In an action movie, they would be fighting each other.
They would be the good guy and the villain, the yin and yang.
The real question is, who is who. For their supporters, the other one is the problem. Elon Musk and Dr. Anthony Fauci are, in a way, the two faces of the reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States.
Musk has never made a secret of his opposition to the restrictions put in place at the federal and state levels to limit the spread of the virus. He was particularly critical of lockdowns, which he said were taking away basic freedoms.
He had made clear his disdain for the Covid-19 mandates. The Techno King, as he’s known at Tesla, has not hesitated to tweet about his often contentious viewpoints. Some of his tweets against mandates for protecting people from the disease were proven false, like stating that the virus does not affect children.
“Kids are essentially immune, but elderly with existing conditions are vulnerable. Family gatherings with close contact between kids & grandparents probably most risky,” he wrote in March 2020, when the pandemic was just starting in the United States.
Musk, Champion of anti-Covid Mandates
“Based on current trends, probably close to zero new cases in US too by end of April,” the billionaire also wrote the same day. “With or without closures, social distancing, widespread testing, travel restrictions, and people carrying masks, my liege?”
Many tweets about the pandemic were not well received, such as when, in March 2020, he said that the Covid-19 “panic is dumb.”
On April 30, 2020, Musk launched a scathing criticism of anti-Covid-19 measures, during Tesla’s first-quarter-earnings call.
“I should say we are a bit worried about not being able to resume production in the Bay Area, and that should be identified as a serious risk,” Musk began.
“We only have two car factories right now, one in Shanghai and one in the Bay Area, and the Bay Area produces the vast majority of our cars, all of S and X, and most of the 3 and all of the Y.”
“So, the extension of the shelter-in-place or, frankly, I would call it, forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all their constitutional alliance, that’s my opinion, and breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country.”
On May 11, 2020, a defiant Musk said in a tweet that “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules, I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
This fierce opposition to the government efforts has made Musk the anti-covid champion. Opposite to him, Dr. Anthony Fauci has become the respectable face for the people worried about this disease and its deadly consequences.
Fauci was an adviser to former President Donald Trump and later to Joe Biden on Covid-19. He will retire from government service this month. He will leave his position as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), a position he has held since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
In 2020, Fauci, already famous in the world of infectious diseases and the fight against AIDS, but still little known to the general public, was thrust into the limelight by joining the White House Coronavirus Task Force. His simple, tirelessly repeated messages made him the reassuring figure that America needed at the time.
But he gradually became the favorite target of conservatives and the anti-vaccine movement, due to the intense politicization of the health crisis in America.
There was no doubt that Musk and Fauci were going to face each other eventually, as the billionaire, who loves provocation, would find a way to orchestrate a clash between them. He just did it in the form of what appears to be a joke at Fauci’s expense. The bad joke or dark humor mixes Fauci with wokeism, one of Musk’s great enemies.
“My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Musk posted on December 11.
His use of the word “pronouns” points to the gender identity debate. In this context, wokeism wants people to stop assuming that gender is binary and to accept that everyone has the right to decide how they want to be referred to: he/his/him, she/hers/her or they/theirs/them. Interestingly, Musk also used the word “prosecute” in his joke, suggesting that the billionaire wants to hold Fauci responsible for the Covid-19 mandates.
The billionaire clarified a little later, in response to an exchange between two Twitter users, that his initial message was meant seriously.
“Elon Musk wants to criminalize Anthony Fauci because he disagrees with him,” U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY.) commented on Musk’s first message. “Elon is no champion of free speech.”
“Pretty sure @elonmusk wants to ‘criminalize’ Fauci because Fauci lied under oath, engaged in gain of function research in a Chinese lab, jeopardized the entire planet, and arguably contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. But nice strawman, @RitchieTorres,” conservative content creator Viva Frei tweeted at Congressman Torres, without providing any evidence.
That’s when Musk stepped in to say he was all for Viva Frei.
“Correct,” the tech mogul opined.
Viva Frei’s accusations, shared by Musk, are based on the debate about the origin of the coronavirus. They are linked to the theory that the virus was leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first cases were detected in 2019.
A report released in 2021 by Republican lawmakers had concluded that there was “ample evidence” that this lab was modifying coronaviruses to study the infection on humans. Dr. Fauci had rejected these conclusions.
The problem is that the laboratory in question collaborated with the organization EcoHealth Alliance based in the United States. EcoHealth received $3.7 million from the NIH, of which $600,000 went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Musk’s tweet had already been liked by more than 834,000 users at the time of writing. Comments were divided. Many Twitter users were digging out Musk’s tweets, full of Covid-19 misinformation, to remind him that it was Fauci who was correct about the disease.
“This you?” commented one Twitter user.
“Still of this advice?” added another user.
Other Twitter users like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) were backing Musk’s request.
“I affirm your pronouns Elon,” the Congresswoman, an icon of the alt-right, tweeted.
Musk’s demand comes at a time when health authorities are again reporting a resurgence of the virus. There is, however, a kind of Covid fatigue as Fauci himself recognizes.
“We’re doing much, much lower from a percentage point that we shouldn’t be doing you know, in some respects, that may be understandable, because people want to be done with Covid,” Fauci told Fox 5 New York on December 10.
The nation’s top infectious-disease expert added: “We’ve all been exhausted over the last three years. But there still is a lot to do to protect yourself and your family and, ultimately, your community.”