I don’t think he’s trying to fool us about what he believes, and I don’t think we’re fooling ourselves, either. The friends of freedom always have to build coalitions. Those coalitions always come with risks, some of them severe. But we take them knowingly because we understand this fallen world, and because we are not looking for a savior. We have one already, and it is he—not Elon Musk, not Stacey Abrams, not Donald Trump—who makes us free.
Elon Musk is not going to save you. He’s not your king, and he’s not your god, any more than Dr. Fauci or Klaus Schwab is. Elon is no more suited than them, by nature or by divine ordination, to decide for you upon the courses of action that will make your life meaningful and upright. He has no more authority to shoulder these sacred burdens on your behalf than those other pretenders. But unlike them, he doesn’t want to.
I could be wrong about this. I don’t know the man, and there is always much more to public figures than what they let on in interviews. But when he says that “free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy,” he is following a noble instinct, and I believe that instinct is sincere. “Generally I think we should be aiming for a positive society, and it should be okay to be humorous,” he told the editors of the Babylon Bee. That interaction helped touch off the chain of events that led to his acquisition of Twitter.
And tellingly, what his opponents most fear in him is exactly what I hope for: “Mr. Musk seems to seek…a kind of infinite license to say almost anything, anywhere,” writes Elizabeth Spiers in the New York Times. I am grateful to Ms. Spiers for putting the matter so plainly: yes, that is exactly what I want. I think Elon wants it too. To the extent he is willing and able to deliver it, he is the ally of patriotic Americans everywhere.
Some critics have tried lamely to catch Musk out in hypocrisy because he does not permit employees of Tesla to disparage the company. But that won’t wash—it’s a perfectly normal and unremarkable sort of contract, entered into freely by both parties. If I wanted to go around denouncing the Claremont Institute, I would have every right to do so, but not while continuing to draw a paycheck from them. And since the people raising this concern are the same people who don’t want Musk to be serious about his “free speech absolutism” to begin with, that whole line of argument is a bit disingenuous.
The bigger issue is that Musk has objectives in mind which many of his supporters either don’t share, or find vaguely sinister. He wants us all using wind and solar power, riding in driverless electric cars, delegating chores to in-house robots, and patching our brains into a digital system called Neuralink. If unrestrained by clarity and conviction about the human soul’s central place in creation, these projects have the potential to evolve into transhumanist nightmare fuel. Some wonder whether, in their eagerness to fix Twitter, conservatives have invited in exactly the sort of vampire they should be guarding most vigilantly against.
The Best Bad Option
But by and large, the Right is going into this partnership with open eyes. I don’t think this has yet been fully appreciated: American conservatives have learned to be admirably forthright with themselves and others about the tradeoffs they must make in dire circumstances. Those who had not already learned this skill got a crash course two elections ago. “Trump is worse than imperfect,” wrote Michael Anton in his landmark argument for voting red in 2016. Talk to most Trump voters and they’ll concede a great deal about his many character flaws—they just think the alternatives are worse.