Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is showing his libertarian streak and jumping on the "Liberate" train, saying that pandemic lockdown orders are akin to "forcibly imprisoning people in their homes."
It's hardly like prison when people are going on walks and lounging in parks and on beaches, but Musk has been using his and President Trump's favorite soapbox lately — Twitter — to scream and shout about the injustice of telling people to socially distance to save lives.
Some days he tries to sound reasonable, like on Tuesday when he replied to a tweet about what ethical reopening procedures would be. "Yes, reopen with care & appropriate protection, but don’t put everyone under de facto house arrest," Musk wrote.
Yes, reopen with care & appropriate protection, but don’t put everyone under de facto house arrest— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2020
But other days he's just sounds as angry as all those gun- and flag-toting protesters in Michigan and Ohio, focused mostly on the economy and not on the potential for lives lost — and ignoring the fact that social distancing has likely saved tens of thousands of lives thus far.
Give people their freedom back! https://t.co/iG8OYGaVZ0— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2020
FREE AMERICA NOW— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2020
This is becoming a talking point for conservatives and tech elites, with everyone crunching their own numbers — and invoking the example of Sweden, where there was no complete shutdown and where the death rate has remained in the middle of the pack for Europe — and reaching their own conclusions about whether sheltering orders were a waste, doing more economic harm than they did public-health good. This piece in the Wall Street Journal this week, which Musk tweeted out, is one of those, saying that a one-size-fits-all approach — locking down Wisconsin the same way you lock down New York City — is senseless.
Musk has only taken up this torch, really, in the last week, as sheltering orders in California were getting extended through May. Sure, lots of people are frustrated with this, and lots of people doubt whether the public health benefits of one more month of this outweigh the economic pain.
But Musk was also one of the early skeptics about the coronavirus pandemic on Twitter, chattering with other skeptics and non-experts in the field of epidemiology back in March about whether or not the human toll was really going to be so bad. (As of this writing, the U.S. has over 1 million cases, with numbers continuing to rise, and 61,000 fatalities with between 1,000 and 1,800 new deaths every day.)
And he's had plenty in common with Trump, calling the "panic" around the virus "dumb" back in early March, and expressing early conjecture that the highly toxic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine would work against the virus, as CNN notes.
Musk tweeted or retweeted these things in mid-March, already calling the lockdowns an overreaction even before U.S. deaths started to exponentially rise.
2/ He now says both that the U.K. should have enough ICU beds and that the coronavirus will probably kill under 20,000 people in the U.K. - more than 1/2 of whom would have died by the end of the year in any case bc they were so old and sick.— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) March 26, 2020
Imo, this professor is correct. Also, growth rate of confirmed C19 cases is dropping every day, despite 10X increase in testing. From Tues to today, was 43%, 24%, 17%. Track this chart: https://t.co/vZ3PbhQihG— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 19, 2020
Something very strange is going on with the numbers.— [email protected] (@Jason) March 19, 2020
1. China says no new cases
2. People are running scenarios saying 10m-100m dead
3. Italy is in chaos but deaths are leveling out
4. Korea, China & Singapore are back to normal in 6-8 weeks?
None of this adds up. #coronavirus
Anyway, good thing our country isn't being governed by the court of Twitter opinion... oh wait.