Plenty of Money, No Conscience

I have never been a fan of Elon Musk, but then I’m not a fan of wealthy people who waste their wealth on frivolous ‘toys’ rather than helping people in need.  I see them as people without conscience, without a sense of social responsibility.  Well, as Dan Rather shows us in an email I received yesterday, Mr. Musk has proven what sort of person he is …


This is Not Okay

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

This won’t take long. Because there’s not much to say.

It involves something that went out earlier today on Twitter, that social media platform that limits thoughts to 280 characters and can be both inspirational and a cesspool. One user who tends to wade into the latter is the tech billionaire Elon Musk, who posted and then deleted a Tweet that created quite a stir. That he eventually removed his Tweet is welcomed, but it is far from sufficient.

Here is an image of what Musk shared:

For context, Musk posted his tweet in response to this:

I do not want to get bogged down in the details of cryptocurrency, the Canadian government, or the truck blockade. Those are all important stories that deserve their own treatment. I want to get at something far more basic. There are no words to capture the depravity of what Musk did in using a meme of Adolf Hitler, but words are what we have so we must try. It was offensive, disgusting, and shameful. It trafficked in the basest currencies of hate and ignorance.

This kind of dangerous rhetoric cannot go unchallenged. I cannot imagine any respected national public figure in my lifetime doing something like this. It’s not some “tech dude” being provocative. This is appropriating the deaths of millions of people to make a snarky political comment. And Musk is not alone. More and more we are hearing Hitler and the Nazis invoked to demonize science, knowledge, public health, and social and racial justice. There can be no false equivalence in how widespread the Third Reich is used by right-wing actors in their political and social attacks. But we should denounce all instances where the specter of Nazism is bandied about with abandon.

On the individual level this raises serious concerns about Musk, whose public pronouncements have become increasingly strident and aligned with fringe political actors. Meanwhile, his company Tesla is being sued in California for racism.

The opprobrium Musk is getting is well warranted. His behavior raises many questions. Will it hurt the popularity of his Tesla cars? What will it mean for his SpaceX company’s contracts with NASA? Or, will anyone really care? Is this all just normal now, within the spectrum of what is considered “acceptable”?

The fact that he decided to delete his tweet is encouraging, and in ways that are much bigger than Musk, or this incident.

I am confident that the vast majority of Americans and people around the globe find this rhetoric reprehensible. Just because you are a feted centibillionaire (a new word for those in the $100 billion club) doesn’t mean you can get away with this outrageousness. When people rise up and say, “No,” “This is not okay,” “We will not let it stand unchallenged,” the world has no choice but to pay attention. There can be swelling choruses for good. Public pressure can lead to better outcomes.

More generally, we also need to teach more history. There is a great danger in forgetting, about the holocaust, and about other manifestations of hate. When the forces of intolerance push against our common humanity, they must feel a repelling force of dignity and hope. Bullies will not slink back into their holes if their dangerous words are ignored; they will only get louder. But even those with the biggest pulpit cannot ignore the majority when it speaks in powerful unison.

No Mr. Musk, this is not going to be allowed. Even those with unlimited funds can be bankrupt of decency. My hope is that this episode causes Musk to pause and reflect. I desperately desire that we can find ways to start to pull back from some of this caustic rhetoric. And that those who will not, will hear about it.

44 thoughts on “Plenty of Money, No Conscience

  1. The irony is a lot of these folk would have gone to the wall under Hitler’s final years. You did not step out of line. Some of his more prestigious generals were simply retired, but as for the rest; one-way ticket to ‘somewhere’….
    And maybe if they actually looked at photos of Berlin 1945?…..
    For all his questionable gifts, when it came down to it, he was a gambler and had high shmuck levels.
    You had to be a Stalin, FDR or Churchill to play in those high-stakes games.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, yes Mr.Musk, Hitler had a budget – he called it the “final solution.” Take all of the Jews in invaded countries, flag them, count them, restrict them, segregate them and then send them off to camps under the impression they would be enslaved. Then, gas them. Oh and by the way, Mr. Musk, Hitler blew past his budget underestimating the cost in Deutsche marks and lives of fighting the Russians.

    A rule of thumb I use, if someone is comparing anything to Nazi’s or Hitler, it better be one heinous sets of acts. Hitler has a very special place in hell with other mass murderers. Keith

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    • It seems to me that Musk, along with at least half of this nation, need to actually study WWII and what Hitler and his crew did, for they are apparently of a notion that being told to wear a mask in public is somehow comparable to being shoved into a train car, starved for months, then executed in the gas chambers disguised as showers. The comparisons being made are offensive, insensitive, and downright wrong! Sigh.

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      • Jill, indeed they are. I am reading “The Sisters of Auschwitz” right now and the stories are painful, as well as heroic as these sisters led a movement to get Jewish people out of harm’s way. Keith

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        • Great minds think alike! I just bought that one last week, but haven’t started it yet, for I’m still caught up in two books about the racial murders in Mississippi in the 1960s, but it’s next on my TBR list! It seems that extreme trauma, such as the death camps or Covid or a massive storm, brings out the best in some people (like the sisters in Auschwitz and other heroes) and the worst in others. I wonder what causes the difference? Is it in a person’s DNA or a result of their life experiences and upbringing? Or a combination?

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            • The one that has fascinated me most and from which I’ve learned the most is “Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era” by investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell. He is the one who was instrumental in getting a number of cases re-opened in Mississippi including the murder of Medgar Evers, as well as those of Chaney, Goodman & Schwernere. I’m also reading “Ghosts of Mississippi” by Maryanne Vollers, which I got for free from my Kindle account. Both are good, but I would highly recommend the one by Jerry Mitchell … it covers a number of cases and his role in helping re-open and find the evidence that enabled prosecutors to convict. I don’t think I ever realized the huge roll that the KKK played in Mississippi and how blatantly they talked about their evil deeds.

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  3. Billionaires feel untouchable. Most of these people throwing around the Nazi comparisons have never studied about the Holocaust. We are living in a time of apathy. Too many people have not raised their own children, allowing them to be schooled by television, their friends and cousins. The total lack of compassion that seems to be encompassing much of the modern world is going to be its demise. I love Dan Rather. God, how I miss real news reporting.

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    • I have never heard as many Nazi comparisons as I have lately and it galls me to no end. I had relatives who survived the Holocaust and I grew up listening to their stories of terror … having to wear a mask to protect one’s life and the lives of others is IN NO WAY comparable! People like Musk and Margie Greene ought to have to go live in Russia or perhaps Afghanistan where human rights are pretty much non-existent! Yes, my friend, there is a definite lack of empathy and compassion these days and I don’t understand it. I often tell my girls that I think perhaps I’ve outlived my usefulness in the world of today. And indeed, I miss the good ones like Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, et al. Today it seems more about ratings than journalistic excellence.

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      • I know. Watching those guys made us feel somehow protected. I still remember when Barbara Walters rose in the reporting ranks to the same level of respect as them and how good she was. Diane Sawyer. It started shifting with Katie Couric, although she was always a good reporter. Even the talk and morning shows shifted from valuable informative content to free for all circus side show garbage. We can thank Springer for that. I used to love Sally Jesse and Maury Povich. Even Povich sold out for sensationalist programming. The world at large has become performance focused, popularity driven without conscience or integrity. Oh! Phil Donahue. To me Oprah was the last of that generation of cutting edge relevant interviewers. All anyone wants to do anymore is fight. 😞

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        • Yep, it’s all about what sells ad copy now … as the old saying in the newspaper business goes, “If it bleeds, it leads”. Tucker Carlson at Fox is considered the most-viewed person in the news … that speaks volumes about the mentality in this country. The fighting, the bigotry and racism, all sells — people like it and they watch it, so that’s where the advertisers put their money. Sigh. Beam me up, Scottie!

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  4. Unfortunately, no words, from me or Dan Rather or anyone else, can adequately express how utterly reprehensible this is. But Mr. Rather is right; we must all raise our voices in indignation at ANYONE who chooses to use Hitler or Nazism in such ridiculous context.

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