Silicon Strongman, American Putin

EV Farm 2B - Elon Musk is no Tony Stark. On the bright side, he only engages in character assassination.

“It had become usual to give Napoleon the credit for every successful achievement and every stroke of good fortune.”

As we move on from Elon Musk’s Tinker Bell Complex, ask yourself if the passages below fit Musk or any of a dozen other Silicon Valley “Sun Kings”. 

They see themselves as "very special" people, deserving of admiration and, consequently, have difficulty empathizing with the feelings and needs of others … Not only do [they] commonly show a "pervasive pattern of grandiosity," they also tend to behave with a vindictiveness often observed in narcissistic personality disorder.

These individuals are "preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success" and "power." They believe they are unique and can only be associated with others of equally high status. Furthermore, they require excessive admiration to remain happy, possess an extreme sense of entitlement, exploit others, and are often envious of others. 

They come from an article titled, The Psychology of Dictators: Power, Fear, and Anxiety, by two university researchers.

We don’t usually apply the term “dictator” to the private sector, but silicon strongmen fits as a label, not least because when critiqued with heat, they often turn to glass and shatter. (Elizabeth Holmes would be a silicon strongwoman, I guess.)

Moral Lensing

Power bends judgment the way that gravity bends light -- we call the latter “gravitational lensing” so could call the former “moral lensing”.

Democracy diffuses individuals’ direct political power, but lobbying, lawlessness, and lobbying to excuse lawlessness, still favour the Sun Kings’ odds. And we live in the dystopias they create in their wake. 

There are many resources for tracking their tactics; I happen to read Matt Stoller’s BIG newsletter. Doing so has convinced me there’s enough Venn diagram overlap for a leftist/libertarian coalition to depose them. As outsiders, both political tribes loathe the status quo -- leftist progressives want to reclaim power from abusive monopolies while libertarians want to rescue capitalism from crony capitalism (of which galactic valuations for loss-harvesting businesses are a symptom).

Consider this GQ article outlining Musk’s “l’état, c’est moi” attitude. It will enrage leftists and libertarians alike, but until anti-strongman coalitions align together on lowest-common-denominator goals such as the rule of law, they will remain divided and conquered.

Not Tony Stark; Vladimir Putin

Now let’s focus on our silicon strongman.

In 2008’s Iron Man, Tony Stark was modeled on Oracle’s Larry Ellison. This is well documented but often overlooked. The Elon Musk push came ahead of Iron Man 2 in 2010.

See, Elon Musk isn’t Tony Stark, he’s an American Putin. 

Musk is a capitalist Putin making desperate efforts to mythologize himself as a real-life Tony Stark. This goes back to his Tinker Bell Complex.

I’ve mixed some of Putin’s “alpha male” and Musk’s “alpha bro” photo-ops below. They’re targeted to different audiences, but serve the same purpose. They display the Leader to rally the fans and perpetuate the mystique, the “brand”.

Putin flexes his physical prowess while Musk tries to pose his mental prowess, but both play by Mr. Burns’ sack race rules.

Credit where it’s due: these men embody Nietzsche’s will to power as doggedly as Rover trying to pee on every tree in a forest.

The biggest difference is that while Putin assassinates his critics, Musk only assassinates their character. (When the yellow king slandered hero diver Vern Unsworth as a pedophile, that was the maturing of his serial habits. He’s denigrated critics for years, which must be the Pretorian noblesse oblige.)

For all this mordant commentary, no one wants fans wigging out. It’d be the baldest lie to disclaim the differences between country dictator and corporate despot when only one of them has ever:

- cultivated a cult of personality

- relied on partisans to intimidate journalists, harass critics, and shout down dissent

- suffered ridicule for some photo-op undersea diving project or other, and

- over-promised on this solution or that solution for Covid-19

While also getting hair plugs.

Next on EV Farm we return to timelines of wrongdoing in: “The Three Strikes Rule”.