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Business

How “The Princess Bride” explains Elon Musk’s tweets




If investors were expecting tough questions about Tesla products or EV competition during Elon Musk’s interview with David Faber on CNBC, they had another thought coming.

On Tuesday night, Musk sat down with CNBC’s Faber after the company’s annual shareholder meeting in an interview that didn’t offer much new information about products or production, things that directly affect Tesla (ticker: TSLA) shares. Topics ranged from artificial intelligence to the election to his opposition to working from home.

Faber asked about Musk’s recent tweets, including one that suggested there was little evidence that the shooter at a mall near Dallas was a white supremacist. and comments about George Soros, which the ADL has said is an anti-Semitic trope.

Musk told Faber that he is not an antisemite, but rather a “prosemite.”[ads1]; He said his tweet — that Soros hates humanity and wants to “erode the very fabric of civilization” — is just his opinion.

Faber pressed Musk further, asking why he would even bother tweeting conspiracy theories and other topics that “make him a lightning rod for controversy” to his 140 million Twitter followers, opinions that would likely alienate a segment of Tesla buyers and Twitter Advertisers.

Musk referenced The princess bride, a 1987 film, and a scene in which swordsman Inigo Montoya, played by Mandy Patinkin, finally catches up with the man who had killed his father, the evil Count Rugen. “He says, ‘Offer me money. Give me power. I don’t care,'” Musk paraphrased from the film. “I’m going to say what I want to say, and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it,” Musk added.

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Musk brings up that scene as a way of saying that some things are worth more than money, though it’s an odd lesson to take away from the film. The scene it’s shot is the culmination of Montoya’s decades-long quest for justice for his father’s death, one that ends with him saying “I want my father back,” though he included a prank, before killing Rugen. Musk isn’t out for revenge, but seems to be making the point that, like Montoya, some things are more important to him.

Patinkin, for his part, suggested that Musk missed the point:

Still, corporate executives as successful — and rich — as Musk can be mercurial, and investors can handle it. Tesla shares are unfazed by Musk’s comments. In fact, shares rose 4.4% on Wednesday after Tesla’s shareholder meeting, where Musk said the company would begin advertising, among other plans for the future. However, Twitter has meant something to the stock. Tesla shares have fallen about 26% since Musk bought Twitter in October, while it


Nasdaq Composite

has increased by 14% in the same period. It has less to do with his tweet and more to do with the fact that he had sold Tesla stock to help finance the acquisition.

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Not all of Tesla’s downfall can be blamed on Twitter. Interest rates are rising, affecting vehicle affordability and the demand for new cars. General Motors ( GM ) and Ford Motor ( F ) shares are down about 13% and 17%, respectively, since Musk took over Twitter.

However, Musk is Musk. Only when the market finally starts caring about his tweeting will we know where he really stands on free speech and money.

Write to Al Root at allen.root@dowjones.com



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