Elon Musk: elite breaker or selfish pragmatist?
He despised organized labor, scoffed at political correctness, and espoused small government. The deluge of tweets from conservatives congratulating Elon Musk on his decision to buy Twitter was therefore no surprise.
Still, smoking marijuana in interviews, courting the Hollywood set with movie cameos and pondering Mars’ nuclear weapon make him an unlikely talisman for political traditionalists.
In polarized America, the 50-year-old triple divorcee’s opposition to Covid-19 restrictions is often seen as showing Republican sympathies, though his occasional disregard for draconian immigration controls has suggested otherwise.
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The world’s richest man has berated President Joe Biden for proposing a tax credit for electric cars produced by unionized workers. He also went much further, calling for an end to all US federal subsidies.
Yet he himself has aggressively sought government support, taking billions of dollars for his own businesses.
International investor James Hickman, founder of the libertarian-leaning Sovereign Man newsletter series, sees Musk as a check on the “tyranny of the minority” – a supposed cabal of tech, media and academia elites who make decisions for the rest of us and yet “constantly get it wrong”.
“What makes someone a true libertarian is the outright rejection of labels and being completely independent in thought,” Hickman said. AFP.
“Musk clearly qualifies in this regard, both politically and professionally.”
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Other analysts have suggested that, as incoherent as his political philosophy may seem, Musk rarely strays from his own business interests.
Yet even this thesis needs refinement.
If it’s all about the money, why has the CEO of Tesla – with his vast green business interests – called for increased fossil fuel production?
Nor are his political gifts particularly tied to any party or point of view.
A so-called “moderate” independent – though he also unironically described himself as a “socialist” – Musk ostensibly moved from ultra-liberal California to deeply conservative Texas in 2020.
He has donated to the governors of both states, despite criticism of Texas anti-abortion laws and a “complacent” business environment in California.
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Other donations went to top Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, right-wing Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Party itself.
Like a recent former president, he’s not averse to taking on social media against Washington establishment figures, from former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (“Senator Karen”) to Biden him. -even (“Sleepy Joe” – a co-opted Trumpism).
And then there’s the issue of free speech, which he called “the foundation of a functioning democracy.”
Musk has complained that Twitter is overly censored in its regulation of speech, simultaneously illustrating and undermining his views in a tweet describing company CEO Parag Agrawal as brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Critics say his passion for uninhibited conversation often appeared shallow when his own interests were at stake.
Some media have raised questions about Musk’s reaction to reporters writing articles criticizing Tesla.
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Accused of unleashing his army of followers on individual journalists, he once considered creating a profession-wide website called Pravda – presumably a tribute to Soviet propaganda.
“Go create a site where the public can assess the fundamental truth of any article and track the credibility score over time of every journalist, editor and publication,” he tweeted in 2018. Nothing came out.
Former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Judd Legum, who produces the political newsletter ‘Popular Information’, pointed to a tweet – also in 2018 – in which Musk appeared to threaten to cancel stock options. shares of Tesla employees if the workers decided to join a union.
Each of these messages on its own can be explained as a strong defense of his work, but critics say they are part of a pattern of suppression of less powerful voices that has also included forcing workers to sign labor agreements. non-disclosure (NDA) notoriously restrictive. .
“Popular Information” reported that Tesla’s NDA warned employees that “they were not allowed to speak to the media without explicit written permission” – but the company failed to add that employment law protects them. reprisals when discussing working conditions.
Baruch Labunski, an internet marketing expert and CEO of a web consulting firm, said amid the sheer volume of “conflicting evidence”, it’s safest to describe Musk’s policy as “pragmatic”.
“He is often referred to as a libertarian, but that designation does not accurately describe the man whose companies have benefited from tax breaks and government business grants,” Labunski said. AFP.
The consultant sees Musk as a “fundamentally self-interested” celebrity.
“We don’t talk about his politics because he’s particularly astute politically or because he highlights issues that matter to ordinary people,” Labunski added.
“Musk can play in and around politics because he’s rich and he’s outspoken.”
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