Paul's been passionate about popular culture, business, and politics for over forty years.UK born, he now lives in Florida.
Elon Musk is a divisive figure who attracts both fierce criticism and passionate praise. He never seems to be too far away from controversy and often seems to revel in the publicity generated by his outspoken declarations and maverick actions.
His detractors paint him as an overrated narcissist, a self-serving hypocrite who pushes a right-wing political agenda and cares little for either the people who work for him or the wider public.
His defenders, on the other hand, view him as a modern business hero, an innovator in the style of earlier American entrepreneurs such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. For his fans, Musk's eccentric behavior is essentially just another aspect of his genius.
This article lists and looks at five reasons why Elon Musk is disliked, followed by some of the arguments made by his supporters.
5 Reasons Why Elon Musk Is Loathed
Here are five reasons why the world's richest man is scorned by some:
- Inflated ego
- Self-serving politics and misguided philosophy
- Chaotic love life and sexual misconduct allegation
- Poor judgment
I will examine each of the five reasons in more detail below.
1. Inflated Ego
To say that Elon Musk has a monster ego is an understatement.
One joke that's done the rounds on social media expresses a common view of the billionaire when it asks the question: "What's the difference between Elon Musk and God?" The answer: "God doesn't think that he's Elon Musk."
Some of Tesla founder's pronouncements suggest that he doesn't just see himself as being one of the world's most successful businessman, but believes himself to be more of a Messianic figure.
When he bought Twitter in April 2022, for example, he declared that he wasn't taking over the social media company for commercial reasons, but rather because it was "important to the future of civilization" and that he was doing it to "help humanity."
Another egocentric and controversial incident happened in October 2022 when Musk attempted to insert himself into the war between Russia and Ukraine as an international peacemaker.
The intervention apparently occurred after the billionaire had words with Vladimir Putin, although Musk vehemently denies that this conversation ever happened.
Musk's proposals involved Ukraine sacrificing territory to Russia and prompted anger from Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This sparked an online argument, in which Zelenskyy vigorously rejected Musk's ideas, and was followed by Musk threating to stop funding thousands of SpaceX Starlink satellite internet terminals for Ukraine, although he later backtracked.
2. Self-Serving Politics and Misguided Philosophy
Elon Musk likes to portray himself in public as someone who is above party politics. He claims to be an independent-minded and says that he has donated to both of the two main parties in the US, although critics argue that his support usually depends on what his particular business interests are at the time.
Musk claims to have voted Democrat in previous elections. Despite this, he urged people on Twitter to vote Republican in the 2022 Midterms.
Musk has been condemned for being overly friendly toward China's repressive communist government, motivated, his critics say, by the potential financial gains that could be found through accessing the Asian country's markets for Tesla products and services.
He's also written for China Cyberspace, the official publication of Cyberspace Administration of China, which enforces internet censorship in China. This would appear to conflict with Musk's claims to be a campaigner for free speech.
Elon Musk has advocated the controversial philosophy of "longtermism" and claims to have used it to guide his life and businesses. Followers of the philosophy believe that the belief system creates a motivation for humanity to help future generations survive and flourish.
However, the philosophy has attracted widespread criticism from writers and thinkers. For instance, the former longtermist Émile P Torres has has described it as the most dangerous secular belief system in the world today."
There has been much criticism of Elon Musk over the years regarding issues of integrity, especially when he appears to have operated according to double standards.
For example, Musk has repeatedly spoken out against what he sees as an over-interfering US government, criticizing the many rules and regulations that it places on companies. He has opposed the idea of a "billionaire's tax" on the ultra-wealthy, as well as spoken out against government spending, including subsidies.
Musk's libertarian-style utterances appear to contradict with the fact that he has numerous companies (e.g. Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity) that have benefitted enormously from huge government subsidies.
Musk wishes to be perceived as a public figure who cares about the environment. However, his actual behavior on green issues appears questionable.
One example is the billionaire's habit of using private jets to take very short journeys, even when there are far more environmentally-friendly alternatives available. He also raised eyebrows when he criticized the climate-friendly Build Back Better legislation.
While Musk has called himself a "free speech absolutist" in the past, detractors argue that this is simply not true. The reality is that the billionaire businessman and investor is thin-skinned: he likes the freedom to be able to express whatever he wants, but has a track record of taking aggressive action when he's the one who's being criticized.
4. Chaotic Love Life and Sexual Misconduct Allegation
Elon Musk's romantic life has been complicated, to say the least, and inspired much online chatter and tabloid newspaper articles. It's widely believed that the Tesla founder has fathered nine children with three different women and has gone through numerous divorces.
In July 2022, it was reported that Musk had twins with one of his top executives at Neuralink, who gave birth just weeks before he welcomed his second child with his partner Grimes via surrogate.
The unconventional names given to two children with Grimes also raised eyebrows. Their son was named X Æ A-12 or 'X' for short, and their daughter Exa Dark Sideræl, or 'Y'.
In May 2022, Business Insider reported that there had been a sexual misconduct allegation made against Musk by a SpaceX contract flight attendant. The accusation involved the billionaire propositioning the attendant and offering to buy a horse for her if she was prepared to perform a sex act on him.
Following the accusation, according to Business Insider, a severance agreement was reached whereby the attendant received a $250,000 payment in exchange for a promise not to sue over the claims.
Musk described the Business Insider article as being a "politically motivated hit piece" and denied any sexual misconduct had taken place. He explained that: "If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light".
5. Poor Judgment
Despite his many successes, Musk does seem to have a regular habit of making unwise, insensitive, and unwarranted accusations and statements.
One example was when Musk launched an extraordinary attack on a British diver. The diver was involved in rescuing boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. Musk labelled the Brit a “pedo guy” on Twitter without any apparent evidence.
There was speculation that Musk's outburst was a fit of pique, as he'd previously offered to help the rescue mission by providing a mini-submarine, but the overture had been rejected.
Another apparent instance of misplaced words happened not long after he bought the social media company Twitter. After carefully attempting to reassure advertisers and users that there wouldn't be problems such as hate speech and misinformation under his tenure, he immediately proceeded to undermine himself by tweeting a baseless conspiracy theory.
The tweet concerned the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was violently assaulted with a hammer in his San Francisco home by a politically-motivated fanatic. Musk's tweet concerned an allegation from an unreliable source that implied the attacker was a gay prostitute who had been picked up at a bar by the 82 year-old Mr. Pelosi.
In Defense of Elon Musk: What His Supporters Say
While his detractors abound, there are also many defenders of the South African-born business magnate and investor.
Fans of Musk point out that:
- Some people just hate successful people generally and that's why Musk, the richest man in the world, is a target for ire. The critics are jealous of his wealth and power, it's argued, or they hold left-wing views and see his business achievements as somehow intrinsically immoral.
- Innovative solutions are often only be found through the work of gifted individuals such as Musk. Creative geniuses often tend to be eccentric in their character and approach. They are often condemned rather than praised for their unconventional attitudes.
- He's a modern-day genius and part of an entrepreneurial tradition in the US that stretches back to include innovators like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity all develop and employ groundbreaking technologies that progress humanity generally and have wide applications.
- Elon Musk has shown himself to be a generous benefactor for people fighting for freedom. For instance, he's enabled free access to Starlink, the satellite internet arm of his SpaceX, to Ukraine, as well as demonstrators in Iran. In addition to his commercial companies, the Musk Foundation also does a lot of philanthropic work, including providing solar-power energy systems in disaster areas.
© 2022 Paul Goodman