It wasn’t so long ago that I still had to explain who Elon Musk was during my presentations in Europe. Not even in the automotive industry, where Tesla had already attracted attention, was the name familiar in 2015. I refer to him several times in my 2016 book The Silicon Valley Mindset, on the same level as Steve Jobs. His thinking was so different from what we were used to from our homegrown managers.
A few years later, Elon Musk has become the terror of several industries. He has shaken up the automotive industry with his electric cars, and propelled the space industry with his rockets and landing rocket stages. Paypal, with which he first made online payment systems hopeful and trustworthy, was the warm-up exercise, so to speak.
His picture on the cover of a business magazine guaranteed that circulation numbers would skyrocket. Thanks to his public relationships with women like Amber Heard and Grimes, and the children from those relationships, he’s also a household name in the tabloids. And lately, he seems to have turned the rest of the public world against him, too, because he bought the social media platform Twitter.
Twitter was shitty before
I have already written about how shitty Twitter was before. Whether the platform can get even worse with Elon Musk remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Musk provokes strong reactions in people, which seem to me to come more from the gut than from the head.
Now, I would like to preface this by saying that I am definitely critical of Musk. Even though I own a Tesla and am very happy with it, I find his closeness to Republicans, his conspiracy theories or the unnecessary outbursts like the one against the diver who was supposed to save the guys trapped in a cave, questionable. The way he fires people just like that is certainly far too impulsive and inhumane from a European (and partly American) point of view.
Other criticisms, however, I can only slightly understand. For example, the arguments repeatedly put forward against his plans for Mars colonization, namely that we would first have to solve other problems on Earth such as hunger, poverty, war, you-name-it, are known as the false dilemma argument. Who then decides which is the most important problem to solve first? And why are the even critics then in their professions, if they do not contribute with it to the solution of these problems.
Now Musk has bought Twitter and since then the excitement is perfect. Suddenly there is a performance theater with people who want to leave Twitter loudly, and Musk is made out to be the biggest criminal. And that’s over the top. Please leave the party, but no one cares why you’re leaving. Besides, Twitter sucked before and was a problem for democracy, so you guys didn’t care.
How come these people don’t upset anyone?
If you want to get excited, there are a whole bunch of other people who are dimensions more dangerous to the planet than Musk. Take the Koch brothers, Charles and David, from the USA. They’ve spent decades using their money raked in from oil fields to lobby politically, buying up a large number of weather stations in the US to better estimate demand for fossil fuels. They have brought local television stations and media under their content control almost across the board, and supported conservative politicians in their stance against abortion and minority and women’s rights. not to mention climate change, which they not only actively push with their fossil fuel deals, but also deny its existence through paid studies and hired experts. The list is long. But hardly anyone talks about them because they shy away from the public eye and only appear in the background.
Or let’s take Peter Thiel, the German-born investor and billionaire, who not only strongly supports Trump financially with his libertarian positions, but would prefer to abolish all social safety nets for the population and let capitalism and the law of the strongest rule freely.
Or these people?
And we don’t even have to look that far, because even in our country there are a number of people who are harming the country and the planet. Think of the Wirecard founders Markus Braun and Jan Marsalek, who apparently drove this company to the wall through fraud. Or the CumEx files, where tens of billions had been stolen from the German taxpayer? The uproar was minor because no one understood it, but a few bankers had siphoned off dozens of billions at taxpayers’ expense, which in turn were missing from social programs. And even the dubious role played by the current chancellor almost doesn’t scratch anyone’s itch.
Or let’s think of René Benko, who is now suspected in Austria of having procured tax breaks and other advantages for himself in politics. In Germany, too, he seems to have turned to the German taxpayer with the difficulties at some of his properties, such as Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof. I won’t even mention Tönnies, whose slaughterhouses put an entire city into lockdown during the pandemic
And now all these people are blowing up, hyperventilating, because Elon Musk bought Twitter and is trying to change the shaky and already politically questionable company? So everyone is calling for a boycott of Tesla and Twiitter, generously forgetting about the diesel scandal? Which, by the way, seven years after it was uncovered in Germany, has still not been dealt with by the courts.
So please, I think some people don’t have their priorities straight. Or worse, they are taking advantage of this to pander to the public. There’s a term for that, by the way: moral entrepreneurs. These are people who make their business and make their reputation by warning about the moral decay of society and civilization by ranting about new technologies and people behind them. And they point out problems that don’t exist or won’t exist, which the media eagerly take up because they attract viewers and clicks, and politicians jump on the bandwagon because they can portray themselves as shirt-sleeved packagers and solution providers. A win-win-win situation. At the same time, however, they are too dumb and cowardly to tackle the problems and the culprits. An edgy and public figure like Elon Musk is a better choice. It is easier to win public opinion by attacking him.
On the topics of climate change, freedom of speech and freedom, there are much more important targets to agitate. And you simply can’t take such hypocrites seriously.
BTW: how crappy Twitter is prompted me to write a book about online harassment and attacks on women online. In this, Twitter has a central place where toxic men congregate to insult, harass, and threaten women. The book, CYBERF*CKED, comes out this week and can be ordered here.