Accuracy in Media

What’s with the New York Times and Elon Musk? They just published a speculative and unsubstantiated story that is flimsy at best and downright irresponsible at worst. The story suggests that because Musk has got odd ideas about free speech because he grew up in apartheid South Africa. The implication of this smear job is that he shouldn’t be allowed to own Twitter.

This is one of those pieces where the author – and whichever groups of editors green-lit it – should hang their heads in shame.

“But Mr. Musk, best known for owning the companies Tesla and SpaceX, has not talked much in public about a significant swath of his past: How growing up as a white person under the racist apartheid system in South Africa may have shaped him.”

How’s that for implying that he’s a racist thug.

“…an upbringing in elite, segregated white communities that were littered with anti-Black government propaganda…”

Indeed, that did happen.

But down in the piece, the NYT refutes their own premise.

“Mr. Musk became friends with a cousin of Mr. Netshituka’s, Asher Mashudu, according to Mr. Mashudu’s brother, Nyadzani Ranwashe. One time at lunch, a white student used an anti-Black slur, and Mr. Musk chided the student, but then got bullied for doing so, Mr. Ranwashe said.”

“Mr. Mashudu was killed in a car accident in 1987, and Mr. Ranwashe said he remembered Mr. Musk being one of only a handful of white people who attended the funeral in the family’s rural village.
“It was unheard of during that time,” he said.”

This isn’t college, this is high school. A time when most of us are conformists. So, here’s Elon in that racist, oppressive, highly censored society DOING THE RIGHT AND MORAL THING. In essence, bucking the apartheid system.

You know, like that moment in every high school coming-of-age movie where the cool kids finally realize that the unpopular one might have some merit as a human being.

Or, in American literature that piece of Twain that uses the n-word. Huck Finn meets the runaway slave and knows, deep in his bones – because the society around him has repeatedly told him so – that if he doesn’t turn that slave in his soul will be damned, for all eternity to Hell. At which point Huck aids Jim in continuing to flee. Humanity, empathy, beats censorship and society’s hate.

No, of course Elon isn’t Huck Finn, Musk is a flawed human being like the rest of us, rather than a shining moral exemplar. But as a teenage boy he stood up and was counted. As soon as he was able, he left South Africa, went to Canada and didn’t look back.

Perhaps it is only someone who has experienced real censorship, both legal and societal, who actually knows what free speech means and might deliver it to the rest of us?

Given the evidence the Times itself reports, the story of Musk’s youth in South Africa is one of opposing apartheid and racism, not endorsing, or merely ignoring, it.

The Times story is actually an example of bigotry and intolerance. According to the Times, because Musk grew up white in apartheid South Africa, deep-down, he is a racist.

This story is not journalism, it is bigotry.




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