The smell of Musk is in the air, and it’s causing Twitter’s left-wing users to clear the room — or so they say.

Their threats to vacate cyberspace started a few weeks ago as free speech absolutist Elon Musk, in short order, became the largest shareholder of the social media firm, was offered a seat on its board, declined that seat, and made an offer to buy the firm outright. They rose to a fever pitch yesterday, as Musk’s $44 billion offer to take the company private was accepted. Twitter’s liberal users buckled under the fear...

The smell of Musk is in the air, and it’s causing Twitter’s left-wing users to clear the room — or so they say.

Their threats to vacate cyberspace started a few weeks ago as free speech absolutist Elon Musk, in short order, became the largest shareholder of the social media firm, was offered a seat on its board, declined that seat, and made an offer to buy the firm outright. They rose to a fever pitch yesterday, as Musk’s $44 billion offer to take the company private was accepted. Twitter’s liberal users buckled under the fear of unmoderated political discussion and even, perhaps, the return of the famously suspended Donald Trump.

Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential primary candidate, thanked Twitter’s users “for the knowledge and sharing over the past ten years or so,” but wrote that “If Musk takes over Twitter I will be off within a few hours.” He made good on his words, deleting his account. Dean entered with a scream and departed with a whimper.

The controversial race activist Shaun King briefly followed suit. He temporarily suspended his account last night after declaring, bizarrely and without evidence, that Musk — who is from South Africa — bought Twitter to advance “white power.” King elaborated that Musk is “upset that Twitter won’t allow white nationalists to target/harass people. That’s his definition of free speech.” King’s fleeting account deletion prompted Donald Trump Jr. to quip “that alone is worth $44 billion.” King, his tantrum apparently resolved, retorted, “still here motherfuckers,” and placed a screen grab of the exchange at the top of his Twitter bio.

King wasn’t the only one to fling racially charged invective at Musk. Tim Wise, a user with almost 150,000 followers who describes himself as an “antiracism educator,” tweeted, “Fuck Elon Musk. Apartheid Baby.” But Wise indicated he had no intentions of leaving the platform, adding, “Let’s see how committed you are to free speech when we start roasting your ass…” I respect his steeliness, if not his departure from sense.

Others hedged their bets. Charles Blow, the New York Times columnist and MSNBC contributor, tweeted, “Well, I’m out.” But he added, “I will now only use Twitter like I use Facebook,” that is, to post links to his work. “No ‘content’ specifically for it,” Blow resolved. He added some interesting observations about the degradation of discourse on social media, but gave no sign that he is able to rightly place blame on both sides of the political divide.

Another Twitter user on the right track but wrong train was Robert Reich. The academic and Clinton-era secretary of labor tweeted, “Musk and his apologists say if consumers don’t like what he does with Twitter, they can go elsewhere. But where else would consumers go to post short messages that can reach millions of people other than Twitter?”

That is a fair point. Unfortunately, when conservatives made that same argument in the wake of a crackdown on users last year, Reich smugly tweeted, “Anyone who is saying Twitter’s ban violates the First Amendment doesn’t know Twitter is a private company and the First Amendment protects individuals against government.” Now that the left doesn’t like what’s going on, you see, First Amendment protections alone are inadequate.

To Reich’s credit, he added that we should be suspicious of the concentration of media and communications networks in billionaire hands, such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post. But as usual, he couldn’t let go of the notion that the right is at fault, castigating them for dropping their appreciation for free markets in order to protect “strongmen.” Perhaps those on the right are just tired of being Charlie Brown while morally inconsistent people like Reich play Lucy with the football.

These are but a few of the voices on the left despairing of Musk’s takeover of Twitter. One need only search for the words “quit” or “quitting” to see scores of other examples. Lest I be accused of excessive partisanship, there was no shortage of embarrassing tweets from the right either. My favorite of these came from Lavern Spicer, a Republican candidate for Congress, who tweeted, “Elon Musk buying Twitter is the 21st century version of Lincoln freeing the slaves.” She claimed forty minutes later that she was just mocking the doom and gloom of the left, but it still rings as a bit much.

Only time will tell what Musk actually does at the helm of Twitter. The world’s richest man didn’t pay $44 billion for nothing, and his libertarian approach is well-known. On the other hand, Twitter doesn’t even crack the list of top ten global social media networks by number of users. Even if Musk’s control brings massive changes to the platform, few will feel them except the terminally online. My Baby Boomer parents don’t even understand what Twitter is. My wife, like most who don’t take a special interest in politics, media, or entertainment, hasn’t opened the bird app in years.

And as any number of right-wing ersatz social sites have learned, the network effect is real. There is already a concentration of users on Twitter talking about the things that current users care about, and founding and luring people to a new network is hard. The greatest shock of all will be if Twitter’s disgruntled leftists stick to their exit plan.