Elon Musk is trying to distract us with flamethrowers, smoky weed clouds, and feelings. Late Thursday night, the billionaire slash inventor made a two-and-a-half-hour appearance on the Joe Rogan Show, where he spent most of the two-and-a-half hours feeling sorry for himself. His brain is a “never-ending explosion” of ideas that most people wouldn’t want to experience, he told Joe. Running Tesla is the “hardest job.” “Nobody listened” when he tried for years to warn them about artificial intelligence.
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He also took some puffs of a marijuana-laced cigarette (“I mean it’s legal, right?” he quipped when Rogan brought up concerns about what stockholders would think). He sipped whiskey and talked about his Boring flamethrowers, showing one off for Rogan’s Instagram. He pleased the crowd and stroked his own ego. He did not make much mention of the events of the last few months, where his bizarre and often disgusting behavior has whipped up a frenzy of negative publicity.
While it’s a delight to watch an utter and complete ass make a fool out of himself in the public arena, it’s also a blaring siren—especially when said ass is worth 23 billion dollars.
Musk casts himself as a brilliant man working tirelessly for the good of the people. In the interview with Rogan, he said, “I like to get things done… Doing something useful for other people—that I like doing.” To his credit, he does get shit done, dreaming up new forms of transportation beneath the surface of the Earth with his tunnel-digging Boring company and miles above it with his SpaceX rockets. In return, Musk seems to expect the people to shower him in gratitude. Criticizing him, though, you do at your own risk.
Last year, a Tesla employee came forward with alarming complaints about working on the production floor; Musk lambasted him in a company email. In May, Musk’s Twitter handle turned into a public forum on unionization, with users picking apart Musk’s antipathy towards unions; Musk lost it. News media picked up the story; Musk accused the media of “hypocrisy,” and suggested starting his own media company with “credibility scores” for journalists. He then sat for a lengthy New York Times profile in which he bemoaned how “excruciating” his year had been.
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When 12 boys were stuck in a Thai cave in July, Musk showed his willingness to do something useful and sent a mini-submarine to help the rescue mission. The submarine went unused, and one of the divers said Musk was asked to leave the cave. Musk in turn accused him of being a “pedo guy” in a tweet, deleted the tweet, and apologized. Then, he doubled down, sending a string of bizarre emails to Buzzfeed News accusing the diver of “child rape,” which Buzzfeed published this week. There is no evidence to back up Musk’s claims.
It also bears remembering that Musk’s ex-wife Justine Musk wrote an essay in 2010 describing Musk’s dominating behavior during their marriage.
These serious stories are complemented by the hot gossip pouring out of Musk headquarters. After Musk and musician Grimes made their relationship public at the Met Gala, Grimes defended him on Twitter against accusations of union busting. In a weird twist, Musk announced plans to take Tesla private but fucked it up by tweeting out the stock price ($ 420, nice), which could be securities fraud. Grimes’ musician friend Azealia Banks, who spent the weekend camped out in the Musk home, alleged Musk had tweeted on acid, and that his 420 tweet had him frantically “scrounging for investors.”
It appears Grimes and Musk are no longer a couple.
Maybe Musk wasn’t trying to distract us with the flamethrower talk and billowing clouds of marijuana. Maybe he was trying to distract himself from his own shitty life.
But as of this writing, Joe Rogan’s YouTube live stream alone has been viewed over 850,000 times. The cult of fascination around Musk runs deep. He is a man who has been told he is great, and who has told others he is great. His ego is mammoth. He challenges any criticism and sets out to ruin careers. He makes people pay for questioning him. He brings to mind Steve Jobs, and look at the unpleasant truths we’re learning about him.
Musk might drill a superhighway between Los Angeles and San Francisco that improves the lives of thousands of people. He might actually set up that civilization on Mars, marking the next great step for all of humanity. But that won’t make him any less of an ass.