Elon Musk is getting a lesson in open-sourced warfare from the opponents of President Donald J. Trump. Musk is feeling the heat on a variety of fronts including social media and newspaper ads.
A petition demanding that Musk resign from presidential advisory boards and start publically attacking Trump had received 13,171 signatures on Change.org as of May 4.
“We ask that Elon Musk withdraw from all Trump business councils and other groups sponsored by Donald Trump,” the petition launched by the leftist group Resist states. “We also ask that Musk begin speaking out in opposition to Trump’s disastrous policies on climate change. Musk’s support for Trump and his failure to speak out against Trump’s policies are inconsistent with Tesla’s values.”
Resist has also set up a website that encourages customers to stop buying Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) products until Musk dumps Trump. The site contains messages from people like Eric A. Pierce who cancelled a Model Three order. Pierce compared Musk to Nazi war criminals and school bullies in his message.
Venture Capitalist Waging War on Trump and Musk
Tesla investor and venture capitalist Doug Derwin is even more aggressive in his attacks on Musk. Derwin has spent $2 million of his own money to fund attacks on Musk.
Derwin’s efforts include full page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and The San Jose Mercury News that contain an open letter to Musk, Fortune reported. He also financed a large billboard outside Tesla’s factory in Freemont, California, that said “Elon: Please Dump Trump.”
He also paid for a sign truck to drive around SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, The Guardian reported. The sign contained the message: “SpaceX: Is Mars Worth Global Warming Here? Tell Elon to Dump Trump.”
Derwin would even be willing to pay Musk to dump Trump.
“If he sends out a tweet disagreeing with Trump’s climate policies and asking others to do so I’ll donate $1M to any charity of Musk’s choice,” Derwin wrote Fortune.
Derwin is planning future efforts including college information booths to tell engineering students about Musk’s association with Trump. Six more anti-Trump billboards are planned. He has also offered to pay people to cancel orders for Tesla vehicles to hurt Musk in the pocketbook.
Musk is a Victim of Open-Sourced Warfare
Musk has become a victim of what strategy guru Colonel John Robb calls the “open-sourced insurgency against Trump.”
An open-sourced insurgency has no real leadership and employs a wide-variety of attacks against its targets. Such efforts often succeed because they are almost impossible to defend or retaliate against. Their biggest advance is flexibility – if one tactic does not work they simply try something else.
Derwin is proving that one determined individual with a few resources can effectively wage open-sourced warfare. If his efforts succeed and Musk backs down, other billionaires will be targeted next.
A likely candidate is Peter Theil, another is World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE) CEO Vince McMahon; whose wife Linda was named head of the Small Business Administration by Trump. Investors need to pay attention because other publicly-traded companies might be targeted as well.
Musk finds himself in the Political Crosshairs
Musk is between a rock and a hard place here, he needs federal backing for some of his activities; particularly SpaceX. Yet the primary buyers of his cars are wealthy liberals who loathe Donald. J. Trump. Musk may have to make some tough decisions to preserve his companies in the age of Trump.
Elon is not backing down so far, instead he said he can influence Trump for the better by serving on advisory panels during a recent Ted talk. Trump opponents like Pierce and Derwin are not buying that.
Expect this war to heat up as Trump opponents ratchet up the volume. If Musk chooses to get into Donald’s foxhole, he will find he is not alone there. Many other businesses will find themselves in the crossfire between the Donald and his enemies.
The visionary businessman seems to have underestimated the power of 21st Century political warfare. Elon will have to learn how to deal with this new reality, or he will never get to Mars.