JD Lasica / Wikimedia Commons
Once upon a time, Elon Musk was the magical tech billionaire we hoped would save the universe. He was making solar power for everyone, cars that run on happy thoughts and rocket ships to fun, new planets. He was Tony Stark minus the arrogance and penchant for exploding large cities. But nothing lasts forever in the cold November rain, least of all a billionaire's ability to pretend to be just like the rest of us. Slowly but surely Elon went what can best be described as shithouse rat crazy, turning from Iron Man to Lex Luthor. These days, Elon Musk is a full-on supervillain.
1. He thinks we probably live in the Matrix (which means morality isn't real)
Elon Musk has himself a trap door escape plan, like any good supervillain, to account for why everything he does has a supervillain taint to it, and not just the below the balls kind. Elon Musk thinks we're not even real.
Musk has gone on record saying that the odds we're not living in the Matrix are one in billions. If you're not a bookmaker, you should know those odds bode poorly for reality. What makes a man think we're all fake people living in a simulation? Because in 40 years we've leapt from the most rudimentary, pixel-laden, craptastically low-tech computers to the insanely realistic, mind-blowing stuff we can do today. We can have millions of people playing games online, and virtual reality, and photorealistic 3D fakery. And if that's where we are in the present, what are the odds we didn't far exceed that in the future? What are the odds we couldn't created programs so realistic that we could immerse ourselves in them and not be able to tell reality from simulation? What are the odds we didn't literally make the Matrix?
From that assumption, Musk concluded that the odds on all of us being in the real reality are just too slim. If there can and will be so many fake realities, it's just a numbers game. We're probably in one of those fakes.
It's a weird thought experiment to consider that the world we live in isn't real, but the implication of believing it is creepy as hell. If Elon Musk truly believes we're not real, and he's a billionaire, and he makes flamethrowers and rockets and such, what are his moral limitations? Does it matter if he decides to build a space laser and carve Iowa off the map? Maybe to the people of Des Moines, but not Musk who may not truly believe there's any real people living there.
2. He wants to nuke Mars
CollegeHumor / Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock
If Musk thinks we're fake, then everything you read from here on out has to take that into consideration. Musk has had his eye on Mars for some time now, and it's safe to assume it's because he figures it's easier to take his own planet than keep dealing with this one. It's kind of like the game of Risk, you just take over a new zone to expand your empire. He wants to not only send some manned missions to Mars, he's also considered how he might make it a more hospitable place for sinister, stinking-rich life. He'd use nuclear weapons.
Mars, as you know, is only sliiiightly more desolate than Kansas. Elon's plan to make it livable is to terraform it with the use of some nuclear explosions. Kind of like Star Trek III: The Search for Spock but a little more redneck, if you consider thermonuclear weapons redneck. The nukes, dropped on the poles, would kickstart the release of some greenhouse gasses and force a climate change on the planet. It'd warm up and eventually reach conditions hospitable for human life. You know, more or less.
Now on the one hand this sounds supremely humanitarian, if also terribly theoretical. Elon is trying to make a whole new world for us! On the other hand, there are two important implications. The first is that, as Stephen Colbert pointed out when Musk told him this plan, this is 100% sinister. The second is that it implies Musk would have access to nuclear weapons at some point. Do we trust businessmen with nuclear weapons? That seems like a bad idea. But again, if this is fake to Musk, if this is Fortnite on a massive scale, then maybe he's just trying to be the last man standing. You can argue that this is all hypothetical, just a thought experiment, but Musk has thought it. A lot.
3. Everything is "just business" to him - EVERYTHING.
Maybe the nuke plan is just out of the box thinking. Maybe being in the Matrix doesn't matter and Musk is looking at the world like Descartes where you need to accept that this is still the life you have. But there are signs he's still living that fake life as a crappy individual. Take the messy as a rest-stop bathroom divorce he went through with his ex-wife Justine.
In a story she shared with Marie Claire, Justine Musk relates a string of bizarre claims about her life with Elon. She said, at their wedding ceremony while they danced, he told her he was the alpha in their relationship. Now maybe that isn't true, but suppose it is for a second, just long enough to consider what it means. That's some utterly crazy shit to say to a human being.
She says she had to sign a postnuptial agreement, which is a thing. He'd criticize her constantly for not living up to his standards. She told him once she wasn't his employee and he countered by saying if she was, he'd fire her. That's the kind of shit movie audiences hiss at.
At one point Justine mentions that she could never be blonde enough for Elon. He kept pushing to go blonder. Go platinum is what she said he told her. This sounds suspiciously like Mr. Burns demanding that Don Mattingly trim hs sideburns even after he has a massive arch of hair shaved off his entire head. It's a confused kind of power-mad cruelty for the sake of itself and nothing more.
4. He thinks everyone else are just lesser beings who should be grateful that they can bask in his glory
Tom Edwards, Twitter
The blonde hair obsession brings up a good point about seemingly insignificant details. Why should anyone care about something so small as hair color? You shouldn't, and neither should Musk. But he did. Little things in Musk's world become big by virtue of how they display his understanding of power. Consider the farting unicorn.
In 2017, Elon Musk shared a picture of a mug depicting a unicorn farting electricity. Musk said it was his favorite mug ever and the mug maker, a potter named Tom Edwards, saw a sales boost. Everyone wins! Except not really.
A month later, Musk started promoting a new Tesla sketch pad feature. The image he used to show it off? That farting unicorn. Now it was being attributed to Musk himself. Then it was being used as an icon in the Tesla OS. Then they included it in Christmas messaging. Musk had fully hijacked Edwards work without so much as a "mind if I purloin your work for my multi-billion dollar venture?" But instead of acknowledging and paying Edwards, hell, instead of even ignoring Edwards and pretending nothing happened, Musk went full douche canoe and said he should be grateful for the attention.
In layman's terms, this is the same as telling Edwards yes, his work was stolen, and he should be happy about it.
5. ...no, seriously, he really thinks that.
Musk's treatment of Edwards is indicative of a bigger problem relating to how Musk treats "the little guy." There's an old saying attributed to Isaac Newton that goes "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." It's meant to show Newton as a humble man of science, acknowledging his work was based on the work of other brilliant minds. But there's also the pervasive rumor that the man he wrote this to was very short, and Newton said it as a sarcastic dig at the man's stature. It suits Musk well in a world in which he's either a brilliant humanitarian or a monster in disguise. Also because he shits on little people.
Musk's factories have abysmal safety ratings. They're literally worse than slaughterhouses, which are places full of screams and blood on purpose. Incidents at his plants were 31% higher than industry standard back in 2015. Serious injuries were double the normal rate. The factories are devoid of yellow caution signs because, as one employee said, Elon doesn't like yellow. Good thing it hasn't had a negative effect on the workplace!
Tesla actually went so far as to cover up injuries, according to Reveal investigation. After word broke about the poor safety ratings and numerous injuries, Musk put out a missive on his plans to deal with this problem head on. It was a company-wide email detailing his grave concern for the safety of his employees. He would meet one on one with every injured worker. Every new incident would come directly to him. This would be stopped immediately. Except that never happened. It was PR, something you'll notice Musk is really good at and gets accused of a lot. He likes to be in the spotlight looking like a hero. It's the same thing that happened with his mini sub. You know, the one that rescuers in Thailand didn't need to rescue the trapped soccer team that lead Musk to call one of the actual rescuers a pedophile for literally no reason at all?
When not overlooking employees being crushed, sliced open, and burned, there's also just general employment standards. If you want a union, you probably don't want to work at Tesla. In 2017, Musk crapped on the idea of his employees joining a union and countered with the novel "frogurt argument." Musk believes there's nothing wrong in his plant, no reason to unionize, and also they have frozen yogurt, so fuck your union.
6. HE ACTUALLY HAS AN ARMY OF MINIONS DEFENDING HIM NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES
@libbycwatson / Twitter
Now Elon Musk may not be a fan of the little guy, but the little guy sure loves Elon Musk. Is it wrong to use the word "cult" to describe the legion of minions eager to rush to the defense of this billionaire whenever news that's critical of him comes to light? Well, The Wire did it. And Business Standard. Recode. The Street. Bloomberg. Village Voice. Oh, and Elon Musk. So yeah, there's a Cult of Elon out there and everyone's noticed.
No matter what Musk says or does, a veritable army of defenders rush to his aid. The basic argument from most of them is Elon is doing...whatever he's doing. He's trying to populate space! He's saving the world with renewable energy! He's giving you flamethrowers like a real life, goddamn Hank Scorpio! Who, by the way, was also a beloved boss despite his penchant for world domination. They want to believe Elon is saving the world and therefore saving them, too. He's rich, so that means he's done something right. He's doing things his own way, not part of "the system." That means he's a rogue and a renegade and a kind of futuristic tech cowboy hero. He has to be good because...he looks good on paper.
And they will go to extreme lengths to defend the man, his reputation, and the companies he runs. Like, say, help doxx a critic of Tesla who wrote under a pseudonym (after Musk called that person's boss and threatened to sue them if the criticism of Musk and Tesla did not stop). You would assume doxxing a critic might be pushing things too far, but no - they've still got his back. Hell they even had his back after he called a guy who rescued children trapped in a cave a pedophile:
I mean, he deserved it lol. Who cares-- Craig Carlson (@LeggoMy_Craigo) July 18, 2018
It's good to keep Hank Scorpio in mind when you think of Musk. Or even the Mad Titan Thanos. Or the Watchmen's Ozymandias. All villains, sure. All trying to do what they thought was good work, too. Not every villain is one-dimensional. Not every villain wakes up and thinks "mmm, time to be villainous." Some villains think they're saving the world. Then they snap their fingers and torch shit with a flamethrower from the back of a useless mini-sub because they don't even believe the people they're crushing are real, this is all a simulation and they're "winning" the game by climbing over the rest of us.