Tech billionaire Elon Musk appeared for a conversation on “Real Time With Bill Maher” on Friday.
Musk, who purchased Twitter last year, discussed with the host his acquisition of the company, free speech, censorship and what he calls the “woke mind virus.”
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“I think we need to be very cautious about anything that is anti-meritocratic and anything that results in the suppression of free speech,” Musk said to Maher. “So those are two of the aspects of the ‘woke mind virus’ that I think are very dangerous…. you can’t question things, even the questioning is bad. Almost synonymous would be cancel culture. And obviously people have tried to cancel you many times.”
Maher responded, “And it’s interesting, you and I are both in that little group of people, maybe it’s a bigger group now, who are called conservative who haven’t really changed. I don’t think of you as a conservative.”
Musk said he “at least” thinks of himself “as a moderate.”
“I’ve spent a massive amount of my life energy building sustainable energy, electric vehicles and batteries and solar and stuff to help save the environment,” Musk said. “It’s not exactly far-right.”
When Maher asked Musk what he thinks the root of the so-called “woke mind virus” is, Musk pointed to the “indoctrination that’s happening in schools and universities.”
“The experience that we had in high school and college is not the experience that kids today are having, and hasn’t been for 10 years, maybe 20 years… Parents are generally not aware of what their kids are being taught, or what they’re not being taught,” Musk said. “Let me give you an example that a friend of mine told me. His daughters go to high school in the Bay Area and he was asking them, ‘Who are the first few presidents of the United States.’ They could name Washington, so he said, ‘What do you know about him?’ ‘That he was a slaveowner.’ ‘What else?’ ‘Nothing.’ Like okay, maybe you should know more than that. Slavery is obviously a horrific institution, but we should still know more about George Washington than that.”
The conversation then turned to Twitter, with Maher mentioning that the “mob of mean girls” on the platform has caused him not to tweet as much. “It’s so easy to get canceled, and I don’t even know what pisses them off, these kids,” he said.
Though Musk did not specifically address his controversial Twitter Blue program, which recently took away legacy verification except for users who subscribed for $8 a month, he said the platform was close to bankruptcy when he acquired it and so he had to “take drastic action.”
“I think things are reasonably stabilized right now. It was on the fast-track to bankruptcy after acquisition so I had to take drastic action, there was no choice,” Musk said.
He also mentioned censorship within the platform, saying: “My concern with Twitter was that it is somewhat of the digital town square and it’s important that there be both the reality and perception of trust for a wide range of viewpoints. And there was a lot of censorship going on, and I uncovered a lot of that with the Twitter Files, including a lot of government-driven censorship, which it seems that’s gotta be a constitutional violation, what was going on there.”
The interview ended with Maher telling Musk, “I’d love to get high with you.”
The “Real Time” appearance represents a new major stop for Musk on a media tour this month. Last week, the Twitter CEO appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” for a two-night interview on Fox News. The pair’s conversation touched on the implications of artificial intelligence and Musk’s justification for purchasing Twitter, which has since been evaluated at roughly half of the value he purchased it for.
Six days after Carlson’s interview with Musk aired, Fox News announced that the longtime anchor would exit the network. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox News’ corporate parent, had decided that he would no longer support the conservative pundit.
A longtime controversial figure, Musk’s spotlight became more intense last fall after his purchase of Twitter. Acquiring the company for $44 billion, Musk later described his takeover as facing a “constant attack” from the media.
“It’s not like I have a stone cold heart or anything. If you’re under constant criticism or attack and that gets fed to you including through Twitter – it’s rough, you know,” Musk told the BBC earlier this month. “Now at the end of the day I think if you do lose your feedback loop that’s not good so I think it is important to get negative feedback. I don’t turn replies off and I removed my entire block list so I don’t block anyone either. So I get a lot of negative feedback.”
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