Two men are back-to-back in front of a white background.
Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels. 

Phil: Last week was a great reminder of freedom, don’t you think?

Ethan: Yes. Thanks to President Joe Biden and our diplomats, I can only imagine how freedom feels for Trevor Reed who has been in a Russian jail since 2019.

Phil: I’m happy for the Reed family, however, I was referring to the news that Elon Musk is buying Twitter with a pledge to assure free speech without censorship from a cabal of directors and management.

Ethan: Do you actually think Musk, a billionaire oligarch, is going to create a town square so you and I can have conversations like we do here? You should probably look at his record censoring the speech of this employee, or this employee or this employee

Phil: I don’t know the background on those cases, but employees are different from customers. If he wants to succeed, he will have to let people like me and you say what we want to say, or he will lose customers and investors.

Ethan: Sadly, it isn’t just his employees he tries to censor. It’s also those customers and investors you speak of, not to mention the press.

Phil: I don’t understand how in the name of content management, Twitter banishes Donald Trump but continues to host terrorist content (Warning: this video contains graphic content). 

Ethan: “Host terrorist content?” The video you are describing is a post from a watchdog exposing terrorist atrocities. Trump was banned for glorifying and potentially inciting violence

Phil: I think showing images of terrorist violence is as much of a threat to new violence as anything Trump said.

Ethan: That’s absurd. Exposing and denouncing violence, as that site does, is the exact opposite of what Trump did. You can’t create a forum where in the name of “free speech” anything goes including slander, bigoted attacks and glorifying violence.

Phil: I agree, the anything goes mantra is not acceptable. However, when politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren declare Musk is a danger to democracy, but says nothing when Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post, it leaves one thinking the attacks are not free of political bias.

Ethan: I guess you missed all the news of Warren attacking Bezos for his failure to pay income taxes and union busting.

Phil: By the way, Musk self proclaims he is half Democrat and half Republican, liberal on social issues and fiscally conservative. Where is the danger?

Ethan: Just to be clear, I could mostly care less. This is the Billionaire’s Boys’ Club battling over the size of their you-know-whats. If I end up not enjoying Twitter anymore, I’ll walk away. Probably healthier for me anyway.

Phil: Just like the rest of us. Especially since others have started up like Mastodon & Reddit giving “we the people” choices. And your man Trump has launched his own platform as has Michael Lindell of My Pillow. 

Ethan: Well, at least the FBI knows where to go to monitor the insurrectionists.

Phil: Look, 99 percent of employees at Twitter who donate to candidates give to Democrats. Whether the platform actually leans right or left, it won’t ever be seen as balanced with that slant.

Ethan: And 80 percent of Twitter employees gave to no one. But Twitter actually amplifies conservative voices way more than progressive ones. It is a profitable business and that’s why Musk wants it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Phil: Really what we need is a civil environment where we can talk with each other and determine for ourselves what we think and who to vote for.

Ethan: That’s why you and I, and the people of Maine, have the Bangor Daily News and this column every week.