The following is a transcript of an interview with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, co-hosts of the podcast “Pivot,” that aired on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This weekend there is uncertainty about Twitter’s future under its new owner Elon Musk. For more we are joined by tech journalist Kara Swisher, host of “On with Kara Swisher” and from London, Scott Galloway, who is her co-host on the podcast “Pivot” and also a professor at NYU. It’s good to have you both here, big weekend. Last night, Elon Musk, Kara, put Donald Trump, the former president, back on Twitter. He had been suspended after January 6–
KARA SWISHER: Permanently.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And he went and he founded his own social media company, Truth Social, and according to filings, he has a six hour exclusive, he can only post there, not on Twitter.
KARA SWISHER: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what is lifting the ban on his use of Twitter actually do?
KARA SWISHER: Nothing. I mean, he’s been posting- people have been posting his- his Truths, I think that’s what they’re called, on Twitter already and it gets out anyway. So he has, you know, he’s got these contractual obligations to this company that is not doing great. And I think he can’t resist, and he’ll probably go full Twitter at some point. But I don’t think it makes any difference. Plus, he’s the former president, so it doesn’t quite hit quite as hard. So I think the juice is a little bit out of his power on that platform, we’ll see.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he’s also, Scott, a presidential candidate as we learned just a few days ago. He was kicked off of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, after January 6. Do you think this, this opens the floodgates? Or is this just a gimmick by Elon Musk for PR?
SCOTT GALLOWAY: I think it’s mostly the latter. I think if- if Elon is out of the news for more than 48 hours, he’ll decide to kick him off again. He said that the people had spoken in Latin. I found that this poll- you know Elon Musk polls on Twitter are more for support than illumination. He ran a similar poll to see whether or not he should sell Tesla stock, and it ended up he’d already filed to sell those shares. So I think these polls are mostly a gimmick. And I would argue the people haven’t spoken the GRU has spoken these, Twitter–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Russian intelligence, you mean?
SCOTT GALLOWAY: Hundred percent. Twitter has become a playground for bad actors and fake bots. This poll is meaningless. This decision is meaningless.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you had predicted earlier that Twitter could collapse. Just- we’ve seen thousands of employees either get fired or walk off the job. Do you – do you stand by that?
SCOTT GALLOWAY: Well, Twitter will survive and even if it doesn’t, let’s keep in mind, it’s not a national treasure. We would all be just fine if Twitter went away. But I think when you see this sort of wholesale firing and the way in which he’s gone about firing, that creates this type of resentment, I easily see the site going down. I think we should do a head of lettuce test versus when the site goes down. What we’re not talking about is the knock on effects at Tesla. You know, when you buy a Tesla, you’re buying a pair of Air Jordans, you’re associating directly with an individual, and no individual, maybe with exception of Trump, or Putin, has eroded more of their goodwill and brand equity than Elon Musk. And then you go to Space X, where everyone who works for the government, and this is a government contractor, has a responsibility to a termination form they have to fill out. And I think he’s antagonized enough officials that we’re going to start seeing more scrutiny on Space X contracts.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I mean, there was already talk for national security purposes to review that because of foreign ownership. Kara, for- for users at home, what does this actually mean? Like what can we do to protect ourselves? Is there anything to protect ourselves against this?
KARA SWISHER: Yeah, it’s collapsing. Twitter used to go down all the time with a “fail whale.” It was very common, and there- you’re gonna see more of that, yeah. I’m already seeing issues on the platform because of fewer people. And that’s like, you can’t download your archive very easily. If you- if you sign off and you have two-factor authentication, good luck getting on and stuff like that you’re gonna see around the edges. There may be- the problem is if he starts pushing up big changes, you’re gonna see problems. If he starts doing lots of things, you’re gonna see problems. If one coder makes a mistake, you could see problems and that’s what it is. What everyone’s gonna do, Margaret, I know, it’s hard for us media people and politicians to understand, but it’s not very big anywhere else. It’s a very small service compared to the Facebooks, the Instagrams, and the TikToks of the world. And so I think it’s not gonna matter to most people. It’s gonna matter to the chattering class who enjoys dunking on each other throughout the day, essentially.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I mean, it has become in some ways a news wire, almost, from government announcements, things like that. Scott, I also want to ask you about this stunning fall, we saw this week of- of the founder of FTX, this cryptocurrency exchange. 30 year old billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, top Democratic donor, he’s known in this town. Justice Department, SEC, CFTC are all now investigating. What exactly happened here?
SCOTT GALLOWAY: Well, on a very broad level, we don’t as a species, we can’t help but to worship people. And in the US, we’ve decided to worship tech billionaires. And they don’t fall into the same scrutiny including a 30-year-old MIT graduate, who we’re all hoping is kind of the next Jesus and doesn’t need a board of directors or doesn’t need any sort of regulatory scrutiny. And as a result in about 24 hours, you have the immolation of $34 billion in capital and that is literally take a medium sized city, and everyone in that city on Tuesday has $10,000. And the next day they have zero. So this will bring in warranted scrutiny, it’s more spectacle than significant because the entire crypto market now is $800 billion. And Amazon has shed over a trillion dollars. And when the whole FTX debacle was unwinding, the markets were actually up. So it makes for interesting news. And unlike the great financial recession, where we saw a huge damage to the economy, and no one go to jail, I think this is gonna be the opposite. I don’t think it’s gonna have a very big impact on the economy, but I think you’re gonna see some perp walks here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But some arrests, I mean, the Treasury Secretary was asked by our Nancy Cordes about this, and she said, “the absence of appropriate supervision and regulation of digital assets contributed to the collapse.” I mean, that’s saying, essentially, we were asleep at the wheel, as well as government.
KARA SWISHER: This is early, and they haven’t done much regulation on the regular internet. And that’s 20 years hence, essentially. And so they were just starting to come up with ideas between the SEC and the CFTC of how to regulate all this stuff. And Bankman-Fried was part of it, he was consulted quite a bit. And a lot of people were, and said he was calling for regulation, if you recall, which is somewhat ironic, but there hadn’t they hadn’t figured out how to deal with this very new and sort of explosive new financial instrument. And I think that’s more the problem is Washington moves at a glacial pace around these things. They were moving faster than they have in other areas, but they certainly hadn’t figured it out. But ultimately, this is going to be, you know, some sort of fraud case or something like that. I agree with Scott, someone’s going to jail.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Scott, there are also layoffs, not just at Twitter, but we saw some at Facebook, we saw job cuts at Amazon. You’ve called this a “Patagonia vest” recession. What does that mean exactly?
SCOTT GALLOWAY: Well, most recessions are either labeled white or blue collar, meaning that they typically impact one cohort more than the other, either executives, white collar, or blue collar, sort of the working class. This is the Patagonia vast recession. And that is, we’re going to see more people laid off and the growth part of our economy that has sort of been the gift that keeps on giving for 13 years. But again, Margaret, I think this is more noise than news because 99.99% of the people on the planet would pray to be recently laid off person from Meta or Google. If you’ve been recently laid off from one of these firms, it means that you probably went to an elite school, you live in a city where the growth prospects or the economy is growing like crazy. And you are your biggest problem is not going to be what to do, but what not to do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What if you are an H1B visa recipient, and you get sent back home?
SCOTT GALLOWAY: That’s a fair point.
KARA SWISHER: You saw that picture from Twitter, I mean, Elon put some, another performative photo up of them – doing coding. I’m not sure what they were doing. But there were people there that were clearly from other countries. And so they are stuck there. They are kind of they can’t leave and I think that’s one of the issues you’re gonna have for all these people is where did they go? A lot of companies are taken care of, and I think Facebook was one of them, or Meta was doing that so they’ll try to figure it out. But Scott’s 100% right. These are people who have lots of options, and there will be more jobs for them, comparatively. And I will note that Scott does himself have a Patagonia vest and is doing just fine. I’ve seen it.
SCOTT GALLOWAY: Never.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, next time. You got to wear it, Scott. Thank you. Good to see you. Scott’s joining us there from London and Kara, good to have you here in studio.