Article Thumbnail

Elon Musk Just Gave a Master Class in Shitty Apologies

When even your mea culpa is an insult, it’s time to log off

Much to nobody’s surprise, Elon Musk’s apology for smearing a British cave diver as a pedophile on Twitter was absolute trash. In fact, “apology” is too strong a word for it.

Musk had attacked 63-year-old Vern Unsworth, a man instrumental in the rescue of a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave complex, for dismissing his offer of a mini-submarine to transport the boys as a “PR stunt.” Unsworth had also said that the extremely online CEO of Tesla and SpaceX was asked to leave the moment he arrived at the caves, contradicting Musk’s repeated claims that Thai authorities were eager for his help.

Naturally, the aggrieved billionaire went nuclear in a series of since-deleted tweets.

Care to guess why Musk felt pressured to cover his ass after this meltdown? I’ll wager it wasn’t because he was sorry. As soon as Unsworth saw the tweets, he was musing about a libel lawsuit, and experts thought he had a strong case. Also, shares of Tesla fell over 3.5 percent the following day, lowering its valuation by $2 billion, with investors understandably concerned that the company’s chief executive was more focused on social media beef than turning a profit for once. Public and media sentiment tilted sharply against Musk in the wake of his slur and insinuations that Thailand is a haven for perverts. Even white supremacist site the Daily Stormer was aghast, declaring that Musk had gone “too far into deep Nazism.”

With no one on his side but a handful of brainwashed fanboys, Musk really had no choice but to “walk back” the offensive comments. But of course he managed to be a dick about that, too.

First off, did Musk apologize to the life-saving hero he impulsively accused of harboring a sexual infatuation with children? Nope. He didn’t even post the message to his main Twitter timeline, choosing instead to bury it in the mentions of some random cryptocurrency nerd who shares his dangerous anti-journalism bias.

Secondly, the “well-written article” he’s praising is in reality a lengthy comment, clearly in his defense, on Quora, a web forum for the dumbest questions this side of Yahoo! Answers. (It is, additionally, the only reason you’ve heard of Jordan Peterson.) That the author attempts to legitimize the “pedo” tweet should tell you plenty about his agenda here.

Moreover, Musk’s initial reply bears no hint of the humility or regret essential to a sincere “I’m sorry.” It’s more bullshit crafted to justify his rage by blaming the altercation on Unsworth, who had remarked that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

As for the “untruths,” Unsworth was only reiterating, in somewhat stronger terms, what pretty much everyone involved in the cave rescue was saying — that Musk’s sub was totally impractical for their purposes.

The second tweet continues the persecution narrative, citing “actions against me.” It’s incredible to think anyone could become a titan of Silicon Valley with skin this thin. If Musk’s feelings are that hurt by people telling him to go away so they can do their jobs, he might consider not sticking his nose in wherever his acolytes demand — or at least not indulging their fantasy of him as a superhero industrialist whose tech can solve any problem.

At last, he has a few meager and resentful words of contrition for Unsworth, who is forced to share the non-apology with alarmed shareholders. “The fault is mine and mine alone,” Musk concludes, as though anyone (besides he himself, mere moments before) was blaming other people for his petulance.

Overall, the statement is not exactly a swing and a miss — it’s more like he struck out trying to bunt. Meanwhile, Musk hasn’t given up on his new hobby of disparaging reporters (especially women) as purveyors of fake news when they publish stories he doesn’t like. But take heart, Elon: No matter how often and spectacularly you self-own on Twitter, it’s never too late to log off.