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How Elon Musk posted his way to extreme fame in 2023

Hasan Chowdhury   

How Elon Musk posted his way to extreme fame in 2023
  • Elon Musk made headlines pretty much daily in 2023.
  • Musk has used his ownership of X to broadcast opinions on politics, culture, and the economy.

Elon Musk may have ended last year as the world's richest man, but he looks set to end this year as its most famous.

After spending $44 billion in 2022 to take control of X, formerly known as Twitter, the 52-year-old billionaire has been seemingly everywhere in 2023.

His non-stop posting habit means there'll be an Elon take for every hot-button issue. Since he now owns the digital town square most popular with newsmakers, there's been little to check him.

Musk has always been outspoken. But his huge following on X and his near-constant stream of consciousness posting mean he has opined on: the Russia-Ukraine war; the Israel-Hamas conflict, the next US presidential election; the debate over antisemitism at Harvard; and many other issues. Almost every topic is a contentious one.

Though Musk is not an expert in any of these subjects, he has often won the attention of global leaders. His remarks are often reported without much further analysis.

This is all while continuing to run Tesla and SpaceX too.

Few corporate leaders can boast this kind of crossover influence.

Here's how he got there.

Welcome to X

When Musk took Twitter private in 2022, his ambitions for the social media app were anyone's guess. We have a clearer picture now.

Step one in his reign at Twitter has been cost-cutting, and Musk immediately cut almost 90% of the company's workers.

The bruising move set a trend for the rest of Silicon Valley. CEOs making tough decisions about how to navigate a high-interest rate economy followed suit, and made drastic layoffs in the name of efficiency.

Then, Musk appeared to try and remake Twitter, or X, in his own image.

Presenting himself as an anti-elitiest, free-speech-for-everyone populist, Musk binned Twitter's verification system, which had prioritized journalists, politicians, academics, and celebrities. Anyone can now pay for verification.

Having axed most of Twitter's trust and safety team, Twitter's "Community Notes" feature became more responsible for regulating harmful or incorrect posts.

Finally, Twitter disappeared altogether as Musk rebranded the company to X.

A political tool against the 'woke mind virus'

The billionaire's control of X has made Musk a hugely influential person in shaping the way millions digest news on everything from conflicts to elections.

At the end of November, Musk went to Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog and visit sites devastated by Hamas' October 7 terrorist attacks. The trip followed his amplification of an antisemitic tweet, which he described as "the actual truth."

Earlier in November, at the end of an AI summit hosted by the UK, Musk shared a stage with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. During the discussion, he described AI as a "magic genie problem."

Heads of state of countries including South Korea, India, Turkey, and France have all met Musk this year. In May, he completed a whirlwind tour of China. The trip included meetings with ministers from various departments of the Chinese Communist Party.

At home in the US, Musk has been inviting presidential hopefuls like Ron DeSantis to launch their campaigns via broadcasts on Spaces.

His reasons?

In 2022, Musk said he was going to wade further into politics to put an end to the "woke mind virus."

More intra-CEO beef

Musk has never been one to shy away from conflict. Remember the diver in Thailand he called, without evidence, a "pedo guy?"

Musk kicked off a whole summer of beef with Mark Zuckerberg after the Meta launched a rival to X, called Threads.

In response, Musk challenged Zuckerberg to an MMA fight, that he may or may not have wanted to take place in from of a live audience at the colosseum in Rome.

In keeping with some Musk bombast, the fight never happened.

He's also fired shots at Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales over the site's requests for donations. He's expressed "mixed feelings" about Sam Altman, the ChatGPT boss who he cofounded OpenAI with.

Musk also claimed Disney boss Bob Iger should be "fired immediately" after the House of Mouse stopped advertising on his platform.

Evidently, Musk enjoys having millions of followers at his disposal. But are X's days numbered? The site's revenue is widely thought to have tanked as advertisers fled the platform. One theory: Musk is deliberately destroying the platform to reduce interest payments on the debt he owes the banks who financed his takeover. There may not be an X to post on come 2024.

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