For the ultimate Final Week Tonight episode of the yr, John Oliver targeted on Elon Musk, “a person who can pull off just about any bad-guy-in-a-movie look”.
“There’s Lex Luthor, posing for the duvet of Metropolis Maniacs Month-to-month. There’s ‘why no Mr Bond, I and my little one bride anticipate you to die,’” Oliver stated subsequent to a photograph of Musk and his former accomplice, the singer Grimes.
“There’s ‘I simply purchased your media firm, I’m about to strip you for components.’ There’s house’s first racist sheriff,” he continued. “And eventually, the much less fuckable reimagining of Billy Zane’s character in Titanic. Really, the person has vary.”
Musk has, sometimes for him, been within the information steadily in 2023, from test-launching a robust rocket to having one among his firms, Tesla, recall greater than 2m automobiles due to security considerations, to outrage over his conduct on X, the social media platform he owns, previously often called Twitter.
Musk’s time at Twitter “has positively modified … how many individuals understand him”, Oliver famous. Till then, he had cultivated a picture as a “maverick movie star avenger who might reduce by pink tape, revolutionized house journey and made electrical automobiles cool”.
Musk as soon as bragged that he’d “performed extra for the atmosphere than … any single human on Earth” demonstrating what Oliver known as a “fairly robust messianic streak”. As Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, put it in a Musk profile for the New Yorker: “Elon desperately needs the world to be saved. However provided that he may be the one to reserve it.”
“Which is a fairly large asterisk,” Oliver famous. “It’s like Jesus says within the e-book of Matthew, ‘Love thy neighbor, however extra importantly, me, and in the event you don’t, fuck you. Discover your personal heaven. J-Crizzle, out.’”
Threading the needle between those that love Musk and those that hate him, Oliver recapped how he constructed his popularity as a enterprise genius. Musk made his first fortune with the corporate Zip2, based together with his brother, after which PayPal, co-founded with Peter Thiel. He then invested his private fortune into SpaceX. “Like Henry Ford, Elon Musk managed to construct on the expertise that others had invented,” Oliver stated. “That’s not truly the one manner he’s like Henry Ford, which you’d know in the event you ever Google both of their names and the phrase antisemitism.”
SpaceX “started with a giant gamble, had a flirtation with catastrophe after which turned an enormous success”, Oliver defined. The corporate was funded partly by pre-sales of Teslas suffering from manufacturing delays, ballooning prices and the embarrassment of the cybertruck, which seemed like “each little one’s first try at drawing a automotive”, stated Oliver.
“Embarrassing moments apart, there’s loads to love about Elon’s firms,” he added. “SpaceX has made actual achievements like reusable rocket expertise and making house simpler and extra reasonably priced to entry. Tesla has pushed automakers to take electrical automobiles severely in a manner that will’ve appeared inconceivable 20 years in the past.”
However “there are prices to that progress that usually get ignored”, corresponding to Musk’s harsh therapy of workers and questions of safety with Tesla’s self-driving help system, which has been concerned in at the very least 40 deadly or severe crashes since 2016.
“Historical past is plagued by titans of enterprise who have been shitty or damaged folks, from Thomas Edison to Henry Ford to Steve Jobs,” Oliver stated. “The distinction is, by and huge, they didn’t open up their mind to have the entire world have a continuing look inside. However Elon does, and the glimpses we get may be terrifying.”
Which introduced Oliver again to Twitter. Musk has been a heavy Twitter consumer for years, and is hooked on the platform, in keeping with his personal biographer. And he has leaned “more and more into the realm of rightwing troll” in recent times.
Musk’s conduct on Twitter – boosting a transphobic documentary, commenting “attention-grabbing” on a tweet that stated “Black kills one another, whites kill themselves” and posting a Pizzagate meme – “makes me miss the person who posted ‘ship me your dankest memes!’” stated Oliver.
“The actual fact Elon appears to be getting more and more radicalized is a giant drawback as a result of we put numerous energy into his arms, and way more than chances are you’ll understand,” he continued. As a result of the federal government has additionally invested numerous energy in Musk – an increasing number of of its management of the web, the ability grid, the transportation system, objects in orbit, nationwide safety infrastructure and its power provide. Musk’s firm Starlink, for instance, now controls over half of all energetic satellites.
“The issue isn’t simply the optics of getting somebody as erratic as Elon accountable for half the world’s satellites,” stated Oliver. “His opinion can change the form of world occasions,” corresponding to when Starlink offered web entry by way of satellite tv for pc to Ukrainian troops after the Russian invasion.
“The Ukrainian army was grateful to SpaceX and Elon Musk, which is a kind of headlines that even a couple of years in the past would’ve sounded inconceivable, like ‘Panera Bread’s lemonade results in second dying’ and ‘Henry Kissinger: lastly lifeless’,” he joked.
“The actual fact is, whether or not we prefer it or not – and the reply is completely not – an enormous variety of crucial issues going ahead are going to depend upon how Elon is feeling, which is a terrifying factor to say about anybody however particularly this man,” he stated.
What may be performed? “Simply create a robotic infrastructure financial system that may resist simple monopolization by personal corporations headed by overconfident billionaires, and we do it about 15 years in the past,” Oliver deadpanned.
Nonetheless, Oliver famous, if something, studying extra about Musk made the dangers of his energy extra obvious. “I’m most likely now extra impressed by what he’s doing, however extra anxious by the truth that he’s the one who’s been doing it,” he stated. “As a result of he cultivates a picture that he’s just too visionary, too unique to play by different folks’s guidelines, and he waves away the harm that he does as the price of innovation and saving humanity.
“However the reality is, that mind-set isn’t remotely unique,” he concluded. “The least stunning factor on Earth is a middle-aged billionaire CEO with self-serving libertarian views, more and more racist politics and a messiah advanced. And it’s long gone time that he confronted the form of accountability that ought to include that.”