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The Thin Line Between Owning Twitter And Being Owned By Twitter, With Matt Levine

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene saying some stuff about being shadowbanned. The Distraction logo is over her face, sadly.
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If you read a lot, you will naturally come to have a long list of writers you enjoy and admire, and then a slightly shorter list within that one of writers you are maybe a little concerned about. This is not, or not necessarily, because those writers are living on the edge so much as it is a combination of their work being essential and them just seeming to do it all the damn time. It’s not that Matt Levine, who writes the Money Stuff column at Bloomberg, doesn’t seem to be doing fine. After having talked with him on the podcast this week, I can confirm that he seems calm and happy and is the owner of an extremely sonorous voice. It’s more that the volume of work that Levine produces on such definitionally deranging topics as meme stocks and securities fraud and perhaps most notably Elon Musk’s strange meme-strewn attempt (or simulated attempt) to purchase (or not purchase) Twitter seems like it would decisively squish the mind of a lesser person. And yet, as the rigor and persistent good humor of that work attests, Levine is doing just fine.

The struggle in this one, for me, went beyond tamping down the usual sort of fan tendencies—I am, in every episode of this show, mere moments from collapsing into the interviewing tactics made famous on The Chris Farley Show—and more an earnest wish to ask “how do you do it?” That is, how does he and how would one think and write clearly about things that are so shot through with dishonesty and illogic and grandstanding bad faith as to be effectively impossible to parse? I will not give anything away about the conversation, but it seems like the answer has a lot to do with having a Matt Levine-style brain—one that has the capacity to understand the rules that govern business and also understand the extent to which those rules do and don’t matter from one case to the next. I fear that I do not quite have that kind of mind, but I learned something all the same, not just about Musk’s exhaustingly Musk-y attempt to buy the website that has driven him and millions of other users insane, but about how such deals actually get done even in this kind of noxious environment of unreality and trolling.

And that was just the first half of the show. In the second, after some talk about the business of owning sports teams and the ongoing cult of The Charismatic Founder, we ascended to the Olympic diving platform and absolutely cannonballed into the Funbag. A frank discussion of Bilal Powell’s work opened onto an appreciation of colorless foods, a soliloquy from me on the film Exorcist III: Legion, which legitimately is one of my favorite movies, and some fearless real talk from Drew on the use and misuse of white chocolate and a passionate defense of the 1990 Andrew Dice Clay cinematic vehicle The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane. In this conversation, Matt revealed that, as the father of three young children, he basically doesn’t get to watch non-animated movies anymore. This is regrettable, but if it helps keep him fresh enough to do what he does, it’s probably not worth worrying about.

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