Visionary or Villain?

Walking through USyd today, I saw a really stupid false dichotomy on a flyer: “Elon Musk – visionary or villain?”. Really? What are they teaching the children these days? Is a visionary inherently good? Are villains not able to have a vision? Are people no more than a collection of behaviors encapsulated by a handful of headline-grabbing buzzwords?

The flyer was put out by a Socialist group, is obviously little more than a polemic, and I doubt it’s an invitation to hear cogent arguments for or against the qualities of Musk’s character. Reading that headline made me sad; it’s all well and good to be passionate about a cause, and active in pointing out shitty people and shitty behavior, but please put a little thought into what you’re doing as well.

As a piece of marketing, the flyer appears likely to do no more than attract the same sort of people as those who wrote it, to build an echo chamber of a particular type of earnest slogan-based socialist. They’ll gather in groups doing their little insular circle-jerk planning and protests and most of the people who might be sympathetic to their cause(s) will be want nothing to do with them. It appears to me that a large part of the activist movement is performance art – theatre to attract attention by being outrageous and saying provocative things. Of course, it’s not behavior limited to these groups, either cf. the alt-right. There’s hard-core cadres of many persuasions that are spoiling for a fight along what are sometimes very arbitrary and partisan lines and I wish they’d all stop.

Reading and thinking about the flyer has made me feel old in a way – long past my own Green Left Weekly phase – but it’s also helped me reflect on the fact that I’ve grown up as well, which is nice.

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