An impulsive, thin skinned business leader repeatedly goes onto Twitter to rant about journalists and critics and levels increasingly dangerous, unfounded claims about people he doesn’t like.
That the president of the most powerful nation on Earth fits this description is mighty scary. Sadly, though, I’m not referring to Donald Trump but rather Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Space X and one of the country’s most ambitious entrepreneurs and brightest minds.
Musk has responded to mounting problems at Tesla with increasingly unwise, erratic behavior, including insulting analysts and accusing journalists of paying off sources and leaking information to short sellers.
You might think a CEO fighting with Wall Street and the media is pretty par for the course. But then on Sunday, Musk called a British diver who helped rescue the Thai school children stuck in the cave a “pedo guy.”
That’s shorthand for pedophile, or adults who like to have sex with children.
“Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true,” Musk tweeted, without offering any evidence.
Perhaps no one wants to even think about this but Musk might suffer from some kind of mental illness, whether narcissism, borderline personality disorder, or even psychopathy.
I’m admittedly not a mental health professional. And even mental health pros have pledged not to diagnose someone without examining the person first.
But Trump has forced some in the mental health community to rethink that pledge. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Trump exhibits some severe cognitive impairment, mainly the inability to control emotions, especially anger, and frequent self-destructive, impulsive behavior.
Sadly, Musk seems an awful lot like Trump now. Both men are powerful people who benefit from cynical institutions that would rather enable their bosses for political or financial gain than confront a serious health problem.
Mental illness is a societal taboo that no one wants to discuss– unless a celebrity, whether Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, kill themselves. We can barely confront mental illness in our families, never mind the workplace.
As a result, we often severely misunderstand these diseases. We think that mentally ill people see stuff and hear voices that don’t exist and should be strapped to a gurney and heavily medicated.
Or we equate mental illness with some kind of character flaw. I suppose it’s a fine line between being mentally ill and just a plain asshole.
In reality, people who suffer from a mental disorder can be high function, highly capable human beings. And in Musk’s case, extremely intelligent and successful. You can be a genius and mentally ill at the same time.
Society prefers to sweep mental illness into piles of dust in dark corners. But we can’t wish away Trump or Musk, given their influence on this country.