Multi-hyphenate billionaire Elon Musk has once again signaled his love for novelist George Orwell — without, it seems, realizing the author's well-known far-left political stance that directly contradicts his own worldview.
In a Friday the 13th post, the owner of the social network formerly known as Twitter — who blames communism for why his daughter won't talk to him anymore — said that he is "loving" a new shirt that featured the all-seeing "Big Brother" eye from "Nineteen Eighty-Four," the British author's best-known work that serves as a cautionary tale against totalitarianism and surveillance.
Underneath the eye on the shirt are the words "What would Orwell think." What he'd probably think, if he was alive today? That it's weird that an industrialist as anti-communist as Musk would be promoting his work, since Orwell himself was such an avowed democratic socialist that he literally fought fascists in the Spanish Civil War and wrote a book about it.
Orwell's socialism is so well-known, in fact, that earlier this year Stanford University Press published a book about his views titled "The Socialist Patriot." Socialism was pretty much Orwell's main thing — but for whatever reason, that seems to have been lost in translation for Musk.
By contrast, Musk's politics — which are sloppy at best and self-serving at worst — would by any definition be far to the right of Orwell's. Just look at his regressive thinking on issues ranging from transgender rights and race relations to union busting and the unfettered capitalism he practiced to become the world's richest person.
This is great. Have you read much Orwell, Elon? Here is a passage from his essay, "Why I Write." pic.twitter.com/AUcI4BD0Aa
— derek guy (@dieworkwear) October 14, 2023
This isn't the first time the South African-born billionaire has broadcasted his Orwell fandom.
In July, he posted a photo, sans caption, of himself wearing a green hat that says "Make Orwell Fiction Again," another idiomatic reference to a very different cultural meme. In an astute read on the situation, one Reddit user observed that Musk seems to have adopted 1984 as part of his personal brand as part of his turn towards right-wing culture wars and conspiracy theories.
It's not the first time Musk seems to have broadly missed the point of one of his favorite books. As the New Yorker pointed out in an excoriating essay, Musk's cherished "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" books by Douglas Adams aren't a celebration of his galaxy-conquering dreams but a "razor-sharp satiric indictment of imperialism."
Political science has often seemed to beguile Musk, especially when he invokes leftist vocabulary in ways that make him sound confused.
Back in the summer of 2018, for instance, when he was worth a mere $21 billion and his desire to buy Twitter was just a twinkle in his eye, Musk claimed on the social network that he was "a socialist."
"Marx was a capitalist," he quipped in followup "He even wrote a book about it," he added, presumably referring to Karl Marx's searing indictment of capitalism titled "Das Kapital."
"By the way, I am actually a socialist," Musk continued in the 2018 thread. "Just not the kind that shifts resources from most productive to least productive, pretending to do good, while actually causing harm. True socialism seeks greatest good for all."
Is that good for all served by buying one of the world's largest social networks and letting it become a cesspool of right wing extremism and misinformation?
We'll let readers decide.
But the reality, of course, is that anyone who's really understood "Nineteen Eight-Four" knows that George Orwell wouldn't be able to stand a control freak power tripper like Elon Musk.
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