Elon Musk was once tech’s angel. Now he’s an overplayed meme.

人の出会いは魅力的なものです。初めてでまだ相手をよく知らないほど、相手に惹かれていくものです。浮気は出会いの関数です。夫や妻、彼氏や彼女、どんな人にだって浮気の機会はあるでしょう。もしパートナーの怪しい言動が目に付いたら浮気調査を探偵に依頼してみましょう。その半数以上は無料相談だけで解決しています。

It’s week on Mashable. Join us as we take stock of the viral economy and investigate how the internet morphed from a fun free-for-all to a bleak hellscape we just can’t quit.

In the space of a few short months, Elon Musk has gone from being the internet’s tech darling to one of the most parodied personalities online.

Up until this spring, Musk was more or less well liked. Sure, his employees were reportedly working mandatory overtime, but his anti-union stances were overlooked because hey, he launched a car into space! His company’s egregious record of under-reporting workplace injuries was glossed over because he started dating Grimes after shooting his shot with an adorably nerdy pun. Elon Musk was the manic pixie dream boy of tech: He was deeply problematic, but it was easy to ignore because he was just so quirky. 

I mean, he sold flamethrowers. Flamethrowers! Who even remembers that Tesla employees were apparently forced to work around the body of an employee who passed out when there are videos of a grown man giggling about his new flamethrower? 

But then in late May, Musk’s reputation took a sudden nosedive when he started using Twitter like Donald Trump. Musk criticized how the media covers Tesla crashes. He was understandably upset that a recent crash that resulted in a broken ankle was reported on extensively while thousands of fatal crashes from standard cars aren’t. 

Then he ramped up his complaining and blamed “big media” for lying, and claimed that nobody believes news outlets anyway. He also said that journalists are “under constant pressure to get max clicks” or risk getting fired for not pulling in enough of that sweet advertising revenue, even insinuating that fossil fuel and oil companies were paying off reporters to write negative reviews of Tesla’s cars. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Musk followed up by announcing his plans to create a Yelp-type review site for journalists that would allow the public to “rate the core truth of any article,” which honestly sounds like an Orwellian hell. 

Musk’s anti-news rant came just weeks after Reveal published a damning report about Tesla putting manufacturing above its employees’ safety. Grimes tried to defend her new boyfriend, insisting that Tesla being anti-union was “fake news.” When journalist Jessica Huseman called out Musk for his tweets, pointing out that Reveal is a nonprofit that doesn’t compete for clicks, he threw a temper tantrum that turned into a months-long Twitter meltdown. 

Like an angsty preteen who just feels misunderstood by society, Musk lashed out at everyone who criticized him. 

Then in June, Alex Arbuckle changed his Twitter display name to “Italian Elon Musk” and started blessing our feeds with parodies of Musk’s tweets. 

Arbuckle isn’t the first to spoof Elon Musk. The account Bored Elon Musk has been actively shitposting on Twitter for years. 

Arbuckle’s version of Elon Musk was unique, though. While Bored Elon Musk made fun of Musk’s ideas, like tweeting randomly specific but ingenious innovations, Arbuckle’s Musk made fun of Musk himself. 

It got a lot of attention, and he even lost his Twitter verification for the bit. 

Italian Elon Musk’s run was short, though — Arbuckle changed his name and profile photo after just five glorious days. 

“I ended the Italian Elon Musk bit after realizing I’d been de-verified by Twitter, because in my estimation that was the funniest possible way for the bit to end,” Arbuckle wrote Mashable in an email.(Editor’s Note: Alex Arbuckle is a verified former employee of Mashable.)

While Twitter users mourned the loss of one of the greatest bits of 2018, the real Elon Musk’s social media meltdown continued. 

When 12 boys and their soccer coach got stranded in a flooded cave in Thailand, Musk jumped to the rescue. Sort of. He had a child-size submarine constructed so divers could pop a kid in, squeeze the metal tube through the cave’s narrow passages, and safely deliver each child to dry land. Except, according to a BBC report, the head of the rescue mission called the baby sub just “not practical.” While Musk was live-tweeting the mini submarine’s development, human divers were actually rescuing the children one by one. 

Despite being a 47-year-old adult, Musk couldn’t take the criticism. In another Twitter rant he responded to the BBC’s report with screenshots of emails with the co-leader of the Thai rescue team. He followed up by claiming that his sub “could do the entire journey & demonstrate at any time.” He topped it off by implying that “billionaire” is a slur, and when called out on that, bragged about the number of jobs he created.

Musk’s response to lead diver Vern Unsworth calling his child submarine “just a PR stunt” that had “absolutely no chance of working” was icing on the cake. Unsworth is an avid caver who has extensive knowledge of the cave system the boys were stranded in. In a series of unhinged tweets — his magnum opus of Twitter rants — Musk called Unsworth “pedo guy” and claimed he “never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus).” 

That’s probably the Muskiest tweet Musk has ever tweeted. Arbuckle, now formerly known as Italian Elon Musk, said it best: “No conceivable parody could be funnier than calling a rescue hero a pedophile because he made fun of your waterproof space trash boy casket.” 

He has a point — despite the multiple parody accounts that have popped up in the absence of our beloved Italian Elon Musk, none of them can sound as ridiculous as actual Elon Musk tweets. 

A week later, Twitter announced that it would start locking accounts whose display names said “Elon Musk.” The company said that it was to prevent cryptocurrency scams, since lookalikes would comment under Musk’s tweets promising that if Twitter users sent him Ethereum, he would send even more back. 

Twitter users joked that Elon Musk paid off the site so parody accounts would stop making fun of him. 

Arbuckle has a different take: 

“Twitter locking accounts that change their name to Elon Musk is some extremely hilarious shit for a website that not only enables but actually verifies violent white supremacist organizations,” he told Mashable, ending his email with a dig at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “Terrific priorities, Jack.”

French Elón Musque, who has since changed their name to @locallefties, was one of the first copycats who got popular in the weeks after Arbuckle said he wouldn’t resurrect Italian Elon. They got around Twitter’s new locking policy by changing up Musk’s name. Through Twitter DM, they said, “i thought it might piss off elon musk which would be cool.” 

With French Elón Musque leading the way, Swëdish Eløn Müsk, German Elon von Müsk, and South African Elon Musk rose from the ashes of Italian Elon Musk. 

Someone even came up with whatever the hell this version of Elon Musk is. 

While Twitter users argued over whether or not the Elon Musk parodies were actually good, everyone could agree that the fake accounts were still more bearable than seeing actual Elon Musk tweets. 

The Musk parodies, funny or not, played off national stereotypes. People worried that the accounts would take it too far and start being actively racist for the sake of making fun of Elon Musk. 

Two accounts, @ElonMuskButGay and @ElonMuskButStr8, ended up tweeting cringey, offensive Musk parodies. At that point, accounts weren’t even trying to be funny — the creators were just tweeting for the sake of hopping on the bandwagon. 

@locallefties dropped the French Elón Musque bit because “the joke got old and wasn’t fun anymore.” They’ve been using their account, which now has over 52,000 followers, to promote work by LGBTQ artists and spread awareness of progressive causes. 

“We want to actually use our popularity to foster change rather than make harmless fun of some tech billionaire lol,” they tweeted on Thursday. 

Arbuckle says he was on a remote island vacation with his family when the parodies started popping up. “I turned my phone on to see what was going on in the world and quickly turned it off and went diving for mussels. I did laugh at South African Elon Musk, though,” he wrote. 

While parody Elon Musk accounts have died down in the past week, the real Elon Musk is still tweeting ridiculousness. On Wednesday, he put out a call for video game developers because he wants to add “super fun games” to Tesla’s center touch screen. It would be something like Pokémon Go, but “more of an adults in cars anime vibe.” 

Sounds dangerous but OK. 

At this point, it’s nearly impossible to parody Elon Musk because he keeps churning out wild tweets that will probably one-up any fake Musk account. But we can remember that for one glorious week in July, Twitter was overrun by Elon Musks. 

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