Against the entire internet's apparent wishes, Elon Musk is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend. If you've gone looking for an explanation as to why he's so controversial, you may have found it's a difficult question to answer. The truth is, there are many reasons, some unrelated to each other.
Musk will take the stage in Studio 8H for his SNL debut this weekend, and nobody has a clue what to expect. Musk is far from a performer, though he does command a lot of publicity. He is best known as a business magnate and entrepreneur, having founded several groundbreaking tech companies including SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, Neuralink and The Boring Company. These business ventures have had mixed results, but Musk's commitment to goals that were once reserved for sci-fi novels has given him a folk hero status among some, and a supervillain status among others.
Where it Started
Musk started his business career with the software company Zip2, which developed and marketed maps and directories for cities. He and his partners sold the company for $307 million in 1999, and musk co-founded X.com that same year. The website was an online financial service that would eventually be merged with a company called Confinity. Together, the two companies became PayPal.
Again Musk received a massive payout when the company was sold in 2002, but not before he was ousted by his collaborators from the day-to-day company itself. This is the beginning of a pattern for Musk, who has been called "difficult to work with," in many different terms, as detailed in this report by Vanity Fair.
Musk's other business ventures are the ones that support his personal myth of pursuing the seemingly impossible. His private rocketry company SpaceX promises to put humans on Mars within the decade; Tesla promises to make high-end electric cars that run on renewable energy; NeuraLink promises to create a direct interface between the human brain and computers. Oddly, The Boring Company promises to revolutionize public transportation and possibly make cars obsolete, which makes it a competitor to Tesla in a way.
However, Musk's managerial style and his treatment of workers at all these companies have been called into question. One former associate said that he had a "total and complete pathological sociopathy," and Business Insider reported that Tesla employees were frequently warned to avoid the CEO due to his "wild firing rampages."
Musk has also come under heavy fire for ignoring the potential dangers of the technologies he pursues. Tesla cars have been marketed as "self-driving," which is not accurate and may be contributing to many of the crashes the sleek vehicles are involved in. Many engineers told the Wall Street Journal that they resigned from the company over Musk's "reckless decision making" which had "potentially put customer lives at risk." There have been similar complaints about The Boring Company's intentions to drill tunnels beneath cities around the world.
Meanwhile, Musk's personal behavior has slowly swung from quirky and subversive to downright concerning, with one former associate telling Vanity Fair that he exhibits "a high level of degenerate behavior." Musk has attended the infamous festival Burning Man on occasion, and in 2018, he tweeted recklessly about taking Tesla private, which sent shockwaves through the stock market. Rapper Azealia Banks later claimed on Instagram that she was there, and that Musk made those posts while under the influence of LSD.
Musk would later make himself a meme by smoking marijuana with Joe Rogan on his video podcast — streamed in California where recreational cannabis is legal. An anonymous writer on Medium in 2018 claimed to be the drug dealer who sold Musk LSD and ecstasy. However, some of the most concerning aspects of his personal life come from the accounts of his ex-wife Justine Wilson and his public stunts with his current girlfriend, singer Grimes.
TONIGHT pic.twitter.com/guHhtt3Pj4— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) May 8, 2021
Wilson wrote her own story in a 2010 op-ed for Marie Claire, and by now you likely know about Musk and Grimes' child named "X Æ A-Xii," as well as their lofty plans to die together on Mars. Finally, we must touch on Musk's spread of disinformation on social media, including reckless lies about the coronavirus pandemic tweeted last spring and market-bending "jokes" about cryptocurrency and stock prices shared just recently. This has many critics taking a fresh look at Musk's other public opinions, such as his distrust of artificial intelligence and his beliefe in the simulated reality hypothesis.
In spite of all this controversy and outcry from workers' rights advocates, Musk will take the stage in Studio 8H this weekend. The tech billionaire's inaugural episode of SNL begins at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.