How Silicon Valley Teaches Entitlement Behavior

Ever lay awake at night wondering if our culture is going down the tubes? If we’re becoming so self-absorbed and narcissistic that there will come a day when all that’s left of a once-great civilization is an unruly mob of whiny, greedy, entitled, petulant children?

Me neither. But it has crossed my mind more than once. And ever since the Twitterverse erupted over a petty feud between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and venture capitalist Stewart Alsop last week, my wife says I’ve been repeatedly mumbling “we’re doomed” in my sleep.

In case you missed it, Alsop penned an annoyingly whiny rant, even for him, in Medium called “Dear @ElonMusk: You should be ashamed of yourself,” scolding the Tesla CEO for showing up late to a Model X launch event.

I guess having to wait a couple of hours to test drive Tesla’s latest $100K+ electric hype-mobile, miss dinnertime and sit through a boring pitch – among other trivial and yet somehow horribly torturous inconveniences – made Alsop feel “mislead,” “mistreated” and “angry.”

Alsop went on to say that it would have been nice if Musk had “showed some class and apologized” and asked what he probably thinks any rational person would have pondered in a similar situation, “Should I wonder if there are other problems in managing Tesla as a company?”

The funny thing is, that happened way back in September. Fast forward to last week, Musk apparently called Alsop to say he’d cancelled the former journalist’s Model X order (we’ll come back to the timing of that call in a minute). That prompted Alsop to once again take to Medium, this time to complain about being “Banned By Tesla!

That’s when the Twitterverse exploded with the usual assortment of tweets proclaiming their love or hate for either side, accusing Alsop of acting like an entitled brat or Musk of being a thin-skinned creep, and generally sharing their self-important opinions because that’s what the Twitterati were born to do.

Then of course the media had to jump on the bandwagon with plenty of “No Tesla for you!” references to the Seinfeld Soup Nazi and other cautionary witticisms such as, if you’re waiting on a Tesla Model X, you may want to hold off on any public criticism of Musk until after you get the car.

Want to know what I think? I didn’t think so, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I think everyone involved in this trivial tabloid nonsense – from Alsop and Musk to Medium and the Twitterati  – is doing a bang-up job of pushing our increasingly petty, self-centered, crybaby culture over the brink and into the abyss from which there can be no return.

Let’s start with Alsop. As a self-professed Tesla fanboy, he should know that neither Musk nor Tesla is known for doing anything on time. Showing up late to an event is nothing compared to a long history of overly optimistic launch dates, production volume projections and profit goals. And I’m being kind here.

If you literally read between the lines of criticism in Alsop’s missives, he devotes considerable rhetoric to shamelessly worshipping the company, the vehicle and Musk himself as practically the second coming.

If he’s so enthralled with a freaking car to plunk down “$130K sight unseen” to be part of an “automobile revolution” (his words, not mine) and attend a launch event, does it make the slightest bit of sense to get so bent out of shape over a couple of hours, a missed meal and no apology? It sort of comes with the fanboy territory, does it not?

As for Musk, I’m just wondering how anyone with that much talent can behave in such a small-minded and petty way? But then, punctuality is not the only virtue he seems to lack. A little humility would be a nice addition to his eclectic repertoire of personality traits.

And I have an admittedly dark theory about the four-month delay between Alsop’s initial piece and Musk’s “Dear Stewart” phone call. Would it be at all surprising to find out that Musk derived some sort of sadistic pleasure or ego boost from personally depriving Alsop of his prize on the eve of its shipment? Just a random thought.

Don’t even get me started on Medium – the media version of a selfie – and all the Twitter drones with nothing better to do than pick sides in a leadership grudge match.

My real beef is the message this sends to our kids – tomorrow’s business and political leaders, God help us – that it’s cool to act like entitled, petulant and vindictive little brats. And we wonder where in the world these kids learn that sort of behavior. Apparently, they learn it from Silicon Valley … and from us.