Does Elon Musk Know What He’s Even Doing?

Benjamin Fanjoy/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

There are plenty of data points you could plot on the “Does Elon Musk Have Any Idea What Is Going On?” chart. Here’s a quick and incomplete primer featuring his most ludicrous actions since he bought Twitter and took over as CEO at the end of October: 

  • Lifting a conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi from fake local news site and tweeting it to his 130 million-plus followers;
  • Suspending journalists for posting publicly accessible information revealing the locations of climate-careless multimillionaires and their private jets;
  • Possibly lying about agreeing to step down as the CEO if Twitter users voted for him to do so during a Twitter poll he conducted;
  • Bringing in a sink into Twitter HQ as a Le Epic bit.
  • Making the Twitter logo the “Doge dog” for a few days, amid a $258 billion class-action federal lawsuit accusing him of manipulating the cryptocurrency, also as a Le Epic bit

Now, Musk’s labeling of National Public Radio as “State-Affiliated Media” on Twitter last Tuesday might be vying for a prime placement on our chart. Typically, this label is reserved for outlets that receive substantial funding and direction from governments like Russia’s RT or China’s The People’s Daily. NPR, the nonprofit media outlet based in Washington, D.C., gets less than one percent of its annual budget from federal funding. Does that make Twitter, a company in which Saudi royalty owns a 4 percent stake, Saudi Arabian-affiliated media? NPR also receives no direction or even indirect oversight from any government, another condition in Twitter’s definition of state-affiliated media.

Musk evidently didn’t know about NPR’s funding mix until it was flagged in an email from NPR’s own tech reporter, Bobby Allyn. “Well, then we should fix it,” Musk wrote back on Wednesday. From Allyn’s own reporting on the correspondence, it appears that Musk made a sweeping and consequential decision about labeling without doing any real research. “Musk appeared to be unclear about the difference between public media and state-controlled media,” Allyn wrote.

As of this afternoon, NPR’s Twitter page is now affixed with a label that reads “Government Funded”, a change that appeared to happen while writing this post.

Which can only lead us to a simple conclusion: He has no idea what he’s doing. The CEO of Twitter is turning in inept, intern-level homework for extremely high-profile decisions.

To be clear, I’m not trying to absolve Musk by making excuses for him. Musk isn’t completely clueless (he knows how to use Google), and if he is, it’s not because he’s dumb; it’s probably because he doesn’t want to understand. Why would he? He has $187 billion. In the U.S., with that much money, unless you do something really bad (felony bad), there are no consequences. And even then…

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate