Sep 11, 2023, 05:57AM

Worshipping and Demonizing Elon Musk

Hey Kara Swisher, leave those tasks to someone less obsessed. 

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People need to stop promoting humans to godhead and worshipping things like us. And we really need to stop “demonizing” each other as well, though I admit that this often has somewhat more plausibility. It's amazing and disturbing what's happening to Elon Musk as time goes on. I'm not sure how he got so gigantic in our heads and in our pocketbooks and even in our government (which is flying stuff into space on his rockets and encouraging him to help Ukraine's military, for example).

Musk's cultural ubiquity is reminiscent of maybe Taylor Swift or Alexander the Great, but I don't think I've heard a plausible interpretation of his personality. (If I did, however, I might try not to care.) If I really wanted to know "what makes Elon tick," though, I gather that Walter Isaacson has just published one of his enormous biographies. When an Isaacson biography is released, there's an absolute embargo, and then a dozen reviewers get 36 hours to read it before midnight on the pub date, which is all part of the blowing-people-up-like-dirigibles religion of which Isaacson is high priest. This is some very absurd jive, Simon & Schuster.

The first real news story emerging from the bio, maybe ultimately the only one, is that Musk refused to extend Starlink internet coverage over Crimea and the surrounding Black Sea so that Ukraine could target the Russian fleet with underwater drones. It was amazing to watch the debate emerge on X in a series of directly newsworthy Tweets. There he is, Elon Musk, quote-tweeting his own biographer. I’d do that too, if I could.

Meanwhile, it seems to be commonly agreed that since Musk bough Twitter last year there has been an explosion of anti-Semitic rhetoric. The New York Times reports that "before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day. Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day." That sounds like a lot. In 2022, Twitter averaged 6000 posts per second. (I make that 518,400,000 a day.) These statistics, in addition, don’t specify whether these posts were removed, or how quickly, or how serious they were.

Over and over, I read sentences like "everyone who's on X knows that there's been a flood of hate speech." I haven't noticed that at all.

After the Anti-Defamation League attacked X for anti-Semitic content, Musk threatened to sue them for.... defamation. He blamed the ADL for loss of ad revenue. In response, many immediately accused him of anti-Semitism. The Musk-obsessed Kara Swisher, on CNN, said "Of course he blames the Jews. That's what Elon Musk does." And then "No one is saying he's an anti-Semite." Hilarious, really.

The Wrap quotes Swisher's heroic resistance to Twitter. “I don’t use it as much because I only use it to tease Elon really, pretty much,” Swisher said on the podcast. “Now I’m not even marketing our stuff on it because what’s the point? What happens is I’ve had to turn off comments because if I don’t, the name-calling and the crazy people are just quantumly. You don’t want to deal with it. It’s like having a bunch of people who you don’t like screaming outside your house.”

Actually, she Tweets every day, and promotes her stuff on there all the time. It's crazy, I tell you. Musk Tweeted, “Kara has become so shrill at this point that only dogs can hear her.”

“Better than being the actual dog whistle of exhaustingly toxic nonsense and a professional adult toddler,” Swisher replied, on Twitter. Just quantumly! I’m offering to help them both with their verbal abuse skills, though, which are rudimentary at best. I note that Musk keeps Swisher on Twitter and even keeps replying to her. This speaks well for him, or would, if Swisher didn't suck so bad.

But Swisher is a beautiful example of what's going wrong. She loved tech bros, thought they were geniuses and messiahs who were transforming the world. Then they mutated into demons. Either way it's superstition. And either way, she has participated in the inflation of these figures and still is. She hates Musk beyond everything, which is probably just what he's hoping for. They both want her to Tweet. She might not think so, but Musk is a god to Swisher.

Meanwhile, for extremely good reasons, federal courts are putting limits on the executive branch's ability to regulate speech on social media. SpaceX is launching more stuff. Teslas are everywhere. And people, even people other than Kara Swisher, are obsessed, transferring their toxic brew of wealth-envy and political correctness into a perpetual loop of meaningless pain. They’re maximally focused on manufacturing a new Trump, so they can scream at his gigantic image.

I realize that, right here, I’m participating in the Musk apotheosis and demonization. I wish I wasn't, and promise to stop now, at least for a bit. I'm not going to read Walter Isaacson's biography of Elon Musk. But bringing the whole worship thing up one level, I want to see a hagiography of Walter Isaacson written by a Furby. Embargo that. 

—Follow Crispin Sartwell on X: @CrispinSartwell


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