Elon Musk, like many immorally rich idiots like him, really hates consequences. One of the greatest consequences of his actions — and the actions of those like him — is of course the looming desolation of the human race via climate disaster precipitated by unchecked capitalism. That’s why things like SpaceX exist. Musk’s miserable little side project where he blows up rockets every few weeks isn’t for the betterment of mankind. It’s not to boldly go where no one has gone before. It’s the ironic, billionaire equivalent of a bomb shelter.
Hitman 2 expertly instrumentalized this philosophy in 2018. In the final level of the base game, Agent 47 cuts his way through cartoon villains at a private auction where secret underground kingdoms are sold to the rich to prepare them for climate disaster. The only outlier is an aging oil magnate who resents having to change the way he does things — cashing out of the industry that killed the planet just in time to profit from its funeral.
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Colonizing space is a more classical, fantastical approach. But the end goal is the same. It’s a way for the powerful to cash out of dying empires they built on the back of worker exploitation. The shortsighted belief is that, if you can only escape Earth’s gravity, you can escape the consequences of your actions. In the process you might even be able to create an even more terrible Disney Magic Castle from the ground up. Because no matter how corrupt our institutions, or how evil the overlord, fiction usually gets one thing right about villains. Too much is never enough.
So it is for Musk. The military intervention loving and labor union hating parasite, who got his his family’s racist South African emerald mine, is basically just a very stupid guy. He has a lot of money, though, which he mostly uses to make sure we have to hear about him all the time. The latest stupid guy thing he said was this:
For Services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.
That line is hidden in the terms of service for Starlink, over-the-air internet service from SpaceX, of all things. The wording basically requires beta testers to… recognize the sovereignty of a hypothetical Martian colony Musk would like other people to make for him. To sign up for internet.
Of course, as one footing the bill for such a colony, with money bled from the poor who will be and are most affected by disasters related to climate change (or, sure, the World War III Musk hypothesizes) he and his would likely have no small role in “self-governing” such an establishment.
It’s a very stupid guy thing to write. It starts by presupposing we’ll actually make it to Mars any time soon. Even if we do, SpaceX hasn’t done much to prove it will have any part of it. And the idea of Earth’s superpowers — the people with the guns and stuff — ceding control of any kind of land is historically kinda laughable. As is the image of Musk or his brood being charismatic enough to guide a planet, even into Bioshock-esque libertarian ruin.
The whole thing reminds me of another video game villain, though: Ronald Taylor. The father of your Mass Effect 2 party member, Jacob Taylor, installs himself as a petty dictator over the survivors of a crashed spaceship. When you find him he’s living out that very fantasy of escaping gravity — of escaping laws and consequences. He uses the threat of violence (Ronald was a security officer with access to all the guns) and stolen wealth (using said guns to hoard food). As for the survivors who aren’t cops? They’re forced to eat local, toxic plants that melt their brains. The security officers then turn their serfs into sex pets while they live like kings…
Musk actually strikes me more like the captain who hired a bunch of horrible goons before crashing his ship and dying offscreen than Ronald himself. But the idiot rich guy dream of being a space czar? That’s exactly the kind of future I can picture him dreaming of.