In the age of social media, one of the most well known names is Elon Musk.
Notice that I said “well known names,” not well known people. Most of us know very little about the man himself, although we are fairly quick to sum him up because we want to have something to say about everyone in the public eye.
To check yourself on that, do you have an opinion about Musk? Do you have one about Trump or Biden or Putin or Zelensky or Tiger? These men are known all over the world by people who don’t know them at all.
Walter Isaacson recently released his biography of Musk, who is 52 years old. That seems young, so perhaps it’s only Volume 1. I have not read it, but I have read many of the reviews. (You can gather a lot of content that way.)
But the best insights I personally have gained into the mind of Elon Musk happened in two interviews with him.
The most recent is the one you may know about. It took place less than a week ago at the annual DealBook Summit. Frankly, if it had not been for Elon Musk’s appearance, I would never have known about DealBook or the summit. But that’s why the host (The New York Times) invites guests like Elon.
There is a column in the Times with the name DealBook, and their headline after the Musk interview was:
The Fallout From Musk’s Profanity-Laden Attack on Advertisers Isn’t Over
“Profanity-laden attack” is click-bait, especially the “profanity-laden” part. Of course for the Times (and other main stream media) “attacks” of any kind are desirable. But did he attack some companies? Yes, as you will see.
When Elon Musk tossed a few F-bombs, that was publicized widely. What was not publicized was the context. In some cases the media noted that he was talking about former advertisers on X. Others left the attack victims to the imagination.
It reminds me of the old question a trial lawyer asked someone he wanted to make appear guilty. “When did you stop beating your wife?” Guilt is assumed in the question and then held onto tightly.
Musk admitted repeatedly in the interview that his post was “foolish.” He earlier had tried to clarify it online, had apologized for it online, and had removed the post, but people were holding on to his guilt.
Half-a-dozen large advertisers still withdrew from X, saying that Musk’s post made him seem anti-Semitic. He is not. But the one quoted phrase from his post certainly gave the impression that he was and that was enough.
When the interviewer pointed out the financial implications of that Musk said, “Do these people think they can hold me hostage through advertising?” He followed that by suggesting that they might go and perform an anatomically impossible sexual act. He suggested it a couple of times, and then said, “I hope that’s clear.” (That, by the way, was the “profanity-laden attack.”)
The interviewer, Andrew Sorkin, wanted very much to focus on power and influence, and he wanted to make that part of the discussion regarding X.
Musk said, “Let the chips fall where they may,” and Sorkin said Musk didn’t have that approach with Tesla or his other companies. Musk then shifted the conversation slightly and said that (based on Tesla sales) as the leader of Tesla he has done more for the environment than any other single person. Sorkin asked, “How do you feel about that?”
Musk repeated the question and Sorkin said, “Yes, I’m asking you personally because we’re talking about power and influence and…”
Musk interrupted and said,
I’m saying what I care about is the reality of goodness, not the perception of it. And what I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil.
Not only did that not lend itself to headlines, Andrew Sorkin completely ignored it and moved on to another topic.
I wish he had asked, “What does it mean to care about looking good while doing evil?”
Or perhaps, “Explain the difference between the reality of goodness and the perception of it.”
You can answer both of those, I’m sure. Most of us at some time have wanted to look good, even while doing evil. The Bible says that Satan himself has appeared as “an angel of light.”
Perception is a big deal. In fact it may be too big these days, and too many people may rely on it.
Looking good but doing evil
Have you ever thought that Elon Musk might be thinking about good and evil?
How would the interview have progressed if Sorkin had asked Musk to “unpack that a little bit more” and explain what he means by “looking good while doing evil”?
Musk might have been referring directly to Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, because he did call him out a little in part of the interview.
I don’t know that there is an actual battle between Musk and Iger, but there is definitely a battle raging everywhere on earth between good and evil.
Occasionally, though rarely, evil appears as itself.
That was seen graphically in some of the videos Hamas released showing their soldiers committing unspeakable acts of evil against women and children in Israel on October 7.
Since then they have opted for the appearance of good, and many are buying the appearance while forgetting the evil.
There are many things Elon Musk and I disagree on, but not this. All of us should focus on doing good rather than looking good.
To do evil while trying to look good is a very bad thing in the eyes of God. Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Like Elon, let’s care about the reality of goodness, not the perception of it.
Do good. Flee from evil. It’s in you.