A microcosmic insight into the high-profile life and times of one of the world’s wealthiest
What could be happening to Elon Musk?
For years, Elon Musk was a mysterious, intriguing and widely admired figure. That was back before he purchased Twitter and clasped his hands firmly on the wheel of the social media platform, boosting his influence and magnifying his voice, in the process revealing that the man behind the spectacular business achievements of Tesla and SpaceX is not quite what he had led us to believe.
Just in the past week, Musk has behaved in ways that cause potentially far-reaching harm, while shedding more light on the contradiction between his public pronouncements and his actions. Musk craves the attention, so one hesitates to feed him precisely what he wants. But even those of us who make it a point to ignore his regular trolling find it necessary to note just how harmful and hypocritical the former world's wealthiest man truly is. Over the weekend, Musk whose claim that he is a “free speech absolutist” has already appeared self-serving in the past surrendered to demands from the increasingly authoritarian government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, blocking some accounts and more than 400 tweets in the country.
Twitter complied with the Turkish court orders just in time to possibly boost the chances of Erdogan the president who has imprisoned journalists, critics and rivals as he faced one of the toughest elections of his life. Then the day after the election, Musk launched a Twitter assault on George Soros the Jewish billionaire supporter of liberal causes, framing his criticism of the Holocaust survivor in terms that made scholars of anti-Semitism warn that Musk’s messaging would worsen the growing plague of anti-Semitic and racist violence.
It’s hard to square the man who regularly promotes wild conspiracy theories to his tens of millions of followers with the supposedly thoughtful visionary of his pre-Twitter days. Sure, he was already running roughshod over the rules back then, and many were starting to question the hero worship, but most people took him at his word when he implied that what fueled his drive was his abiding concern for humanity.
Free speech on Twitter was important for the opposition in Turkey’s election, because the government controls most of the media. Faced against a juggernaut, the opposition was counting on social media platforms to carry its message. Musk maintained that the choice was between accepting the government’s demands or letting them shut down Twitter although there was another option.
It turns out Musk’s free speech absolutism is less than absolute. Beyond his free speech hypocrisy, there’s the vanishing aura of Musk as the thoughtful futurist concerned about humanity's fate. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with George Soros, but Musk’s attack, just after the liberal Soros announced he sold his Tesla stock, was not a philosophical argument.
Musk doubled down, saying he’ll say what he wants even if it costs him money. How brave of him