But who is Elon Musk really?
The new head of Twitter, Elon Musk, is at the center of many controversies in the United States
Atlantico: How to identify Elon Musk, who is he?
Fabrice Epelboin: He is South African, from a petty-bourgeois family – not, as is sometimes said, wealthy landowners. At the age of 17, he left his parents on bad terms to go to Canada, where he obtained an American visa, which meant that he could not be president of the United States because he was not born there.
Elon Musk is the richest man in the world and we should not forget that. He has surpassed everything he could have imagined in terms of wealth, but continues to operate as if it were his first startup. His first project was the one he later gave to PayPal. His co-workers describe him as someone who never stops working. For example, since coming to Twitter, he has installed a bed next to his desk to sleep on, while he could have long enjoyed his wealth like other billionaires. He doesn’t do it for money anymore, he’s a businessman, he’s a businessman.
Elon Musk revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome and said, “I know sometimes I say or write weird things, but that’s how my brain works.” This neurodivergence affects his ability to interact with his social environment, but it certainly also affects his abilities and must be taken into account in order to decipher the person.
He is a technological solver—a characteristic of the environment and a source of Silicon Valley—which assures him that whatever the problem, there is a technological solution. This is the way of thinking that makes many people not care about global warming.
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It is also a transhumanist, complex subject. Musk dreams of uniting man and machine, despite all that he’s not in search of eternal life or anything else. He is both a supporter of artificial intelligence and one who spends his time warning about the danger it represents.
What are its values?
Because he was not born in the United States, his view is not that of a globally centered Native American. Nevertheless, he openly embraced the United States in an extreme way. It is a follower of the first amendment, very complicated to understand and does not even apply in France.
Politically, it can be defined as elusive. Being a libertarian, he was able to side with Obama, then Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. In France, the hard-to-understand current of thought is completely out of public debate and barely represented.
Musk is a man who believes in the truth and values it above anything that is not for everyone. Files are now coming out that show Twitter is the biggest public opinion control machine ever. We discover a tool that allows us to manipulate the flow of information between individuals, which predates the media, the turkeys of Persia. 99% of journalists are on Twitter, and a large number of them either find their sources there or rely on the “trending topics” of the day to feed their editorial line. We imagine that this must have influenced hundreds of thousands of editorial choices around the world for 5 years.
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Elon Musk obviously knew what was going on internally, so he fired everyone when he arrived. We’re headed for perjury indictments of at least two Twitter executives and potentially Jack Dorsey.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Elon knows exactly where he’s going with Twitter, but he knows that Twitter needs to include moderation reviews. This is a problem for Democrats, as moderation has been largely focused on the Republican party.
With this global influence, you’d expect a man like Musk to have a childish, naïve view of truth and democracy, but he values that above all else. It’s strange that his political stances come from someone with so much power. He is willing to take huge losses that make no business sense for the sake of 14-year-old ideals. It has a certain charm, but it is not very confident.
What is his political role?
When we work at this level, we definitely have a political role. But it had a different political role than the war in Ukraine. Without Musk – and the Pentagon behind him – there is no communication on the ground for Ukrainians since the satellites are in space. It occurred to him and he tried to play matchmaker. At the same time, it has a geopolitical role that forces it to engage with China through its business, rare earths and other issues. But China is also Tesla’s main competitor. It has a decisive and unprecedented role, and is involved in a conflict that will perhaps be the beginning of the century.
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How can one make sense of some of his rambling statements, especially after taking over Twitter?
He is a troll. It is a form of public speech, a dialectic, his perfected art. He scatters his messages in the same way, which makes them very difficult for ordinary people to understand. While he can afford the communication service very well, he deliberately has extremely critical communication, but he chooses not to filter it with the world. The reason why he loves Twitter. Objectively trolling is the worst way to do business. He expresses himself in a very special way. His interviews are interrupted because he can leave a 4 second gap between two words in the same sentence for some unknown reason.
Plus, I’ve never seen someone with so little charisma at the head of such a big company, but it’s like trolling, he’s playing it. I think he realized very quickly that he had a very special relationship with others in his life and that he told himself no matter what others thought.
For some, especially recently, you mentioned his troll side Atlantic, Elon Musk is a “far-right activist.” His recent tweets about “Judge Fauci” and the handling of Covid have been particularly targeted. Is that it?
Absolutely. This is nonsense spewed by someone who believes that anyone who disagrees with them is very right. Elon Musk has publicly called for voting for Democrats in the last three elections. But beyond that, he’s a libertarian. And there is right and left. They fit very poorly in the classical spectrum. Elon Musk is a staunch environmentalist, an environmental concern, and has entered into a very strong conflict with Trump on these issues. It is also very favorable to transparency and democracy. If you want to cherry pick his statements, you can prove anything and everything to the contrary. Elon Musk released all Tesla patents to the public. The most recent example is in 1959 when Volvo invented the three-point seat belt. You can use this point to say that Musk is a communist. It would be equally false and ridiculous to say that he is an extreme right-winger. The truth is, it’s somewhere else.
Twitter files, continued: censorship at all levels
Is he as anti-establishment as some of his supporters take him to be?
No, he’s just a libertarian. He is definitely not anti-establishment. He builds a family with famous actresses and singers, often goes to red carpets, etc. She has a social life similar to any American star.
Elon Musk is a complex person shaped by small touches. And its complexity is difficult to understand, especially since it cannot be popularized and only experts can understand it. And few resist the urge to box him in and criticize him. Of course, there are criticisms. The social plan that started violently was realized on Twitter. The fact that he is at the head of this machine to influence world opinion, namely Twitter, is extremely disturbing. There should be checks and balances and there aren’t any. He made a promise and still hasn’t. But what he revealed from his old Twitter is even more disturbing than what he seems to be doing now, we’ll have to wait and see.
The news is obviously Twitter files, what are you looking for with that?
Everyone in France understood very well that there was bias on Twitter, from the journalists. In fact, as the Twitter files show, the network has favored the far-left, which can communicate with the general staff of twitter, to the detriment of the right and far-right. Everyone instinctively thinks Musk will reverse his bias. I don’t think it will happen. For Musk, the bias should be equal on all sides.
Since acquiring Twitter, it has been waging a subversive war against the woke, but the reality is undoubtedly more nuanced and complex than that. A calm and quiet look at episode 5 of The Twitter Files gives us an idea of why the Twitter takeover is so violent. What is known today is that Twitter employees have an internal rebellion and they pressured their boss to remove Donald Trump on non-existent grounds. This in no way excuses the violence of the dismissal process, which is unprecedented in the West, but it allows us to understand why it came and see that perhaps there is no other option but to review everything: the moderation system. For the rest, with the Twitter files, he has a minimal settlement with the United States and various states, starting with France, which are alarmed by his moderation move, presumably because they are using bias.