Why do it? When I wrote about Musk’s tweeting earlier this year, I was leaning towards the idea that Twitter itself had led him to this 280-character recklessness. I described Twitter as a highway from your foot to your mouth. But now that he owns the company, things have gotten worse – and seemingly more intentional. Musk seems to have programmed his Tesla navigation system to zoom right in on his own chat trap. The definitive answer to why he’s doing this can only be accessed in the big brain of the man who rules Tesla, SpaceX, brain implants and tunneling startups, and now Twitter. I can’t ask Twitter for comment because Musk fired his PR team. People around Musk that I’ve questioned don’t answer either. The only response I got was from his friend and co-founder of OpenAI, Sam Altman. “No idea really,” says Altman.
One of Musk’s surrogates addressed the tweets: Joe Lonsdale, an investor and co-founder of Palantir who knows Musk and reportedly advises him on the Twitter bailout. As a recent guest on CNBC, Lonsdale shared that “the opportunities are great” for Musk and Twitter. But when cohost Andrew Ross Sorkin brought up the Markey tweet, he had the same concerns as me. “I do not understand!” said Sorkin. “Democrats control the senate, that man runs a whole bunch of committees—with subpoena power no less! … Isn’t he putting himself at some real risk?”
Lonsdale defended his friend by saying the tweets proved “how important it is for Elon to win.” It is about freedom. “If you do that in China, you’re definitely out,” Lonsdale said, waving his hand in a chopping motion like a Maoist hangman. “It proves to everyone that it is possible that we have a free country, and you can push back, you can make fun of people who attack you, and you can still win. And that’s great! He says we’re free and I’m not going to treat this like a communist dictatorship.”
That comment might have come across better if Musk hadn’t publicly fired—and then ridiculed—every employee at the time if he dared post something more critical than a knee bend to his greatness about it. Since Twitter CEO Musk is leading a dictatorial masterclass, I reject the Lonsdale theory.
Another assumption is that Musk has gone mad. We must therefore consider all his actions on his Twitter as Queeg-esque madness. That doesn’t work either. These awkward tweets are not a new behavior. Remember 2018 when Must recklessly called the man who took those Thai children out of the cave a “pedo man”? Musk won the libel lawsuit brought against him by the rescuer, but paid a price for distraction and reputation for his unwarranted libel. And continued. Or what about the time that same year when he tweeted, “Consider taking Tesla private for $420. Funding secured.” The financing turned out not to be in place. There was also confusion over whether the tweet was a joke, as April 20 is known as Weed Day, a time to light a fat joint. In any case, the US Securities and Exchange Commission was not amused. Musk and Tesla both had to pay $20 million to settle the agency’s complaint, and Musk had to step down as Tesla’s chairman. But outside of Twitter, Musk shows no signs of madness. Since those 2018 tweets, he’s done a pretty good job running Tesla and SpaceX, so you could assume he’s the same non-crazy dude now. Only crazy in his tweets.