A common trope on the internet is “eat the rich.” It stems from the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a French Revolution leader, who more aptly quoted, “[W]hen the people have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.” As Adolphe Thiers notes in his book on the French Revolution, this term was first used by revolutionary Pierre Gaspard Chaumette during a speech in the height of the French revolution. Eat the rich has become synonymous with disposing of the powerful and has been used frequently in the ideals of revolutionaries, finding its most recent home in the hearts of 21st-century activists and the Twittersphere. I mention the Twittersphere because, as of Oct.27, Twitter is owned by billionaire Elon Musk. He claims that he will rid the site of bots and renew its mission of protecting free speech, per CBS News. I’m curious to see if he’s prepared for the consequences.
I personally don’t understand the love people have for Musk. But every time the discussion of who gets spared in the imaginary “eat the rich” revolution, Musk is a top contender for living despite his billion dollar empire. People love him. They call him a real-life Iron Man, an innovator, a man of the people. He has a cult following that spans gender, tax bracket, race and creed. The reality is that Musk isn’t worth the admiration outside of a good meme. He is a con artist with a good PR team.
Let’s look at his electric cars. Everyone loves the electric car; they are the transportation of the future. Tesla didn’t do it first though. Electric cars have been around since the ’90s. What makes Teslas so popular isn’t that they’re a better electric car—it’s their charging mechanism. Tesla copied a strategy that countless brands are using by ensuring that if you want to charge your environmentally friendly ride at a Tesla charging station, you need a Tesla or an adapter. Tesla owns 40 percent of the charging stations, increasing the likelihood that people will buy that brand over the competition, according to CNBC. Add that to the fact that the cheapest Tesla costs roughly $40,000, demonstrating that Musk isn’t an environmentalist but a capitalist.
Next is his Starlink system. Starlink is supposed to bring the internet to the masses. Designed to help communities that don’t have readily available internet, it has already made its way into the Ukrainian conflict. The Washington Post reports that Starlink has kept the Ukrainian people connected to the larger world and allowed their military to maintain communications. Providing internet to a country and its citizens in need should be an easy win for Musk and his image. He could have ridden this wave of benevolence to the bank—literally, in the form of shareholder dividends. Instead, Musk went to Twitter to complain about the cost of supporting the Ukrainian people, CNBC reports. That’s right, the billionaire worth more money than God complained that Starlink is costing him millions of dollars. $120 million is a drop in the billion-dollar bucket, but it is also unfathomable how much $120 million is for most of us. A quick Twitter search showed people have come running to Musk’s defense. How dare we expect him to lose money, to let him risk his business, when he’s saving lives in Ukraine? But what about the lives he’s risking with this ploy? You don’t threaten to stop paying the bills when lives are on the line. If you want to make billions, you take the hit now and negotiate a military contract for billions later. Musk knows this; he’s too smart and too rich not to know how to monopolize the military-industrial complex. He even backtracked his statement later, going to Twitter again to say that he would continue to pay for Starlink even though it cost his company money, while others made billions in government contracts.
All of this culminates in his recent acquisition of Twitter. Musk see-sawed on his offer to buy Twitter, dangling it like a proverbial carrot to shareholders and news sources alike. According to The Verge, There are some who theorized that it was a ploy to drive down the price or get out of the deal completely. Ultimately, his antics led to a lawsuit that Musk was going to lose if he hadn’t decided to go through with the deal, Reuters writes. He can say that he bought Twitter to protect freedom of speech, but reality says otherwise. He did it to save his own butt. All of this brings me back to the point that Musk is not a hero. No one makes billions of dollars without getting blood on their hands. Musk’s list of misdeeds and sins is longer than this article could possibly cover but the point stands. Musk is an opportunist looking to use his newest three-ring circus to distract consumers and is undeserving of any admiration.