What’s going on with Elon Musk?
Three theories for his seemingly erratic behavior
In the newsletter this week, we’ve got a new episode for you, some news about the show, some thoughts on the mythology of Elon Musk and … an Amazon Music billboard for Search Engine in Times Square? I know, we were surprised too.
Okay let’s get started.
This week’s show
What’s going on with Elon Musk?
This week, Search Engine investigates the erratic behavior of the world’s wealthiest man with Hard Fork’s Casey Newton. The three top theories for why the CEO has begun to act strangely, including one that upset our very understanding of reality.
Obviously, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and, until recently, Twitter, has become a poster boy for erratic social media behavior in the past year, tanking audience on one of the world’s most popular websites.
We were very excited to talk to Casey Newton of the newsletter Platformer and the podcast Hard Fork about Elon Musk. Casey is one of the absolute best writers about the internet and social media platforms specifically, and just a hilarious person to chat with. We hope you enjoy it half as much as we did. Maybe three quarters.
Search Engine with PJ Vogt is a listener-supported show. To support our show, consider becoming a paid subscriber.
A new kind of story from our show
I said last week that, at present, there’s three kinds of episodes we’re making on the show. Long-form interviews like the music one with Kelefa Sanneh, investigations like that airplane coffee story, and then this third type of story: a story that's about the news of the week.
Those can be tricky, because they still need to be reported and fact-checked and also put together in a timely fashion (we made this episode for you in six days!) but they’re also really, really fun for us to make. There’s just something about trying to document a moment as it happens that is a real thrill.
While we were still in piloting mode, I found myself very hypnotized by the Titanic submersible story and wished we were in production so we could cover it. Last week, the one I wished we could do was the Tupac Shakur murder investigation coming back to life.
It’ll be a delicate balance this year figuring out when to do the news and when to do a story that we’ve been working on for a while, but part of the fun is figuring it all out.
More thoughts on Elon
It was very interesting to do a story about him. For as much as he can be a topic of conversation, it's only recently that I began digging into his backstory. I think like any polarizing figure, there are certain myths about him that circulate widely that actually don’t seem to be true. For instance, I was under the impression he came from emerald mining wealth, which seems to be a very questionable story.
I also had assumed he’s not really responsible for the success of his companies, that he’s some sort of like – half-marketer and half-credit-taker. Reading Ashlee Vance’s biography, I got a more nuanced version of Elon, a person with big ideas who pulled off real feats, while also pushing around a lot of people in ways that presaged some of his later social media behavior. (Also, Vance’s book is a great read, I ripped through it in two days.)
Anyway, it’s fun, for me as a person, and for us as a show, to test our ideas, to try to figure out where we’re right, where we’re wrong, where we’re making assumptions.
How you can help the show
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To everyone who did that, thank you. To people who can’t, totally fine. Please share the show, tell a friend, or rate and review us on Apple Podcasts.
Search Engine in Times Square
This was very funny. Amazon Music has a billboard in Times Square, and generously shouted out our show on it. We geeked out and went down to see it.
Search Engine producer Garrott Graham risked life and belly by eating a Times Square street cart hot dog (he and I like to risk our lives on street meat). I had a bite, he ate three-quarters of one. If there’s no show next week, that’s why. If you see Garrott in New York, please ask him to be more careful.
That’s us this week.
Thanks as always,