Just before midnight on December 26, Elon Musk posted a picture of a brooding Bruce Wayne on Twitter.

He (Wayne, not Musk, although the point was to draw a parallel) glowered downward, presumably at a crime-infested Gotham, from atop a cathedral. It was snowing. Wrapped in his cape, Wayne’s Batman stood between two gargoyles with icicles for beards. “Some nights…” read Musk’s caption.

Yes, “some nights.” On that particular night, and on several nights before it, “some” Americans were freezing. To death, tragically. Wayne would’ve saved a few. Musk, like the teenager he is, tweeted Batman cartoons, and surely not from the top of any snowy cathedrals.

It’s true that the world needs saving, and with his billions, Musk was a good candidate for savior. If it was a superhero he wanted to be, Tony Stark was always the natural choice. Presumably, Musk could have SpaceX build an Iron Man suit if he wanted.

Unfortunately for a world in peril, Musk seems to enjoy playing the antagonist. If that’s too strong, it’s fair to suggest he revels in being an irritant. At some point, Musk was co-opted into the echo chamber of bastardized libertarianism. Then, he bought the echo chamber.

Some have suggested Musk’s quips, memes and short-form rhetoric look suspiciously like foreign propaganda, but it’s important to remember that although stoking division in Western democracies is a Kremlin calling card, the best misinformation campaigns are those that take on a life of their own after being unwittingly adopted by people with no conception whatever of their role.

It seems doubtful that anyone in Moscow could’ve predicted in 2015 that a run-of-the-mill, initially unremarkable effort to amplify the rising tide of populism in the West might eventually crescendo in a tidal wave of venomous animosity that threatens to wash away the foundation upon which the world’s most prosperous democracies were built. The facilitators of the original misinformation campaign haven’t had to work very hard since the initial blitz some seven years ago. Millions of unsuspecting (and, by extension, originally innocent) accomplices inadvertently perpetrate a fraud on society every single day. In the process, they defraud themselves.

To the extent Musk is swept up in all of that, it’s probably by accident. In casual conversation I’m not as generous, but to be completely honest, hindsight suggests Donald Trump might’ve been more dupe than conspirator in 2016, so we should allow for that possibility before we cast accusatory aspersions.

This isn’t meant as another lament for the fraying of the social fabric (ironically perpetuated by social media), although you could certainly read it that way. I set out to document the year it’s been for Tesla’s stock, but as these things often go, my “introduction” became an article all its own.

Musk’s profile, wealth and reach makes his excruciating metamorphosis from eccentric inventor to serial provocateur a threat to democracy. Like so many such threats in the so-called “post-truth” world, it’s dressed up as an effort to rescue democratic values from a cabal of “thought police” comprised of large tech companies, the political establishment, intelligence agencies and any journalist unwilling to indulge juvenile fantasies about “red pills,” a reference to The Matrix adopted years ago by purveyors of misinformation.

It’s tempting to describe Musk’s exploits as cynical, but I doubt that’s accurate. Twitter is flailing by most accounts, Tesla’s shares have lost nearly three quarters of their value in 2022 and Musk’s net worth has fallen dramatically on paper. In all likelihood, Musk, like countless others across the Western world, is an unwitting party to the most successful misinformation campaign in modern history. Scarcely anyone knows when and where it began, although I can tell you a pretty convincing origin story. One thing I don’t know is where it’ll end.


Speak your mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

24 thoughts on “Batman

  1. Can’t wait until Musk decides he’ll save the world not just with Teslas and Mars missions but also by becoming our fearless leader for life 🙁 If Trump could take the Oval Office and almost keep it…well…what could be done with control of the largest megaphone and some of the most advanced technology, in a coming “Rise of the Machines” era?

      1. … says Mr. Lucky with tongue in cheek. George Romney, John McCain, Barry Goldwater and Ted Cruz were all Republican presidential candidates born outside the states. But Obama, with a Hawaiian birth certificate – well you know about that. If Musk wisely chooses to run as a republican, ‘natural born Citizen’ under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution will be interpreted as 1. Not a robot so he’s natural and 2. He has citizenship. So what’s the issue?

        Never underestimate the right’s ability to redefine the rules.

        1. The “Natural Born Citizen” requirement is well defined. One achieves that status by being a citizen at the moment of birth. There are two pathways to said achievement: at least one parent is a US citizen, or you are born on US soil. Musk ticks neither of these boxes. The kind of technicality you are suggesting would require a situation where things are already so far gone that the Constitution has already been chucked out the window.

          Goldwater, Cruz, McCain, Romney, and Obama all tick the “natural born citizen” boxes at least twice. Either 2 citizen parents, or one parent + US soil birth. With Obama, no serious person in the Republican party ever pursued an eligibility challenge because the US citizenship of his mother was never in dispute.

          1. My point was that nothing is well defined at this point in time. From The Hill publication on 12/14/22: Recently, the 45th president of the US commented that “the 2020 presidential election saw “a Massive Fraud” that “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” And “A Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday found that 51 percent of registered voters think the former president’s recent comments should keep him off the 2024 ballot, while 40 percent say he shouldn’t be disqualified over the matter.” That leaves 9% of the registered voters that can’t be bothered to have an opinion on the Constitution. 45 can become 47 with that 49% of the voting population behind him.

            Concerning the constitutional requirements for presidents and the candidates that I listed, I’ll refer you to an article at titled “Is Ted Cruz, born in Canada, eligible to run for president?” that ends with “No matter how many people opine, there’s always going to be that issue.”

            White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane is the sound track of our time.
            When logic and proportion
            Have fallen sloppy dead
            And the White Knight is talking backwards
            And the Red Queen’s off with her head
            Remember what the dormouse said…

  2. Musk has Asperger’s disease. He’s got issues. I don’t know all the details, but it affects his judgement. It also positively affects his knack for manufacturing and science. He’s a geek, which is how he best serves his audience. He is a different kind of human.

    Twitter was a distraction. His CEO stint at Twitter showed how terribly unfit he was for that role. He would be better off if he shuttered Twitter and wrote off the $44 billion investment, all of which was a product of misguided judgement. He needs to concentrate on SpaceX and Tesla – especially the latter.

    1. He probably should close it, but I doubt he can write it off. He used billions in debt to buy it. He’ll have to pay or he’s finished as a force of any kind.

      1. Nine. It’s nine children. And he does have Asperger’s. When he came out with his diagnosis, the reaction within the adult autistic community was, “Wait, I thought everyone knew that?”

        1. Certainly my comment was snide, and I have total empathy for individuals with Asperger’s as well as families who heroically support their loved ones. I see Musk’s primary condition to be an anti social narcissistic personality disorder, which is common among the most malevolent people (men) throughout history. I am very afraid of his power and influence, and I’ve never felt that way with anyone with Asperger’s whom I’ve met or worked with. I fear Musk being socially and politically enabled by the Asperger’s diagnosis.

          1. Highlighting his Asperger’s then had nothing whatsoever to do with your criticism of him, so why did you highlight it? If you have “total empathy for… etc”, then why did you even bring it up? And your entire statement seemed designed to cast doubt on whether or not he has the condition at all. I don’t understand why you made that statement, what it was intended to convey, what his number of children has to do with anything, what you’re trying to say about him, his parenting, or anything relevant to this entire discussion.

            Rather than just dunking on you though, I’m going to elaborate on something else I said in hopes of achieving some positive advocacy for autistic people everywhere.

            I said: “When he came out with his diagnosis, the reaction within the adult autistic community was, ‘Wait, I thought everyone knew that?'” That’s an incomplete summation.

            When Musk outed himself (on SNL, saying (incorrectly), that he was proud to be the first host of SNL with Asperger’s (Dan Akyroid is also Autistic. The Coneheads is his commentary on how autistic people view neurotypicals), the adult autistic community had three primary reactions:

            1) Fanboys: “Holy shit this is awesome! Richest man in the world is now associated with us! He’s so cool!”

            2) Haters: “Holy shit this is awful! Now everyone will associate Musk’s flaws with Autism rather than with Musk just being a shithead”

            3) Duh: “Wait, was this a secret? I thought everyone knew?”

            #2 here is the most relevant. People are often awful and do awful things. Unfortunately, we sometimes associate their awfulness with coincident identifiers. A black person commits a crime… black people are criminals! Now, that particular racist canard is well understood and easily dismissed by thoughtful people. But those same thoughtful people are often confused because they don’t understand autism, and think that the awfulness of the awful person is not a function of them just being a shithead, but rather a consequence of their neurotype.

        2. feel free to “dunk on me” whenever you see fit … my main points (my beliefs) are that … 1) Musk has a far more deleterious condition than Asperger’s, and 2) oversimplifying him as such does a major disservice to those afflicted, and their families, and our society …

      2. Ha! Good point, John. He’s definitely a different kind of critter.

        He likes to talk smart and likes being elevated as a fascinating mind in our society. He likes to be fascinated and apply his capacity to do fantastic things for the benefit of all. But in regard to personal and family matters, I do not get the impression that he is entirely responsible. Small glimpses of his personal life suggest he sometimes shirks family responsibilities in favor of more interesting things.

        1. No, it is not a good point. Not a lot of people “have 6 children” regardless of neurotype. His reproductive decisions have zero to do with having Asperger’s.

        2. thanks, Dave…it was a fairly impulsive comment with a biting tongue and cheekiness to it…my biggest concern is that simply referring to Mr Musk as Asperger’s is naively enabling from a society grappling with major existential issues at present…

  3. Thank you H for providing the scope and context of our broken reality, perhaps it will calcify and heal in the coming decades. I will never forget on January 6th speaking to a younger smart co worker (who is pursuing a career in science) whom upon my disbelief at the scenes unfolding on the screen calmly stated it was “antifa”. I next sent a text to a lifelong friend a retired and accomplished military veteran/defense contractor/global troubleshooter of defense systems, and previously one of the most intuitive individuals i had ever met, (me): can you believe this @#$% I asked? “Well the election was fraudulent” was his reply. Later he promoted Tucker Carlson to me.

    They were reacting out of fear that the opposition was/is taking wealth from them from now until eternity. Greed serves a positive purpose until it does not. They truly believed in their weak souled patriotism that russia had no involvement in their way of thinking.

    Greed kills.

  4. Fifty plus years ago a popular youthful slogan was “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out”.
    Today I prefer “Tune Out, Turn Off, Drop Dead “.

  5. my hope is that the progressives and left leaning folks stop buying Tesla-s; the majority of the folks Musk is pandering too can’t afford them…he is dangerous imho…

    1. Perhaps he truly is a genius on this? With all of the more prestigious and arguably better models from Audi and Mercedes starting to hit the market, might it be that he detects that Tesla has saturated the “do gooder” TAM? Time to pivot to the ripe MAGA market?

  6. To the extent Musk is swept up in all of that, it’s probably by accident. In casual conversation I’m not as generous, but to be completely honest, hindsight suggests Donald Trump might’ve been more dupe than conspirator in 2016, so we should allow for that possibility before we cast accusatory aspersions.

    Looking forward to your post on nature vs nurture! Maybe a part 2 on determinism?

NEWSROOM crewneck & prints