Elon Musk is a thin-skinned moron (see what I did there?). I think we’ve all pretty much learned that beyond a shadow of a doubt in the last few weeks since he took over Twitter. He trashed the company’s reputation with advertisers based on reckless plans that people who actually understand social media told him would be problematic, he tweeted blatantly incorrect information about how the system works, he fired people who politely corrected him about said tweets and now he apparently pays people to scour internal Slack and public employee tweets and fire those who criticize him. All of this makes him a giant hypocrite, a whiny baby, and an all-around putz. But the reaction to his dismissal from employees who criticize him, however polite or gentle, shows a deep rot that capitalism has injected into our society.
A lot of people seem to agree with the idea that it’s morally acceptable to fire people who criticize him – that if you publicly respond to the boss, that’s what you should expect. It’s a level of bondage that even serfs would hesitate to embrace. Worse still, the pushbacks to this notion are largely superficial and do not address its fundamental immorality. First, People note that Twitter’s culture, apparently enshrined in their employee handbook, explicitly encourages such comments in company channels and Musk has made no official announcement to change those policies. . Second, firing people who tell you you’re wrong is a guaranteed way to be even more wrong. Both are true. You shouldn’t be allowed to pull the rug out from under people without telling them (and legally you may not be able to. I’m sure labor lawyers are now looking at the viability of lawsuits) and anyone who doesn’t want to being told they’re wrong isn’t someone you should entrust with anything more important or dangerous than a piece of string. A very short piece of string.
But these points miss the larger corrosive issue at play. They both accept the idea that owning or running a business means you should be allowed to fire employees because they are people. The idea that just because you’re the boss means you can fire someone for politely disagreeing with you represents a kind of servile mentality that’s corrosive to democratic values. This implies a hierarchy of absolute control — that your livelihood and perhaps even your life (food, shelter, and medical care are all paid for by work, after all. And in the United States in particular, the safety net is woefully inadequate to provide any of these to almost anyone) is subject to the whims of those on the ladder above you. This premise goes against the fundamental foundation of democracy and human rights. Freedom must exist in all spheres of your life if you want to be considered truly free. Blindly accepting that certain people can and should have absolute control over such an important aspect of your life conditions you to accept the notion of absolute hierarchies in all aspects of your life.
There are nuances to this, of course. Freedom comes with responsibilities. Being insulting to co-workers, including your boss, could very well be grounds for dismissal. Denigrate your company or its products as well. being a constant source of complaints rather than solutions could reach a level of counterproductiveness that would require your dismissal. There may not be clear lines around all of these conditions. As with everything in life, context matters, and some things may have to be left to the idea of shame and public sanction rather than the law. This is why it is important that as a society we do not accept the idea that the boss can do whatever he wants because he is the boss.
All societies have informal and formal methods of control, to establish what society things should be acceptable. By accepting that bosses like Elon are within socially acceptable limits to fire people for whatever they want, we create a society that has an unhealthy respect for hierarchy, less respect for individuals, and less respect for control. democratic. It is corrosive to our civil society in a way that makes it more tolerant of rampant authoritarianism. Democratic control and individual rights cannot stop at the workplace door. What you do in the place where you spend the majority of your awakenings obviously conditions your behavior outside those doors, the way you see the world beyond. The defense of firing people for the most humane of reactions – polite disagreement – shows how much we have already lost as a civil society. It is vital that we lose nothing more.