The coronavirus panic is dumb
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2020
An ambitious serial entrepreneur, Elon Musk professes that his ventures revolve around his vision to “change the world and help humanity.”
Amidst a hotbed of American climate change denial, Musk has dedicated his life’s work to developing products that are on the forefront of sustainable technology. For one, the CEO and product architect of Tesla is responsible for achieving important strides towards more innovative and affordable electric vehicles, making them available to more consumers worldwide than ever before.
However, his dissent with social distancing regulations and propagation of coronavirus misinformation has left the public questioning if his principles run deeper than his pockets.
Despite his advances in disruptive sustainable tech, Forbes’ Most Innovative Leader of 2019 has also made some questionable leadership choices and exhibited opaque tweetstorms, leaving stakeholders scratching their heads in confusion.
How do we applaud Elon Musk for his advancements towards sustainable innovation while simultaneously wrestling with his lack of concern for workers’ rights or the coronavirus pandemic?
Elon Musk Displeased With Coronavirus Restrictions
In recent weeks, Musk has faced fierce backlash from his response to coronavirus, in which he has downplayed the severity of the pandemic and tweeted false information regarding the illness’ propagation.
Musk has also made claims that most hospitals in the United States are half empty. Conversely, Musk responded to the urgent shortage of ventilators currently needed to cope with the pandemic, offering ship free ventilators worldwide to hospitals in need. Following up his gracious offer, Musk tweeted a list of hospitals that he allegedly shipped free ventilators to.
However, CNN determined that Musk had actually sent biPAP and sleep apnea machines to various hospitals rather than ventilators. While sleep apnea machines are not used for COVID-19 patients, biPAP machines can purportedly help support non-COVID patients with other respiratory problems, potentially freeing up ventilators for patients who exhibit the most need.
Musk has also made his stance on public restrictions obvious, quote tweeting a Dailymail article blasting the lockdown as being a “cruel mockery of basic human values” and tweeting the imperative, “FREE AMERICA NOW.” Musk also condoned Texas for reopening businesses in April, referred to the quarantine as “de facto house arrest,” and recommended reopening “with care and appropriate protection.”
Because he believes the threat of coronavirus has been sorely overestimated and is compelled to keep Tesla strong against competitors, Musk decided to reopen his California factory in defiance of county laws that forbid all non-essential business activity.
According to Musk, California had already approved the factory’s reopening, but county officials illegally overruled the states’ permission to resume. “All other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out. This is super messed up!” he exclaimed on Twitter.
By illegally reopening the plant, Musk put employees up to a difficult choice between a.) violating the state’s stay-at-home order and risking exposure to the virus or b.) following the law but not being paid and potentially eliminating their eligibility for unemployment benefits.
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In an attempt to rally workers back to the Tesla plant, Musk sent employees a motivational email stating, “It is so cool seeing the factory come back to life and you are making it happen!!” Referring to the email, an anonymous Tesla worker reports, “They’re trying intimidation and threatening tactics, saying if you don’t show up there’s no more unemployment.”
Musk also filed a lawsuit based on the stay-at-home policy and threatened to move Tesla headquarters out of California as a result of pandemic-related restrictions, a retaliation which would be a blow to California’s economy.
Weeks later, Tesla’s standoff with California authorities came to an end when the factory was cleared to reopen with seemingly no acknowledgement that the factory was already open.
Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020
American Dissent Over Severity of Pandemic
In a country rampant with disinformation and conspiracy movements, American officials have struggled to persuade citizens to take the public health threat of coronavirus seriously. Even President Trump has sent conflicting messages regarding the severity of the situation, making the circumstance difficult for the public to decipher.
The constant clash of information across the country has led some Americans to question the necessity of coronavirus restrictions and protest the lockdown as an infringement of constitutional rights. Protests have ignited across the country with demonstrators ignoring social distancing guidelines and calling for more relaxed pandemic restrictions for the sake of the economy.
The state capital of Michigan saw one of the most alarming coronavirus protests yet, when hundreds of protesters and organized militias stormed the statehouse armed with assault rifles, assailing the governor’s office and calling for an end to the government’s overreaching quarantine regulations.
A Michigan militia protester wearing camouflage and carrying a gun told The Guardian, “What’s worse – having a cough or having a tyrannical leader who takes your freedoms away?”
Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today. #mileg pic.twitter.com/voOZpPYWOs
— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) April 30, 2020
However, scientists fear that attempting to resume daily activities risks overwhelming medical institutions and threatens the health of the immuno-compromised, a prospect which is sparking fear and anxiety for concerned citizens.
Adding fuel to the flames, CEO billionaire Elon Musk has been encouraging his 34 million followers to elude quarantine regulations, retweeting, “The government is simply lobbying folks to stay home, but they can’t keep them there”.
Musk: Eccentric Sustainability Champion or Hypocritical Billionaire?
While he may genuinely be passionate about American liberty issues, a safer bet would be to assume that Elon Musk is casting doubt on pandemic restrictions for one reason: profits. Despite making huge waves in the mature automotive market and sparking an electric vehicle revolution, Tesla has never had a profitable year, making the company especially vulnerable to an economic downturn.
We’re a money-losing company. This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing.
– Elon Musk
To make matters worse, Tesla has a worrisome track record concerning employee safety. Paired with reports of alarming incidents such as serious burns and severed fingers, Tesla has sustained more worker safety violations than the top 10 major U.S. auto plants combined over the past five years.
Musk is known to push aggressive production goals, putting employees under grueling pressure to keep up. According to Musk, “We’re a money-losing company. This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It’s just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?”
In a country where the anti-vaccine movement and science denial is prevalent, heath authorities are exasperated with Musk’s antagonism against advice from renowned epidemiologists that cite coronavirus as a serious public health threat.
While Elon Musk’s mission to disrupt the carbon-reliant automobile industry is noble and much-needed, fans are struggling to cope with his hasty tweets and concerning leadership practices. Considering what we know about the motivations of corporate executives, it is understandable that the billionaire celebrity would be using his on-stage theatrics to push for reduced pandemic relations, but at what cost?
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com contributors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. In the Featured Photo: Elon Musk at GTC 2015. Featured Photo Credit: NVIDIA Corporation