Musk and Trump share similar fame and reckoning

Donald Trump and Elon Musk share colossal egos, a relentless desire for the spotlight, and a platform to display their eccentricities and erratic attitudes.

Both the executive director of Tesla Like the former president, they have used that Twitter as a sword and as a shield: a platform to incite the passions (and summon the pockets) of tens of millions of followers and repudiate the opposing side.

Trump weaponized Twitter before he was banned from that social network following the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol from United States. Musk persistently posted on Twitter, where he mocked stock market regulators and lashed out at their version of conformity in numerous tweets. He then decided to buy the platform.

Now both are dealing with reckoning this week, sparked in part by their use of Twitter to further their interests and fuel their outsized idiosyncrasies.

Trump is facing a unanimous recommendation by a congressional panel to the Justice Department on Monday that he be criminally prosecuted for his role in the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol by his supporters, motivated to act by his public comments on and off social media that day.

Right after that, the possible release of Trump’s tax returns, now in the hands of another House panel, was expected Tuesday, something he has fought for years to keep private.

After firing roughly half of Twitter’s workforce and wreaking havoc with impulsive and widely disparate policies, Musk essentially asked users if he should fire himself. In an unscientific poll he organized, a majority of the 17.5 million users who responded said he should resign as Twitter boss. It is not yet known if he will fulfill as he promised.

The tribulations that these two men – born in June on two different continents and 25 years apart – have experienced may be very different from anything they have had to face so far.

“What they have most in common is their little experience with true failure, meaning failure with consequences,” said Eric Dezenhall, a consultant to crisis-ridden companies.

“Although Trump has failed many times, he has always been protected by family money and amazing luck,” Dezenhall added. “While Musk is a genius, he has been lucky enough to have built multiple businesses with government funds instead of fighting the free market,” he added.

“Given their life experiences, how could these guys not feel invincible?”

Kindred spirits at least in part, Musk invited Trump back to Twitter shortly after buying it. So far, Trump sticks to his own platform, Truth Social, which has tiny reach by comparison.

Musk’s invitation was a selective exercise of the right to free expression, while also suspending the Twitter accounts of several well-known journalists and banning links to “forbidden” social media platforms such as Facebookbefore giving in to some degree on both fronts.

Musk was until recently the richest man in the world, with his fortune verified by the value of his shares on the stock markets. Trump has often argued that he should also be considered among the richest, although behind that claim there was only a mirage.

Both have operated from the sense that things begin and end by CEO decrees, but Musk has also created viable companies and genuine wealth, in contrast to Trump’s record of becoming his own brand, risky real estate deals and business deals. dubious ones that have to do with steaks, vodka and even your own “university” of real estate investing.

Musk has 120 million followers on Twitter; Trump, a Republican, had $88 million before he was booted from the platform after the Jan. 6 assault. Over the years, the site has greatly amplified the voices of both in a way that has benefited Musk’s businesses and Trump’s political career, albeit at the cost of his reputations.

“One hell of haters,” Musk called Twitter in 2017. But it was also a siren song for him.

“On Twitter, the likes are exceptional and the criticism is brutal,” he tweeted in 2018. “Very extreme… It’s great.”

On that platform, Musk seems less like the visionary engineer who made electric vehicles appealing, has built reusable rockets, and cares deeply about climate change than a petty personal reckoner who can sink into far-right conspiracy theories and misogyny. .

A month ago, when taunting Trump for resisting after Twitter agreed to let him return, Musk posted a rendering of a woman stripped to the waist, with the Twitter logo covering her genitals and Trump, like Jesus, looking on. “And lead us not into temptation,” Musk’s post read.

Both men have used Twitter to attack the mainstream media, spread misinformation, challenge the boundaries of what is acceptable on social media, and engage in taunts that can be hard to ignore.

But of the two, only Trump had presidential power. For all his spaceships, Musk’s universe is much smaller: In the game of influencing public opinion, it’s mostly made up of tweets and corporate policies on how to run his business.

Their political positions do not match: Musk’s right-wing and libertarian beliefs include a devotion to controlling global warming, for example, and Trump’s do not. Their personalities also differ in some ways: Musk admits to a mistake and even apologizes on occasion. Trump, no.

Their work ethic doesn’t resemble each other either.

Trump, a 76-year-old from the New York borough of Queens, spends most of his time at his Mar-a-Lago vacation resort in Palm Beach, Florida, after a presidency notable for extensive time spent in fields golf.

Musk, a 51-year-old native of South Africa who lived in Canada during his youth, is known for working long hours and with his hands full, most recently at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters.

But as destabilizers, they might as well be twins separated at birth.

“They’re both freestylers,” says Dezenhall. “There’s never a plan, never a strategy, just a collection of tactics on the fly, something that has worked very well for them… That wouldn’t be the case for the rest of us.”


Associated Press writers Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco and Josh Boak in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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