Another day, another delightful dollop of Elon Musk hypocrisy: The Tesla CEO and self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” has written a guest blog for the magazine of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which oversees state online censorship. The guest column, which came out over the weekend, is over 1,500 words of Elon sucking his own dick about how his companies (namely Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink) are paving the way for “a better future for humanity.”
“If humans want to make the future good, they should take action to make it good,” he begins, before launching into an essay about robots, cars, and whatever other trinkets he thinks he’s going to use to help save humanity from itself. “I hope more people will join us in our fight to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” he writes, conveniently leaving out the fact that he uses a private jet for brief trips nearly every other day.
He also compares human civilization to a “faint little candle” and, predictably unable to shut up about Mars, concludes that his “greatest hope” is to have humans “create a self-sustaining city on Mars.”
The Tesla CEO has claimed to be so dedicated to free speech that his main pitch for trying (and failing) to buy Twitter was embracing neo-Nazis on the platform and reinstating former President Trump, who used the website to incite an insurrection. “Free speech,” Musk suggested, is more important than frivolous little political disagreements, like whether social platforms should allow incels and white supremacists to overrun women’s feeds with rape threats.
So, Musk’s contribution to the CAC makes it pretty clear he isn’t as “absolutist” of a free speech champion as he continues to say he is. One 2021 study from Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology found the Chinese government spent more than $6.6 billion on online censorship and “tasks related to monitoring and guiding online public opinion.” Here in the U.S., Musk at varying points called covid-related lockdowns and regulations “fascist” for their impact on his factories where, in April 2020, he fired workers who couldn’t come in due to safety reasons. In contrast, he’s bit his tongue on significantly more stringent covid-related policies in China that also halted production at Tesla factories.
Before this, Tesla fired employees who criticized Musk’s bizarre and harmful online behavior at the height of his negotiations around the failed Twitter acquisition. He’s previously used his Twitter account to propose T.I.T.S. University, all whilst female employees filed a lawsuit for rampant sexual harassment and assault at a Tesla factory. Musk and his lawyers also silenced a woman he allegedly sexually harassed and propositioned in 2016 by requiring her to sign an NDA.
Some experts say Musk wrote the piece to “[try] to walk the same tightrope that [Mark] Zuckerberg and [Google CEO Sundar] Pichai walked before him” in outreach to China, as its government reins in the power of tech leaders. “Tech execs trying to maintain healthy relationships in China are increasingly seeing that decision taken out of their hands,” Kendra Schaefer, head of tech policy research at Trivium China, told Bloomberg.
The CAC piece comes out amid Musk’s ongoing struggle to back out of his $44 billion attempt to acquire Twitter while Tesla stock—which he leveraged to obtain the $44 billion—was plummeting. Musk has since made a series of dubious claims about how Twitter deceived him on the percentage of users that are bots, despite allegedly not even reading materials about the issue that the company shared with him.
Things change in the blink of an eye: A few months ago Musk was on the brink of making Twitter a “free speech” haven for the world’s most dedicated harassers. Now, he’s essentially begging the company for his money back and guest-writing for China’s anti-free speech censorship arm.