Consumerist holidays DONE, tryptophan naps COMPLETED, plans for revolution RESUMING, hey everybody it’s a newsletter. Every once in awhile someone comes along with a newsletter so good, so indispensable, and so inspiring that it’s doomed to save humanity from it’s own collective self-destruction. I think I am the person to save the world with this newsletter, and I’m glad you’ve allowed me the privilege to privilege you with the first joke I think of when reading the news for another decade. I think it will really benefit you. Now, on an unrelated note, here’s some words about Elon Musk.
A couple of weeks ago I had a tweet go viral.
dustin curtis @dcurtisIf you bet against Tesla, you are betting against the progress of the human race. (This is the Tesla Cybertruck compared to its closest competitor, the electric Rivian, which costs twice as much.) https://t.co/alkdn4HbhL
As anyone who has had a piece of content become popular on Twitter can tell you, the experience was a mixed bag. The seemingly endless stream of likes and retweets is thrilling at first, but that thrill quickly gives way to a rising horror elicited by the sheer mass of people looking at your dumb post. Few things make you more self-conscious than 200,000 pairs of eyes.
Then, of course, comes the harassment. Now I want to make it clear that, as a white man, I am essentially navigating a version of the internet that’s permanently on the “Can I Play, Daddy?” difficulty from Wolfenstein — my online experience will always be easier and less filled with hostility than those of women and people of colour. But I still received my fair share of harassment from my viral tweet, all from one of the internet’s most toxic and hateful cults of personality. No, I’m not talking about Pete Buttigieg supporters. I’m talking about people who have pledged their lives in the service of their god emperor, Elon Musk.
Obviously, they were not particularly pleased that I called the Tesla Cybertruck “stupid.” But worse in the eyes of Musk fans was my implication that visions of the future set out by companies like Tesla work to constrain our collective imagination and distract us from much more achievable, equitable alternatives (a topic that has already been written about here).
The Musk fanboys wouldn’t let this perceived injustice stand. As the tweet reached a larger and larger audience, I began to receive dozens of replies and direct message requests from very eager, very angry young men. While I attempted to earnestly engage with the first few people to reach out to me, I quickly realized these were not people looking for an honest intellectual discussion. Instead, they mostly wanted to berate me for not showing sufficient deference to a man that owns some companies.
So what’s going on here? Part of this ferocious response can probably be explained by the fact that people on the internet (including some of your favourite podcasters) are generally combative and hostile to those they disagree with due to the distance and anonymity provided by social media. Part of the response can also be explained through the law of large numbers — thousands of people saw that truck tweet, so it’s only reasonable that some of those people would be assholes. But that still doesn’t convincingly explain why dozens upon dozens of people seemed personally insulted by my opinion of Tesla, and it certainly doesn’t explain why this exact same phenomenon has happened to other people in similar situations.
To properly explain how such a hostile and proactive cult of personality arose around a corny tech mogul, we must look at Elon Musk himself — and more specifically, the space within our collective imagination he has carefully hollowed out for himself. From his tweets, to his public statements, to even the branding of his companies, Musk has styled himself as a wealthy, eccentric, singular genius who is working to single-handedly save the world from its most intractable problems. Corporate media and his adoring fans have been all too eager to help propagate this image, showering Musk and his projects with positive press and thousands of godawful memes.
In reality, Musk is a far cry from the heroic genius he portrays himself to be. He is a spoiled scion of a South African mining dynasty that made his fortune through investing in PayPal alongside fellow vampire Peter Thiel. Musk now serves as a glorified Lyle Langley for his many hare-brained companies, conning billions of dollars in public money from all levels of government by promising to deliver on fantastical, theoretical solutions to problems that could easily be solved through conventional means. Meanwhile, Musk continues to personally receive credit for everything his bullied and frightened employees actually manage to pull off, all while he makes posts so terrible they have landed him in legal trouble multiple times. He is hardly an aspirational figure.
But Musk does not exist in a cultural vacuum. We live in a world facing massive, civilization ending problems — climate change, growing income inequality, ongoing colonial violence, to name a few — that no one in charge seems capable or even willing to do anything about. Even worse, decades of neoliberal ideology has misled people into believing that individual consumer choices are an effective way to make political change. They’re not.
Considering this state of affairs, it’s no surprise that these last few decades have also seen the rise of superhero narratives. These are stories in which there are always simple, direct answers to massive, world ending problems, and thus serve as a sort of escapism from our complex and rapidly deteriorating reality. However, collective action is almost never the solution. Instead, the world is repeatedly saved by charming, talented, and wealthy individuals.
Whether it was intentional or not, Musk has fashioned his public identity into a reflection of those super-powered individuals, specifically characters like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne that use their wealth, intelligence and libertarianism to selflessly advance human society. As a result, many people now treat Musk as if he, in fact, is a superhero — a magical individual that they are convinced will usher in a new era of human civilization single-handed.
For many of Musk’s fans this is no way an exaggeration. Take, for example, the Elon Musk fan in this Verge story who says “learning about Tesla was literally the only thing that kept [her] getting out of bed every day” after she was hospitalized following a suicide attempt. Or this fucking nightmare of a Kickstarter, that literally casts Elon Musk as a superhero fighting against alien-like oil executives. For many people, Musk is the answer that they’ve been waiting for.
Except that he isn’t. Musk and billionaire wankers like him like him are not the way forward, and only serve as a distraction from real potential solutions to our biggest problems. His Randian cult of personality only serves to reinforce what Mark Fisher called ‘capitalist realism’ — the widespread conception that there is no imaginable alternative to capitalism. This limitation of the imagination is what leads to people believing some pretty wacky stuff, such as the notion that the wealthy are looking out for all of our best interests, or that buying certain products will halt global climate change.
Most nefariously, Musk moonlighting as a real-life Tony Stark provides a type of hope — one that allows average people to check out of the world’s problems, content to allow the superheroic genius of Elon Musk to solve everything. All his acolytes have to do to feel like they’re saving the world is to buy the right kind of car and defend Musk’s honour online — their Rick and Morty loving lord and saviour has promised to take care of the rest. In this way, Tesla die-hards aren’t much different than fans of Toms shoes or Patagonia clothing. It’s comforting to feel like you are doing your part by supporting a brand, especially since supporting brands has become increasingly integral to the way we perceive our identities and the identities of others.
While a real life superhero that could solve our many problems with some technological wizardry does sound nice, the hope provided by Elon Musk is a false hope. A false hope that Musk actively courts through his many brands, project proposals, and television cameos. As socialists who understand that any true hope for our world necessitates an end to capitalism, we have to work to stamp that shit out pronto. The only way to fight for a real future is together, as a collective force, not by hoping the latest in a long line of capitalist con men actually means what he says
Luckily, things aren’t all bad. As Ernst Bloch would say, ideology is Janus-faced — while it does manipulate us by hiding the material economic relationships underpinning society, it also contains elements of possible utopias that people unconsciously latch onto. In this case, Musk’s cult of hopeful (if hostile) young followers shows a real desire for a better future, one in which we have found a solution to climate change, reinvested in our crumbling infrastructure, and began seriously exploring the stars. Unfortunately for his fans, Musk’s path won’t ever take us to that future. It’s up to us to show them a path that will.
🏴DOAP Team is arguably the best shit Calgary has to offer so of course morons tried to kill it and forced average citizens to do above average shit to save it.
🤷♀️Jason Kenney lost his fight to keep a carbon tax out of Alberta and is a giant failure toddler who should be mocked for the rest of his life.
🏧Workers are being put at risk to protect ATMs. They should be only kept outside so when one gets stolen - technically owned by private companies and the money inside safely insured - the people least benefiting from their presence aren’t in danger during their theft.
🎭Next time you go see a play (lol you won’t) take a look at all the Calgary oil companies that sponsor that company and try to imagine art in this city existing without carbon money.
Plotting rural crime on a map really puts into perspective how much political oxygen is wasted on a pretty rare occurrence.
🚜The Calgary bedroom community of Brooks is totally screwed and robots are to blame.
💪Beloved local family has reputation destroyed by shithead faildaughter who didn’t make payroll. If you don’t make payroll, especially in December, you are a piece of shit. Full stop. If your company is going out of business, chances are the writing is on the wall well in advance. Prioritize paying your people, not running out the thread as long as possible then locking doors. Be a decent human, for fuck sakes.
⚡Alberta is installing superchargers for electric cars with provincial and federal subsidies but has no incentives for the purchasing of these vehicles so this is a handout to rich people. Weird and rare!
🥺People who actually own land are evicting some people who don’t own the land but are trying to develop it. Simple transaction in 90% of the planet but this is Canada Time, baby and here we do it with max fuckery.
📹Google is finding out that being fucking evil is pretty profitable so they’re doing that more and more. You love to see it after we gave them permission to know everything about us forever.
🤷♀️When a reasonable landlord is a hero, your society might be worth killing.
👴🏻Reelecting Donald Trump would probably be pretty negative overall for the planet and supporting Joe Biden by calling him “electable” is an unacceptable collaboration with Trump because Trump would fucking stomp him in the General.
🥫A guy who was given a shitty gift by his employer is now unemployed for calling it shitty in public.
🌏Australia beta tests future fire response by Canada. Eventually this country will be too big and it will become too costly to address climate change impacts and we will just let that motherfucker burn. It will be bad! We’re only at the start and we almost spend a half billion per year on responses. That’s a bit more than the budget for the Ontario Ministry of Parks and Conservation. That shit will be logarithmic and unsustainable real quick. RBC is also predicting that the Canadian economy will be PRIMARILY impacted by climate change over the next few decades. Seems like something to look into!
🤲Neoliberalism killed a ton of Russians but its true legacy is keeping them in poverty in droves. Ignore the hopeful tone of the article regarding Putin.
🚄Canadian transit is such garbage that when Mercedes pulls their tiny cars out of cities we all have to sit back and reconnoiter how fucked we are.
📰Canadian media and the advertising duopoly are so fucked that you can buy the most historically relevant alt-weekly in the third largest metro in a G8 country for less than a single family detached in most of said bronze metro.
✈️It looks like maybe hopefully sort of we avoided a full-scale shooting war with Iran which is good for many reasons but not exclusively but importantly that it would put an ice pick into the skull of the planet. EDIT: lol just kidding they’re gonna Tonkin it hard.
🎸The former CEO of Nissan should be going to jail but because he is super rich he gets smuggled out of the country with orchestra gear. Can’t make this shit up.
🏠Finland solves homelessness by not being idiots and using common sense.
👮A cop got fired (!!) after doing something stupid (!!!). The most comrade thing you can do as a cop is get fired or fire cops, should you have firing authority. Coming in second is becoming a cop and then just stealing productivity, which also rules. Also, if you see a worker slacking off at work and you narc, you’re a cop and should be fired (from a trebuchet).
🎖️Troop worship is a death cult.
📉Behind The Bastards profiles one of the most profligate capitalist grifters of our collective lifetimes.
🎧The P.O.D. Kast profiles Toxicity by System of a Down, without which I would have never have heard about CIA drug money or the Armenian genocide as a kid.
🔇Canadian treasure Don Hughes talks some Iran on You Can’t Win.
🎚️Out of Left Field took a look back at ten years of leftism in Canada and abroad.
🏴Rallies are taking place tomorrow, January 10, in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en standing up against Coastal GasLink’s (CGL) liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline. Locations and details here for Edmonton and here for Calgary.
✊A rally against war with Iran will take place in Calgary on January 25 in front of City Hall starting at noon.
A Quick Note: if you want us to include an article or a petition or a link to an event or just a really funny joke, drop us a quick line at albertaadvantagepod [at] gmail [dot] com. We make no promises, but many hands make light work, and we’d love to hear from you! .
This newsletter contains writing by Kate Jacobson. Our editor is Clinton Hallahan.