When it comes to riling up people on the internet nowadays, Elon Musk clearly reigns supreme as the world’s most polarising poster. The Tesla CEO and intermittent world’s richest man has taken over the mantle from the banished former President Trump and the calmed entertainer Kanye West as Twitter’s most conspicuous user. While much of Musk’s Twitter output is either sharply satirical or just downright silly, when he does decide to wade into the political sphere in voicing his opinion, few others have a greater ability to generate intense political debate within the space of 280 characters.
His latest media circus came after a series of tweets in response to an article published by CNN Business titled “2% of Elon Musk’s wealth could help solve world hunger, says director of UN food scarcity organization”. Where prior debates of a similar notion have often been met with endless back-and-forth about ‘net worth vs liquidity’, Musk’s response added a level of validation and intrigue to this one where many have been quickly brushed aside. Replying to a third-party account highlighting the article, Musk publicly declared to the U.N. his openness to cooperating with them, pledging to commit the necessary cash provided they could provide the necessary evidence to back up its lofty claim:
If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 31, 2021
UN World Food Programme (WFP) Chief David Beasley was quick to jump into the replies, clarifying that the original headline was somewhat inaccurate, as the money would not technically solve world hunger but instead go a long way toward “prevent(ing) geopolitical instability, mass migration and save 42 million people on the brink of starvation.” While Beasley pushed for Musk to agree to meet in person to discuss the terms of the ‘agreement’, Musk insisted that Beasley break down the spending plan in what he must have felt was a more appropriate setting to conduct a several billion-dollar philanthropic arrangement; right there in the Twitter thread. After a few days when communication seemed to go blank from Musk’s end, Beasley and the WFP put their cards on the table and released a full breakdown of how the money ($6.6 billion USD to be precise) would be distributed. The plan would cover around 42 million in 43 countries with low ‘food security’ ratings, primarily in Africa but also in certain regions of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The money would be put towards, among other things, food delivery and distribution, cash and food vouchers in countries with functioning market systems and establishing and maintaining voucher programmes in countries where they do not currently exist.
As of right now, Musk is yet to acknowledge the report and it remains unclear whether he is satisfied with the delineation of where his money would be going (or, for what it’s worth, whether he had any intention of following through in the first place). Despite that, it will be interesting to see whether this interaction prompts Musk to ease back on the firing off the tweets where his wallet is at stake or alternatively, whether the story is not yet finished and the billionaire is simply biding his time before ‘putting his money where his keyboard is’. Either way, I doubt this will be the last time the new King of Twitter Controversy has us all talking.