2 disruptors face a reckoning

WASHINGTON (AP) — Elon Musk and Donald Trump share colossal egos, a relentless desire for the spotlight and a platform to display their eccentricities and erratics.

Both the CEO of Tesla and the former president have used that platform, Twitter, as a sword and shield: a platform to arouse the passions (and touch the pockets) of tens of millions of followers and reject the other side.

Trump weaponized Twitter before being banned after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Musk was a persistent poster boy for Twitter, mocking stock market regulators and criticizing their version of compliance on numerous tweets. So he decided to buy the platform..

Now, both face a reckoning this week caused, at least in part, by their use of Twitter to advance their agendas and fuel their massive identification.

trump faces the unanimous recommendation of a select committee of Congress to the Department of Justice on Monday for criminal prosecution for his involvement in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by supporters who sprang into action that day over his public comments, on and off social media.

On the heels of that could come Tuesday’s release of Trump’s tax returns, now in the hands of another House panel, which he has fought for years to keep private.

After firing nearly half of Twitter’s workforce and wreaking havoc with impulsive and ever-changing policies, Musk asked users if he should fire himself. In an unscientific poll he organized, a majority of the 17.5 million respondents said i should resign as head of Twitter. No word yet on whether he will honor the result as promised.

Born 25 years old and continents apart, the travails of these two June babies may be unlike anything they’ve ever encountered before.

“The most important thing they have in common is little experience with actual failure, that is, failure with consequences,” said Eric Dezenhall, a consultant to crisis-ridden companies.

“Although Trump has failed several times, he has always been protected by family money and incredible luck,” Dezenhall said. market.

“Given their life experiences, how could these guys not feel invincible?”

Kindred spirits, at least in part, Musk invited Trump back to Twitter shortly after he bought it. So far, Trump is sticking to his own platform, Truth Social, which has minuscule reach by comparison.

Musk’s invitation was a selective exercise of the right to freedom of expression, since it also suspended a variety of mainstream journalists of Twitter and banned links to “banned” social networking sites like Facebook, before giving in to some extent on both fronts.

Musk was until recently the richest man in the world, with the amount verified by the value of his shares. Trump has often argued that he should be considered one of the richest, although behind that claim was a mirage.

Both have operated from the feeling that things start and end at the CEO’s behest. But Musk has also built viable companies and genuine wealth, in contrast to Trump’s record of self-branding, fraught real estate deals and dubious ventures involving steak, vodka or even his own “university” real estate investment.

Musk registers 120 million followers on Twitter; Trump, a Republican, had $88 million when he was banned from the platform after the January 6 insurrection. The site has greatly amplified the voices of both, in a way that has benefited Musk’s businesses and Trump’s political career over the years, albeit at the cost of his reputation.

“Hellscape for enemies,” Musk called Twitter in 2017. But it was also a siren song for him.

“On Twitter, likes are rare and reviews are brutal,” he tweeted in 2018. “So hard.

“It’s great.”

On that platform, Musk comes across less as the visionary engineer who made electric vehicles hotter, builds reusable rockets, and cares deeply about climate change than as a petty personal score-killer who can sink into conspiracy theories and right-wing misogyny. .

A month ago, teasing Trump for holding out right after Twitter agreed to let him in, Musk posted a rendering of a woman naked from the waist down, with the Twitter logo covering her genitals and Trump, as Jesus, looking on. “And lead us not into temptation,” Musk’s post read.

Both men have used Twitter to attack mainstream media outlets, spread misinformation, push the boundaries of what’s acceptable on social media, and engage in taunts that can make it hard to look the other way.

But of the two, only Trump held the power of office. For all his spaceship, Musk’s universe is much smaller. In the game of influencing public opinion, it is mostly made up of tweets and corporate policies on how to manage them.

Their politics don’t match: Musk’s libertarian and right-wing beliefs come with a devotion to controlling global warming, for example, and Trump’s don’t. Their personalities also differ in some ways: Musk admits to mistakes and even apologizes on occasion; Trump no.

Their work ethic is unlike each other.

Trump, a 76-year-old from Queens in New York City, spends most of his time at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, after a presidency that has long been marked by fields golf. Musk, a 51-year-old South African who lived in Canada as a young man, is known for working insane hours these days at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters.

But as disruptors, they might as well be twins separated at birth.

“These two guys are freestylers,” Dezenhall said. “There’s never a plan, never a strategy, just a collection of tactics on the fly. This worked really well for them.”

“It wouldn’t be the case for the rest of us.”


Associated Press writers Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco and Josh Boak in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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