Beyond the Shadow

In the past, I’ve described Elon Musk as an example of a modern scourge I call narcissistic victimhood; people who couldn’t be benefiting more from the current state of things yet who are intent on convincing themselves that they are actually the victim of the current state of things. He’s being robbed of free speech, even though he owns a social network and nearly every word he posts makes headlines. The overly woke system is rigged against people like him, even though, within that very system, he is the richest person in the world and arguably the most famous, too. He’s the newsmaker and the news topic. He’s won the economy and the attention economy. Like other narcissistic victims, Musk seems determined to be a geopolitical leader as well as a business and cultural one. Unlike some his counterparts, he’s not (yet) wasting his time with pesky things like running for office. In the New Yorker, Ronan Farrow on the power Musk has amassed. “In the past twenty years, against a backdrop of crumbling infrastructure and declining trust in institutions, Musk has sought out business opportunities in crucial areas where, after decades of privatization, the state has receded. The government is now reliant on him, but struggles to respond to his risk-taking, brinkmanship, and caprice. Current and former officials from NASA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration told me that Musk’s influence had become inescapable in their work, and several of them said that they now treat him like a sort of unelected official. One Pentagon spokesman said that he was keeping Musk apprised of my inquiries about his role in Ukraine and would grant an interview with an official about the matter only with Musk’s permission. ‘We’ll talk to you if Elon wants us to,’ he told me. In a podcast interview last year, Musk was asked whether he has more influence than the American government. He replied immediately, ‘In some ways.’ Reid Hoffman told me that Musk’s attitude is ‘like Louis XIV: ‘L’état, c’est moi.'” Elon Musk’s Shadow Rule. (This is a really interesting article, but I quibble with the title. Even though Musk loves to throw shade, none of this is happening in the shadows. For a person with these personality traits who has become the poster child for people who can’t stop posting, that would take the fun out of it. No, Musk is a power broker make for our era—one who operates not in the shadows but while taking a never-ending selfie.)

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