I’ve come to very much dislike Elon Musk.
The final straw was Musk’s hearty welcome back on Twitter to Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after the rapper spouted vile antisemitic comments in interviews and on social media. Twitter temporarily restricted, but didn’t ban Ye as the media mistakenly reported, an example of Twitter’s longtime double standards regarding hate speech when directed at Jews. Musk said Ye’s account restrictions were lifted prior to his taking over the company.
I judge a person by the company they keep. If Musk is proud to feature virulent Jew haters like Ye on his site, that speaks volumes.
Musk has revealed himself as person lacking decency and empathy, underscored by his callous firing of half of Twitter’s staff. Although I have little sympathy for the terminated Twitter employees who chose to work at the despicable company when until recently technology jobs elsewhere were plentiful, sending every one home and instructing them to wait for an email notifying them if they still had jobs showed no class.
It also showed little thought, as Bloomberg reported that dozens of Twitter employees who were fired are being asked to return, as some employees were let go by mistake and others have experience building features that Musk wants. It is my hope that if any of the discarded Twitter employees agreed to return, they had enough pride to demand higher salaries than they were previously earning.
Even as a little boy, Musk apparently lacked compassion for others. In an interview with AFP, Errol Musk, the technology entrepreneur’s father, recalled a time when his son made a hurtful comment to a schoolmate about the suicide of the schoolmate’s father. The schoolmate pushed Elon down a staircase, injuring him so badly he had to be hospitalized.
Although Musk’s father wanted to defend his son, he couldn’t.
“I realized Elon overstepped the mark with this little boy. I had to drop it,” the elder Musk was quoted as saying.
For all his brilliance, Musk isn’t looking so smart to me these days. While I’m no genius, I’m not the one who paid $44 billion to acquire Twitter. In fact, had I been given an opportunity to buy Twitter for a mere dollar, I still would have passed on the opportunity.
Okay, that’s hyperbole. If I could have acquired Twitter for a dollar, I would have made the purchase and immediately shut the sewer down as partial redemption for all my shortcomings and wrongdoings.
“Bye Bye Birdie,” I would have declared to the twits who populate the site, with a special goodbye for those with cherished blue verification checkmarks. I’d love to be remembered as the person who liberated civil society from Twitter, proving my parents were wrong in saying I’d never amount to anything.
Sorry, I digress.
In less than a week of acquiring Twitter, Musk quickly learned some valuable lessons. One of them was that among his 100 million or so fawning Twitter followers, few, if any, appear to control the advertising purse strings of America’s woke corporations.
Even before Musk’s takeover, Twitter was a bit player in the digital advertising world; the company’s advertising revenues last year were a paltry $4.5 billion, compared to Google’s $257 billion.
GM, Audi, and General Mills are among the companies suddenly feigning concerns about Twitter’s content, but I say shame on them for advertising on Twitter to begin with. GM and Audi should take note that Tesla is far and away the leading EV brand and Musk never wasted his money advertising on Twitter. A shoutout to Ford CEO Jim Farley, who reportedly doesn’t waste his money running ads on Twitter, either.
Musk is getting trolled on Twitter, with comedian Kathy Griffin being the first celebrity to lose her tweeting privileges after a wave of prominent users impersonated Musk over the weekend, hoping to expose potential flaws in the social media company’s plans for a revised verification system. I confess to dreaming that tens of thousands of twits change their handles to Elon Musk, forcing him to ban all of them.
The self-described “free speech absolutist” clearly doesn’t believe that free speech includes the right for people to call themselves Elon Musk.
Musk hopefully is aware that some people really are out to get him.
ProPublica recently revealed that Google is funneling advertising revenue to some of the web’s most prolific purveyors of false information in Europe, Latin America and Africa. The ads of major U.S. brands are appearing on websites that ProPublica says “spread false claims on such topics as vaccines, COVID-19, climate change and elections.”
Not one advertiser has yet to express any public concerns about their Google ads being used to fund misinformation. Even the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), which describes itself as a global “advertiser-led cross-industry effort to remove harmful content from ad-supported digital media,” has been silent about the ProPublica disclosure. Yet GARM has put Musk on notice that it is “monitoring Twitter’s actions”
The New York Post last Friday revealed how dire Twitter’s finances are in the wake of Musk’s purchase. While Twitter posted a modest loss last year, Musk saddled the company with massive debt that would have resulted in extensive losses had he not taken a machete to its workforce.
The Post said Twitter will be forced to pay interest expenses on its nearly $13 billion in new loans that will amount to $1.3 billion per year, more than Twitter’s typical $1.2 billion in annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA — a key measure of profitability used by Wall Street.
The Post reported that the banks responsible for lending Musk the money to finance his Twitter deal are bracing for heavy losses as they struggle to sell their loans to reduce their exposure. Barclays was selling its stake of the $12.7 billion of loans Twitter borrowed to finance the deal at 80 cents on the dollar, but there were few takers. An unidentified potential buyer of the debt told the Post he wasn’t sure it was even worth 60 to 65 cents on the dollar.
Hardly, a vote of confidence in Musk’s ability to turn things around. I’d like to buy a small portion of Barclay’s loans at a big discount just for the psychic satisfaction of profiting, at least briefly, from Musk’s onerous debt requirements. Dealing with Musk, I’d expect to ultimately get screwed like Jamie Dimon did.
Musk has some issues in China, a critical market, where he’s been forced to significantly cut the prices on the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, despite his recent protestations the company wasn’t facing a softening demand for its vehicles. Tesla has also launched a referral program in China to goose sales.
Then there’s the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation of Tesla over claims that the company’s electric vehicles can drive themselves, which Reuters recently reported. Reuters said the DOJ launched the probe last year following more than a dozen crashes, some of them fatal, involving Tesla’s driver assistance system Autopilot, which was activated during the accidents.
The DOJ is headed by Merrick Garland, who was appointed by President Biden. Musk previously referred to Biden as a “damp sock puppet,” and he’s on record as saying he has no respect for the SEC. There are lots of people in Washington who would celebrate Musk being taken down, starting with the resident occupants in the White House. There can be serious consequences for being a smart aleck.
A year ago, filing criminal charges against Tesla or Musk might have been political folly, but I’m not certain that’s still the case. I sense Musk’s popularity is waning, and that I’m not alone in viewing him negatively given his new position as Chief Twit, though the title increasingly seems quite apt.
Karma is a bitch, and Musk would be wise to watch himself. Sadly, I doubt he will, which is why I no longer regard him as unfailingly brilliant as I once did.
That’s why I won’t be among those calling themselves Elon Musk. Eric Starkman suits me just fine.