Elon Musk accidentally exposed more of himself than he wanted to this week.
After Tesla electric car maker posted a record quarterly loss of nearly $710 million, Musk refused to respond to questions about his financial stewardship of the electric car company. Instead, like an entitled teen sassing an overworked tutor, he said “boring bonehead questions are not cool. Next.” Saying the dry questions were killing him, he took a series of tech question from a YouTube talk show host.
Musk later apologized for the call, presumably after his public relations team got a hold of him. But we shouldn’t let the moment pass. His mask slipped and his true face showed through. When his investors, people with real stakes in his performance, asked him to explain a demonstrable failure, he churlishly refused to offer an explanation. Instead, he retreated to the comfort of his online sycophants.
Musk’s fans treat him like a real life Tony Stark—a swaggering genius billionaire playboy saving the world with visionary tech. That says less about the reality of Musk than it does about how Marvel movies have turned our collective unconsciousness into oatmeal. Musk is a con man taking advantage of geek gullibility. But he’s not merely a hack, he’s a threat to America. Here’s why.
Musk Holds Common People in Contempt
Describing public transportation, Musk bristled at the idea of being among “a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer.” That’s the ravings of a deranged rich person in a bubble of privilege.
Public transportation isn’t perfect but people aren’t the problem. The random strangers on trains and buses are joined in a common cause: traveling with minimal inconvenience. I’ve taken an average of 20 train rides a week for over a year and think it’s low key humanity at its best. We’re strangers sharing a physical space and a common experience. We all want to travel with minimal inconvenience and accept that the best way to accomplish that is to treat each other with respect.
Musk Steals Resources From Useful Projects
The real problem with public transportation is equipment and allocation of resources. Repairing trains and buses isn’t a sexy project. It doesn’t appeal to rich people or publicity hungry politicians. But you know what does? A massive tunnel that let rich people get from their wealthy neighborhoods to the airport in minutes. Even though his Hyperloop plan involves private funded, it will almost certainly have a detrimental impact on true public transportation spending. As transportation expert Jarret Walker—a man Musk called an “idiot” on Twitter—noted of flashy transportation projections like the hyperloop, “they appealed to elite tastes, dazzled public attention, and therefore helped to defer investment in the transit that vast numbers of urban people would find useful and liberating. This neglect causes transit to deteriorate, yielding outcomes that further justify the neglect.”
And there’s evidence the hyperloop is a boondoggle in waiting. As transportation bloggers noted, Musk’s promises for the hyperloop amount to a bad joke upon examination.
He’s America’s Worst Boss
A biography of Musk includes an anecdote that Musk has denied. The story holds that when Musk’s longtime assistant asked him for a raise after over a decade of service, Musk gave her time off and then fired her after concluding he could get along without her. Despite Musk’s denial, his ex-wife evidently felt the coldly calculated dismissal was in character for Musk.
Fictional or not, it’s not Musk’s only tyrannical employer moment. Multiple media reports describe the conditions for workers at the Tesla factory as deplorable and brutal, with workers assembling cars 12 hours a day, six days a week while suffering from hernias and other injuries. You see, Musk the genius futurist failed to foresee that he couldn’t make the amount cars as he promised and his workers are struggling to keep up a seemingly impossible pace. Musk and his management team reportedly responded with limp pep talks, offers of frozen yogurt machines and firing workers supporting unionizing. Oh, and it’s reportedly racist as hell, too, per a lawsuit describing the factory as a “hotbed” of “racist behavior for black employees.
He Hates The Press (For The Wrong Reasons)
The media is far from perfect. It chases sensational stories and too often mistakes gossip and ephemera for news. It’s short sighted and shallow. But that’s not Musk’s problem with the press. He complains when the press is actually doing its job and serving the public good, like reporting on potentially lethal automobiles.
His Cult of Personality
Social media fluency and accessibility is a big part of why socially maladroit folks who spend most of their lives looking at screens respond to him. He takes pains to make references and value signal what he has in common with an average reddit user. Despite how removed his elite existence is from the 99 percent, he has a whole army of nerds eager to go to bat for him. That leads to sad wastes of resources like a crowdfunding campaign to replace his uncomfortable couch. Come on, buddy. There are broke people with cancer out there. But I guess they don’t make hack nerd jokes about zombie-fighting flamethrowers.