Fascism, Free Speech, and Musk’s Twitter

David Golumbia
6 min readNov 7, 2022

Elon Musk’s claim to be a “free speech absolutist” makes sense only if you believe that there are two kinds of people

Image source: Mark Fiore/KQED

Fascism talks a lot about free speech. Many who oppose fascism point out the irony that in all societies where fascism has taken hold, fascist leaders do not support free speech at all, but instead impose significant penalties on anyone who speaks out against them.

A reasonable person might ask, what does “free speech” mean to someone who openly advocates the censorship and even criminalization of opposing views?

The answer is easy enough to see as long as we understand what fascism is. Of course fascism is many things, but one of its core elements is the distinction between a good “us” and a bad “them” — a “friend” and an “enemy,” as Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt put it. One of the main distinctions between democratic politics and fascist ones is found right here: democracy means that every human being is fundamentally equal, especially in terms of political rights and power. Fascism says some people are better than others — in fact, many of those whom democracy calls “people” aren’t really worthy of the name. Under fascism, there are übermenschen and sheeple, not “people.” When fascists say “people” they mean their version of the good “us.” There is always a “them” there, whether or not the “them” is made…