The tech elite, however, had it all. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg was, for a while, a feminist icon. Musk has millions of Twitter followers, many of them actual human beings rather than bots, and these followers have often been ardent Tesla defenders.
Now the glitter is gone. Social media, once hailed as a force for freedom, are now denounced as vectors of misinformation. Tesla boosterism has been dented by tales of spontaneous combustion and autopilot accidents. Technology moguls still possess vast wealth, but the public — and the administration — isn’t offering the old level of adulation.
And it’s driving them crazy.
We’ve seen this movie before. Back in 2010 much of the Wall Street elite, rather than feeling grateful for having been bailed out, was consumed with “Obama rage.” Financial wheeler-dealers were furious at not, in their view, receiving the respect they deserved after, um, crashing the world economy.
Unfortunately, plutocratic pettiness matters. Money can’t buy admiration, but it can buy political power; it’s disheartening that some of this power will be deployed on behalf of a Republican Party that is descending ever deeper into authoritarianism.
Did I mention that the most recent meeting of the right-wing gathering CPAC, which included a video address from Donald Trump, was held in Hungary under the auspices of Viktor Orban, who has effectively killed his nation’s democracy?
The right turn by some technology billionaires is also, may I say, very stupid.
It’s true that oligarchs can get very rich under autocrats like Orban or Vladimir Putin, whom much of the U.S. right deeply admired until he began losing his war in Ukraine.
But these days Russia’s oligarchs are, by many accounts, terrified. For even vast wealth offers little security against the erratic behavior and vindictiveness of leaders unconstrained by the rule of law.