I guess Elon wasn’t joking about Twitter
Apr 25, 2022
Episode 649

I guess Elon wasn’t joking about Twitter

If you give a billionaire a social media platform ...

Plenty of things to make us go huh on this Monday edition of Make Me Smart. Of course, there’s the news surrounding billionaire Elon Musk, who’s very real offer to purchase Twitter was accepted by the company’s board of directors today. We’ll get to that after we talk about a dip in global oil demand following the wave of lockdowns across China as that country deals with new COVID-19 outbreaks. We’ll end the show with a couple of Make Me Smiles, including one about a small town jumping through hoops for recognition.

Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:

Have a question or comment about something you heard on the show? Email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voice message at 508-827-6278 or 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart April 25, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal: Getting kids to shop smart is hard. Getting them to save money might be even harder. But we’re here to help. marketplaces, new email newsletter course million bazillion Academy will make kids smarter about money advertising, negotiation and more in just four weeks. Best of all, it’s totally free. When you sign up at marketplace.org/mba, you’ll get a new lesson emailed to you each week for you and your family to complete at your own pace. Each lesson comes with an episode of the podcast, a fun cartoon discussion questions and an activity that lets kids practice these new skills they’ve learned. million bazillion Academy making your kids smarter about money. Sign up today at marketplace.org/mba. It’s possible that I’m not ready.

Amy Scott: Somehow you’ll find a way.

Kai Ryssdal: Also Charlton Thorp does not care. You’re not ready? Tough. Tough weenie beanies. Oh, man. Hey, everybody. I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart making today make sense is what we do.

Amy Scott: I’m Amy Scott in for Kimberly Adams. Thanks for joining us on this Monday. Kai and I will have some news for you. And some Make Me miles to brighten things up. So let’s start with the news fix.

Kai Ryssdal: And this one actually might make people smile because granted my actual make me smile is a little inside baseball. But, but look. So let’s think globally here for a second. Shanghai has been locked down for I think it’s 25 days now. And oh, by the way, just a little public service announcement here, if you, dear listener, are not following our Shanghai-based correspondent and colleague Jennifer Pak on Instagram. And I think she’s, oh God, what is she, jpakradio I’ll look it up while while Amy’s doing her thing. Or somebody can put it in the Slack. She is amazing on Instagram, and you are getting a blow-by-blow of what it’s like to be in Shanghai without being able to get out to get food. It’s crazy. It’s crazy.

Amy Scott: It’s unreal.

Kai Ryssdal: So follow her on Instagram, because she’s great. Yeah. But so the news of the day is that those lock downs, I mean, now it’s actually just mass testing in Beijing, because they found some cases there. But lockdowns are not far away. So you will have the major financial center of the second biggest economy in the world locked down, and the government capital of the second biggest economy in the world locked down. So that’s not going to be great. But here’s why that might not be so bad. And this is in Bloomberg today. They are reporting that oil demand in China fuel consumption in April is set to be down 20%. From a year ago, that’s a million barrels a day 1.2 something million barrels, which which is look, it’s terrible, just COVID and pandemic-wise. But in a situation where we are globally stressed for oil. That’s not a bad thing. And also, by the way, it’s good to just use less oil. So that’s I think that’s that’s, look, that’s why oil was under 100 bucks today, 98 something dollars a barrel for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark. So that’s kind of not great news, but not terrible news, if you can think about it that way. And that was the thing that caught my eye today. Other than that, another thing we probably ought to talk about once you do your news.

Amy Scott: No, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Wait, was there some news today?

Kai Ryssdal: Yes.

Amy Scott: Well, that’s interesting about oil, because as you said, it’s a not great reason for something that’s actually probably going to be good for people here in terms of inflation, and also the climate. So yeah, interesting turn of events. So mine is, is related to that other news. In a way. I’m going to talk about Elon Musk, but not that he finally well, not finally, very rapidly made a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion, which we should talk about, but I wanted to tell you about something else I saw, which is, I mean, maybe just a little bit of a distraction. But so you know, he owns a bunch of companies. We talked about this on the show last week. Besides Tesla and SpaceX. He also owns the Boring Company, which is a, has a funny name for a company that digs tunnels. It’s a civil engineering firm. And the company announced today on Twitter that it will begin full scale Hyperloop testing later this year. What is the Hyperloop? You may ask?

Kai Ryssdal: I was just gonna say what, Amy Scott, is the Hyperloop. Do tell.

Amy Scott: Well, I had to look it up. And I read some stories in TechCrunch and fortune, which will post on our website. But this is something that Musk first proposed back in 2013. And it was just a theoretical paper that he put out for a solar powered super fast transportation system that would move people through low pressure tubes traveling up to 760 miles per hour. Which sounds totally wild right and he called it up cross between a Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table. And if this thing worked, you could travel, you know, from LA to San Francisco in 35 minutes, which is, you know, a trip that if anyone’s ever done in by car would be about six hours.

Kai Ryssdal: It would be amazeballs it was crazy, it would be great.

Amy Scott: It would be amazeballs. And apparently, you know, it was just a theory, but he kind of shared his designs with, you know, made them open source and hopes that university researchers would work on this, Virgin actually started a company called Virgin Hyperloop, which did a test in November of 2020. I didn’t either. I mean, I kept waiting for this to turn out to just be a joke. But the reporting indicates that, you know, this has been, at least in the works, although the test only reached a speed of 100 miles per hour for a few seconds. So it’s stil, we’re not anywhere close. But the company is now saying we’re gonna begin full scale testing this year. So who knows?

Kai Ryssdal: It’d be super cool. Be super cool.

Amy Scott: It’d be kind of amazing.

Kai Ryssdal: Alright, shall we? Should we touch briefly on the other Elon Musk news of the day?

Amy Scott: Yeah, yeah, I was hoping you would, because you’ve been following this way closer than I have.

Kai Ryssdal: So I’m going to I’m going to start first of all with a mea culpa. And that is, I was completely completely completely wrong about this deal. I thought for sure he was trolling the entire planet. I thought for sure that him pricing it at $54.20 a share, which is to say 50 420 a share, because we know he loves marijuana jokes, right? I thought that was the clue, that he was just screwing with us. And it wasn’t going to come together. And then he gets $44 billion in financing lined up part of from Morgan Stanley, part of it from from him against his Tesla shares. And then today, the board says, “Okay, we’re sold.” So look –

Amy Scott: What happened to the poison pill?

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, they just they bailed, right, because he got the money. And they decided that I think fundamentally, what happened was they decided they didn’t have a better plan. You know, they decided, alright, well, here you do it. But look, I have two thoughts. Number one, the the really concerning part about this, for me, is not whether Twitter is going to become a cesspool of racism and misogyny. Yes, it – that would be terrible. Don’t get me wrong. But that’s not. That’s not the thing that’s most on my mind right now. And I’m happy to explain why people are curious. But here’s, here’s what really is challenging for me about this. This is, as I said, on Marketplace this afternoon, an American oligarch, buying a global communications platform, and taking all his toys and going home. And he just owns this thing.  And we’re like, really? Really?

Amy Scott: And he takes it private.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s okay? Right. And, and so that stinks. Right?

Amy Scott: Well, and that’s directly related to the cesspool thing, by the way, right?

Kai Ryssdal: Well right, exactly. Right, exactly. And here’s the thing about the cesspool thing, just to be clear, the people who will be threatened and harmed by Elon Musk, turning this into what he has vowed he wants to, which is a platform for genuine, unrestricted free speech, free speech. The people that will be harmed by it, honestly, are not me. Right? A white male with a lot of followers, who doesn’t get a lot of abuse online, right. I mean, I can count on the fingers of one hand, the number of offensive things that have been said to me in tweets in the past, what’s it been 10 years, right. But women, the disadvantaged people who are on the margins, they will be inundated with hate and abuse, and it will be terrible. It will be it will be terrible. I mean, Nina Jankowicz, who was on Tech the other day, and who we’ve had, I think on this podcast, in the last four or five years, just wrote a book about being a woman online. And it’s, it’s a horror show, you know, and so I think that’s really where the cesspool part is going to come into play. And that sucks. It just sucks.

Amy Scott: Well, basically my whole feed today because I’m on Twitter, like many journalists, it was like people talking about what where they’re gonna go and where they, you know, bring back MySpace, that kind of thing. So yeah.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I don’t know. But But look, it’s early days yet. So that was that was part one of what I was gonna say. Part two is Walt Mossberg on Twitter, of course. But Walt Mossberg, the longtime tech columnist and journalist for The Wall Street Journal said today “Interesting speculation. Things are going to change under Elon Musk. We just don’t know how I’m trying to ignore it and advise you to do the same.  Sspeculation and prediction at this stage is almost always wrong,” because in point of fact that Musk has you  know, been the guy at Twitter now for like four hours. So I think we have to see how it plays out.

Amy Scott: Right now. It’s not even final. Like, it has to actually go through…

Kai Ryssdal: Right, right. Well, look, but it’s gonna close, right? I mean, there’s not going to be antitrust concerns. And yes, Congress is going to, you know, subpoena him and say, let us come, or you come here and we’ll yell at you about Twitter, but the deal is going to close. You know? I think.

Amy Scott: YeahKai Ryssdal: 

I think super quick, just from Bridget Bodnar in the slack. It’s jpakradio, the initial J, P-A-K radio on Instagram follow her. And you’ll see what’s going on in Shanghai.

Amy Scott: Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal: And that’s where we are. Sorry, had to cough button because I had to cough because it’s super dry.

Amy Scott: You have a cough button? I just have to stifle it…

Kai Ryssdal: Sorry.

Amy Scott: No, that’s, that’s the home studio. It doesn’t come with a cough button.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah that’s right. You should just unplug it or something. Alright, anyway, Charlton, take us to a happier place. … Okay, so my Make Me Smile. It’s kind of lame in a geeky kind of way. I saw this go by late this afternoon. And number one, because I didn’t have another make me smile. But number two, it’s a sign of return to normalcy. I decided to slide it in there. So the Federal Reserve meets next Tuesday and Wednesday, the third and fourth of May, they will raise interest rates by 50 basis points a half percentage point. I’m not – there’s no spoiler alerts here, because that’s going to happen. Not a surprise. But for the first time in two plus years. Jay Powell is press conference afterward will be in person. And I think that’s a good thing. And that means there’s just a little glimpse of normalcy. So there you go. Yeah. Yeah. Masks required,  testing, probably and all that. Sorry. Go ahead.

Amy Scott: Well, I just have one question about that, which is, will they still have, like, will people still be able to ask questions virtually? Do you know?

Kai Ryssdal: That’s a great question. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

Amy Scott:  Because one thing that I think has been interesting, like with, with local city council meetings, and the like, is going virtual has really opened up access, you know, for people to go and maybe for good and bad, right? Like, if you’re a politician, you don’t want so much access. But I’m just curious, like, you know, it does make democracy or participating in democracy a little easier in those settings. I wonder if if journalists will still have a way to ask questions virtually, I imagine they will.

Kai Ryssdal: Good question. The Bloomberg piece doesn’t actually talk about it. So I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that.

Amy Scott: Well, we’ll find out maybe we can get back to folks on that.


Kai Ryssdal: We will. There we go.

Amy Scott: So mine, I can see why this segment was born because I was looking for something today. And I was like, nothing makes me smile. I’m just going to have to come up empty today. I finally found one.

Kai Ryssdal: Which is okay.

Amy Scott: Which is there was  – yeah. That’s I mean, that’s the way things are. But so Ben Strauss has a story in the Washington Post today, about one man’s quest to correct the record about the invention of basketball, which I didn’t realize the debate about this. Yeah. So–

Kai Ryssdal: James Naismith the beach basket.

Amy Scott: Yes, yes, yes.

Kai Ryssdal: Sorry did I spoil that?  Yes. Okay.

Amy Scott: No, no, you didn’t spoil that. That’s the official story that this man named James Naismith, who was an athletic director at the YMCA invented the game in 1891, using peach baskets. There’s a whole like Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and everything. But this story talks about how some research and a new book called “NAIS-Myth” suggests that a 16 year old Swedish immigrant named Lambert Will actually beat him to it starting a game that involves tossing cabbages into crates. And this was in the small town of Herkimer, New York. And I mean, I would just recommend read the story. It does leave you wondering. But as always, there’s an economic angle, because the guy who’s really pushing this story believes that it could lead to an economic revival of Herkimer, which is a very small town that’s been hurt by the loss of industry and the opioid epidemic. And he wants to start a museum that would you know, tell this story and rival the memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. So, you know, if he if he gets his wish, it could maybe be a boon for his small town in central New York.

Kai Ryssdal: Herkimer. That’s a good name.

Amy Scott: I know. I love the names in this whole story. All right. I had not heard that story. And that’s a good one. Leaves you going “hmm.” Pretty interesting. There you go.  I thought that as a history buff you’d like that.

Kai Ryssdal: There you go. And that’s the deal about the Make Me Smile portion of this podcast. By the way, sometimes it’s just things that make you go, “Alright, I’m good with that.”

Amy Scott: There’s a song with that title right?

Kai Ryssdal: That’s right. I think there is yes. All right, we’re done. We’re out of here we are back tomorrow, Miss Scott and myself for the deep dive talking about the buy to rent market. What is that you say? Well, it’s investors putting more and more money into homes specifically designed to be rented out. It’s a whole long real estate story which our real estate correspondent, one Amy Scott will be making us all smart on as we ask good questions with the person who’s going to be with us.

Amy Scott:  That’s right. And you can tell us what you thought about today’s show. Send us a voice memo or an email to makemesmart@marketplace.org. Or you can call and leave us a voice message at 508-U-B-SMART>

Kai Ryssdal: Wait, just wait. Here we go. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera with some help from Marque Greene, our intern is Tiffany Bui. Today’s program was engineered by yes I was right the first time Charlton Thorp.

Amy Scott: Our senior producer is Bridget Bodnar. and the director of On Demand is Donna Tam.

Kai Ryssdal: Ah. There we go.

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