Welcome to today's installment of Utterly Insane Things Elon Musk Does.
In this episode, I'll start by sharing a tweet that Musk posted on Monday afternoon.
I will then explain the insane background of the story from two crucial angles--one about the tweet itself, and one about the insane thing it says about Musk.
First, the tweet.
Did meme review last night with Justin Roiland from @RickandMorty-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 18, 2019
In case that didn't embed for some reason, it's Musk tweeting simply, "Did meme review last night with Justin Roiland from @RickandMorty."
Here are your promised two angles:
'Did meme review'
OK, if you're not initiated in what I'm about to explain, just know that this part of the story is going to seem like a creative writing class dropped acid before doing a group project.
There's a Swedish YouTuber named Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, who is 29 years old and goes by PewDiePie, and who is basically the most successful single YouTuber of all time.
I last wrote about him in 2015, describing him as a guy who "plays video games, swears a lot, makes videos."
Forbes estimated then that he was making $12 million a year. A lot has happened since, but two key things for our purposes stand out:
First, he's been sort of gray-listed by YouTube (as opposed to blacklisted, since he is a super-popular moneymaker), for having allegedly promoted white supremacist and anti-Semitic content.
Second, he's locked in an epic battle with a giant Indian music company called T-Series, over which of them can get more YouTube subscribers. As I write this late on Tuesday evening, the score is:
- PewDiePie 86,303,046
- T-Series 86,250,944
It's neck-and-neck, and it seems as if almost any tiny little edge could give PewDiePie or T-Series the victory.
If only there were an eccentric billionaire who might provide that edge ...
Hi, I'm Elon Musk
OK. In telling that story, especially the part about the battle for YouTube subscribers, I'm reminded of an old quote: "Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small."
Kind of the same thing here. But, you also need to know that PewDiePie hosts a YouTube show called "Meme Review." That's the show Musk was saying he took time from his schedule to do.
There's a debate right now online about whether Musk actually did the show, or is just trolling everyone. But for our purposes, whether he did or not is more a matter of degree.
Because for someone like Musk, who is the CEO of one public company and at least two private ones, his time should be at a premium.
We'd be saying that even if Musk hadn't laid off 7 percent of Tesla's workforce less than a month ago.
Or if he hadn't tweeted his way into an SEC oversight investigation, or a lawsuit over calling a British cave diver who helped rescue that Thai soccer team last year a "pedo guy."
The most important resource
And yet, here we are, talking about whether Musk really did Meme Review (alongside Roiland, who, as Musk points out, is the creator of the Adult Swim series Rick and Morty), as part of what many observers think is an effort to help PewDiePie get more subscribers.
The alternatives here aren't great. Either Musk is serious, in which case he's taking time away from his most important responsibilities to do a show that's controversial to say the least.
Or, the whole thing is just a trollish joke, in which case: Why is Musk even involved in talking about this? How does he even have time to know about it?
I wrote recently about how Jeff Bezos explained in one sentence that he realizes how much of a distraction the National Enquirer blackmail scandal could have been -- and how much more important his time is than any other resource.
Musk is a brilliant innovator, and a larger than life business leader. He's entertaining and fun to watch.
But even Musk can't change the laws of physics or turn back time. He gets the same 10,080 minutes per week that any of us gets. So why is he spending any of them here?