“Tesla cannot die.”
That’s what Elon Musk told Recode’s Kara Swisher in her latest interview about the future of his empire. The billionaire CEO says that Tesla has advanced sustainable energy by at least five years and is the pivotal player when it comes to sustainability.
In his words: “Tesla is incredibly important for the future of sustainable transport and energy generation. The fundamental purpose, the fundamental good that Tesla provides is accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy production.”
Musk is the Beyoncé of transportation technology. He both enrages and enlivens a mass group of people, and his own Beyhive, a rabid fanbase which takes form as an online herd, is ready on standby to defend what he does and tweets.
For example, when Musk drew up plans for a hyperloop, he had no immediate plans for making one. But as soon as the paper was released, reddit groups materialized to work out the kinks of the design, one that isn’t wholly original, but that many call the “fifth mode of transportation.” Many people from those message boards went on to form rLoop—a reddit-based group of engineers and designers dedicated to making the hyperloop a reality.
This ability to get people with day jobs to do physics in their spare time is unique, and highlights the main difference between Musk and other tech CEOs: People believe he is saving the world, and by supporting him, that they are saving the world, too. Drawing up designs for potential commercial use free of charge doesn’t seem so strange when you think it will move us closer to salvaging Earth.
But for how frequent and grand Musk’s claims of environmentalism are, Tesla’s importance to sustaining the planet cannot be predicted. A 2016 Wired article investigated the process of making a Tesla car, and found that it may not be as green as we think. Some are concerned about the environmental effect of lithium mining, while others note some sources of electricity could make electric cars less green than previously thought.
Still, his fanbase is dedicated. In June, The Verge reported on the peculiarity of Elon’s Musk’s fans. The piece opens with Salina Marie Gomez, who says learning about Tesla was the only thing that kept her going after a suicide attempt in March 2017. Right now, she is illustrating a book of Musk’s tweets titled Tweeting Me Softly.
On the reddit thread, “Hey redditors, what are your views on Elon Musk?,” users liken him to geniuses saying “He’ll be remembered along with Edison, Ford, and other big names in technology and industry. He may be the closest we ever get to a Lex Luthor or Tony Stark.” Although most other comments carry the same sentiment, someone did reply: “I wish we could put him in a car and launch him off the planet.”
His Twitter fans, however, may be the most potent force. Journalists actively avoid tagging Musk in tweets, for fear that his followers will swamp their mentions with threats and insults. When journalist Erin Biba accused Musk on Twitter of attacking journalism and science, his response (“I have never attacked science. Definitely attacked misleading journalism like yours though”) loosened an avalanche of slurs from “MuskBros.”
In October, when the Wall Street Journal published an article saying Tesla was facing a “deepening criminal investigation,” Musk’s army came in hot with tweets like “Fu** SEC... corrupted b***” and “...the WSJ is corrupt and pandering to Big Oil/Auto advertisers. Sad, as I thought they were the publication I could trust.”
Musk, however, doesn’t think his fans are too much. When Swisher asked whether he thought he had a “rabid fan base,” he said “no” and “I think they’re great.”
But even on the reddit threads with more lukewarm opinions on Musk, most people agree that his arrogance makes him an ass, but overall, we need his vision. The thread “Why don’t we see more real life superheroes like Elon Musk,” is followed by a slew of responses including, “Not saying he’s a perfect man or anything just that some shady shit maybe okay if he’s helping the advancement of our civilization.”
Musk’s belief that his company is catalyst of change gives fans a larger cause to stand behind that isn’t just selling cars. “It’s very important for the future of the world,” he told Swisher. “It’s very important for all life on Earth. This supersedes political parties, race, creed, religion, it doesn’t matter. If we do not solve the environment, we’re all damned.”