A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

Get daily updates delivered right to your inbox

Elon Musk doubted biblical miracles but loves Mel Brooks

Walter Isaacson’s doorstopper biography reveals a skeptical Musk who likes Jewish humor

When Elon Musk was growing up in South Africa, his mother would take him to the local Anglican church, where she was a teacher. “It did not go well,” writes historian Walter Isaacson in a highly anticipated new biography of Musk due out on Tuesday. 

Musk’s mom, Maye, would share stories from the Bible, and Musk would question each and every one. When he was told the story of the parting of the Red Sea, for example, his response was: “What do you mean, the waters parted? That’s not possible.”

“When she told the story of Jesus feeding the crowd with loaves and fishes, he countered that things cannot materialize out of nothing,” Isaacson writes. Musk also recalled taking Communion, and wondered if eating “the blood and body of Christ” was “a weird metaphor for cannibalism.”

| RELATED: ADL CEO: Elon Musk is a ‘great innovator’ who engages with ‘users who are espousing antisemitism and hate’

Isaacson adds, “Elon came to believe early on that science could explain things and so there was no need to conjure up a Creator or a deity that would intervene in our lives.” 

Isaacson, a professor at Tulane University and the award-winning author of biographies about Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin, shadowed Musk for two years and interviewed his family, friends and adversaries. The Forward obtained a copy of the book ahead of its release. Isaacson declined a request for an interview.

Elon Musk’s Kanye controversy

The 670-page doorstopper of a book chronicles the life and career of Musk, the world’s richest person, a pioneer who infiltrated challenging industries — electric cars, space travel, rural internet access, solar power — and leapfrogged other companies with transformative advancements. A large section of the book examines his hostile takeover of Twitter, the online platform that now goes by X.

Less than three weeks before Musk officially took over the social media platform in October 2022 and gutted the team that battles misinformation on the site, Kanye West, the rapper and fashion mogul, tweeted that he would be “going death con 3 on the Jewish people.” Twitter banned West, who would spend the remainder of 2022 going on various antisemitic tirades

Isaacson writes that the saga taught “Musk a series of lessons about the complexity of free speech and the downsides of impulsive policymaking,” adding that, “the issue of content moderation dominated Musk’s first week at Twitter.”

Musk reinstated West’s Twitter account this summer.

Musk and West, who now goes by the moniker Ye, had been friends dating back to at least 2011, when Musk gave a tour of his SpaceX factory to West. The two also attended a 2022 party in Miami to celebrate the release of West’s Donda 2 album. At the party, Musk dialed into a work conference call, and left his phone camera on, “unintentionally allowing” his team to “witness the party in the background.”

Musk and West “had certain traits in common,” Isaacson notes, “including being unfiltered, and they were both thought to be half-crazy, though in Ye’s case that description would eventually seem to be only half-right.”

The book’s index includes sections on “maniacal sense of urgency,” “unrealistic deadlines,” “demon mode,” “impulsivity” and “stress-induced stomach pains.”

ADL a no show

What you won’t find in the book is a discussion of Musk’s obsession with the Anti-Defamation League. When Musk took over Twitter, in addition to disbanding Twitter’s safety team, he allowed back on neo-Nazis and antisemites. At the time, the ADL called for advertisers to boycott Twitter.

As antisemitic content proliferated on the platform in the ensuing months, the ADL has been at the forefront of reporting such posts and trying to get users banned. Musk characterized these efforts this month as “aggressive” and “trying to kill this platform,” and suggested he would file a $4 billion lawsuit against the ADL, blaming the organization for his company’s financial woes.

A campaign to ban the ADL, led by a far-right activist, flooded Twitter in recent weeks. The ADL said it was “unsurprised yet undeterred” that “trolls have launched a coordinated attack on our organization.” Musk endorsed the effort.

Elon Musk is a fan of Mel Brooks, but maybe not of Larry David

On a lighter note, the book also reveals that two of Musk’s favorite movies are Mel Brooks productions: Spaceballs and Young Frankenstein.

Elsewhere in the book, Isaacson recalls the wedding of Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood superagent, where Musk was seated at the same dinner table as Larry David, the Curb Your Enthusiasm creator who officiated the wedding.

“Do you just want to murder kids in schools?” David asked Musk.

“No, no,” Musk responded. “I’m anti-kid murder.”

David explained to Isaacson the background: Musk’s “tweets about voting Republican because Democrats were the party of division and hate were sticking in my craw. Even if Uvalde never happened,” David said, referring to the mass shooting at a school in Texas, “I probably would’ve brought it up, because I was angry and offended.”

This article was originally published on the Forward.

More to Discover