Despite being the richest person on the planet, Elon Musk seems to be completely losing the plot. David Donovan examines some of the more bizarre behaviour of late from Twitter's new owner.
IN THE PANTHEON of megarich weirdos – Zuckerberg, Trump et al – one wacky oddball towers above all the rest. His name is Elon Musk and, in case you just woke up from a long coma, he recently bought social media platform Twitter for the tidy sum of US$44 billion (AU$65.7 billion).
And then, with all the grace and good manners of a mentally deranged octopus falling out of a tree, proceeded to attack the value of his asset in a variety of new and unexpected ways. Advertisers and users have been deserting in floods, while regulators and creditors circle this apparently sinking ship.
Meanwhile, Musk has been continuing to make far-reaching decisions about the platform on a daily basis, only to reverse most of them the very next day. And all the while tweeting – and tweeting, and tweeting and tweeting − increasingly absurd and inane idiocies.
Is he on drugs? Has he entirely lost his mind? Or is he just king of the super wealthy weirdos, doing whatever the hell he wants, as he has always done, as he has always felt entitled to do?
Read on to discover the truth behind this rather strange fellow and his unseemly new dalliance with social media.
WHO IS ELON MUSK?
The first thing to note about Elon Musk is that he is an entirely self-made man...
Musk, in fact, was born into a super-wealthy Afrikaans/Pennsylvania Dutch/Canadian family in South Africa in 1971 and since then has just gotten richer! He is listed by Forbes magazine and Bloomberg as the richest man in the world at present, with an estimated net worth of US$185 billion (AU$276 billion — as of 15 November 2022).
So, perhaps losing US$44 billion is not such a big deal to Musk? Although it seems that it is, because upon taking control of Twitter he sacked half the staff, saying the company couldn’t afford them because it was losing US$4 million (AU$5.9 million) a day. He has since sacked a whole heap more people from Twitter, the bastard.
And what a jerk he is! Like in 2019, after he called the valiant 63-year-old British diver who saved 12 kids stuck in a cave in Thailand a ‘pedo guy’. The rescuer, Vernon Unsworth, unsurprisingly sued Musk for defamation. But Musk managed to convince the best court his money could buy that, when he was growing up in South Africa, “pedo guy” just meant “creepy old man” — not paedophile at all. Sure! And that, moreover, everyone all around the world now uses “pedo guy” the way they did in Pretoria when Elon was growing up.
There is not enough space to discuss just how much of an oddball Musk is, so let’s sample just a few of Musk’s strange contradictions.
A WEIRD, MUSKY AROMA
Musk gained a lot of progressive admirers by being the CEO of Tesla, the big electric car company. He has also been involved in large solar projects and even advocated for a carbon tax. On the other hand, Musk strongly opposes a billionaire's tax and has pumped untold megatons of carbon into the atmosphere in his seemingly endless, fruitless quest to build a rocket ship to Mars that can land on the red planet. As you do.
Musk has long been regarded as a progressive and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. He also advocated for Democrat Andrew Yang at the 2020 presidential primaries and says he voted for Joe Biden earlier this year. On the other hand, Musk called for people to vote for the Republicans at the recent U.S. midterm elections and likened progressive Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler.
He compared Trudeau to Hitler because of Canada’s strict COVID controls. Musk has called COVID nothing more than a ‘specific form of the common cold’ and has advocated for the use of chloroquine as a cure. He also believes artificial intelligence will take over the world, leading to him being awarded the 2016 Luddite of the Year award. Mind you, Musk strongly supports the science of climate change and… oh well, you get the point.
Which is that Musk is as mad as a bag full of black snakes and even he has, in some rare sane moments, warned staff that Twitter could go bankrupt. His panacea seems to be a subscription service, in which people can pay US$8 (AU$12) and receive a verification tick. He even has a nice T-shirt to promote this service.
Unfortunately, he has also sacked half the staff, leading to scammers registering well-known brands such as, well, Jesus Christ and drugmaker Eli Lilly. In the case of Eli Lilly, the maker of insulin, one tweet purporting to be from them proclaiming ‘insulin is free now’ wiped billions off the share price in a matter of hours. Because of this, the Securities and Exchange Commission is circling, as are privacy regulators.
Musk faced court last Friday over the exorbitant pay package he receives as CEO of Tesla that made him the richest man in the world. Perhaps after Twitter breaks and everyone leaves, and the courts, regulators, shareholders, creditors and lawyers feast on what remains of his fortune, Musk can continue to send out his memes on Mastodon or whatever serves to replace Twitter as the “global town square”. Perhaps from gaol, if there is a God.
But I wouldn’t count on it. Because, after all, it’s a mad, mad, Musky world!
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