According to the newspaper, the entrepreneur lived a childhood full of “disinformation” and “white privilege,” which may have disrupted the way he sees the world, how the free exchange of ideas works and could give a clue as to how the entrepreneur will handle Twitter.
“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,” reads the Times story, written by John Eligon and Linsey Chutel.
According to the report, which includes quotes attributed to family and friends of the businessman, Musk lived a life filled with “anti-Black government propaganda” in South Africa because he lived in the economic hub of Johannesburg. It is also explained that he received a privileged education within the reach of the white elite and thus had a childhood far from “the atrocities that white political leaders inflicted on the Black majority.”
After summarizing that Elon Musk’s childhood was full of privilege, racist propaganda and removed from the reality of his country, the Times asserts that: Mr. Musk left South Africa shortly after graduation at 17 to go to college in Canada, barely ever looking back. He did not respond to emails requesting comment about his childhood.”
Then, in a bizarre attempt to correlate the facts, the paper claims that it is “unclear” what role Musk’s childhood played in the Twitter purchase episode, as he came up “in a time and place in which there was hardly a free exchange of ideas and where government misinformation was used to demonize Black South Africans — may have played in that decision.”
Times attack on Musk doesn’t turn out well
After the newspaper published a tweet promoting Eligon and Chutel’s work, users began to criticize the media outlet, calling the story “gross, weak, and stupid” or simply calling it an article designed to attack the entrepreneur.
Elon Musk’s mother, Maye Musk, quoted the New York Times tweet and responded to the story with a harsh message: “In South Africa, if you publicly opposed apartheid, you went to jail. In Russia, if you publicly oppose the war, you go to jail. New York Times are you going to blame children for decisions made by governments?”
The Times tweet, which right now has nearly 8,000 responses, mostly negative, is also filled with many criticisms in English and Spanish. Many users questioned the report for giving Musk responsibility for his life in South Africa when he was just a child.
“This is your brain on CRT: Blaming a child for his skin color and for the discriminatory policies historically enacted by adults in his home country. NYTimes has gone full Maoist,” tweeted Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis, in a response that has already gotten more than 5,000 likes.
Independent journalists vs. the New York Times
In addition to individual users, several independent journalists criticized the work of the New York Times, as did Saagar Enjeti, co-host of Breaking Points.
“In this article NYT itself reports Elon Musk: 1. Had non-white friends growing up in apartheid SA 2. His own father was an ANTI-APARTHEID politician 3. He literally left so he didn’t have to serve in apartheid military They still insinuate he is a racist.”
Gleen Greenwald, another independent journalist, cited Enjeti’s tweet and posted a thread where he said that “This is the kind of punishment the corporate media doles out to anyone whom they perceive as their enemy and, especially, who opposes the censorship regime on which they rely.” He added: “Reporting on Musk is obviously valid: necessary. This isn’t reporting. It’s deceit and punishment.”
Other communicators, such as author Drew Holden, who has been published in different media, including the New York Times itself, decided to criticize the report with irony: “Look, it’s very straight forward. Elon Musk left South Africa at 17 having failed to fix apartheid and so we should be skeptical that he can handle Twitter.”