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Elon Musk isn't even an interesting Republican
Back when Twitter was an upstart social media service it was mocked for hosting an endless stream of dull updates from users about mundane matters. What users were eating for lunch. What users wanted to eat for lunch instead. The traffic users faced going to, and from lunch spots. Some of the derision was even funny.
Over time Twitter became more important, filling up with more important people who took themselves more seriously. Some of the spark that had first made Twitter shine brightly dimmed as the service became more mainstream. Social media management became a career instead of an afterthought role apportioned to more junior staff, brands took on a larger role in the discourse, and Twitter grew up.
Writing more here while on parental leave, stick around if you’d like! — Alex
Not everyone got the memo. I strive to count myself amongst the folks still using Twitter in the old style, sharing the minute and the regular, the small wins and losses that make up our everyday life. But like nearly everyone, I also use Twitter as a way to promote what I am working on. I retweet nearly everything that TechCrunch+ tweets, for example. I am not that sorry about it.
Elon Musk also didn’t get the note that Twitter grew up, filling his feed with the sort of personal updates that once made the social service fun. Sure, he also likes to tweet about SpaceX launches — as a sci-fi sucker, this is fine by me — Tesla news, and notes about whatever else he is involved with. But interspersed between the work posts Musk also likes to share what he’s thinking about. This provides us with a partial window into his brain.
How one thinks, and what one thinks, are the essential ingredients of one’s personal politics. Musk gives us, regularly, a look into his own politics through his missives. And after collecting a number of tweets from the erstwhile world’s richest man, I think it’s fair to say that Musk’s politics are somewhat standard Republican fare. In fact, Musk is such a standard Republican today that he’s managed to become a boring figure on the American right, offering little that is new apart from having been early to the idea that electric cars are neat, and likely the future of transit. That was once a lefty view; now it’s mainstream, in part thanks to the success of Tesla.
Musk’s politics have become at least more publicly right-wing over time, but we should not be surprised that the man wound up where he is today, philosophically speaking.
If you scroll back in time to July, 2020, Musk complained — on Twitter, natch — that the American left was “losing the middle.” It’s worth recalling that in July of 2020 the pandemic was in its early innings in the United States, that then-President Trump was working to get out of the WHO, and in the same month commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, and was at once threatening to send in Federal forces to cities where protests against racist policing were underway while defending police violence against citizens. The left, meanwhile in Musk’s view, was losing the middle.
I don’t entirely know why the pandemic caused so many Americans to tear out their hair, why the idea of some collective sacrifice to protect our more vulnerable became a rallying cry against government. But it seems to have been a turning point for many. In the case of Musk, his tweets seemed to get more political from that point forward, bringing us to more recents posts.
A few from this year that came to mind while writing this, shared in chronological order:
Summarizing aggressively, Musk felt that the political center was moving away from him. This, per his shared meme, was predicated on the American left becoming more radical while the American right stayed put. This somewhat aggrieved — and incorrect — viewpoint was later updated by Musk to better define his views, which appear to include:
That former head National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Fauci should be prosecuted;
That belief in non-Christian religions is a form of brainwashing;
That belief that black lives matter is a form of brainwashing;
That our transgender, gay, and otherwise queer friends and family are brainwashed;
That comprehensive care for pregnant people is a form of brainwashing;
That Kevin McCarthy, a famously stupid man who simped for Trump’s election lies and gives a bad name to both doormats and invertebrates should become Speaker of the House of Representatives, second only to the Vice President in the line of presidential succession.
The above views range from loathsome (fomenting hate against public servants who were famously good at their jobs), to evil (picking on minority religions that are often discriminated against along racial lines), to poisonous (attacking some of our populations most persecuted minorities), to downright silly (McCarthy is roughly as qualified to lead the House as your most unruly pet).
And yet, Musk’s views are pretty bog-standard Republican today. That’s why Musk can at once support Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — an odious wannabe fascist, transphobe, and abuser of immigrants — while with a straight face can consider himself a moderate of sorts. Sure, but only if we compare his views to the most extreme members of his own party; that the political middle of the GOP today is barking mad is useful here for cartological reasons.
Naturally Musk is also in favor of the government helping him when it suits. Past the nearly half-billion government loan he got for Tesla back in 2010, Musk is working his followers this week to comment on upcoming EV tax credit qualifications, which are a pretty big deal for a company that partially eats off that particular government plate. Anyway.
My Dad used to tell me that your politics are just the folks you have been hanging out with recently. It’s not entirely true, but it is a useful little mental model to pull out from time to time. With the little koan in hand, it’s perhaps not surprising that Musk’s views have at least become more stridently political, and right-wing as his friends have started to pen miserable tripe for publications like American Conservative, and are generally working to try to conflate anything to the right of Mussolini as ‘woke’ and therefore worthy of derision. That we’re only discussing a collection of incredibly powerful and wealthy white men is not lost on me.
All this is to say that Musk’s politics are not a mystery. They are not even very surprising. An incredibly wealthy person who opposes unions has fallen in with the American right? Quelle surprise. It just makes me incredibly sad that the same hatred against gay folks that I grew up in thanks to the The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod is not only not dead, but has been re-weaponized as a way to attack even smaller populations.
Don’t forget that it costs us nothing to be kind to folks different from ourselves, even if some of the wealthiest people in the world want us to find quarter for those who want to suppress them. That the religion that Musk appears in his meme to be advocating for is predicated on radical kindness, anti-wealth warnings, and care for those on the run, is an irony not lost on me nor I hope on you.
The featured image on this post is an excerpt from a piece of Steve Johnson’s work, whom I wish to thank.