- by theguardian
- 21 Sep 2023
The personal is political. The phrase was popularized by 1960s second-wave feminism but it sums up Elon Musk's ideological journey. Once a "fundraiser and fanboy for Barack Obama", to quote his biographer, Walter Isaacson, the sometime world's richest man now plays thin-skinned, anti-woke warrior - a self-professed free-speech purist who in fact is anything but.
His rebranding of Twitter to X having proved a disaster, he flirts with antisemites for fun and lost profits. He threatens the Anti-Defamation League with a multibillion-dollar lawsuit. The ADL never suggested the name "X". That was a long-term fetish, now a clear own-goal.
Like the building of Rome, Musk's march to the right did not take only one day. A series of events lie behind it. Musk is a modern Wizard of Oz. Like the man behind the curtain, he is needy. According to Isaacson, outright rejection - and gender transition - by one of Musk's children played an outsized role in his change. So did Covid restrictions and a slap from the Biden White House.
In March 2020, as Covid descended, Musk became enraged when China and California mandated lockdowns that threatened Tesla, his electric car company, and thus his balance sheet.
"My frank opinion remains that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself," he wrote in an intra-company email.
But Musk jumped the gun. Moloch would take his cut. In the US, Covid has killed 1.14 million. American life expectancy is among the lowest in the industrialized west. Thailand does better than Florida, New York and Iowa. For their part, Ohio, South Carolina and Missouri, all Republican-run, trail Thailand. Bangladesh outperforms Mississippi. Overall, the US is behind Colombia and Croatia. Under Covid, Trump-voting counties became killing fields.
But in May 2020, amid a controversy with local government in California, Musk tweeted, "take the red pill". It was a reference to The Matrix, in which Neo, the character played by Keanu Reeves, elects to take the "red pill" and thereby confront reality, instead of downing the "blue pill" to wake happily in bed. Ivanka Trump, of all people, was quick to second Musk: "Taken!"
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