Elon Musk, America’s most online billionaire, recently took a break from spreading coronavirus misinformation and crashing his company’s market value on Twitter to be with his girlfriend, Canadian pop singer Grimes, for the birth of their new baby. But the pair wasn’t content to just enjoy their newborn bliss.
Musk set off a Twitter and media frenzy when he announced they were calling the baby X Æ A-12 Musk, sparking a debate among cult followers and confused people everywhere about the meaning of the cryptic phrase. Grimes cleared up some of the questions when she tweeted that X stood for the “unknown variable”; Æ for her “elven spelling” of Ai, meaning love or artificial intelligence; and A-12 for a Lockheed stealth aircraft designed for the CIA and code-named Archangel. She explained that it’s the couple’s favorite aircraft because it’s “Great in battle, but non-violent,” even though it played an important role in gathering intel on North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Musk has since appeared to confirm the child’s name is pronounced X Ash A-12 (if it’s even legal), but it should come as no surprise that an uber-wealthy, super-online couple would go out of their way to pick a moniker designed to garner maximum publicity with seemingly little regard for how it will affect their child. (Is the media frenzy really worth saddling a kid with the name X and the made-up “elven spelling” of a word, or is the idea that their wealth will make it irrelevant to the bullies on the playground of the private school?)
Musk has long basked in the media glow, his profile and mystique having largely been built up by a press that for years uncritically parroted his outlandish visions of the future. Despite styling himself an innovator, Musk is little more than the hype man for his companies — someone who’s only made progress thanks to massive public funds, public-sector innovations, and the work of those below him.
While Grimes herself is no stranger to media attention, her pairing with Musk does seem to be a match made in whatever part of hell has cursed us with them. No one has so quickly gone from claiming to be a socialist “anti-imperialist” to defending the union-busting tactics of their billionaire partner.
But the story of X Æ A-12 goes beyond the child’s name. While this is Grimes’s first child, it’s Musk’s seventh — and like many others in his strata of society, he has some repellent views on parenthood, population, and the worth of others.
Musk has been open in the past about his concern that “smart” people aren’t reproducing quickly enough. Speaking to Ashlee Vance for his 2015 biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Musk observed that “wealth, education, and being secular are all indicative of a low birth rate,” but that “if each successive generation of smart people has fewer kids, that’s probably bad.” He clarified that he doesn’t want other people to stop having kids; he simply wants “smart” people to have more. But it’s more than a little disturbing to hear a man whose family amassed wealth in apartheid South Africa (Musk’s father was part-owner of an emerald mine) expressing a quasi-eugenic concern that those he deems superior are being further outnumbered by those he deems inferior.
Musk’s views are not out of step with other tech leaders. William Shockley, dubbed the “founding father of Silicon Valley,” spent the latter part of his life pushing a racist eugenics agenda, while Musk’s former business partner, Peter Thiel, has praised apartheid South Africa and expressed interest in injecting himself with the blood of the young to extend his own life. Probably the most obscene of the rich eugenicists is the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who dreamed of “seed[ing] the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch” — a project made possible by his great wealth and connections with the global elite.
Another preoccupation in Musk’s milieu is depopulation. Last year, Jack Ma — the founder of Alibaba and China’s richest man — sat down with Musk and agreed with his statement that “the biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse. Not explosion.” Their concern isn’t about what that will mean for poor and working-class people the world over, but that a falling population would “bring very unfavorable social and economic consequences.” In short, it would be bad for business. Human labor is what creates value and grows the economy, and in turn the fortunes of people like Ma and Musk. It’s exactly why Musk is now calling for the economy to reopen even as COVID-19 deaths continue to climb in the United States.
Jeff Bezos, Musk’s fellow space colonizer, has also been explicit about this. He argues that humanity must move into space colonies orbiting the planet so the population can expand to a trillion people. That’s the only way, he argues, for the economy to maintain its “growth and dynamism” — the alternative would be “stasis and rationing,” since capitalism always needs to continue growing.
So while Musk successfully captured attention with his antics once again, we shouldn’t get too distracted deciphering his child’s name and forget the more dangerous agenda he and his ilk are pushing. On the one hand, potentates like Musk want to use their riches to breed a class of supposedly superior humans; on the other, they want to ensure the working class continues to multiply so there will be a steady stream of labor to create the wealth they so successfully hoard. It’s a repugnant, anti-humanist, anti-democratic agenda — regardless of what ridiculous names they give their children.