Since acquiring Twitter last year, Elon Musk has become a lot more open about his extreme right-wing politics. He’s reshaped the platform by unbanning white nationalist and neo-Nazi accounts, deliberately targeted left-wing activists, and gone after media he disagrees with. Musk frequently replies to prominent right-wing accounts, and it’s clear they feel they have a direct line to one of the most powerful people in the world.
He’s also taken to echoing their political positions and conspiracy theories, most notably after the attack on Paul Pelosi in October. But since the murder of Jordan Neely on the New York subway on May 1, something does appear to have shifted. Musk has been responding to tweets suggesting the media only cares when white people kill black people, denying the very clear evidence that a mass shooting at a Dallas shopping center was carried out by a neo-Nazi, and most recently comparing George Soros — the frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories — to Jewish supervillain Magneto and claiming he “hates humanity.”
Musk is not only agreeing with white nationalist and far-right perspectives, but by interacting with and boosting them, he’s ensuring they reach far more people. Further, with the changes he’s made to Twitter, he ensures that those perspectives get greater prominence on the platform.
CNBC’s David Faber sat down for an hour-long interview for Musk on Tuesday after Tesla’s earnings call and asked him about his tweets. Given that CNBC is a business network, Faber doesn’t question why he believes such vile things in the first place, but simply why he shares them publicly instead of voicing them in private. Musk starts joking when Faber begins asking about the tweets, but as he persists Musk’s tone shifts.
When you watch the video, it’s very clear that Musk is seething. He’s taken aback at the suggestion he should be considerate of what he says, responding, “That’s freedom of speech; I’m allowed to say what I want.” By putting it that way, Musk is echoing a common right-wing framing of free speech that asserts they should be able to say the most hateful things imaginable and face no consequences for it — even as they continue to suppress the speech of groups they don’t agree with.
As Faber pushes again, explaining that Tesla customers or Twitter advertisers may not want to do business with his companies because of his extreme right-wing views (my words, not Faber’s), Musk takes a long and uncomfortable pause. When he speaks again, he quotes the 1987 film The Princess Bride to illustrate how he feels. “Offer me money. Offer me power. I don’t care,” he says, putting on a slightly different accent. He goes silent again, and Faber feels he has to confirm what he just heard: “So, you just don’t care?”
The making of Elon Musk
Musk perceives himself to be one of the smartest people alive, singularly working to save humanity from climate change and extinction. Neither of those things is true, yet that belief leads him to constantly buy into the most outlandish conspiracy theories because he’s so lacking in critical thinking skills — and surely has some affinity for the politics they forward. He’s created a bubble of right-wing media and conspiracy theories for himself as he’s turned on the mainstream press because they no longer fawn over him like they once did — and I would argue they shoulder some of the blame for forcing this powerful white nationalist (yes, I’m talking about Musk) onto the world.