Image of the week: DeFuture is Here
Anyone with enough non-frazzled brain cells to remember as far back as November 2022 may recall that this was when Tesla and Twitter owner Elon Musk first indicated he would back Ron DeSantis, the book-hating Republican governor of Florida, in any bid for the White House.
The New York Post, a newspaper owned by Musk’s SuperBowl pal Rupert Murdoch, declared DeSantis “DeFuture” that same month.
Notwithstanding his claim to be a “free speech absolutist”, Musk has now hitched himself more firmly to the wagon of DeSantis, whose legislation has led to various book bans across Florida’s schools. Although he denied that it was tantamount to an endorsement, the world’s second richest man this week attempted to facilitate the announcement of De Santis’s 2024 presidential bid via Twitter Spaces – an audio feature of the app much loved by people who like to wang on at length.
This was a social media first and, judging by how smoothly it went, it was a social media last.
DeSantis’s misguided love for Musk-era Twitter contrasts with his notorious anti-Disney stance, with the would-be president not having taken kindly to Disney’s criticism of the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill that prohibits public school teachers in Florida from discussing sexuality and gender identity in the classroom. Orlando’s Disney World was, unsurprisingly, not his launch venue of choice.
So, in a quick recap, and just so we’re all clear, Twitter is now more Republican-friendly than Disney.
In numbers: Styling it out
Marks & Spencer’s reported sales (€361 million) for its stores in the Republic in the year to April 1st, it told investors this week. This was up 5 per cent on the year before, but fell short of the growth trajectory seen elsewhere in Europe.
Sales at its group-wide food operation have grown by this much year-on-year. In the Republic of Ireland, however, they “continued to be impacted by Brexit”, with M&S saying it has increased “local sourcing” to fill the gaps where affected product lines used to be.
Group-wide increase in clothing and home sales at the chain, with the retailer attributing its fashion sales resurgence to “improved style perceptions”. In other words, people think its clothes are nicer now.
Getting to know: Text-based Instagram
In be-careful-what-you-wish-for news, Meta-owned Instagram is planning a new “text-based” app designed for “conversations”, which sounds rather a lot like a certain frustration-sparking competitor by the name of Twitter.
According to a leaked marketing slide, Instagram says users of the app – codenamed P92 or Barcelona – will be able to talk directly to their “audience and peers”, by creating with text and then attaching links, photographs and videos.
With “one tap”, they can follow all the accounts they follow on Instagram – a facility that might give Instagram an edge over potential Twitter substitutes such as Mastodon and Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky for Twitter refugees weary of starting a new network all over again.
The image and video-led Instagram original, meanwhile, wisely seems set to remain a separate app. What all this Twitter cloning has to do with the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, though, is anyone’s guess.
The list: Debt default flirtation
Back to the wild world of US Republicans and this time it’s the small matter of Washington’s dalliance with a debt default thanks to the party’s ongoing brinkmanship in talks with Democrats about raising the US debt ceiling beyond $31.4 trillion. How painful would a failure to agree be here?
1. Deep recession: A default on its debt would almost certainly tip the US into recession, in part because the government would no longer be able to make welfare payments.
2. Job losses: Moody’s Analytics estimates that in the catastrophic event of a debt default, the US economy would weaken so much that 1.5 million jobs would be wiped out.
3. Market woes: Even in the run-up to a possible default, there will likely be substantial financial distress, US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said on Wednesday. Wall Street stocks are already in the habit of sinking each time the talks stall.
4. Global reverberations: The self-inflicted damage would cause shockwaves around the world economy, raising the cost of borrowing as all assets would be deemed riskier as a result.
5. Currency crisis: A default would weaken the US dollar, the world’s primary reserve currency. “How that cascades through the system is unpredictable,” say economists at UBS. Marvellous.