Elon Musk is jetting across the world to yet another apology tour.

With his companies on fire and public opinion turning against him, he’s in the worst mood of his life - enraged that no one understands him and haemorrhaging billions of dollars.

“X” is a business short story about the problems of being the second-richest man in the world.

Will Elon learn from his relentless mistakes?

Or is he doomed to keep repeating them?

3,000 words / 12 minutes of bracing reading pleasure

Keep scrolling to read online.

‘If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, then you don't understand it yourself.’ Albert Einstein 



Copyright 2024 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved

ELON MUSK, fifty-two, slumps in a creamy overstuffed leather seat of a private jet, playing some video game on a phone at Mach 0.91.

This isn’t one of his old Gulfstreams. This is a new ultralong-range Gulfstream G700 with the largest cabin available, five living zones, twenty signature panoramic oval windows, a grand suite with faux marble shower and plenty of gleaming woodwork.

Next-generation avionics and a whisper⁠-⁠quiet cabin with one hundred percent fresh, plasma⁠-⁠ionized air replenished every two to three minutes. Jet ConneX Ka-band Wi-Fi provides reliable high⁠-⁠speed coverage for all business and entertainment needs. Flying at top speed feels like slicing through heaven.

This isn’t Elon’s own Gulfstream G700. The one he ordered last year is still delayed in production. This one belongs to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, one of the largest investors in Twitter now rebranded as X.

Aside from boasting all the luxury extras Gulfstream offers, hidden microphones are also dotted throughout the jet to monitor and record every conversation. This is standard operating procedure in all Al Waleed’s jets and cars and palaces.

Elon is heading to Singapore Changi Airport where he’ll board a waiting jet to Israel for his umpteenth apology tour. It’s not good to be seen flying into the Promised Land in a new jet owned by Saudi. He’ll probably board an Embraer Legacy 650E from the Laufer Group. They have a lounge and facilities at Ben Gurion Airport.

Elon usually flies with a gaggle of children and wives and girlfriends and so-called friends and hangers-on. But lately it’s been all business all the way. After Tesla shares and profitability plunged, Elon doesn’t go anywhere without his new chief financial officer. Then there’s the flaming mess that is X.

On this leg of the flight he’s surrounded by SENIOR EXECUTIVES and AIDES and ASSISTANTS. TWO PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANTS are huddled together at the front of the jet, hissing at each other.

A CABIN ATTENDANT brings Elon a chilled can of aspartame-laced Diet Coke on a tray. Elon takes it without looking up and keeps playing the video game on the phone, keeps mashing the screen.

‘Got any more chocolates?’

‘Of course, Mister Musk.’

The cabin attendant steps away and returns with a small golden bowl on a tray. It’s piled high with Elon’s favourite Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares, Milk Chocolate with Caramel and Strawberry Chocolate with Strawberry Bark.

Of course the Recchiuti boxed chocolates would be better. Burnt Caramel and Piedmont Hazelnut with just the right balance of sweet and bitter. Sesame Nougat with the perfect texture of chewy caramel, a little crunch from toasted sesame seeds and the snap of perfectly tempered dark chocolate.

But they’re not sweet enough for Elon who lives for his sugar and sugar substitutes. He eats a donut or two (or four) for breakfast every day. He’s not a big drinker but likes a glass of red wine at the end of the day with an Ambien. Yes, he likes his pharmaceuticals. He’s also fond of illicit drugs like LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, mushrooms and ketamine. Anything to give him a boost, give him an edge.

They also keep him on edge. Elon has a lot of agitation expressed as nervous energy. Juggling his contrarian views, unfiltered speech and provocative antics is no easy task.

Especially when so many of his companies are on fire. Everyone’s been telling him what to do with X but he’s not listening to a word of it.

Instead he’s publicly telling major advertisers like Disney’s Bob Iger to go fuck themselves. This is the same Bob Iger who’s returned as CEO to save Disney. The same Bob Iger who has a private planetarium in his opulent Brentwood mansion. With the stars set to the night sky of the day he was born.

Never fuck with a Jew with a Jesus complex. Especially one who spends north of seven billion dollars a year on advertising.

PHILIP MORRIS, thirty-three, sits opposite Elon, watching him double down on his video game. Philip is an advertising creative director who’s been brought in by the Tesla board to try and talk some sense into Elon.

Where to start? Philip knows the jet is bugged. So he has to choose his words carefully, tactfully.

Elon’s been playing at global diplomacy, foreign policy and international intelligence. Fine if he knows what he’s doing. But of course, he doesn’t. Someone needs to tell Elon that Iron Man isn’t real. It’s a movie franchise. For a self-styled genius, he can be a bit of a dumbass.

Opinion pieces and columnists at major newspapers and media outlets are lining up to denounce Elon as a clear and present danger to democracy, a menace to society. Some are even calling him a fraud.

His missteps are piling up. Starlink and switching off satellite communications in Crimea to thwart a Ukrainian military offensive against the Russian navy. Neuralink and the trail of dead lab monkeys bleeding from their ears after failed computer chip implants. The Boring Company pumping raw sewage into children’s playgrounds. Twitter and censoring reporters and Canadian politicians at the request of the Indian government.

Elon is a free-speech absolutist unless it’s NPR, Substack or any other perspective he doesn’t agree with.

Philip wonders what’s worse? His manias and obsessions? Or his grudges and noxious cruelty?

Philip knows that Elon keeps pushing himself forward at such a relentless pace because to stop would see his past derail and tumble and crash into the present and wipe out his future. Despite Elon’s carefully managed tech genius persona, he can’t write a line of code to save himself. Visionary inventor? He hasn’t invented a thing. Trailblazer? Not even close.

Elon’s succeeded as a businessman not by creating things but by funding and promoting things. He didn’t invent or design any of Tesla’s vehicles - that was Franz von Holzhausen. He didn’t invent or design Starlink - that was Gwynne Shotwell. He didn’t invent or design SolarCity - that was Peter Rive.

Elon’s primary skill is incorporating companies in low-tax states with guaranteed government handouts, grants and subsidies. It’s taxpayers - and the odd Saudi - that keep him and his companies afloat.

Lately he’s been more demented than usual. All the batshit crazy election conspiracy theories in a major election year. All the hate tweets, the antisemitism that flies from his fingers to his one-hundred-and-seventy million followers.

Philip knows Elon is exasperated and bewildered by the utter collapse in advertising revenue after he willingly and virulently (and in his mind, virtuously) destroyed Twitter’s brand safety teams and fired thousands of Twitter employees. People like Elon think numbers equal everything.

What Elon failed to understand is that advertising is a people business, a relationship business. The biggest ad buyers - those who spend millions on a campaign without a second thought - want someone they can talk to. That point of contact is especially vital during a period of transition and uncertainty, as was the case after Elon acquired Twitter.

Elon dismissed the human element of Twitter’s main revenue stream and laid off swaths of account managers and sales reps. He severed Twitter’s most commercially valuable relationships. Naturally these ad buyers left the platform. Many for good.

Abruptly rebranding Twitter as X and crowdsourcing a new logo in 24 hours didn’t help. Neither did one shitty update after the other. Even worse is the contextual reality that in any app or anywhere online or indeed on any screen, X is what you press to close a window or pop-up. X is what you press to delete something annoying you don’t want to see. It’s not semantics. It’s muscle memory. 

The road to hell is littered with failed rebrands - New Coke, New Gap, New Tropicana, New Sears, New Verizon. It’s a long list.

Philip has seen it a dozen times. Some new CEO who thinks he knows everything, who wants to leave his mark, spends millions upon millions throwing the baby out with the bathwater until there’s such a consumer backlash that the next CEO is brought in to bring the baby back. Balance is restored, sales begin to lift, profit starts to rise, shares set new records. Everyone is happy.

Philip thinks about how to best approach Elon. Go extremely hardcore or fly under the radar.

‘Are you winning?’

Elon doesn’t look up. Keeps furiously playing the video game, mouth tightening. 

‘I haven’t hit my top score yet.’

‘You never will.’

Elon grimaces as he misses the last shot and the game times out. He tosses the phone away, pissed.

For a billionaire sociopath he’s inelegant, inarticulate, oafish, callous and capricious, lacking any grace or humility. He’s also packed on a lot of weight in recent months.

His pupils are pinned, flitting left and right because he’s been munching Modafinil like candy. It’s a stimulant fighter pilots use to stay alert and focused without the amphetamine jag. Military approved, military grade.

He’s been flying with the fighter pilot look for a while now. Dressed in a dark brown leather bomber jacket with a fur-lined collar. His version of mid-century rogue masculinity that comes across as an old, fat and worn-out Tom Cruise from “Top Gun” with a hair transplant.

Does he know he looks ridiculous? Does he know that hating trans people online, retweeting bigots and racists and blaming a Jewish non-profit for ruining his company is not going to win him any friends?

‘I know you’re going to tell me to change X back to Twitter.’

‘Would you like me to tell you the reasons why?’

Elon doesn’t make eye contact.

‘Sure, count the ways.’

‘Elon, it’s not a game. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase want the money they lent you.’

‘Fuck them!’

‘Elon, they always get their money. At least two points above market rate. With fees on top. All the loans you took out against your Tesla stock, they don’t care. The fact the stock’s down the toilet, they don’t care. They’ll come after everything.’

‘Fuck them! I made last month’s payments.’

‘By the skin of your teeth and by selling stock at a loss.’

Philip doesn’t want to remind Elon that the last earning’s call was a clown show, that he’s becoming an embarrassment in the financial press. Instead he goes for the jugular.

‘Elon, you’ve run out money and everyone thinks you’re an asshole.’

‘I don’t care if everyone thinks I’m an asshole.’

‘Elon, you’re autistic. Of course you don’t care what people think. It’s everyone else that matters. It’s the fact you’ve run out of money and can’t get any more loans that’s the problem.’

Elon blinks. When his Tesla stock was roaring to record highs, it was too easy to borrow against. Now that it looks like it’s on a death spiral, not so much. Made all the worse by a Delaware judge ruling against his fifty-six billion dollar stock options pay deal.

The interest payments alone on the loans he took out to buy Twitter are around one hundred million dollars a month. He needs a lot of advertising revenue from a lot of major brands and he needs it now.

‘Well, Philip, you’re the advertising genius. What do I do?’

‘You have to be seen to be making amends.’

Elon winces.

‘How can I fucking switch back to Twitter without being seen as a complete fucking idiot?’

‘Blame Linda Yaccarino for the poor rebranding and revenue results. Thank Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase for the idea of taking the brand back to Twitter. Thank David Solomon at Goldman Sachs for the brand revaluation.’

‘Throw Linda under the bus?’

‘She’s the CEO of X. You don’t have to do a mea culpa. That’s what you pay her for. That’s her job.’

Elon thinks. It’s not the first time he’s thrown an employee under the bus. It won’t be the last.

The jet starts its descent. Everyone is silent except for the two public relations executives at the front of the jet still hissing at each other. Elon screams at them.

‘Chill the fuck out!’

They swallow their words. Philip leans in.

‘Accept Linda’s resignation and bring back Jack Dorsey as interim CEO. Everyone will think it’s the second coming, start making parallels to Steve Jobs saving Apple. Which is excellent positioning.’

Philip continues.

‘Make every employee that’s still around -- what is that now, seven hundred or so? Make them all part of Twitter’s new brand safety team. Make it the world’s largest brand safety team. Which is also excellent positioning.’

Philip rolls on

‘Bring in a heap of senior account executives from advertising agency groups and media buyers with established relationships to key accounts. Offer Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung advertising deals they can’t say no to. All the other brands will follow.’

‘Any other nifty ideas?’

‘Sure. But you’re not going to like it.’

‘Try me.’

‘Advertise Tesla for the first time.’

‘On Twitter?’

‘Like a real brand.’

Philip takes a breath.

‘I’ve got another idea you’re not going to like.’

Elon arches an eyebrow as Philip continues.

‘Your whole digital town square positioning has to go. You need to supersede it with something that puts governments on notice. You’ve got regulators breathing down your neck.’

It’s true. New regulatory requirements for the technology sector are coming hard and fast, like the Digital Services Act in the EU, and the Online Safety Act in the UK. Different states are passing different bills in the United States, and some are on appeal in the Supreme Court. Governments everywhere are becoming far more active in regulating social media.

Philip suggests a citizen’s assembly where random Twitter users are selected to vote on key government issues around the world. Essentially a parallel congress or parliament in every country.

‘You mean a sortition?’

Philip nods.

‘Random Twitter accounts to provide direct democracy without any political machinations.’

‘Athenian democracy?’

‘Which led to Athens becoming the world’s most powerful and most successful city-state until it got mired in representative politics and petty self-interests, corruption and turning people against each other.’

Elon presses his fingers together.

‘Power to the people?’

Philip nods.

‘In real-time. No politicians, no election cycles, no special interests, no lobbyists, no lawyers.’

Elon laughs.

‘I like the no lawyers no part.’

Philip smiles.

‘Instant polling, make it concurrent with the bills before congress or parliaments. Public voting twenty-four hours before any representatives cast their vote. Beat the politicians to the punch. Beat the politicians at their own game.’

Philip continues.

‘Don’t make it left versus right. Make it people versus politicians. Focus on the parasocial nature of the medium, the apparent interconnectedness, the supposed synchronicity. And you need a new slogan to signal the change.’

Elon tilts his head to one side, unsure. Philip smiles.

‘The power of now.’

Elon considers it for a moment. It’s a good slogan. It’s perfect for Twitter.

The captain announces that the approach to Changi Airport is on schedule. Mentions the current weather in Singapore in Fahrenheit and Celsius. On behalf of the crew and co-pilot, thanks the passengers.

Philip smiles at Elon.

‘I’m out when we land. I’ve got to get to Rome.’

‘Any more advice?’

‘No more tweeting for a while. That last batch of tweets -- you know they’re neo-Nazi talking points, right?’

Elon smirks. Philip continues.

‘Lose the pilot jacket?’

Elon looks genuinely perplexed.

‘Don’t wear the leather jacket, Elon. You look like a caricature of toxic masculinity. You look like you’re flying a B-52 in World War Two.’

‘That’s not a good thing?’

‘That’s a terrible thing. You’re going to Israel. They’ve got enough to worry about without being reminded of World War Two.’

‘Anything else?’

All the passengers sit up, clip on their seat belts as the jet prepares to land.

‘Act solemn.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘When you’re in Israel, don’t tweet, don’t talk to the media, don’t get photographed outside unless the sky behind you is grey.’

‘What do you mean act solemn?’

‘Wear all black, look down at the ground. Don’t look at your feet. Look down just in front of your feet. And don’t smile.’

‘You mean act sad?’

Elon nods to himself.

‘I can do that.’

Are you a helpful person?

Did you enjoy this short story? Pitch it to your friends. Roll it to your enemies. Thanks for helping spread the word.

Copyright 2024 Stefano Boscutti

All Rights Reserved

The moral rights of the author are asserted.

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or copying and pasting, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing.

Stefano Boscutti acknowledges the trademark owners of various products referenced in this work. The publication or use of these trademarks is not authorised or sponsored by the trademark owner.

This is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have counterparts in the life and times of Elon Musk and others, the characterisations and incidents presented are totally the products of the author’s supersonic imagination. This work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It should not be resold or given away. Thank you for your support. (Couldn’t do it without you.)

Discover novels, screenplays, short stories and more by Stefano Boscutti at boscutti.com

Free short story every week. No spam, ever.