In their interview with Elon Musk that debuted Tuesday evening, the Babylon Bee boys brought the funny, as expected. But what viewers might not anticipate is just how many compelling, thoughtful answers their questions managed to elicit from the billionaire.
The group started out sharing a laugh over classic Bee headlines, with Musk quipping that it’s “actually true that Gavin Newsom is U-Haul salesman of the year.” But the world’s richest man quickly grew pensive, reflecting on what has happened in recent years to the state he once called home.
“California used to be the land of opportunity. Now it has become sort of the land of over-regulation, over-litigation, and scorn,” he observed.
The Collapse of Comedy and The Woke Mind Virus
From the collapse of California, the discussion turned to the collapse of mainstream comedy, which Musk ascribed to an unwillingness to punch left, no matter how warranted. That, he explained is how he became a Babylon Bee fan—because satire sites like The Onion began to focus more on upholding a liberal narrative than telling jokes.
“It used to be much more even handed, the Onion,” Musk said. “And then they just got the woke mind virus.” He had much the same criticism of Saturday Night Live, a show he guest-hosted in May, to the consternation of several cast members who publicly objected to his appearance.
“Many if not most of the SNL episodes have become a kind of a moral lecture of why we’re bad human beings instead of comedy,” he said, adding, “They’ll beat up on Ted Cruz 17,000 and you’re like, okay we get it.” The issue, he believes, is one of authenticity. “Is the comedy getting at an essential truth or is there a propaganda element?” he asked rhetorically, suggesting most mainstream comedy these days is committed to the latter. “When it stops trying to get to an essential truth that is humorous, you know, it’s just not that funny.”
Musk views The Bee, in contrast, as moderately right. “It’s certainly not far right. It wouldn’t be accurate to say the Bee is fully centrist, but it’s certainly not far right. The Bee is less right than say the Onion is left,” he said.
As to why the Onion and SNL have become so left when they did not start out that way? Musk pointed to what he called “arguably one of the biggest threats to modern civilization.” That is, wokeness.
“Wokeness basically wants to make comedy illegal,” he stated, “Trying to shut down Chappelle, come on man, that’s crazy. Do we want a humorless society that is simply rife with condemnation and hate basically? At it’s heart wokeness is divisive exclusionary and hateful it basically gives mean people a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue.”
Economics and Business 101
For all the jokes that the Babylon Bee injected into the conversation, the funnymen asked some pointed, journalistic questions that few mainstream reporters have ever explored with Musk about his wealth, leading to a surprising financial education for viewers. Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have increasingly targeted Musk, accusing him of being a “freeloader” and benefiting from a “rigged tax code.” Musk set the record straight with a quick tutorial on the free market.
“If Tesla and Space X went bankrupt, I would go bankrupt too. Immediately,” he explained. “I built these two companies and it was extremely difficult to build them…Rewarding too, but massively painful and difficult.” He then revealed that he never sold the stock that made him worth $200 billion because he believes a CEO has a moral imperative to have skin in the game with his investors.
“My impression was that you shouldn’t take money off the table…and de-risk things, that the captain should go down with the ship,” he said. If he had and the companies failed, he explained, he’d have been enriched while investors suffered. “That does not seem right. That’s the reason I didn’t sell. Even when bankruptcy was literally weeks away, I did not sell stock,” Musk said. “And then the companies became valuable.”
For the many millions of Americans who haven’t had an adequate course in financial literacy, Musk clarified how his net worth is calculated and why the market has decided his companies’ value:
Tesla and Space X’s value is not up to me. It’s up to investors. And they decided Tesla was worth a trillion dollars. And I own 20 percent of the company.
People don’t understand that this is not some function of hoarding. It’s simply that I own 20 percent of company that suddenly became very valuable as decided by external investors. And so 20 percent of a trillion dollar valuation is 200 billion dollars. I’ve said at times that I think the stock price is too high and the investors just ignore that. They just kept making the price higher.
My so-called wealth is not some deep mystery. It’s simply, what is my ownership percentage of Space X and Tesla? Multiply that by the valuation, and that’s my net worth. It’s super simple. And my taxes are super simple. I have no off-shore accounts, no clever tax evasion or anything like that. I don’t draw a cash salary or any bonus from the companies at all.
And Musk’s common-sense talk on the basics of capitalism didn’t stop there.
A hilarious conversation about his 2018 promise to start a candy company turned into a rumination on the purpose of business — which is not, as Democrats would often have it, to provide jobs, but to provide excellent products or services.
“It’s not that I care about starting companies,” Musk said, “If there’s a very compelling product or service, then that’s the thing that’s important, not the company. A company is just an assemblage of people…And if a company doesn’t provide a great products or services, it shouldn’t exist. There’s no point of a company for the sake being a company,” he concluded, “That’s pointless.”
Fans who want to hear even more from Musk, like his answers to the Bee interviewers on why, instead of phallic shaped rockets, he can’t build more vaginal shaped options for equality’s sake, will have to subscribe for the extended interview.