Popular Mechanics has published a defense of Elon Musk, and it’s disturbingly creepy. They’ve got multiple contributors, and the first compares him to Mark Twain.
Not everybody liked Twain. They still don’t. He could be scandalous and self-indulgent. He smoked too much. Judgmental. And Twain, a one-time riverboat pilot, made nothing substantial, produced no commodities or goods, except his tales and observations. He took you somewhere. Mark Twain didn’t think for you, you barrel-hoop baron you. But he was out there. Thinking. He spoke past his newspaper editor, directly to the people, to his readers, whether they agreed with him or not. And while he certainly produced outsize, often painful, observations about what we had become as a people, he also offered glaring, satiric propositions concerning what we might want to try to be henceforth. And why. In person, he could be wily, cold, and unpleasant, but Twain stood out as a man who reliably saw the truth of human purpose beneath the weighty mess of human foibles. He had ambitions for humanity. At the very least, he believed that humanity ought to have ambitions for itself.
And now, Elon Musk walks the earth. The pleasure of his presence on this mantle is similar to Twain’s. You might live in Tacoma and make a living working in a consulting firm that helps affordable hotel chains rebrand themselves using urban graphic-design strategies and overlapping pricing platforms. But admit it, among your everyday pleasures is the possibility that you might pick up an item in the news feed on your smartphone concerning Elon Musk’s next great idea. Electric cars. The colonization of Mars. Tunnels beneath Los Angeles. Brains linked to computers.
I mainly pick up on news about Musk because he’s obnoxiously weird. Accusing divers of being pedophiles. Abusing his employees (look up Mary Beth Brown). An ugly divorce. Unable to profit despite receiving millions of dollars from his fellow capitalists. Smoking a joint on a YouTube video.
Electric cars are a great idea — it wasn’t his. He wants to colonize Mars to “save” humanity — it won’t. His tunnels are bizarre and impractical. He doesn’t know how to link brains and computers.
He’s no Mark Twain.
Another guy has a different comparison.
Bruce Wayne. Elon Musk. Tony Stark. Three men worth billions of dollars who care more about solving important problems than living comfortably, but only one of them is real.
SpaceX and Tesla cars are great. I don’t know that they make up for the fact that he’s an obnoxious asshole with a cult of personality.