Opinion: Elon's musk is now a stench - when will his fans admit it?

OPINION: It's finally happened. An insecure billionaire with a bad Twitter habit has said something inexcusable.

I'm talking, of course, about Elon Musk, who has accused one of the divers who rescued the trapped boys in Thailand of being a paedophile.

A quick guide to how we got here: after the young football players and their coach were miraculously discovered alive in the Tham Luang caves, Musk tweeted that he wanted to help with the rescue.

He travelled to Chiang Rai with the mini-submarine he'd designed and left it at the cave entrance.

When reports indicated the rescue team wouldn't be using his invention, he gave the impression he would gracefully retreat and leave them to it.

Had it ended there Musk would have looked mature and selfless, and could have ridden the high of goodwill for years to come. But it wasn't to be, thanks to Musk's fatal flaw: vanity.

First, the province's former governor politely dismissed the possibility of using the submarine because it was impractical. 

Musk didn't take that well, saying the governor was "not the subject matter expert" and publishing his emails with a co-leader of the dive team as proof that at least one person involved in the rescue took him seriously.

Then rescuer Vern Unsworth told CNN the whole thing had been "nothing more than a PR stunt", claiming the unbendable 5ft6 submarine wouldn't have made it 50m into the cave. 

And then 47-year-old Elon Reeve Musk, net worth approximately US$20 billion, called him a "pedo".

Opinion: Elon's musk is now a stench - when will his fans admit it?

I barely knew who Musk was before this year, when he launched a car into space for no apparent reason. One of the things I've since learned about the man is that he has the world's most rabid fanbase who will find a way to defend anything he does.

The Musk fanboys (and they are mostly boys, or men who think like boys) were there for him when he used a man's design without credit or compensation, and then said it would be "kinda lame" if the man took legal action.

They were there for him when he said nanotechnology was 'BS', and cited a satirical website as proof. 

They were there for him when it was revealed that the CEO of sustainable vehicle company Tesla donated almost US$40,000 to the Republican Party, which denies the link between human activity and climate change. 

But I think even the most passionate members of Musk's army will struggle to defend him calling one of the heroes of an extraordinary rescue a paedophile.

Some typically level-headed tweets from Musk fans.
Some typically level-headed tweets from Musk fans. Photo credit: Twitter

No one knows why he made the baseless accusation "pedo guy" in his (since-deleted) tweet, but it could be a reference to Thailand's sex trafficking problem - Western men are known to visit the country for the sole purpose of sexually abusing children.

That's a really weird thing to imply about someone who just saved a bunch of kids. 

Musk's professional reputation has recently taken a hit after a whistleblower claimed he lied to investors and put faulty batteries in Tesla cars. 

Health and safety doesn't seem to be a priority for Musk, according to reports that Tesla left serious worker injuries off the company records and that factories lack basic safety features because of Musk's aesthetic preferences. 

It is a very big deal that the CEO of a company that employs more than 37,000 people doesn't care about health and safety. It is also a very big deal that the company actively discourages its workers from unionising. 

So he might have some shady business practices, but what's Musk like as a person? A nightmare, according to his ex-wife. 

He allegedly told her that he was "the alpha in this relationship" as they danced at their wedding reception. She claims he also repeatedly told her that if she was his employee, he'd fire her, and that he pressured her to dye her hair blonde and stop reading so much.

If that sounds too evil to be true, that's because Musk is teetering dangerously close to supervillain territory.

As an origin story, Musk's early life is almost clichéd: born to parents of ridiculous wealth, he was abused by his father and bullied by his classmates.

The awkward kid who was bad at sports but fascinated by technology grows up to be a multi-billionaire with more power and resources than almost anyone else on the planet? That story never ends well. 

The Tony Stark comparisons have been made (and happily encouraged by Musk himself), but his ego seems to keep him from true philanthropy.

I don't doubt Musk's intelligence, his work ethic or his commitment to changing the world. What I do doubt is whether he's ever done anything simply because it was the right thing to do, rather than because it would take him one step closer to conquering the universe.

Musk's unpleasantness isn't enough to tarnish the story of the Thai cave rescue, one of the most incredible and joyful events in recent history. But it might be enough to sow doubt among those who think a thin-skinned billionaire with a history of unethical personal and professional behaviour is someone worthy of worship.

Then again, look who's currently leader of the free world and gearing up for a second term. Elon 2024?

Sophie Bateman is a Newshub reporter. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz