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Commentary: The fratboy folly of Elon Musk, self-anointed Technoking

When the Tesla chief comes up with bad jokes, they don’t end up in the bin, says the Financial Times’ Henry Mance.

Commentary: The fratboy folly of Elon Musk, self-anointed Technoking

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, pictured December 2020. (Photo: AFP/Britta Pedersen)

LONDON: Every week, when I write this column, I come up with jokes that are not funny. I delete them or bury them in the penultimate paragraph, because if I don’t, someone more senior will.

Elon Musk doesn’t have this problem. When the Tesla chief comes up with bad jokes, they don’t end up in the bin. They end up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, in official filings.

“Effective as of March 15, 2021, the titles of Elon Musk and Zach Kirkhorn have changed to Technoking of Tesla and Master of Coin, respectively,” read the filing from the carmaker on Monday.

“Elon and Zach will also maintain their respective positions as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.”

READ: Tesla names Musk 'Technoking' in cryptic regulatory filing

Where do we begin? The new job titles are to humour what Dubai’s shopping malls are to taste. They have all the subtle wit of a freshman vomiting into a plastic pint glass.

Technoking – hahaha, the chief executive just took the name of a Jaipur-based retailer of air conditioners.

Master of Coin – hahaha, the chief financial officer obviously loved dragon porn series Game Of Thrones, which had a character in that role.

Congrats on your promotions, Elon and Zach. You just know these guys laugh every time they see the number 69 on a balance sheet.

READ: Commentary: Elon Musk gambles big on bitcoin to keep Tesla going strong

OFFENSIVE JOB TITLES

The episode gives us two lessons. One: don’t let Musk give a speech at your wedding. Even if you’re marrying him.

File photo of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. (Photo: AFP/Odd ANDERSEN) Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday that he was off Twitter AFP/Odd ANDERSEN

Two: Who cares? Not the person who updates Tesla’s website: The new title is not on Musk’s online bio. Nor Tesla’s investors: Shares rose on Monday, adding another several billions dollars to the company’s market capitalisation.

If you bought Tesla stock, you’ve already accepted the first models being named S, 3, X and Y. (It would have been SEXY, but Ford ruined the punchline by trademarking the model E.)

A few people might raise an eyebrow at the new job titles. I bet Musk’s son – recently named X Æ A-Xii – would love to be known simply as Technoking.

I also pity Tesla’s employees: They’re the ones who have to pretend to laugh. If your boss restyles himself Master of Coin, he should at least offer you the chance to become Indulger of Egos.

READ: Commentary: Don’t be too quick to write off Elon Musk

For the rest of us, can we begrudge a little more humour, even bad humour? The corporate world drowns in self-importance.

The most offensive job titles are the earnest ones. Jeff Barr calls himself “chief evangelist” of Amazon Web Services. George W Bush called himself president of the United States.

On LinkedIn, there’s a job opening for a “chief people prosultant”, because a con-sultant sounds negative, get it?

READ: Commentary: How to give feedback to your boss without getting into trouble

MUSK NO DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CORPORATES

Maybe the problem isn’t that Musk is weird, it’s that he’s not weird enough. He’s not too different from other corporate animals, he’s too similar.

FILE PHOTO: Representations of virtual currency Bitcoin are seen in front of Tesla logo in this illustration taken, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

He’s the climate change radical, who also just bought US$1.5 billion of bitcoin, the currency with a carbon footprint bigger than Argentina’s.

He’s the science-based visionary, who predicted the US would have “zero new cases” of coronavirus by May 2020.

READ: Commentary: Amid record high value, Tesla's bitcoin bet raises uncomfortable questions

Even the jovial job titles were a piece of corporate spin: Distracting from a reshuffle in Tesla’s truck division, whose first vehicle is, would you believe, behind schedule.

Musk is a grown-up, an adolescent, an engineer, a marketer, a genius, an idiot, a plug-in innovator and a wind-up merchant.

I’m a Tesla fan, but how humanity has come to rely on this one man to save us from climate breakdown and offload us to Mars, I’m not sure. He wants a back-up planet, I want a back-up plan.

READ: Commentary: Elon Musk, Tesla’s mad genius, is defying US lockdown - and people love it

Musk is a fan of Monty Python. Last year I concluded that he may not be the Messiah, he may just be a very naughty boy. This led Musk to block me on Twitter. He was probably just joking.

So no hard feelings – I know how hard humour can be. I appreciate the effort.

Source: Financial Times/el
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