Down With Aloof Posturing by Politicians and Elites

Down With Aloof Posturing by Politicians and Elites
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition in Washington on March 9, 2020. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)
Jeffrey A. Tucker

Last evening, users scrolling their feed from X saw a notification of a so-called Space, which is a live chat involving potentially a vast number of people, where Elon Musk was holding forth. I went there and listened for half an hour or so. Nothing newsworthy came from it really but it was fascinating at a meta level.

Here was the richest individual in the West commenting in real time, without notes or talking points, about various matters, from sci-fi to censorship to technology and timelines for flight or anything else that came up. He was chummy with some other speakers and engaging with strangers. This went on for hours.

There were probably only 10,000 or so listeners and participants. To my knowledge, this was not scheduled ahead of time. It just happened. Again, it was kind of like having Elon over for drinks except that 10,000 people were in the living room.

Apparently he does this often.

Now, this is very interesting. One presumes that he is a very busy man, who during the day probably has his each half-hour planned in advance. He has more to worry about than practically anyone. He has many companies and interests and over 25K employees, and is responsible for hundreds of billions in valuation.

And yet he makes time to sit and gab around with random regular people from all over the planet using this very cool technology. Nor does he use the occasion to pronounce like some guru. Participants are deferential to him, of course, but he comes across as just another regular person—very smart but also normal—except with a special calling. As a public figure, he senses a real responsibility to engage the public, and encounter the public as a regular person.

He speaks not with a script or a teleprompter but just in conversational English, including of course profanity that we know all these people use anyway. If he doesn’t know something, he says so. If he cannot talk about something, he says that too. But on every other matter, from books he has read to predictions of the future, he is an open book.

Now just ask yourself: why don’t other leaders in government, industry, media, and academia do this? They could. They could do it right now by opening an app, clicking “go live,” adding a title, and watching thousands of people suddenly appear. You can talk with multitudes. This could be Biden, Gates, Schwab, Fauci, the presidents of any university, the editors at the major newspapers, or anyone else on the planet.

Why is Elon the only person doing this? Where is everyone else? We live in a time of democratized technology. Where are the other vaunted leaders of our time in this space?

Don’t tell me it’s because they are busy. Elon is rather busy. It’s not because it is beneath them. Elon could say the same. It cannot be because they don’t know how. The X app makes it extremely easy from any smartphone. You don’t need a studio or any special equipment. Why are they not there?

My theory: their aloofness masks their fear. They don’t want to be grilled. They cannot stand to mix it up with regular people. They consider the rest of us their lessers and not worthy of their time. They think we are stupid and not particularly relevant to their plans for our lives. So they have set themselves apart in every way. This includes housing, methods of travel, social circles, belief systems and otherwise.

They are the powerful, the insiders, the people who have made it. We are the others and mostly represent a threat. At the very least, we are icky. We are just readers, users, writers, and normal workers. They want nothing to do with us.

This is an usual attitude in history. Maybe the court of Louis XIV felt this way. Maybe the bureaucrats in the Politburo felt this way in the 1950s. There has variously been a tendency in history for the rich and powerful to set themselves apart. But in most times and places, it’s been common for such people to at least pretend to engage the public in some ways to some extent.

That seems no longer true. You could not have a conversation with Bill Gates or Anthony Fauci no matter what. Their whole lives are structured to prevent that. Getting on a democratically available platform to talk about anything seems like anathema. They would never do it. They have come to think of themselves as set apart—hoarding their power and knowledge and virtue—and work to make sure there is never a breach in this wall they have built between themselves and the public.

This is all part of an illusion to make the rest of us believe that they are indeed special people with special rights. If they come down to our level and speak to us, that illusion would be shattered. So they don’t want to take that risk.

None of this is true, however. The rich and powerful are people just like us, who eat, digest, sleep, and face all the troubles we face, perhaps not financial ones but others that can be just as intense. They are not superhuman. It’s good to remember that from time to time.

Nor is statecraft or pharma or tech or any of the other fields in which they are engaged in some kind of terrain of magic excellence that no normal person can understand. They are human endeavors just as much subject to human failings as anything else. They want us to believe otherwise and defer to their expertise but this is a huge mistake.

How long can this aloof posture be sustained? We have now the technology to give everyone access to everyone else. It should be used to democratize the world. The ruling class can avoid this for only so long. There should be pressure put on everyone who leads others to engage in real life with those they seek to rule. It should be a requirement of public office at the very least.

X has created a perfect technology for political debates, for example. True, X crashed when DeSantis tried to use it to announce his candidacy but that was because the technology wasn’t ready to scale that much that fast. But now it is ready. This is new. What should also be new is the way our supposed betters use this technology to engage with the rest of us.

We are more than ready and willing to hear from all the famous people in the world, particularly politicians. There seems to be a reason they are avoiding this obvious solution to how they can reach the people.

Just because a person is successful doesn’t mean he must be utterly inaccessible, especially if his success massively impacts the lives of others. The absence of these voices on live social platforms has become too conspicuous not to notice.

These people really are just like the rest of us. They should lower themselves to use technology just like the rest of us. It’s true that they fly charter and we fly commercial but we both have the same methods of communicating. So let them communicate!

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.
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