Why progressives hate Elon Musk- POLITICO

 Why progressives hate Elon Musk- POLITICO


BLOCKED AND REPORTED He not only created a growing fleet of electric vehicles, he made cool gasless cars. He wants to build, essentially, the fastest trains ever. He condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and sent satellite internet terminals to the Ukrainian people. So why do so many liberals hate Twitter’s soon-to-be owner, Elon Musk, so much?

It wasn’t always this way. Not all that long ago, it was conservatives who denounced Musk. Ten years ago during a 2012 presidential debate with Barack Obama, Mitt Romney called Tesla a “loser,” lumping it in with the bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra.

What has changed since then? Here are three big developments that turned Musk into a liberal bogeyman.

Trump was banned from Twitter. After former President Donald Trump’s attempt at a Jan. 6 shots, Twitter kicked him off the service. Progressives are worried that Musk (a self-declared moderate who suggested he would vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016) wants to bring Trump back.

This is the simplest explanation, and it’s part of the story. But it’s not all of it by a long shot. There are two other aspects of progressive thinking that have become much louder, and more important, since the Obama administration. The first:

The rise of the “ban billionaires” movement. If you were to ask your garden-variety, well-educated, politically active, MSNBC-watching liberal why they dislike Musk, they might give you an answer based on his wealth: “No one should be that rich.” This sentiment comes largely from a renewed class consciousness in the Democratic Party since Bernie Sanders ’2016 primary run.

Musk has made this debate a little personal. “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive”He tweeted at Sanders a few months ago, in response to a boilerplate statement from Sanders asking that“the extreme wealthy pay their fair share”Of taxes.

Even a more centrist Democrat who doesn’t object to the existence of billionaires might point to Musk’s continued troubles with the SEC or the Black workers suing Tesla for discrimination.

Without question, “ban billionaires” and the increased concerns over income inequality and racial equity is a big part of Musk’s declining reputation among progressives. But it’s not all of it, either. The biggest reason:

The way progressive interpret the phrase “free speech” has changed. Musk says he wants to make Twitter a haven for “free speech” on the internet. But when progressives hear Musk advocate for free speech, they think less of John Stuart Mill’s marketplace of ideas and more of the kind of talk you hear on Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Over the past two years in particular, Musk has embraced a narrow and specific understanding of free speech. It’s one that’s shared by other powerful people who have built a brand on heterodox thinking, like Rogan. Call it the “just asking questions” philosophy, or maybe “Roganomics.”

Especially in the Covid era, liberals have argued that we should trust the wisdom of credentialed experts. Musk does not seem to trust these experts, and he often uses his large platform on Twitter (where he has 86 million followers at last count) to regularly question them.

Like Rogan, he pairs this set of beliefs with a native understanding of the internet and its denizens. He writes like an active Reddit user or a 4chan “edgelord,” someone stirring controversy with a smirk on his face, obscuring what’s sarcastic and what he actually believes. A new Vanity Fair profile of some leading figures in the New Right describes this rhetorical pose in detail.

This style of communication makes a horde of internet users believe that Musk is just like them. Which is precisely what bothers a large number of extremely online progressives.

Plus, for some liberals, Musk’s stirring of “controversy” has turned into simple misinformation. Since the beginning of the pandemic (he tweeted on March 62020, “The coronavirus pandemic is dumb”), Musk has regularly questioned accepted science.

Particularly in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots, the commonly held progressive position on free speech has shifted from, “The answer to bad speech is more speech,” to something along the lines of, “There is some misinformation, in particular from well-known institutions or people, that companies have to curb in order to protect small-d democratic values . ”

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