Harrop: Elon Musk wants to be in our faces
It’s hard not to admire Elon Musk, currently the world’s richest man. I wouldn’t mind seeing less of him, though.
There are those who dislike Musk because he is rich. I don’t mind rich people, especially those who make fortunes doing amazing things.
I would like Musk better had he kept Tesla’s headquarters in California, rather than move them to Texas, presumably for the low taxes. Founded in California, Tesla took advantage of that state’s liberal culture with its educational gems. Its openness to new and different people has served as a magnet for the world’s tech innovators. And its environmental policies did much to create mass markets for Tesla’s electric vehicles and batteries.
Gratitude may not factor heavily into Musk’s business decisions, and Austin is full of smart, tech-savvy people. But the fact remains that as I write this, Austin’s temperature has passed a scorching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while Palo Alto’s high is a balmy 78. Another difference is that any of Tesla’s Austin employees who need an abortion could be hounded by a creep looking for a pile of cash, per Texas law. Other tech companies considering a move to the Lone Star State should take such considerations into account.
I have another issue with you, Elon. You need a break from the headlines, and readers of headlines need a break from you.
Musk’s demands for attention border on the maniacal. Twitter-obsessed, he signed a $44 billion deal to actually buy the social media company. After Twitter stock has gone down, he is trying to wriggle out of it. Twitter says, “Tough luck, see you in court.” In or out, everyone’s talking about Elon.
Before that, he obtained a ton of free media on Twitter the old-fashioned way — by tweeting. In August 2018, he tweeted, “Am considering taking Tesla private. Funding secured.” It turns out funding was not secured, leading to fraud charges by regulators. His praise for Bitcoin and Dogecoin is said to have pushed the cryptocurrencies higher not long before they crashed. Economist Nouriel Roubini suspected market manipulation.
He caused a big stir by telling Twitter employees to “get healthy” and issued threats of layoffs at a company that was not yet his.
Before Twitter had accepted Musk’s offer, Musk directed some nasty remarks at Twitter’s management. Imagine the buzz over that.
Prominent Tesla fans are regarding Musk’s hyperactivity with a cold eye. With Tesla, SpaceX, a tunneling business and a neuroscience startup already on his plate, investors are wondering how Musk could run Twitter, too. Gary Black, managing partner of Future Fund LLC, said, “I wish he would walk away.”
Elon tweeted, “To be clear, I’m spending <5% (but actually) of my time on the Twitter acquisition. It ain’t rocket science!”
No doubt Elon is now spending a lot more than 5% of his time on the Twitter drama. But whether he is forced into the deal or gets out of it — though getting out might cost him — the show is drawing new oceans of attention to Musk,
And oh, People magazine reports that while the Twitter legal fight grows hot, Musk himself is partying on a luxury yacht off the coast of Greece. It just so happened that the magazine obtained a photo of Musk cavorting with his friends, including, as the tabloids would put it, a scantily dressed female.
Musk’s whereabouts during this time of conflict were clearly designed to strengthen the publicity magnet and for no healthy reason. Face it, brilliant people can also be jerks. But as this prodigious consumer of media sees it, a day without Elon Musk is an OK day.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.