(originally written back in October for a publication that passed on it)
Time to pour out a tall latte for those long gone. Elon Musk has left the building.
He sold off his “special” San Francisco house back in June, now he’s officially declared that Tesla will pull up stakes and head for Austin. Like many other big shots techies who spent the last decade-plus treating SF like their own personal playground, Musk has succumbed to the cliché – nay, followed his great muse – and declared SF to be “over”.
A great many tech-bros say we should feel sad about this “great innovator” packing his bags for the Lone Star State, where he doesn’t have to worry about pesky things like income tax. For myself, the news of Musk leaving my hometown and -state does give me feelings: indifference; relief; the urge to shout “Don’t let the doorknob hit’cha where the Good Lord split’cha!” Strangely, sadness is not one of those feelings.
Like many great titans of industry, we’ve been fed the story that Musk is “a self-made man” who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, overcame childhood bullying, and worked harder than his peers to live out the American Dream in San Francisco as the world’s richest man – not unlike Steve Jobs (sans the “world’s richest man” part). Like Steve Jobs and every other titan, this biography is a finely-crafted fiction repeated by sycophants to cover the real story of rich bully who made a fortune by underpaying employees and stealing ideas.
Also like Steve Jobs, Musk came from a rich family – specifically, a wealthy South African family that added to their apartheid-era riches by purchasing a Zamibian diamond mine. Our pal Elon then used Daddy’s billions to dip his toe into industries he fancied: online purchases (PayPal); solar panels; artificial intelligence; and space travel, to name but a few. In 2004, he spent over $6million to buy a stake in electric car company Tesla, then won a lawsuit that named him as founder of this already-established company.
In between, he’s shown off his personal flamethrowers, smoked weed with Joe Rogan, appeared on SNL, and thrown hissy fits about satire written about him in The Onion. Yes, The Onion.
All the while, his most prominent company, Tesla (based in Fremont), has never made a single profit. Not ever. Nada. Niente.
“But wait”, you may ask, “how the hell is he so rich?” Well, in addition to family money, Tesla follows the tech trend of being held up by investors (DoorDash and Uber has never made profits either) and an inflated stock price. He has very little material wealth. Yet, that lack of material wealth grew exponentially during the pandemic, putting him past monopolist Bill Gates to go face-to-face with fellow union-smasher Jeff Bezos.
Oh yeah, Elon hates his workers. I mean he really hates his workers. Whenever one so much as fires off a neuron suggesting something resembling unionization (which Musk no doubt monitors with a Neuralink), the boss threatens them on Twitter. When workplaces around the world were shutting their doors to stop the spread of COVID, Musk demanded the Fremont factory stay open and fired employees wanting to work from home. Add to that Tesla’s long and disturbing history of racism toward employees of color. He’s spent 2020 and ’21 downplaying the danger of COVID and flip-flopping on his support of the scientifically proven vaccines.
“But Teslas will save the environment!” I hear some of you say. In reality, a Tesla’s about as “environmentally-friendly” as a raging tire fire. He’s also trumpeted some new cryptocurrency called “dogecoin”, which (like all crypto) wreaks havoc on the environment.
Oh, but we Californians and Bay Area residents know all too well of Uncle Elon’s shenanigans. Put aside the fact that he’s yet another SF tech billionaire whose wealth specifically lead to the Bay Area wealth disparity and housing crisis; let’s table the fact that the broken Tesla truck window is the perfect metaphor for the effectiveness of all his products; and I’m going to skip over how his bella figura hijinks have gotten him guest roles as himself in movies (Iron Man 2, Machete Kills, Men in Black: International) and tv shows (Rick & Morty, South Park, The Simpsons). I can put those all aside for the moment because those are all things that people like myself have the choice to patronize or engage in. If we don’t want to support those things, we don’t have to.
You can’t say the same for the Hyperloop. Did you forget about the Hyperloop? Elon clearly has. For nearly a decade, Elon Musk has been given California taxpayer money on the promise that he’ll create a super-duper-mega-fast train that goes from SF to LA in about an hour. The science behind it was always dodgy, and after eleven years and hundreds of millions of our tax dollars, our favorite snake oil salesman has absolutely nothing to show for it.
At least the monorail guy on The Simpsons gave us a catchy theme song for the doomed train.
When Musk-wannabe tech-bros tell me I should feel sad about him leaving us for Texas, our country’s most infamous red state, I actually am sad. Not for Elon, who’s being sued by Texas cops who keep getting runover by Teslas on Autopilot (so much poetic justice, so little time). No, I’m sad for every Californian who bought his song and dance, only to now be left to pick up the pieces of the mess he made. I’m sad that every Tesla employee I’ve ever known personally will have a resume mentioning the company that forced them to work in close contact during a worldwide pandemic. I’m sad for all the kids who might pick up COVID because the world’s richest man thought mask mandates and social distancing were stupid. I’m sad for each and every person who will follow any or all the links above and suddenly realize that I haven’t even scratched the surface of this man’s despicableness.
No, I’m not sad Elon Musk is leaving the Bay Area. I’m sad that Zuckerberg isn’t going with him.
Categories: Long-Form Essays