Many of Elon Musk's supporters say: “He's not that bad. You’re just giving him a hard time. You’re just being a hater. He’s just a joker. You don’t understand him.”
But his behavior in the last 5-6 years has been truly awful. We’re not talking about just a few mistakes; Elon has exhibited a repeated toxic pattern, both in the leadership of his companies and in his position as a public figure.
How bad is Elon’s behavior?
- In 2018, he was charged (and convicted) of Securities Fraud. In tweets, he lied about taking Tesla private and was sued by the SEC. Tesla was fined $20 million. Elon fought the judgment, but a federal judge upheld it.
- In 2018, Elon offered to help with the Thai cave rescue. His request was turned down by Narongsak Osatanakorn, head of the joint command center. Elon showed up at the rescue site anyway and was asked to leave. When one of the divers criticized Elon for being there, Elon called him a “pedo” on Twitter. (Source)
- In 2018, SpaceX paid “$250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Musk.” (Source)
- In 2020, Elon repeatedly spread misinformation about COVID-19. (Source)
- In 2021, investigators began looking at Elon's public claims "after at least 12 accidents in which Teslas using Autopilot drove into parked fire trucks, police cars, and other emergency vehicles, killing one person and injuring 17 others." (Source)
- In 2021, Tesla was sued for racial discrimination, and a court ordered them to pay damages. Later, a judge upheld the ruling but lowered the damages.
- In 2022, seven women filed sexual-harassment claims against Elon Musk. (Source)
- In 2022, he compared the Canadian Prime Minister to Adolf Hitler. (Source)
On Twitter, he regularly spreads misinformation and hurls obnoxious insults.
These aren't minor infractions; especially considering Elon’s position as the wealthiest man in the world (with significant social influence and power).
Elon has lots of fans in the indie hacker, founder, and tech culture, but I don’t think he’s a model worth following. There are much better role models.
Let's save our admiration for leaders who are mindful, respectful, have self-control, and can act with a reasonable amount of restraint.