Elon Musk is angry. Seriously so.
The CEO of electric-vehicle market leader Tesla (TSLA) has never hidden his emotions from his millions of fans and admirers on social networks.
The microblogging website Twitter (TWTR) is his favorite place to report the news of his multiple companies, deliver his opinions and, above all, fights his detractors. (We well know the story of his attempt to buy, and decision not to buy, Twitter.)
The tycoon is known for his traits of both whimsy and combat readiness. He never bends to adversity; rather, he goes right back at those who are hostile to and criticize him.
One of his counterattacks landed him in a courtroom.
In summer 2018, as the world sought to rescue children trapped in a cave in Thailand, Musk called Vernon Unsworth a "pedo guy" on Twitter. That's because the British diver accused him of "a publicity stunt" by sending a miniature submarine to help extract the Thai schoolboys.
Musk in December 2019 successfully defended himself against a defamation lawsuit Unsworth brought against him in Los Angeles.
The billionaire has launched a fresh counterattack against Robert Reich, who was secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton and is now professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
Reich suggested in a tweet that Musk owes part of his fortune to his family's wealth. In his message, Reich tries to deconstruct the myth of self-made billionaires by claiming that three of them - Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos - did not start from scratch.
"Elon Musk came from a family that owned an emerald mine in Apartheid South Africa," Reich tweeted on Sept. 20. "Bill Gates’ mom helped Microsoft get a deal with IBM. Jeff Bezos’ garage-based start was funded by a quarter-million dollar investment from his parents."
"Self-made billionaires are a myth," he concluded.
Musk is the world's richest man, with a fortune estimated at $268 billion as of Sept. 20, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
In this ranking Bezos, executive chairman of Amazon, (AMZN) controls $145 billion and Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, (MSFT) controls $111 billion. Bezos and Gates are the third and fifth richest people in the world, respectively.
While Bezos and Gates at last check hadn't responded, Musk went on the offensive just hours after the post.
"You both an idiot and a liar," the serial entrepreneur lambasted Reich.
His fans immediately flew to his aid and attacked Reich.
"Can you really image having this dude as a teacher?" one Twitter user commented.
To which Musk responded: "Reich is suicidally boring."
"Can you believe Reich makes $250K doing worthless lectures?!" another of Musk's fans said.
The billionaire then posted a meme of people falling asleep from boredom in what appears to be a university amphitheater.
Musk later resurrected a July 2020 letter from Reich to California authorities in which the former Clinton administration official opposed the construction of affordable housing in his neighborhood.
This letter had already been published to denounce the so-called hypocrisy of democratic elites and in particular of Reich, who in 2018 proposed a "promising initiative" to make housing more affordable in cities.
"If historic preservation means anything, it means maintaining enough of the character of an older neighborhood to remind people of its history and provide continuity with the present," Reich and another person said in the letter sent to the Preservation Commissioners.
"Development for the sake of development makes no sense when it imposes social costs like this,"
"Unsurprisingly, Reich is also a hypocrite," Musk concluded.
Maye Musk, the billionaire's mom, also reacted by highlighting a message that explains that her son "was not rich growing up."
"Thank you for correcting @RBReich Not that he cares about the truth. Maybe he should read #AWomanMakesAPlan @PenguinBooks 😉," Maye Musk said.
From South Africa to Tesla
Elon Musk, 51, was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa, to a South African father, Errol, and a Canadian mother, Maye. He early on showed a talent for IT and entrepreneurship.
At 12, he created a videogame and sold it to a computer magazine.
According to the New York Times, Musk was brought up "in elite, segregated white communities that were littered with anti-Black government propaganda, and detached from the atrocities that white political leaders inflicted on the Black majority."
At age 17 after graduating high school, Musk left South Africa for Canada to avoid supporting apartheid through compulsory military service and also to try to seize economic opportunities in the U.S.
He attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and in 1992 transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor's degree in physics and economics in 1995.
At 24, he entered a Stanford Ph.D. program in physics but left after just two days because he believed the internet had much more potential to change society than work in physics.
Before SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla in 2003, Musk founded Zip2 in 1995, a company that provided maps and business directories to online newspapers. In 1999, Zip2 was acquired by computer maker Compaq (HPQ) for $307 million.
The billionaire then co-founded an online financial services company, X.com, which later became PayPal (PYPL) after a merger with software company Confinity Inc. in 2000.
"Some people spew hate language towards us because they think we grew up with a silver spoon and were given everything – which is so far from the truth. When I was growing up it was just a matter of survival," Tosca Musk, Elon's sister, recently said in an interview.