In December, Elon Musk asked Twitter to vote “Yes” or “No” on the question of whether he should step down as head of the tech giant, noting that he would abide by the results of this informal poll. More than 57 percent of respondents (nearly 10 million people) said he should. And five months later, he honored his word by hiring a new CEO absolutely nobody wanted: Linda Yaccarino.
Yaccarino, who for 11 years has served as chairman of global advertising at NBCUniversal, was rumored to be Musk’s pick the day before he made the announcement official. It gave Twitter users some time to dig into her résumé and learn that, yes, she is probably coming aboard due to her expertise in brand safety and commercial partnerships, which could assuage the big businesses that have frozen their ad buys on the platform since Musk’s chaotic takeover.
Almost immediately, however, most found reason to distrust Yaccarino. Leftists and liberals noted that in 2018, Donald Trump appointed Yaccarino to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. While it’s not a particularly damning connection to the embattled politician, she also follows a number of right-wing extremists on Twitter, from the anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec to attorney Lin Wood — a former Trump lawyer known for his connections to the QAnon movement and pushing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. She also follows @Catturd2, a popular pro-Trump shitposter who consistently amplifies far-right propaganda.
Yet these same right-wingers are also mad about Yaccarino coming aboard at Twitter. One reason the MAGA crowd disapproves is that she collaborated with the Biden administration on a Covid-19 vaccination campaign in her role as chair of the Ad Council. Vaccine skeptics who rely on Twitter to spread health misinformation were livid when they learned of her record on the issue.
It didn’t help that Yaccarino is also executive chair of the World Economic Forum, an international lobby for corporate interests that sits at the center of many right-wing conspiracy theories. Steve Bannon was among those to complain that Musk had given the CEO job to a “Davos Globalist” — referring to the Swiss mountain resort where the WEF holds an annual conference — calling the move “a joke” in a post on the social network Gettr.
Notably, Musk himself has criticized the WEF as “an unelected world government that the people never asked for and don’t want.” Conservatives have accused them of everything from forcing people to eat bugs to planning and managing the Covid-19 pandemic as part of an effort to establish totalitarian global rule in the “Great Reset.” (The name comes from a real but mostly ambiguous set of proposals aimed at shaping “a healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous future” that the WEF put forward in 2020.)
As a result, conservatives who have celebrated many of the changes Musk instituted at Twitter — such as the reinstatement of many accounts banned for hate speech and misinformation — despaired at this latest decision. “RIP Twitter” started trending as they lamented the demise of so-called “Twitter 2.0.” And some compared the hiring to Bud Light’s branding deal with trans creator Dylan Mulvaney, which led to calls for a boycott.
According to Musk, Yaccarino won’t assume the CEO position at Twitter for another month and a half, so there’s plenty of time for him to reverse or shift course (as he’s known to do with some frequency). For now, at least, he’s secured the politically centrist reputation he likes to claim — if only because both sides currently hate him. Those on the left, already sick of his pandering to the right, have little reason to be enthusiastic about his hiring of a corporatist who appears to keep up with all the same cranks, ideologues, and trolls as he does. On the right, where users had enjoyed Musk’s drift toward the Republican party and mockery of “wokeness,” Yaccarino represents a return to the neoliberal order, which could bring a crackdown on misinformation and extreme content. And it doesn’t seem as if Musk’s promise to let users interrogate her on a future Twitter Spaces session has placated them.
In the end, it’s a neat summation of the website Musk spent $44 billion to acquire: you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but pissing off everyone is all too easy.