Elon Musk is a shady plutocrat who has historically benefited from good PR, but his current shenanigans with Twitter might put a little dent in that. After becoming Twitter’s largest shareholder—and violating securities law by failing to disclose it in a timely fashion—Musk was briefly poised to join the company’s board. Then that fell apart, with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal including the interesting detail that Musk’s entry onto the board would have been contingent on a background check. Now, Musk has announced an offer to buy Twitter and make it a private company, which he says would “unlock” the company’s “extraordinary potential.”
Musk’s signature company, Tesla, lost one racism discrimination lawsuit, with an initial judgment of $137 million recently reduced to $15 million. Other Black employees describe a horrifyingly, overtly racist environment at Tesla’s California plant, spurring a major discrimination lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The idea of Musk being the last word on acceptable speech at a major social media platform is alarming, to say the least.
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“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” Musk said in a letter to the head of Twitter’s board.
“However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form,” he wrote. “Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
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Again, there’s reason to worry about a societal imperative for free speech as determined by someone who oversees a company at which Black employees are assigned particularly difficult work in a section of the factory referred to as “the plantation,” a Black worker was fired after complaining that a supervisor called him and other Black workers “monkeys,” and use of the N-word was “the norm. It was Tesla’s tradition.” Musk may not be in that factory every day doing those things himself, but he owns it. Literally.
Musk’s takeover bid came with a threat (which he insisted, super believably, was “not a threat”): If he’s not successful, he would “need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.” In other words, he would dump his stock, to the detriment of other shareholders. On the other hand, Twitter would not be owned by Elon freaking Musk.
Musk’s self-presentation is as a completely self-made billionaire (never mind his dad’s emerald mine lurking in the background), but even as he rails against taxing people like himself, he’s benefited significantly from government funding through his career, as Greg Sargent and others have pointed out. As of 2015, his companies had gotten $4.9 billion in government money.
The $150 million or so Musk made by not complying with securities law and revealing his Twitter stock purchases in a timely fashion isn’t the only time he’s gotten in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission, either. In 2018, he had to step down as Tesla’s chair and paid $40 million in penalties ($20 million from himself and $20 million from Tesla) after he … used tweets to claim he was taking Tesla private, causing “significant market disruption.” Sound familiar?
This is not a trustworthy or honest person.
In a brief statement, Twitter said its board “will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders.”
Don’t buy a Tesla unless you’re okay with Black workers being brutalized by racist managers
21 millionaires in Congress have helped 25 billionaires pay almost nothing in taxes