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So you’ve decided to create a supervillain. Every good story needs one – they make the good guys look great, and reassure us that there are such things as moral absolutes. First you will need a complex childhood, with an early parental divorce, a fragmented relationship with a father, and a nightmare school experience where your future evil genius will be beaten to a pulp and thrown down flights of stairs. Undeterred, they will excel at their studies, going on to university before dropping out and forging their own path as an entrepreneur. They will make a lot of money while still young, and draw the sort of adoration we only reserve for the insanely wealthy, even though behind the scenes their personal lives will be difficult, with costly, public divorces. They will live their lives with flair and panache, and be the envy of us all. Then to finish, give them a curious Transatlantic accent, say, American crossed with South African, and a strange name – think Max Zorin from Live and Let Die, or Hank Scorpio, the benevolent megalomaniac from The Simpsons. Something like Elon Musk. Except obviously that name is taken, and its owner is far from a supervillain, despite how we like to skew his narrative.
Musk ticks all the boxes of a Bond villain – tall, good-looking, brilliant, immensely wealthy, and his childhood is the one described above. However, Musk is really more of a sci-fi superhero, as he takes the philosophies of Isaac Asimov’s Foundations series – that technology should make the world a better place – as his guide and has dedicated himself to helping others. No ivory tower or underground lair for Elon, he seems happy enough to engage in the bants with his fellow humans over the internet, and this is where SuperMusk starts to look a little less wonderful. When he engineered a mini submarine to help get the trapped kids out of the cave in Thailand, he was less than impressed after one of the lead divers said it was unworkable and a PR stunt. Musk reacted by calling the man a paedophile in a tweet that he has since deleted. Virgin mogul Richard Branson would never do something like that, we thought to ourselves. No, Branson would probably be too busy mounting another legal case against the NHS, as he did last year over Virgin Care losing out on a contract. In fact, it seems almost impossible to find a super wealthy individual who doesn’t occasionally act like a super-villain (the exception is, obviously, Bill Gates, the Ned Flanders of tech billionaires).
So Musk is brilliant, and, like a lot of brilliant people, he is a little odd. This is part of what makes him so interesting, and such a reassurance to ordinary people like me that maybe we are better off being a little bit thick, as, despite his riches and his brilliance, he rarely seems at peace. Musk is fighting a war on another front over revelations that he donated to both Republican and Democrat PACs in order to gain access to the corridors of power and press the case for action on climate change. He may be short-tempered, but he can’t be criticised as being short sighted, as climate change is one of the key motivators of much that he does. Musk understands that sometimes you have to cosy up to power to affect change.
Of course, some cosy up to power just to make a dime, and before President Donald Trump was coupling with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Conor McGregor, Ireland’s ambassador to the united states of unconsciousness, was meeting Putin at the World Cup in Russia. How could he do such a thing, we screeched. Easily, is the answer: McGregor is a businessman, and he has a product to sell. McGregor has a whiskey coming out titled Proper No. Twelve, in honour of where it all began for him, Dublin 12. Although the whiskey is a while off being seen on shelves, a video on McGregor’s lifestyle brand Instagram page, Mac Life Official, shows him meeting Putin and telling him he has a bottle of his own whiskey to give him. Then, on McGregor’s own Instagram he posted a photo of himself with his arm around Putin, and called him ‘one of the greatest leaders of our time’. But McGregor isn’t just a fan of Vlad’s leadership or Judo expertise – he knows that Putin is President of Russia, a nation that was the fastest growing market for Irish whiskey last year, according to International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR), with a jump of almost 20% in sales on the previous year. So heaping accolades on him probably has more to do with economics than on any moral judgement and that, to quote Bond supervillain Max Zorin, intuitive improvisation is the true secret of genius.