Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, is in the process of closing a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter because he was very upset that some people got kicked off the platform for being hateful, disinformation-peddling Nazis. He believes in Free Speech, and he believes in it For Everyone—unless, apparently, you want to criticize him.
At 2:00 a.m. on Friday morning, the New York Times reported that SpaceX had allegedly fired some employees who were involved in writing and distributing an open letter to their boss, Elon Musk. The (now former) employees criticized Musk’s latest conduct, including his behavior on Twitter and the recent sexual misconduct allegation against him, writing that it’s “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment.”
The letter also asked SpaceX to rein Musk in, writing that the company’s leaders should “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior.” That letter was reportedly circulated on Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon, a number of the employees involved were fired—though it’s unclear how many.
“The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said in an e-mail to employees, which was obtained by the New York Times.“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”
SpaceX is, of course, a big engineering company with probably plenty of critical work to do. But if Shotwell is referring to Musk’s critical advocacy work of making sure this country upholds its commitment to free speech—which would definitely include allowing your employees to be disappointed in you—then it feels like SpaceX is really fucking up Musk’s First Amendment crusade.
On Thursday, Musk held his first town hall with Twitter employees and reiterated how important it was that the social media company let users say whatever they want. “I think it’s essential to have free speech and for people to be able to communicate freely,” Musk said during the Q&A. It’s beyond parody.
“Please stay focused on the SpaceX mission, and use your time to do your best work,” Shotwell’s e-mail concluded. “This is how we will get to Mars.”
Shut up, do your work, don’t criticize your asshole leader, and one day maybe we’ll get to do this all on another planet! Sounds incredible, where does one apply?