Americans were treated to an example of classic bullying recently when Elon Musk responded to a demand by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders “that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share.”
It’s hard to understand why Musk, the world’s richest man, took offense to Sanders’ comment. But that’s not the issue. It’s how he took offense.
Musk tweeted about Sanders: “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive. ”
Musk engaged in a personal attack on Sanders based upon a trait over which Sanders has no control. Sanders is 80 years of age.
It’s as if Musk, 50, was kicking sand in Sanders’ face.
Some may remember a body builder called Charles Atlas who developed an exercise program in the 1930s that spawned a memorable advertising campaign in which a muscular bully at a beach humiliates a skinny man who is walking with a beautiful date.
“Hey skinny… yer ribs are showing,” says the bully.
The skinny man says, “Watch what you say, fella.”
The muscular man gets up from his beach blanket and punches the skinny guy in the face, saying, “Shut up you bag of bones.”
Meanwhile the skinny guy’s girlfriend says, “Don’t let him hit you, Joe!”
The humiliating experience prompted the skinny guy to take up weight training and develop muscles. But Sanders can’t get any younger.
It is hard for an average person to comprehend having a net worth of more than $335 billion, like Musk. Maybe even Musk can’t get his head around having that much money? Surely spending a few billion on taxes annually will not appreciably dent Musk’s vacation plans.
Sanders, who is head of the Senate Budget Committee, has proposed an annual tax on the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households to raise money to fund President Joe Biden’s social safety net plan.
Musk apparently cannot articulate why Sanders’ is wrong to insist that extremely wealthy people like Musk should pay their “fair share.”
In Atlas’ advertising campaign, the scarecrow started working out, became a “he man,” tracked down the bully and punched him in the face. “What a man,” said a couple of girls sitting on the beach.
It’s not manly to bully someone because of their age.
Many Americans, especially young Americans, admire Musk for his brash style and for his exceptional entrepreneurial drive. It is disconcerting when a role model like Musk sinks so low.