Musk tells advertisers to 'go f**k' themselves as $44B X gamble spirals into chaos
Hello, police? I'd like to report a murder
Comment "I hope they stop. Don't advertise. If someone's going to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go fuck yourself. Go. Fuck. Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is."
What's clear is that Elon Musk is making a $44 billion mistake – his purchase of Twitter in 2022 – even more expensive.
"Hey, Bob! If you're in the audience," he added with mock cheerfulness, referring to Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, just one among a number of companies that have withdrawn advertising spend from the social media platform Musk renamed to X.
Apple, IBM, Comcast, and Warner Bros have also pulled the plug following "free speech absolutist" Musk's increasingly erratic behavior on X – including the apparent endorsement of a well-known antisemitic conspiracy theory.
Despite the SpaceX and Tesla CEO's frequently expressed distaste for the "mainstream media," Musk was speaking to New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin at the newspaper's DealBook Summit yesterday. Awkwardly, Iger had spoken at the same event earlier that day.
X's revenue woes came to a head earlier in the month when US watchdog Media Matters published a report it alleged contained a demonstration of "pro-Nazi content" showing up next to ads for IBM, Apple, Oracle, Xfinity, and Bravo. Big Blue wasn't having any of it, and other companies followed suit, as is their right to do so.
X has since filed a lawsuit against Media Matters alleging interference with advertiser contracts, business disparagement, and interference with prospective economic advantage. It contends that no real person ever saw the adverts. The non-profit, meanwhile, said: "This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X's critics into silence. Media Matters stands behind its reporting and looks forward to winning in court."
All of which brings us to Musk's interview meltdown. "What this advertising boycott is gonna do is it's gonna kill the company," he told Sorkin, who voiced concern that when a social media business is majority driven by advertising revenue, perhaps you shouldn't tell them to "go fuck" themselves.
"And the whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company," he added ominously, "and we will document it in great detail."
According to an internal memo regarding employee stock options, X is now worth $19 billion (and falling, we imagine, after this stunt) so the mogul's desperation is understandable.
However, Musk did express regret for his comments on an X post citing "The Great Replacement" conspiracy, saying it was "perhaps one of the most foolish, if not the most foolish, thing I've ever done on the platform."
- Brits turn off Twitter, although teens and tweens keen on generative AI
- X/Twitter booted out of Australia's disinformation-fighting club
- X's legal eagles swoop on Media Matters over antisemitic content row
- IBM-led advertising X-odus gains steam as more flee Musk's platform
"You have said the actual truth," Musk told a poster who claimed that Jewish communities have pushed "dialectical hatred against whites," in case you needed reminding.
He rejected the notion that he was antisemitic and apologized, but the audience could hear the sound of a shovel digging deeper as Musk stumbled through the details. "If you fund persecuted groups in general, some of those persecuted groups unfortunately want your annihilation," he said to scattered, halfhearted applause.
In a bare-faced PR maneuver, Musk this week toured the Gaza border alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he had interviewed in September moments after another sketchy blunder. "The Soros organization appears to want nothing less than the destruction of western civilization," he declared on X.
We haven't even mentioned his threats to sue the Anti-Defamation League, an antisemitism watchdog that dared to point out that reinstating banned accounts and dismantling Twitter's moderation teams had caused a rise in hateful conduct on the platform.
Musk is making CEO Linda Yaccarino's job intensely difficult without even trying, and Sorkin indicated that she was watching the car-crash interview from the wings. Once a high-flying media exec for NBCUniversal, she was parachuted into the top job ostensibly to encourage advertisers back to X after Musk's chaotic takeover due to her valuable contacts in the industry.
Yaccarino was predictably in damage control mode this morning:
X is enabling an information independence that's uncomfortable for some people. We're a platform that allows people to make their own decisions. And here's my perspective when it comes to advertising: X is standing at a unique and amazing intersection of Free Speech and Main Street — and the X community is powerful and is here to welcome you. To our partners who believe in our meaningful work – Thank You.
As the old saying goes, freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence, and if Musk keeps heading down this path, those consequences will continue to be felt at X – namely, nobody wanting to advertise or even use the platform except the billionaire owner's ludicrously cult-like fan base.
The interview is lengthy and sees Musk run the gamut from flippant to sincere, grandiose to utterly deluded. He believes he has done more for the environment than any other individual on Earth, Tesla has done more for the environment than any other company. All this while blowing up bits of Texas with Starship. ®