in whatever bloated riverboat shyster they installed in a wood-paneled president’s office.

Professional education, meanwhile, has been reduced to little more than an at-will service occupation staffed by a poorly paid corpus of low-level paper-pushers who obediently process information. Even tenure is no longer much of a guarantee. In May 2022, Princeton fired the award-winning tenured classics professor Joshua Katz, ostensibly for not having fully participated in a university investigation, but more likely for having publicly opposed racist faculty demands. In July, University of Pennsylvania law dean Ted Ruger recommended “major sanctions” — possibly including termination — against Amy Wax, also award-winning and tenured, for alleged public statements of opinion that Ruger claims caused “harm” to his Ivy League university community.

As for Jones, a group of his departmental colleagues complained to NYU that his dismissal has set “a precedent, completely lacking in due process, that could undermine faculty freedoms and correspondingly enfeeble proven pedagogic practices.” They are certainly right, but there is no indication that NYU cares, or should have any reason to care. That’s even though the woke boomer hypocrites who edit the New York Times are apparently worried enough about the quality of their future health care providers that they ran a front-page story about Jones.

Within the campus gates, however, Jones’s supporters can simply be ignored. If they are unhappy with their former colleague’s mistreatment, they can leave at no great loss to NYU. Indeed, losing senior professors presents a net gain for universities, which can replace them with lower paid junior faculty hires, even lower paid contingent faculty, or, as is increasingly the case, not at all. Losing award-winning teachers is even better, for they command loyalty outside the administration and can communicate effectively in the media. For virtually all salary-dependent faculty members, the only lesson of Jones’s sad fate will be to sit down and shut up.

“I don’t want my job back,” Jones, who is eighty-four, told the Times. “I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.” But it will. Over and over again.

Scarface lands on post-woke Netflix

The Spectator – Subscribers are finally getting better content — along with a healthy dose of toxic masculinity.

“I always tell the truth — even when I lie,” says Tony Montana in Brian DePalma’s 1983 cult classic gangster film Scarface, which on September 1 became available for streaming on Netflix. The line resonates well in a post-truth world.

In the film’s climactic scene, Tony, the drug kingpin played by Al Pacino, has just started his slide to rock bottom. His wife, Elvira, played by a young and then-unknown Michelle Pfeiffer, has publicly dumped him in an embarrassing scene at a high-end restaurant as well-manicured bourgeois types look on aghast. His erstwhile business partner in the drug trade is closing in after Tony failed to dispose of a troublesome investigative journalist. The feds are not far behind, having gathered videotaped evidence of money laundering and tax evasion certain to send him to prison.

Aware that his end is near, Tony proceeds to tell off his impromptu audience of gawking restaurant patrons with near-Shakespearean self-awareness, courtesy of Oliver Stone’s screenwriting long before he became a deranged Putin apologist. “You don’t have the guts to be what you want to be,” Tony declaims. “You need people like me so you can point your fucking fingers and say ‘that’s the bad guy.’” Casting that proverbial stone doesn’t make them good, Tony informs them, it just makes them able to hide and lie. In a world of hypocrisy, all that’s left for him to do is retreat to his decadent mansion and await an army of assassins, who take him down in arguably the bloodiest shoot-out in the history of film.

Loosely based on Howard Hawks’s 1932 film of the same name, which itself loosely followed a novel based on the nefarious career of Al Capone, Scarface relocates the setting to Miami in the early 1980s. Its anti-hero is not an Italian immigrant but a Cuban refugee from the Mariel boatlift, in which Fidel Castro’s regime released some criminals along with a much larger population who had relatives among the Cuban exile community in the United States.

Awash in sex, drugs, blood, misogyny, and profanity — the F-bomb is dropped 226 times according to one count — Scarface practically called out for censure even before woke sensibilities plagued our ailing civilization. Prior to its release, the Motion Picture Association of America gave it an “X” rating, the classification used for pornography, only softening to the adult “R” after DePalma edited it three times. A chainsaw murder early in the film reportedly caused the novelists Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving to walk out of the premiere. The Cuban-American community objected to ethnic stereotypes so strenuously that the city of Miami refused filming permits, forcing much of it to be done in Los Angeles. Then, as now, people objected that the principal roles are, with only one exception, played by non-Cubans and non-Latinos. Pacino’s severely overdone Cuban accent makes Ricky Ricardo sound like George Plimpton.

In the four decades since the film’s premiere, its tropes of sexualized violence have suffused all subsequent gangster media, along with organized crime, gang culture, hip-hop, video games, and the vocabulary of anyone who has ever borrowed Tony’s most famous line, “Say hello to my little friend,” now a cliché to refer to some helpful item that is invariably far less impressive than the character’s home-defense grenade launcher. Saddam Hussein named his own money laundering operation “Montana Management,” after a front business Tony sets up in the film to conceal his drug profits.

It may seem a paradox that now, in our immeasurably more sensitive times, Netflix has added Scarface to its offerings without any of the disclaimers that competing streaming services like HBO Max and Disney have added to Gone With the Wind and The Muppet Show. The decision follows Netflix’s commissioning of a comedy special by Dave Chappelle, which was criticized for “offensive” and “harmful” content, both publicly and within the company, because the comedian had the temerity to defend Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling for being insensitive to the transgendered.

Scarface also arrives on Netflix only a few months after the company fired 290 employees, many of whom were hired to create and steward content that would promote diversity and wokeness. Those who were spared received a curt memo telling them that “you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful. …If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.” The company then proceeded to cancel several woke projects in development. They included Meghan Markle’s ill-fated cartoon series featuring a socially conscious young woman of color based, predictably, on herself — part of a rumored $120 million bath the company has taken on content from the empty-headed and perpetually annoying Sussexes. Two planned animated series based on the works of noted racist and MacArthur “genius” fellow Ibram X. Kendi also got a well deserved ax (or was it a chainsaw)?

So why has Netflix, once as progressive a media outlet as any, migrated to the counterrevolutionary right? The answer appears to lie in its suffering bottom line. After years of griping among subscribers about its mediocre content, political preachiness, and rising subscription fees, the company has become a textbook case of the new aphorism “go woke and go broke.” After hitting an all-time high of $690.31 in October 2021, its share price is now down to $234.55, with some $70 billion in market capitalization disappearing since January 1. Defying projections that the service would add 2.5 million paying subscribers in 2022, it instead lost 1.5 million in the first two quarters of 2022 alone.

The Australian comedienne Hannah Gadsby, who has released two specials via Netflix, turned on the service over the Chappelle controversy, deriding the company that promoted her work on an international platform as an “amoral algorithm cult.” Tony Montana might reply to her that in America, “when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, you get the women.” For the moment, however, Netflix subscribers are getting better content, along with a healthy dose of toxic masculinity.

Martha’s Vineyard and the fraud of the rich white liberal

The Spectator – Where’s their compassion? Where’s their inclusion?

“We have talked to a number of people who’ve asked, ‘Where am I?’ And then I was trying to explain where Martha’s Vineyard is,” said befuddled Edgartown, Massachusetts, police chief Bruce McNamee of the 50 illegal immigrants who landed on two charter flights at the island’s only airport on Wednesday.

According to local reports, the airport officials believed the planes were delivering corporate guys on a late-season golf retreat, before suffering the crushing disappointment that the arriving passengers were, in fact, poor people of color.

The illegals arrived courtesy of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who sent them there using a $12 million budget set aside by our free state’s legislature to transport illegals to sanctuary jurisdictions. He joins the governors of Texas and Arizona, who have sent thousands of illegals by bus to New York, Washington, and Chicago, to protest the Biden administration’s catastrophic failure to secure our southern border.

According to a DeSantis spokesman, “states like Massachusetts, New York and California will better facilitate the care of these individuals whom they have invited into our country by incentivizing illegal immigration.” “What would be best,” DeSantis himself said in a press conference, “would be for Biden to do his damn job and secure the border.”

In the current fiscal year, immigration authorities have detained nearly two million people who have crossed the border illegally. The number who have not been apprehended is unknown, but very few of them were probably bound for Martha’s Vineyard, which virtue-signaled itself a “sanctuary destination.” Its largely seasonal population likely believed they would never have to host anyone other than affluent white liberals and the Obamas, who own a 29-acre, $11.75 million property on the island.

Those white liberals are now entertaining the world with the most amusing mass meltdown in some time. As natural hypocrites whose commitment to diversity ends where their pebbled driveways begin, they don’t like the idea of the Vineyard’s newest residents any more than Democrat mayors like Eric Adams of New York and Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC appreciate their migrants. Both mayors declared states of emergency after the arrival of only a small fraction of the illegals whom their counterparts on the Texas and Arizona borders must address on a daily basis.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren scolded that sending in the illegals was “repulsive and cruel.” Supine and penitent former Republican columnist Max Boot of the Washington Post denounced DeSantis’s “heartlessness and cynicism” and warned that his future presidency will be “dangerous.”

DeSantis’s electoral opponent, Charlie Crist, who trails him by eight points and likely regrets that the illegals won’t be in Florida to vote for him in November, called the move “disgusting and vile.” He suggested that DeSantis is “not in control of his faculties,” hilarious from a man with no principles who has managed to run for statewide office as a Democrat, Republican, and independent and lose in all three guises.

Self-proclaimed “experts” have accused Florida’s governor of human trafficking. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre hysterically declared that the illegals “deserve better than…to be left in Martha’s Vineyard.” Touché? In a CNN interview the morning after the illegals arrived, biased journalist John Berman and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns — a past guest of the island’s boring film festival — compared the free inbound flights to the Holocaust.

The infuriated liberals are, however, reluctant to admit exactly where the illegals arrived. That’s understandable considering that their island idyll, where Biden won 77.6 percent of the vote, is well beyond the means of almost all their fellow Americans, “deplorables” whom they would also prefer not to see or be around. Martha’s Vineyard boasts a median home sale price of $1.35 million.

MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes, who has held book signings on the Vineyard, found it “deeply dehumanizing to fling human beings somewhere vindictively.” Somewhere? Could spelling out the “where” cast doubt on the sincerity of his convictions? And if he really believes in sanctuary destinations, how is sending migrants to an especially pleasant one for free a vindictive act?

Warren, meanwhile, promised to “keep working with local, state, and federal partners to ensure we have the necessary resources to care for people with dignity,” again without saying where those deserving individuals are and how inconveniently close they might be to the vacation homes of those who were “all in for Warren.” Yet it was Massachusetts state senator Dylan Fernandes who might have tossed the most colorful word salad. He denounced DeSantis’s “secret plot to send immigrant families like cattle on an airplane…to a place they weren’t told where they were going” [sic]. Would his indignation convince anyone if he had named the luxurious locale where the illegals ended up? When cows fly!

The world outside left-Twitter, however, knows that the illegals have had the good fortune to land in one of the richest communities in America after having violated our country’s laws by illegally crossing its borders. Now that Vineyard liberals must endure the sight of them on their doorsteps, they and their confederates can only fly into narcissistic rage. Their shallow, priggish commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and open borders is exposed as a shameless fraud. It is, after all, the same reaction — possibly from some of the very same people — whose caviar liberalism morphed into vituperative opposition when Adams’s failed predecessor Bill DeBlasio moved scores of charming homeless men into empty hotels on the Upper West Side.

Vineyard residents claim to have responded with “compassion” — so much compassion that they provided basic support for less than 24 hours before begging the internet for donations from even guiltier white liberals. That’s more than a bit rich, so to speak, on an island where an estimated 63 percent of the million-dollar homes are unoccupied outside of the summer months. But this did not occur to Lisa Belcastro, coordinator of the island’s homeless shelter, who informed the local media that “at some point in time [the illegals] have to move somewhere else. …We don’t have housing for 50 more people.” That’s doubtful, but even if the summer residents don’t want to open their doors or wallets, surely no high-minded Vineyard worthies would mind if the four children reportedly in the group made generous use of their many swimming pools. What could be more compassionate? What could be more inclusive?

“We embrace you,” tweeted Warren’s Senate colleague Ed Markey from the comfortable remove of his Capitol Hill office. If Markey is being honest, DeSantis should charter Cape Air’s entire fleet and send hourly flights carrying more new Massachusetts residents to enjoy the sunsets from East Chop Lighthouse. No doubt Markey will be right there, making sandwiches and telling them how to vote in their new country.

The Mar-a-Lago Raid Is the Desperate Act of a Corrupt Establishment

Newsweek – “These are dark times for our nation,” former President Donald Trump declared in response to the FBI‘s Monday morning raid on his Mar-a-Lago club and private residence in Palm Beach, Florida. He compared the event to “an assault” that “could only take place in broken, Third-World countries.”

Startled during the slow summer season, when Mar-a-Lago is closed and Trump resides at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, the staff complied with a search warrant. Ostensibly, the warrant applied to documents that Trump is alleged to have improperly removed from the White House in possible violation of the Presidential Records Act, which requires official records to be transferred to the National Archives. Trump also claims that the feds cracked his personal safe. Further reports suggest that unrelated documents were removed, in some cases without review. To many, the raid appeared to be a clear fishing expedition for potentially incriminating documents about Trump’s alleged role in the January 6, 2021 demonstration at the U.S. Capitol.

Trump claims to have been complying with the FBI. In January, he turned over 15 boxes containing such vitally important records as a birthday party menu, a cocktail napkin, and a list of telephone numbers, among other items best described as memorabilia from his administration. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he may have removed classified material, though as president he had ultimate authority for the declassification of any and all White House documents.

Normally, a raid by federal law enforcement is the last resort when all other options for obtaining evidence have failed. It is typically used against drug dealers, mafia bosses, and other dangerous criminals—not people suspected of failing to properly deposit documents with the National Archives. Despite a court order authorizing the raid, there is no indication that any seized material had been subpoenaed, the proper intermediary step before dozens of heavily armed FBI shock troops storm one’s home. Even Richard Nixon had the courtesy of a subpoena for his infamous Watergate tapes. When Bill and Hillary Clinton improperly took gifts and government-owned furniture from the White House, no legal action was forthcoming. As secretary of state, Hillary notoriously exported to her home internet server over 33,000 government emails, which she then deleted and scrubbed in what appeared to be an attempt to avoid an FBI subpoena. The FBI did not raid her house, however, and accepted her and the propagandistic regime media’s characterization of the incident as a peccadillo unworthy of law enforcement’s attention.

Leftists are crowing that FBI Director Christopher Wray is a Trump appointee, but the imprimatur for the Mar-a-Lago raid almost certainly came from Wray’s boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland. Garland was appointed by President Joe Biden, who will likely face Trump in a rematch in 2024. When asked, the Justice Department, FBI, and White House all fueled suspicion by neither confirming nor denying Garland’s personal involvement in authorizing the raid.

This is the same Merrick Garland who implied in an official memorandum last October that parents speaking out against critical race theory at school meetings were domestic terrorists, leading the FBI’s counterterrorism division to assign them a “threat tag.” Earlier this year, Garland refused to provide home security to the U.S. Supreme Court justices identified with the leaked ruling that eventually overturned Roe v. Wade, even when those justices were violently threatened—and, in the case of Brett Kavanaugh, the object of an assassination plot.

Trump has all but announced that he will seek a second term come 2024. A criminal conviction on even a minor, peripheral charge could prevent him from returning to the presidency. The Democrats already tried and failed to disqualify him via conviction at his second impeachment trial. Most recent polls show Trump with a commanding lead for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024; many also show him beating Biden in a hypothetical general election rematch. The Democrats rightly fear catastrophic losses in November’s midterm elections, including those to Trump-endorsed candidates who have proved remarkably successful in Republican primaries. What better way to dispose of this powerful rival than to score a conviction following the flex of law enforcement muscle like those flaunted in the dramatic arrests of Trump associates Roger Stone and Peter Navarro, or in Steve Bannon‘s recent conviction?

Like so much else in the Biden administration, public reaction suggests a serious backfire is in the works. Trump supporters—and even a fair number of Trump skeptics and opponents—have taken to the airwaves, social media, and the pavement abutting Mar-a-Lago and New York’s Trump Tower to decry dangerous overreach by a weaponized federal law enforcement apparatus. Thereby, they affirm Trump’s narrative that he is a persecuted victim of the regime fighting to prevent worse fates befalling his millions of more vulnerable supporters. With improper procedure, no evidence of probable cause, and radical partisan leadership at the Justice Department, it is hard to see it any other way, especially as the IRS potentially gears up to hire 87,000 new agents—foot soldiers in the administrative-managerial caste’s increasingly desperate campaign against Americans who resist that caste’s corruption.

“Banana Republic,” tweeted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in disgust at Trump’s treatment. Indeed. And even as these words were written, legacy media was already loyally changing “raid” to “search.”

Gavin Newsom does not want to pick a fight with Florida

The Spectator – No one believes he rules over a magic kingdom.

“Freedom is under attack in your state,” exclaimed California Governor Gavin Newsom in a bizarre 30-second television ad that aired on Fox News in Florida markets over Fourth of July weekend. Unnamed “Republican leaders,” gasped a man who held his constituents under near-house arrest for two years, are “banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors. I urge all of you to join the fight, or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom.”

Newsom’s anti-Florida canards cost his 2022 reelection campaign a reported $105,000. They addressed an audience that will vote neither for nor against him. And like hapless New York City mayor Eric Adams’s equally absurd billboard campaign to lure back New Yorkers who’d moved to the Sunshine State, they went over like a lead balloon.

No books are “banned” in our state. Any book may be bought, sold, circulated, and read here, and having books mandated for use in public education is hardly an inalienable right. No Floridian eligible to vote has any difficulty casting a ballot, even if those seeking to vote illegally or posthumously may now encounter obstacles.

The only classroom speech “restricted” in Florida is speech instructing students that they are inherently racists, or that exposes children under the age of eight to explicit sexuality of any type. Florida’s viewpoint diversity law, which came into effect on July 1, expressly prohibits any action in a public education institution that limits “access to, or observation of, ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” It also mandates surveys to assess whether faculty and students “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.” Unsurprisingly, it is now Florida, rather than California, that many consider to have the best public university system in America.

Large majorities of Floridians and Americans favor these provisions. The same goes for Florida’s newly signed 15-week abortion law, the terms of which are supported by 71 percent of Americans. That law has no provision for any form of criminal prosecution and is more permissive than those of many European social democracies, which cut off a woman’s “right to choose” before 15 weeks of pregnancy.

One might wonder what Floridians are supposed to “join the fight” against, given how little the prospect of rallying to Governor Newsom offers to Florida Man. Changing state residency involves a decidedly uneven trade of Florida’s zero percent state income tax — guaranteed by state constitutional amendment — for California’s, which rises as high as 13.3 percent. Floridians might also sensibly resist California’s sales tax, which can reach 10.75 percent depending on the locality, compared to 7 percent in Florida. Gas prices in California push $7 per gallon, compared to a $4.50 average in Florida. Homicides in Governor Newsom’s woke paradise increased by 31 percent in 2020, while Florida’s overall crime rate declined by 14.1 percent, falling for the 50th consecutive year. There are no Floridian parallels to this year’s stunning electoral recall of former San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin, the spawn of a murderous domestic terrorist couple, whose progressive lunacy turned his city into a morass of violence and filth, or of three woke members of San Francisco’s school board, whose removal was favored by 75 percent of the electorate.

Despite the “freedom” Governor Newsom advertises, his state is hardly a free speech haven. Ask Gordon Klein, a UCLA business professor, who was suspended in June 2020 for the supposed tone in which he declined a request to grade black students more leniently than white students. His University of Southern California colleague Greg Patton, who was suspended later that same year for using a Chinese word that includes the sequential consonants “n” and “g,” might well concur.

In March 2022, the constitutional law scholar Ilya Shapiro, then under investigation by Georgetown University’s Law Center for controversial tweets he posted before he was employed there, was shouted down and prevented from speaking at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. Hastings’s dean, Morris Ratner, tepidly suggested that student protesters were violating school policies, but did nothing to enforce those policies. Astonishingly, he still has his job, while Shapiro no longer works in legal academia. “Governor Newsom should perhaps focus more on his own backyard,” Shapiro wrote me, “as California’s public law schools seem to be turning out lawyers who are against free speech and otherwise can’t handle hearing ideas they don’t like.”

California’s assault on free speech is far from confined to its universities. Last fall, a state law banned public protests against vaccine policies. Earlier this year, the Irvine Unified School Board adopted rules of conduct that prohibit those attending its meetings from voicing any criticism of its officials. The measure was so censorious that even the American Civil Liberties Union complained.

In February 2022, a California judge stripped Apple software engineer Ted Hudacko of all parental rights over his 16-year-old son because he disagreed with his ex-wife’s insistence that their child is really a girl. Hudacko’s opinion, which he shared in his progressive California workplace, may now also threaten his job. At this writing, the California state legislature is in the final stages of considering a law prohibiting social media content that may cause “emotional harm” to young people. Despite Newsom’s claimed commitment to the “freedom” he believes Floridians lack, he shows no sign of vetoing the bill.

“Details, details,” progressives might snigger. Yet it’s in Florida that many Californians have found refuge from Governor Newsom’s strange East German definition of “freedom.” In 2019, even before the pandemic exposed him as the elitist tyrant he is, 28,628 Californians relocated to Florida. Over the next two years, nearly 300,000 more Californians left, with most migrating to red states with lower taxes, less crime, fewer pandemic restrictions, and, of course, more American-style freedom. The demographic shift has inflicted the first population decline in California’s history. In roughly the same timeframe, Florida has welcomed about 330,000 new arrivals. “I don’t know that we’re ever going to have growth rates over 1 percent anymore,” California’s chief demographer Walter Schwarm recently told the New York Times, which grimly concluded that the state’s days of explosive population growth “are quite likely gone for good.”

The financial fallout of California flight adds to the mockery of Newsom’s silly ad. According to the IRS, in 2020, his benighted state lost $17.8 billion in adjusted gross income, following on $33.4 billion in losses from 2010 to 2019. Los Angeles leads the nation’s cities in failed businesses, with some 15,000 disappearing in 2020 alone. In June, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed West Coast migration to Florida, which gained $23.7 billion in taxable income in 2020, to be “the next California gold rush.”

Miami, rather than Silicon Valley, is rapidly emerging as America’s new tech hub, with 30 percent of its new arrivals coming from San Francisco, the second most represented point of origin after New York. Even Disney, which foolishly objected to Florida legislation restricting teaching about sexuality in grade school, is moving 2,000 employees from Anaheim to Orlando, citing Florida’s favorable tax policies and lower cost of living. By 2026, it expects to relocate all of its non-theme park employees from California to the freer state.

If Newsom is reelected in November, he may still be in office when the Disney employees go. Perhaps by then it will be clear that no one believes he rules over a magic kingdom. And his rival governor may very well be in a storied white house.

US Academia Seeks to Impose a Totalitarian Moral Order

Newsmax – “A Soviet childhood leaves its traces on the heart,” wrote University of West Georgia professor Nadya Williams in April.

Williams, who is apparently an immigrant from the Evil Empire, really wasn’t kidding.

Earlier this month, she wrote a lengthy screed in Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for the decaying academic profession, in which she denounced the distinguished classics scholar Joshua Katz, whom Princeton University fired in May.

Katz’s dismissal followed national controversy over a short piece he wrote following George Floyd’s killing in June 2020.

He objected to colleagues’ demands that minority Princeton faculty members receive race-based raises and perks, that Princeton’s security be disbanded, and that faculty committees review professorial research for suspected racist content.

Princeton officials smeared Katz as a “racist,” condemned his views, questioned his right to express them, and appear to have defamed him in mandatory student orientation materials that likened him to slaveholders and segregationists.

When Princeton colleagues and multiple professional organizations objected to Katz’s appalling treatment, the university refused to take corrective action, ironically citing free speech principles.

At the same time the scandal broke, Princeton’s campus newspaper began to muckrake through Katz’s professional history and discovered that he had been disciplined for a consensual relationship with a student, which had occurred in 2006, long before virtually any university prohibited professor-student relationships.

Princeton officials reopened the investigation and claimed that Katz, who had accepted and fully complied with the terms of a sanction imposed upon him years ago, had not fully cooperated with the original investigation.

Despite New Jersey state laws prohibiting double jeopardy in academic employment investigations, Princeton’s president Christopher L. Eisgruber cited this alleged non-compliance as cause to terminate Katz’s employment after nearly 25 years of service.

Naturally, almost no sane person believes that this, and not the irrational and militantly pursued race controversy, was the real reason for Katz’s dismissal.

Many critics have observed that leftist faculty members making controversial political comments would have suffered no such consequences. Princeton history professor Kevin M. Kruse, a woke liberal who has been accused of plagiarism, appears to be in no significant danger of professional repercussions.

Williams, who attended Princeton while Katz was teaching there but did not, to the best of his recollection, study with him, slavishly believes the party line, perhaps one of those pitiful “traces on the heart” left over from her Soviet childhood.

Believing what the commissars proclaim, her outrage flared from the fact that Antigone, a respected open-access classics forum, published a scholarly essay by Katz while his cancellation was in progress.

Unnamed individuals who were “aware” of the allegations against him, she claimed with remarkable passive aggression, “wondered” if it is “appropriate to give him a platform just because he also happens to be an exceptional scholar.”

Williams deliberately ignored that the only policy violation for which Katz had been found responsible was a consensual relationship that involved no allegation of harassment, and that he had accepted and fulfilled the terms of a sanction imposed by his employer in a process that was intended to be confidential.

She ignored that we have a multigenerational feminist movement founded on the sacrosanct principle that women should never be told what to do with their bodies.

She ignored that our society celebrates and legally protects virtually all forms of sexuality except for those that occur in or even around a workplace, which are now proscribed with near-monastic fanaticism.

She ignored that a person intellectually mature enough to read a scholarly publication should also be able to separate a contribution by a distinguished expert in an academic field from unrelated controversy rather than fall into infantile hysterics at the mere sight of a byline by someone of whose personal actions they may disapprove.

Williams congratulates “some of us” (i.e. herself and those who share her authoritarian views) who make what she calls “character-based judgments” that “ultimately condemn individuals like Joshua Katz” — a man whose choice of consensual romantic partner 16 years ago upsets her now.

“Can we trust the brainchild of someone so morally flawed?” she asks in indignation, tendentiously adding that conservatives “simply do not care about the character of individuals” while insisting that only reliable party members like her do.

Her solution is textbook Lenin: “[I]t is time for us to unite in thinking as a democracy about character and recognize that such abuses of power affect more than just the immediate victims.” (We can wonder whether consensual relationships have “victims,” or if we need shrill scolds like Nadya Williams to tell us they do, but she is certainly committing a microaggression by not calling them “survivors.”)

Williams’ Soviet childhood evidently did not impart the fundamental lesson that a real democracy cannot and must not “unite” on the definition of intangibles like “character.”

Forming and imposing such a definition can only be undemocratic. Officially mandated “character” can, and in many contexts has, imposed uniformity of religion, thought, language, morality, politics and other fluid attributes that our Founding Fathers fought against and then drafted an enduring Constitution to banish from public life

Evidently, the blessings of liberty do not suit Williams’s leftover Soviet sensibilities, which are shared by people who believe that our Constitution should be torn up, and who view our freedoms as an obstacle to their peculiar vision of social justice.

As if to prove that very point, Williams launches into a strange and error-ridden attempt to justify the judicial murder of none other than Socrates.

Socrates, she questionably claims, slept with his student Alcibaides (Alcibaides, as recorded by Plato, denied it), thereby rendering all of his teachings “decidedly problematic” — so “problematic” that people with Williams’ credentials still teach them 2,400 years later.

Socrates’s trial, which resulted in his being condemned to suicide by poison, was in Williams’s estimation an admirable character judgment of the same type that she would now like for a “united” society to impose upon Joshua Katz and, presumably, anyone else whose “character” does not rise to her standards.

It is lamentable that the editors of Inside Higher Ed unapologetically greenlighted a deranged piece that implies a modern academic professional should be dead for transgressing a marginal sect’s moral expectations. They owe Professor Katz a full retraction and an apology.

Williams may only be an obscure professor at a third-tier college so financially troubled that it recently had to lay off faculty, but her backwater career only proves how universally and how enthusiastically woke progressives are embracing the purge and the gulag of her native country.

We should thank her for reminding us that seeking reasoned dialogue with them is a waste of time.

Elon Musk and the End of #MeToo

Newsmax – Until last week, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk was merely the savior of free speech. Poised to buy full ownership of Twitter, he stood on the verge of liberating the influential social media platform from pervasive, politically-biased censorship by its woke employees.

As a senior engineer at Twitter candidly admitted on video, his colleagues do “not believe in free speech” and are “actually censoring the right and not the left.”

Leftist attitudes soured further when Musk posted a series of tweets criticizing Twitter’s old management for its aggressive wokeism and apparent manipulation of algorithms to control the flow of information.

He suggested significant layoffs, hinted that former president Donald J. Trump might be allowed to return to the platform, and revealed that he will from now on vote for Republicans instead of Democrats because he believes the Democrats have become “the party of division & hate.”

Powerless against Musk’s billions, and confronted by mounting evidence of unsavory practices at Twitter, cranky legacy media scolds could only cringe at the prospect of fellow citizens exercising their civil rights and indulge in unconvincing bouts of reductio ad Hitlerum whenever Musk’s name was mentioned.

Musk is a smart man and knew what was coming next. On the same day he signaled his new political allegiance, he presciently tweeted “political attacks on me will escalate dramatically in coming months.”

As if on cue, they arrived within a matter of hours. The next day a “friend” of a former SpaceX flight attendant divulged that Musk’s space exploration company had paid $250,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by the former employee, who had signed a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement in exchange for the payoff.

According to the allegations, in 2016 Musk exposed himself to the flight attendant during an in-flight massage and suggested that he would give her a horse if she sexually gratified him.

There is no evidence that the alleged incident ever happened. Musk admitted no amount of guilt as a condition of the settlement and has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

This would not have saved him in an America where #MeToo continued to be a potent force, however. In the sanctimonious “reckoning” foisted upon our society by social justice zealots hysterically seeking revenge for Trump’s election five years ago, Musk would have been presumed guilty, forced out of his companies, erased from public recognition, compelled to issue a platitudinous apology to all those whom he may have hurt, and vaporized out of public life.

Twitter would have been spared his purported right-wing whims, horses-for-happy-end quid pro quos, and toxic masculinity. More importantly, it would have continued to function as an unchecked censor of disfavored people and views.

That certainly seemed to be the intention of the leaker, who moralized that “someone with that level of power causing that kind of harm and then throwing some money at the situation, that’s not accountability.”

But none of the usual consequences materialized. The magnitude of the Twitter deal’s free speech implications, together with Musk’s unabashed political statements on the eve of the revelation, left little doubt about what this #MeToo eruption really was — a desperate attempt to blacken his name and possibly prevent a massive liberation of free speech in an important public forum.

Musk has remained defiant and connected the dots for anyone dense enough not to see the obvious and predictable. “The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens,” he tweeted to the general public, “this is their standard (despicable) playbook — but nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and your right to free speech.”

He offered multiple logical analyses of the allegations — if he’s a sexual harasser, why did nobody say so at any other time in his 30-year career? Why did the accusation only surface at the most politically sensitive moment of his life, and not years ago, when the harassment allegedly happened?

Astutely realizing that tyranny cannot withstand ridicule, Musk proceeded to mock the allegation. “Finally, we get to use Elongate as a scandal name,” he tweeted, cheekily observing, since he was alleged to have flashed a full erection at the complainant, that the word “elongate” was “kinda perfect” to describe his current problem.

He challenged his accuser — “the liar” and “far left activist,” as he called her — to “describe just one thing” on his body “that isn’t known to the public.” He also doubled down on legal protection, announcing a new “hardcore litigation department” at Tesla that will “directly initiate & execute lawsuits.”

This is the finest defense against defamation we have these days, but Musk also benefits from the parallel drama of Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, whom Musk coincidentally dated just after she split from Depp. For all its nauseating vulgarity, the Hollywood court battle, in which Musk’s name has come up, has independently cast powerful doubt on the premise that all women should be believed.

A few leftist commentators have argued that Musk manipulated the timeline and declared himself a Republican opportunistically, only after he learned the leak was coming. But hardly anyone of consequence is convinced.

Musk’s companies show no sign of any shareholder revolt or human resources intervention. Nobody in the legacy media has urged Musk’s destruction. No activists have emerged to femsplain the discredited canard that women never lie about sexual harassment.

Mainstream outlets have cited expert opinion that the allegation will have little or no effect on the Twitter purchase. Even The New York Times has finally admitted that #MeToo has seen “muddled cases” of “overreach and backlash” that might have been handled wrongly.

The former paper of record’s new opinion writer Pamela Paul admits “we still haven’t thought enough about how to handle all accusations with proportion and fairness.” The plain truth is that many no longer believe them any more than they would believe witchcraft allegations leveled against the good people of Salem, Massachusetts.

And for that we have Elon Musk to thank.