Elon Musk’s long-simmering internet meltdown reached a full boil when he called a man who was mean to his submarine a pedophile. This gave the Tesla founder’s harshest critics and fiercest fanboys something they could finally agree on: the guy needed to give it a rest and log off. A Twitter sabbatical, basically everyone concluded, was in his best interests. It is not, however, in ours. If anything, Musk should pour himself a frothy mug of genius juice, fire up the take machine, and tweet more—a lot more.
Let me explain. While the immediate stupefying effects of Musk’s worst tweets are now obvious, over time they serve to illuminate an important, larger truth: The captains of industry we venerate for their perceived brilliance are often huge dumbasses when it comes to anything other than accumulating a lot of money and turning it into more. Time and time again, ignorance of this key fact has proved disastrous for the American people. Public acts of self-dick-stepping might be the only way to dispel the myth of the benevolent rich genius for good.
For Musk, the candid display of his entire arse led to a minor “correction” of Tesla stock, which dropped nearly three per cent on Monday. Other Silicon Valley figures have faced similar consequences for saying what they really think online. The strongest reactions to Reddit’s standing policy of not policing hate speech, for instance, have stemmed from CEO Steve Huffman’s half-baked, off-the-cuff explanations to other users on the site. Similarly, influential tech investor Marc Andreessen (whom we once called “The Internet Icon You’ve Probably Never Heard Of”) made his biggest splash outside the business press with hot Twitter takes on subjects like whether opposing colonialism is good or dumb. In the end, the Facebook board member took a “Twitter break” in 2016 that lasted for months, and he’s significantly cut back on tweeting since. We are all the poorer for it.
Admittedly, there are aspects of bad Elon Musk tweets that don’t serve the public good. When they’re directed at a single person, they can inspire harassment by his legions of Ricks and Mortys, and by embarrassing Musk, they can hurt legitimate causes he has thrown his weight behind. If Musk were just a random jabroni, I’d agree that he (like most people) should not post on the bad website. He is not, however, a random jabroni. He’s a billionaire 20 times over, one the most powerful unelected individuals on Earth.
If Musk stopped tweeting tomorrow, that influence might wane slightly, but most of it would still be there, operating in the kind of secrecy that the whims of the super-rich traditionally have. And without the clarifying effect of repeated social media fiascos, it would be easy to mistake Musk for what his peers are often regarded as: chill people who must have all the answers or else how would they be so loaded.
In an ideal world, not only would Elon Musk tweet more, but so would other titans of Silicon Valley. Imagine a world where Jeff Bezos offers real talk about Amazon and labour rights at 3 a.m. One where Mark Zuckerberg gets messy on the timeline with a Facebook user who was dumb enough to share their data with him.
Maybe you’d endorse some of those outbursts. Maybe you think Musk used the term “pedo guy” to mean “man child or pedestrian,” too. That’s your right, I guess. But if so, wouldn’t we better off with more remarkable insights like these from the big, rich smartypantses that otherwise silently shape our world?