Elon Musk and his father may be estranged but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And it's rotten to the core.

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In the freethought community, we like to think that evidence-based thinking is something we hold dear, and that conspiracy theory thinking should be met with rational skepticism. We also tend to shy away from divine worship.

When humans are treated like gods, revered to extreme degrees, it gives them license to be thoroughly detestable but still maintain a cultish following as acolytes succumb to cognitive dissonance reduction. Elon Musk, on the back of his pre-Twitter business and technology successes, and given his heavy flirting with the alt-right and controversial declarations, has attracted a fervent following. And because they love him that much, they will forgive him everything, no matter what the wrongdoing. He might obviously be a hypocrite, but since God can do no wrong, Musk simply isn’t or can’t be a hypocrite (or any other failing that could easily be leveled at him).

In the open source intelligence community (OSINT) that is concerned with the war in Ukraine, which is largely embedded on Twitter, his actions have been increasingly causing consternation. This is not only on account of his bizarre decisions for Twitter, but also in his appeasement of Putin and regurgitation of Russian propaganda talking points.

It turns out that this “free speech absolutist” has not only previously been hypocritical on this stance, but more recently exhibited gross double standards in terms of democratic ideals and freedom of speech. Whether the autocrat is Russian or Turkish, Musk seems to have a Trumpian soft spot:

When he partakes in this problematic behavior, one can’t help but wonder how he has reached that point. The information ecosystem echo chamber in which he is ensconced might have a lot to answer for. Rabid Republican lawmakers and affiliated laypeople appear to have a predilection for Russian talking points and arguing that the US should be spending money on a big wall and not protecting democracy against the menace of Russian autocracy.

While this online world in which Musk resides will have an awful lot to answer for (goodness, just a quick flick through the replies from his adoring fans on Twitter will give you an insight into that information bubble), there might also be a family connection.

It is worth mentioning that Elon Musk has an acrimonious relationship with his estranged father Errol. He once reportedly cried in an interview with Rolling Stone, where he called his father “a terrible human being” and “evil.”

Musk is the richest man in the world, but it’s not like his family isn’t used to money. As People reported:

In an interview with Business Insider South Africa, Errol admitted that, at one point, he literally made more money than he could physically handle.

“We were very wealthy. We had so much money at times we couldn’t even close our safe,” Errol said, explaining that one person would hold the money down while a second would slam the safe door shut. “And then there’d still be all these notes sticking out and we’d sort of pull them out and put them in our pockets.”

And although Errol Musk was at one stage a politician for the anti-apartheid Progressive Party, he told The New York Times that life in apartheid South Africa was ultimately “better” and “safer” than it is today.

Elon was involved in the family business and would have been taking things on board. “I’m naturally good at engineering—that’s because I inherited it from my father,” he told Rolling Stone. It could be that he has inherited other things, too, like his thinking.

It turns out that, like a certain sort of Republican we see in the US (think Hunter Biden, Jewish space lasers, Gates microchip Covid jabs, etc.), Errol Musk loves a good conspiracy theory, hates the Democrats, and appears to side with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. This following set of claims that Errol Musk leaves a sour taste in my mouth and makes me genuinely quite angry.

You could play a good game of “conspiracy theory buzzword bingo” here. In terms of Elon Musk’s appeasement approach to Russia, Musk the Younger has stated and done a number of highly controversial things that echo his father’s conclusions, including the following:

  • Musk publicly suggested that Crimea and Donbas problem, both annexed regions, be settled by a further referendum. But since pro-Ukrainians had been persecuted and/or had fled, and Russia had shipped in over a million Russians, this suggestion was incredibly politically naive, showing a gross misunderstanding of the situation. Indeed, his tweet is deeply flawed, declaring that if Crimea votes for independence from Ukraine, Ukraine must supply it with fresh water from its own canals! He also calls the ceding of Crimea to Ukraine a “mistake,” which can only be understood as an incredibly pro-Russian claim, and lacking in any understanding of why that decision was made.
  • Doubling down on his pro-Russian stance, he defended this approach with reference to polling data that was problematic, which was taken before the outbreak of the Russian invasion and annexations in 2014 that caused a huge swing in pro-Ukrainian sentiment.
  • The above caused one Ukrainian politician to tell Musk to “f*** off” and for President Zelenskyy to troll back with his own brilliant response.
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So on and so forth. Time and again, Musk has shown himself to be sympathetic to the Russian narrative.

And yet, as you can see from the previous Errol Musk claims, we have his father claiming “we are being brainwashed to be told that Ukraine is good and Russia is bad.”

No, Musk Sr., that is the quite obvious moral calculation that you, too, can carry out. How many Bucha massacres has Ukraine orchestrated in this war? How many Ukrainian torture chambers have been uncovered? Instead, he focuses on a long-debunked piece of Russian state propaganda: “and yet they have found multiple bioweapon laboratories belonging to the United States in Ukraine.” This talking point has been boosted by the QAnon American far right with which Errol Musk appears to be well-aligned but is utterly preposterous and not at all true.

I have been interacting with Russian bots in various online locations for a year now, and know their talking points and phraseology well. One of the most common ways of demeaning the TIME magazine Person of the Year Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is to call him the “stand-up comedian who became President.” Musk Sr. obliges here with “Ukraine is led by a stand-up comedian who became president,” which he finds “extremely odd” as if entertaining is a job that invalidates you from being a politician. Sorry, Reagan, you’re just too odd.

Zelenskyy is one of the most renowned and effective Presidents in living memory. Against everyone else’s better judgment, he stayed put in a warzone to lead his country heroically through dark times. And he’s still going strong—possibly the hardest-working politician in the world right now. Such Muskian dismissal is only understood in terms of an awful lot of baggage that he brings to that assessment. Luggage that has been reclaimed from Moscow Domodedovo Airport.

And Errol Musk? Will he be remembered in history in this way?

Musk the Younger and Musk the Elder may well be estranged, but they are peas from a pod, it seems. One might conclude that opposites attract and likes repel. Both of these men are living in an information ecosystem that feeds their cognitive desires and poisons their moral evaluations. It is an unhealthy place to live.

Often the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Unfortunately, there are too many people lurking around such orchards, ready to do some scrumping to make cider on the sly, getting stupefied from the insidious intoxicant made from fruit that is rotten to the core.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...