But the Tesla CEO is veering into Lex Luthor territory with his own behavior
As an Israeli-born Jew, I think a more practical perspective may be illuminating
- The Nazis killed 2 in 3 Jews in Europe and 1 in 3 Jews worldwide. The Nazis were primarily beaten by the Americans.
- In 1973, invading armies got the jump on the Israeli army. Israel is about 10 miles wide at its narrowest point, the ability to "buy time with space" is very limited. Within a couple of days of the invasion, Israel asked for help. Europe declined, America stepped up, and Israel won the war.
America isn't perfect but of course but in recent history, it has been hands down the greatest defence against humanity's worst impulses. It's proving that again in Ukraine right now. I often think that it must be hard for Americans to appreciate how important it has been; America is so strong that it must be hard to understand what it's like to be weak. I think it would be a true catastrophe if America turns away from that role. Who knows how many more Putins are waiting in the wings.
Wasn't Elon Time's Man of the Year like a year ago?
I can't think of anyone who had burning their reputation to the ground day by day since then.
The highlights I remember:
- That "Pedo guy" incident
- Taking Putin's side in Ukraine
- Laying off so many people at Twitter so quickly that they locked themselves out of the building
- Claiming he was taking over Twitter in defense of free speech, then choosing who gets to come back with a poll
- Caving into to Turkey's demand for censorship because "Twitter would be throttled otherwise"
- Spreading crazed conspiracy theories about Paul Pelosi
- Naming his kids nonsense
- Talking up crypto like an idiot
- Becoming such a right-wing hack that most people I know will no longer buy Telsas
- Tweeting like a 16-year old school shooter before his rampage
Really an amazing performance. MVP of fucking up.
Great article, except "100-proof cosmopolitan idealism" is only 50% cosmopolitan idealism.
Elon Musk is today's Henry Ford. He is a brilliant and maniacal industrialist. Teslas are amazing cars; SpaceX has supplanted NASA in important ways and proven a better way to deliver payloads to orbit. Amazing stuff. He deserves a lot of credit for helping change the world.
He is also a normal man with a big ego, flaws and excesses. The same can be said of Soros, Gates, Buffet, etc. Thiel, too, in some ways, though I would argue his business acumen is of a much lower level.
In their realm of expertise, we should take their views seriously and give them a lot of weight. In all other areas, they are no more worthy of respect than any other person. Anyone who elevates a successful businessperson, actor or celebrity into some all-knowing sage is making a mistake.
This is really a fantastic article but I do think you are giving Musk too much credit here. I don’t think his comparison is really based on any deep thinking beyond, “Soros was mean to me. He is a bad man”.
Matt did not go directly into this, but the Superman All-American thing struck a nerve for me.
In the last decade or two the American left has increasingly become openly Anti-American. Among liberals it’s in vogue, almost obligatory, to idealize Europe and trash the US, and to caveat every positive mention of the US with some apology.
I don’t think the lefty elites understand how much this deeply undermines them politically. Most Americans are “patriotic,” in particular including most immigrants who worked hard to get to be here.
If the cosmopolitans want to win over the normies, the way to do it is to compete to show the left’s ideas are *more* American than the right’s.
This was one of the pillars of effectiveness of the mid-century civil rights movement, leaders like MLK pointing out correctly that we were not living up to our own standards and had to do better.
I wish very much that the democrats would not cede “patriotism” to the republicans.
Goddamn, Lincoln really put out some absolute bangers.
I've seen a lotta people say "sure Soros deserves criticism but the way it comes off is antisemitic."
I'm gonna just come out and say it. George Soros is good. Also the Koch brothers arguably made the GOP take better positions. It's politically incorrect to say it but billionaires generally have better politics than normie voters.
It’s important to remember that america is structurally and fundamentally exceptional compared to the great majority of the worlds nations, and the reality of the greater the majority of humanity in one fundamental fact: its native population(s) were almost completely wiped out, and whoever remains is completely negligible as a political force on all but a handful of districts. This is radically different from most nations that are based on a large native element. This means that America’s immigration based, non ethnic nationalism is weird. It works well for America, but it’s just an idiosyncrasy that cannot be used to model the questions and debates about nationalism generally. I do wish Americans will be better aware of that.
For others’ that are also unfamiliar with the X-Men lore, here’s how ChatGPT-4 answers, “Describe the conflict between Xavier and Magneto”:
Professor Charles Xavier (often known as Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (also known as Magneto) are two central characters in the Marvel Comics universe, most notably in the X-Men series. Despite both being mutants and sharing common goals of mutant prosperity, they have divergent philosophies and methods, which results in a significant, ongoing conflict throughout the series.
Professor Xavier believes in peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans. He thinks that mutants should use their powers responsibly to help humanity and foster understanding and acceptance. Xavier's goal is to create a world where humans and mutants live together harmoniously, and he seeks to achieve this by educating mutants at his school (the Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters) to control their powers and to use them in a way that benefits all of society.
On the other hand, Magneto views mutants as a superior species and humans as a threat to mutant survival. He believes that mutants must assert their power and dominance to survive and protect themselves. Magneto's experiences, particularly his early life during the Holocaust, have led him to this more militant and separatist approach.
This ideological clash is the root of their conflict. Despite their common goal of wanting what's best for mutants, their different perspectives and strategies cause them to often be at odds with each other.
Xavier forms the X-Men, a group of mutants who follow his philosophy and work towards peaceful coexistence. Magneto, meanwhile, often leads the Brotherhood of Mutants, a group that seeks to advance the status of mutants, even at the cost of human welfare.
Their conflict symbolizes larger societal issues, such as the tension between assimilation and separatism, between peace and violence in the struggle for civil rights, and between different visions of what an ideal society looks like. Despite their differences, however, there are instances where they come together to face common threats against mutantkind.
Elon Musk is very into grandiose plans to save humanity. A “master plan” to save the planet from global warming by building a huge electric car company. Expanding civilization to Mars. Building a better AI company to stop a rouge AI from taking over the world. Something something brain-computer interface.
The thing is, grandiose plans to save the world are *villain* plans. Heroes typically never have grandiose plans unless they’re the kind of hero like Iron Man who both creates the problem and then realizes he needs to fix the problem. I don’t love the lack of interest in changing society by the superhero side, (electric car companies are great!) but it’s still funny to me how the comparison falls.
I think it’s useful to compare and contrast Soros against Thiel as they are both billionaires using their fortune to advance their politics, and thereby branded as wicked, shadowy villains by the right and left, respectively. Interestingly, both of their politics include some suspicion of the state, just in different venues. Soros is concerned about abuses in policing and incarceration, while Thiel is opposed to democracy in general, particularly when it limits his wealth and power. Hence, both are financing efforts to curtail state power (among other political projects).
It seems reasonable to me for people to be angry with these mega-political-financiers due to political disagreements. Yet, I believe critics of both commonly overestimate the impact of these two individuals, incorrectly identifying them as a root cause for a broader political movement. Trumpism could exist without Thiel, as could Defund without Soros. I believe it counterproductive to put so much blame on individuals, regardless of their wealth and power, because it distracts from understanding and countering their more general political opponents.
Damn, this is one is straight fire and brimstone. A man in his prime. Peak Matty Performance.
If there's any, this one should be made public and ungated.
Just writing here to saw that I want to offer a pound-the-table level enthusiastic endorsement of this column. Right message, right spirit. Thanks.
There seems to be a contradiction in the right-wing American nationalist view that might makes right, and the strong will prevail over the weak. And that is that they give prominence to the idea that they stand for the "losers" in America -- the rural and working class folks whom the much more successful coastal populations constantly look down their noses at. They're on the side of those whose marriages never happen or fall apart -- unlike the educated elites who tend to marry more and longer -- or who fall prey to fentanyl, mindless domestic violence and other forms of deaths of despair.
It seems that a lot of the anger of much* of the right-wing is fury at being on the losing side.
I can imagine an alternative right-wing world view inspired more by pity of the luftmenschen of the coast, for their lack of solid community, church-based morality, and love of tradition. But instead what I see if anger, resentment and vituperation. They sound desperate to me.
* Not all, of course. If you consider, e.g., Russell Moore, David French, Peter Wehner conservative or of the right, then this doesn't apply to them. The fact that it's increasingly hard to consider folks like these conservative or of the right speaks volumes, however.
Nationalist thinking is far closer contemporary identity-politics than most people realize. Both are based on the premise that the interests of the identity group can only be sufficiently safeguarded by members of the own group. The cosmopolitan/liberal idea is that every human being can work in solidarity with every other and secure a human rights based equality if colorless, genderless, nationless people. “Citizens of the world”. Both nationalism and identitarianism reject this. They claim that in reality identity is too strong. In the aggregate, women will work for women’s rights far more often, Black people will be most concerned with racism against blacks, Jews with antisemitism etc. thus minorities themselves need a seat at the table. For nationalism this means a seat at the table of nation states, for American identity politics a seat at American centers of power (politics, academia etc) , but the basic logic is the same. There is a lot of merit to this line of thinking. It can however easily deteriorate to dark places.