A few years ago, who’d have thunk it? But Elon Musk has earned his spurs as a resident of Flyover Country. Now he seems to be more like one of us than one of them. And Musk’s $44-billion purchase of Twitter, carrying coastal elites kicking and screaming into a bold new era for the censorious social giant, is only one reason.
Musk’s electrifying — yes, I used that pun — blitzkrieg of Twitter is about as close to an action movie as doing business can become. Beginning with the moment he announced a 9% stake in the grotesquely misnamed “free-speech platform” a few weeks ago, Musk put on edge the people who’ve seen nothing wrong with how Twitter “protected” Americans from ideas and thoughts they insisted were too wild and dangerous to be spread.
But when he subsequently bulldozed over Twitter’s management and board and bought the company out from under them, Musk turned these same critics apoplectic. New York Times editorial board member Greg Bensinger called Musk’s Twitter “a scary place.” Ari Melber of MSNBC panicked on air that Musk “could secretly ban one party’s candidate, or all of its candidates” — seemingly ignorant of the irony that Twitter under its current ownership has done exactly that, and heedless of Musk’s clear proclamation that he would take down practically all of the ideological guardrails around Twitter.
And the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, published an op-ed by a former CEO of the social site Reddit, calling for government regulation “to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication.” Speaking of rich.
He’s Out There
Yes, Musk has said he wants to die on Mars. He’s been married three times, has had other consorts, goes back and forth among them and shows no sign of settling down, demonstrating the same sort of peripatetic behavior toward significant others that he does with his many groundbreaking business endeavors. His seven children by various of these women have names like Exa Dark Siderael and XAE A-XII.
And, yes, of special importance to us in Flyover Country, Musk singlehandedly upended our crucial auto industry with Tesla, and now there’s no taming the transformation that he started. At the same time, this genius who spouts principle seems to have delved into nepotism with Tesla’s $2.6-billion bailout of SolarCity, a solar installer that was founded by two of his cousins.
Often in the past, Musk has spoken and acted too much like the zealous greenies on the coasts who elevate what they hope will be climate-change mitigation above all other considerations of life in the here and now as well as in the future. Musk quit one of President Trump’s early councils of CEOs, for example, after the administration pulled out of the toothless Paris climate accords.
And while the risk-taking attitude of the world’s richest man may know no personal bounds, Musk has been irresponsible to the point of heedlessness in hyping the autonomous-driving capabilities of early Tesla systems, even after trusting such capabilities seemed to have cost at least a couple of drivers their lives.
Sense and Sensibilities
So it’s true: Musk is not your sober bank president from Grand Forks or even capably multitasking daycare operator in Ann Arbor. But he’s starting to make the kind of sense that we’re used to in Flyover Country.
And that transformation of Musk is most clear by his purchase of Twitter. Leave it to a native of South Africa to come to the United States and strike a huge blow for the principle of free speech that helped found this nation and keep it great. He only became a U.S. citizen in 2002. Yet today, Musk is using the freedom that only the world’s richest man can have to vanquish with a stroke the atmosphere of repression that had come to surround the world’s digital “town square.”
Also, in another expression of support for the benefit of his adopted country (and, ultimately, the heartland), Musk recently has called for an immediate increase in domestic oil and gas production even though such a move obviously wouldn’t be helpful to his own businesses in electric cars and solar energy.
But even before those utterances of the type of common sense that is so prevalent here in Flyover Country, Musk years ago decided to build a pickup truck in Texas. He wears cowboy hats. He builds and tests rockets in the Lone Star State as well. And he moved Tesla headquarters pretty much lock, stock and barrel to Texas after battling with peevish authorities in Alameda County, California, over Covid restrictions at the Tesla plant there, which he called “fascist.”
There’s no denying Musk works as hard as anyone out here. Not only is he flying all over the world goosing his enterprises, he was known to sleep at the Tesla plant in Fremont, California, for nights on end a few years ago as his team was trying to hammer out early product-quality problems in Teslas. Musk is like the football coach who starts watching tape of Sunday afternoon’s loss on Sunday evening and doesn’t leave the office until Monday morning with a game plan for the next week.
Happy To Tweak
One of my favorite Muskian moves was his giving a long interview recently, in person, to the Babylon Bee, an online satire site tended by conservatives that subsequently has been banned from Twitter.
I also appreciate the fact that Musk has talked fervently in interviews – as a scientist, humanitarian and father — about the importance to human survival of having a lot of kids. It’s the sort of obvious and common-sense statement of anti-Malthusian truth that made him despised among the cognoscenti long before his move on Twitter.
Indeed, Musk is proving to be a breath of fresh air as the world’s new wealthiest human after a succession of carbon-copy digital-tech billionaires such as Bezos and Bill Gates, who helped create and have stayed within the mold of Silicon Valley sensibilities that emphasize conformity, environmental alarmism and the demands of the state over the freedom of the individual.
And at 50 years old, Musk is only really at the beginning of the outrage he could heap upon those who’ve controlled not only the American narrative for the past many years but also the distribution of resources that underpin regional economic success.
Certainly, Musk will continue to surprise us. Neither will Musk ever make us comfortable. While commenting about practically everything under the sun, he keeps his politics opaque and stays away from labels, such as the libertarian one that most people give him. He has described himself as “politically moderate” but added, “Doesn’t mean I’m moderate about all issues.” Musk reportedly has cut checks for politicians across the spectrum, from Hillary Clinton to Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the GOP in the House, and with extremely practical purpose, funding the campaigns of both California Governor Gavin Newsom and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Musk’s attitudes on immigration restrictions, for instance (he’s generally against them), and unionization (he’s generally against that, too) will disquiet many residents of Flyover Country.
But compared with a few years ago, when even with the world’s largest kitty Musk seemed at risk of becoming yet another billionaire coopted by the coasts, he’s showing every sign of being comfortable as a denizen of the open spaces of the heartland.