Elon Musk Is Hopelessly Incompetent

Issue 6, Volume 113

By Charlotte Peterson 

Cover Image

After sending mixed messages about the subject for months, Elon Musk finally purchased Twitter for $44 billion on October 28, 2022. Within his first month of ownership, Musk has made many controversial executive decisions, almost all of which have led to an objective decline in the site’s popularity and functionality. Musk’s first decision to lay off over half of Twitter’s employees led to extreme disarray within the company, while his later implementation of a new blue checkmark policy, designed to raise fast cash rather than provide user verification, caused panic and confusion among Twitter users. All Musk has contributed to Twitter so far is chaos and mediocre memes. Despite how his fans laud his intellect, it’s apparent that Musk lacks talent for almost everything he’s involved in.

Musk was never seriously determined to buy Twitter in the first place. Despite his tweets implying that he might do so for a ridiculous $44 billion, he was never truly sure he wanted to go through with this plan, first offering to on April 14 and then trying to back out of the purchase in July. Perhaps Musk did not know that he had formed a legal agreement for the purchase of a major company. Twitter did not tolerate Musk’s manipulation of the masses and its own investors with this ongoing speculation, and finally sued Musk, demanding that he follow through with the purchase. When the court weighed in, Musk was forced to severely overpay.

After making this blunder, Musk has been desperately searching for ways to pay for it. His ideas are desperate, and Musk is running Twitter into the ground. First, Musk fired 50 percent of Twitter’s staff in a misguided attempt to cut company expenditures, a ham-fisted action that The New York Times politely referred to as “rapidly transforming the social media company.” Unfortunately, many senior members were among those laid off, leading to potentially fatal weaknesses in Twitter’s management. Ironically, Musk also fired Twitter employees who criticized him. Despite Musk’s adamancy on improving freedom of speech on the website, he clearly does not abide by this ideal when despotically censoring criticism. Following this display of hypocrisy, Musk sent out a message demanding that his remaining employees devote themselves to the new, “hardcore” Twitter, leading to an additional halving of the already low employee count on Thursday, November 17. Twitter now has about one-quarter of its former employees left, which has led to a great decrease in the functionality seen by users and widespread fears of worse to come.

In another attempt to raise money, Musk revisited the Twitter check mark verification policy. Previously, Twitter users could become verified if they were well-known public figures. Musk implemented a system allowing Twitter users to pay $8 for a blue check mark. However, this new blue check mark was available to all Twitter users, not exclusively those deemed reputable by Twitter staff. This change ensured the loss of the blue check mark’s significance. Legitimate sources like local boards of election and actual journalists could have been impersonated by users buying blue check marks to spread misinformation about elections and other matters of public importance. Some were using the feature to impersonate brand accounts, with one activist posing as the insulin company Eli Lilly and claiming that the usually exorbitant insulin would now be free of cost. Chaos ensued immediately after Eli Lilly shareholders grew wary and the stock plummeted. The company’s frustration with this predicament led to its withdrawal from advertising deals with Twitter, and Musk lost a valuable source of revenue without gaining any significant profits. The new check mark system was quickly dropped. At this point, Twitter appears to be financially doomed under Musk’s mismanagement.

This situation isn’t the first time that Musk has unintentionally sabotaged his own business enterprise. As the former Chairman of the Board and CEO of Tesla, Musk was considered a reliable source on the status of Tesla stock. However, Musk fallaciously publicly tweeted that Tesla stock would be going private in 2018, causing mass stock shifts and speculation. Because this announcement was an incorrect and misleading claim, he was found guilty of violating securities laws and sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was then removed from his position as chairman and given less responsibility for Tesla’s financial dealings, which was a more massive decrease in power than he’d like the world to see.

In the media and among his fans, Musk has been hailed as a visionary, a tech-savvy genius, and someone who built a groundbreaking company through his own ability and merit. His quirks are treated as part of his brilliance, and he plays them up. His tweets, which often consist of images with little or no text, are difficult to interpret and are carefully pored over by his fans: if they are hard to understand, surely it must be because they are so deep and nuanced, not because they are random attempts to gain attention. It is obvious that Musk, too, believes in the flattering tech-genius image of himself. His warped image of self-confidence and bold action is in reality arrogance, ignorance, and impatient flailing. Tesla’s success, in this sense, might be not because of Musk, but in spite of him.

Musk had early success and luck: he began life extremely wealthy, with profits from his family’s emerald mine, and was able to invest this fortune into an Internet start-up that was later acquired for a lot of money. These factors allowed him to become an early investor in the already established Tesla company. Musk’s education consists of a bachelor’s degree in economics and physics. He has no post-graduate or engineering degrees. Nonetheless, Musk wants to believe in the delusion that his roles as CEO and Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and CEO and Product Architect at Tesla, are all self-accomplishments and not benefits from a rigged system.

Musk is a billionaire who did well during the early Internet boom and invested in a company with a lucrative future. Instead of being humbled by his good fortune and recognizing both his strengths and his limitations, he seems to have fallen for his own mythos and now believes he brings a golden touch to any project he takes on, encouraged by legions of online fanboys who cheer his every move. The harsh truth is that he has no clue what he’s doing. This kind of hubris can have dangerous consequences and lead to great societal harm that extends beyond the scope of Twitter’s destruction.