SpaceX: Social Media Roast Free Speech Advocate Musk

Twitter and Reddit commenters are split over how to respond to the firing of SpaceX employees who criticized CEO Elon Musk.

Fair or unfair?

Stifling free speech or a response to workplace bullying?

The SpaceX controversy spilled into social media as commenters posted their thoughts about SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc. Report CEO Elon Musk, which fired several employees for writing a letter blasting the world’s richest man as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment.”

The employees were complaining about Musk’s public behavior and his activity on Twitter  (TWTR) – Get Twitter Inc. Report, which he agreed to acquire for $44 billion, while also threatening to walk from deal to purchase the microblogging site.

‘Uncomfortable, Intimidated and Bullied’

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, told The New York Times in an email that “the letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views.

“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” she said.

Musk met with Twitter employees on June 16, where he said he hoped the service could help humankind “better understand the nature of the universe, as much as it is possible to understand,” the Times reported.

Video of Musk speaking at the meeting was posted on Twitter.

‘Cancel Cancel Culture!’

“How many news articles do you read that are positive & how many are negative?” he asked. “It’s overwhelmingly negative. How many times has media gotten a news right? Almost never. Twitter provides a way to communicate with people & not through a negative lens. Really important.”

“Exactly,” Musk responded in a tweet.

Musk, who tweeted “Cancel Cancel Culture!” in 2020, has a history of making outrageous statements on Twitter, which he has dubbed the “de facto town square” of the internet. 

He has said that his version of Twitter will tolerate comments that fall within the legal scope and respect current legislation in each country where the social network operates.”

Many people took to the site to express their feelings about the letter controversy.

“Free speech for me not for thee,” one person tweeted.

‘You Get What You Deserve Sometimes’

“No they were free to say what they want,” another poster responded. “The consequence for said “free” speech isn’t so free. You get what you deserve sometimes.”

“They were allowed to say whatever they wanted about their BOSS, but that doesn’t mean they’re free from consequences…this isn’t difficult,” one tweet read.

“Understanding of free speech for me, but apparently not for thee,” came another comment.

“Free speech or disrupting the work place,” another commenter tweeted. “Twitter is a platform to say things. The workplace is a place where you are paid to help the business be successful. Circulating a letter at work to dispose of the founder may sound good in college, but not a great work idea.”

“Oh so there can be limits on what people say?” one person responded.

Another poster cited Musk’s preference for Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in the 2024 presidential election.

‘Rights for Me, and Not for Thee’

“Free Speech! I thought Musk was anti-cancel culture and pro-Free Speech,” the tweet said. “It’s why he tried to buy Twitter? Right? Oh, forgot, he’s a Republican now, embracing full Apartheid Trumpist Rights for Some: ‘Rights for Me, and Not for Thee.'”

“The former employees were and continue to be free to say anything they like,” one person responded. “Not sure your argument holds.”

Over on Reddit, one poster said that “Leaders are constantly receiving criticism and must determine what level of response is merited and appropriate.”

“While i also dislike Musk’s twitter persona, using company communications to put together an open letter written specifically in the voice of employees of one of his privately held companies seems like a move that could reasonably be expected to get this response,” the post continued.

“Whether it’s justified or not aside, this sends a clear message,” one person responded. “we don’t like dissenters. We don’t like traitors. Obey or get fired. I’m not confident this sort of move will help with retaining and recruiting top-notch employees.”

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