Happy Belated Towel Day Elon Musk! 42 probably means “For Two”.

Writer’s Note: A brief primer on Douglas Adams and his cult classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (h2g2) for those who are unfamiliar with the novel or need a refresher, no spoilers.

H2g2 gets its namesake from a galactic encyclopedia that sees the protagonists through a number of catastrophes. On its cover is the phrase “Don’t Panic.” A few more references to keep in mind:

  1. The encyclopedia consistently speaks to the necessity of keeping a towel handy.
  2. Arthur Dent, one of the main characters, laments the unpleasant confounding nature of Thursdays.
  3. When a supercomputer is asked to find the secret to the universe, it only responds “42.”
  4. Vogons are an irksome alien race who delight in oppressive bureaucracy.

Adams was involved in Monty Python, Doctor Who, and went to Cambridge. If you read the novel at face value, it comes across as rather absurd, but a look under the hood yields more complex themes. “Towel Day” is a celebration of Adams’ life and work that occurs on May 25.

H2g2 is beloved by many, particularly scientists, and scifi fans. An astronaut aboard the International Space Station once commemorated the holiday by reading aloud from h2g2 in a broadcast. Elon Musk has touted h2g2 as being fundamentally influential to his life in several interviews. When SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster into space, the touch screen displayed “Don’t Panic,” and a copy of h2g2 was placed in the glove box.

Which brings me to this incredibly unlikely nexus of topics: I have endeavored to bring attention to the possible exclusion of citizen journalists in Iran on X by sharing a few potential insights and comparisons to h2g2.

An AI image of a Vogon and an Iranian woman.

Dear Mr. Musk,

Happy belated Towel Day!

Numeral homophone substitutions aside, there are two more novel proposals on h2g2 at the end of this piece, one to further support the proposed meaning of 42, the other on towels. Nevertheless if by some chance you happen to come across this, please read the whole thing through.

In case you missed the memo, Towel Day 2023 fell on a Thursday, and for the innocents stuck living under the oppressive regime in Iran, every day is Thursday, a fate more horrendous than inhabiting a Vogon state.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quote “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” still rings true.

How much worse to be algorithmically silenced by those who publicly expound the very rights you are pleading for?

Iran’s Green Revolution was also known as the “Twitter Revolution”.

Twitter is no more, but X remains the “global public square” and ground-zero of civilian journalism.

While paid memberships have certainly reduced the number of bots that once plagued the platform, there is a potential humanitarian cost to X’s paid membership, phasing out legacy check marks, and the promotion of content of those who have check marks. Users who lack a ‘check’ receive less exposure, and sanctions render payment processing impossible for Iranian citizens—never mind the exchange rate or Orwellian surveillance.

It is a humanitarian catch-22. How can they equitably engage?

Partaking in any form of journalism in Iran means throwing yourself into the lion’s mouth. Civilians who expose human rights abuses are at even greater risk than those in the employ of news agencies. It’s true guerilla journalism.

Publicity is often the only hope of accountability if someone is arrested or disappeared. When the next movement emerges in Iran, which it most certainly will, accidentally shadow banning the voices of those crying out for freedom could have deadly consequences.

This is an incredibly nuanced issue, but the person who ushered the reusable rocket into existence can certainly find some solution to this potential humanitarian powder keg.

As promised, along the theme of this piece’s title, the 21 grams experiment conducted in 1907, well before h2g2 came on the scene, found the weight of a human soul to be exactly that, double it, you get 42. So, the secret to life, the universe, and everything is probably finding your person.

Lastly, playing with the etymology of προσόψιο (towel), πρόσοψη (facade), and προσοχή (focus or attention) may be of interest. I imagine it ties in with not panicking.

So long and thanks for all the fish,

Concerned Netizen

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