Elon Musk has attacked organized labor, mocked political correctness, and advocated for limited government, so the flood of tweets from conservatives applauding him on his purchase of Twitter was unsurprising.
Nonetheless, he is an unlikely icon for political traditionalists, using marijuana during interviews, courting the Hollywood set with movie cameos, and contemplating about nuking Mars.
In today’s polarized America, the 50-year-old triple divorcee’s objection to Covid-19 limits is frequently misinterpreted as a sign of Republican sympathies, despite his occasional scorn for harsh immigration controls.
President Joe Biden has been chastised by the world’s richest man for proposing a tax credit for electric automobiles made by unionized workers. He has also gone considerably further, asking for the abolition of all federal subsidies in the United States.
Despite this, he has solicited government assistance relentlessly, accepting billions in giveaways for his own businesses.
Musk, according to international investor James Hickman, founder of the libertarian-leaning Sovereign Man newsletter series, is a check on the “tyranny of the minority” — a fictitious cabal of elites in tech, media, and academia who make decisions for the rest of us but “consistently get it wrong.”
“What distinguishes a true libertarian is an utter rejection of labels and the ability to think independently,” Hickman told AFP.
“Both politically and professionally, Musk obviously qualifies in this way.”
Other analysts claim that, as contradictory as Musk’s political worldview appears to be, he rarely deviates from his corporate objectives.
Even that premise, however, requires some refinement.
Why has the Tesla CEO, with his enormous green business holdings, campaigned for increased fossil fuel production if it’s all about money?
His political contributions aren’t particularly tied to any one political party or viewpoint.
Musk, a self-proclaimed “moderate” independent (though he has also unironically called himself as a “socialist”), ostentatiously relocated from ultra-liberal California to very conservative Texas in 2020.
Despite condemning Texas’ anti-abortion laws and California’s “complacent” business environment, he has donated to the governors of both states.
Stalin and ‘Senator Karen’
Other recipients include Democratic powerhouses Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as right-wing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Party as a whole.
He isn’t afraid to strike out on social media at Washington establishment elites, from one-time presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren (“Senator Karen”) to Biden himself, like a recent past president (“Sleepy Joe” — a co-opted Trumpism).
There’s also the matter of free expression, which he has described as “the basis of a functional democracy.”
Musk has complained that Twitter is overly censorious in its speech regulations, and a post showing Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal as savage Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin illustrates and undermines his case.
Critics claim that when his own interests were at stake, his zeal for unrestricted dialogue became less intense.
Musk’s approach to journalists producing unfavorable stories about Tesla has been questioned by some media publications.
After being accused of unleashing his army of fans on individual reporters, he considered launching a website for the entire profession called Pravda, apparently in honor of the Soviet propaganda publication.
He tweeted in 2018 that he was “going to establish a site where the public can grade the basic truth of any item and track the credibility score of each journalist, editor, and magazine over time.” It didn’t work out.
Reductions in taxes
Former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Judd Legum, who publishes the “Popular Information” politics weekly, cited a tweet from Musk from the same year in which Musk appeared to threaten to revoke Tesla employee stock options if they opted to create a union.
Each of these tweets can be seen as a strong justification of his work on its own, but detractors argue they are part of a larger pattern of silencing less powerful voices, which includes requiring employees to sign famously harsh non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
The Tesla NDA cautioned employees that “they were not allowed to speak with media without prior written permission,” according to “Popular Information,” but the corporation failed to mention that they were protected from retaliation when discussing work conditions under labor laws.
In the face of so much “contradictory evidence,” Baruch Labunski, an online marketing specialist and CEO of a web company, says it’s safer to call Musk’s politics “pragmatic.”
“He’s often referred to as a libertarian, but that label doesn’t really represent the man whose firms have profited from government tax breaks and business subsidies,” Labunski told AFP.
Musk, according to the consultant, is a “fundamentally self-interested” celebrity.
“We don’t discuss his politics because he’s exceptionally politically smart or because he brings attention to issues that affect ordinary people,” Labunski remarked.
“Because he’s affluent and loud, Musk gets to play in and around politics.”