Elon Musk is someone I greatly admire and respect. I mean, he has been super awesome to me on Twitter--even calling my jewelry a "great product" once. Maybe that's a stretch but he did use that term when replying to me about Boring Bricks, so I'd like to assume that he was referring to my jewelry as "great products," however, that's not what this post is about.
Since I have a few emeralds laying around the house and emerald have been showing up in my Twitter feed (in the form of insults, not jewelry), I thought it would be best if I joined in on debunking the myth of the "big, bad billionaire who has an emerald mine."
Yeah, Boring Bricks 🧱 are def coming, but whole team is focused on getting Vegas Convention Center tunnel operational so people can try it out, suggest improvements, etc. I ♥️ crowdsourcing ideas with people who really care about making great products!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 29, 2019
The idea that Elon Musk gets his wealth from emeralds and diamonds is pretty popular despite the fact that Elon has debunked this publicly on more than one occasion. However, myths often have some type of element of truth to them and they do come from somewhere so let's explore.
Where This Myth Came From
The myth about Elon Musk and emeralds comes from this article by Business Insider South Africa. According to that article, Elon's family used to own an emerald mine in Zambia. This article has led many critics to suspect that Elon cashed in on diamonds as well as apartheid. So where did BI get this story from?
Elon's father, Errol Musk, is that source. BI interviewed Errol who claimed that he became a half-owner of an emerald mine after linking up with a group of Italians who were in the market for an airplane. Errol had the plane and cut a deal--a large amount of cash and an opportunity to buy half of an emerald mine with half of the money he was just paid for the plane.
Half-not even a whole mine. Errol also claimed that Elon "took his hand at dealing in the gems" and linked to yet another article. In the second article, Errol claimed that when Elon was a teen, he sold his dad's emeralds to Tiffany & Co while Errol was sleeping. The article also talked about the family's 'considerable wealth' and noted that the stones came from Errol's emerald mine. This story also originates from Elon's father.
Despite that 'considerable wealth,' Maye Musk, Elon's mother, and her children were considerably poor. She shared her story in her book, A Woman Makes A Plan, and how she survived being abused by Errol and the aftermath of divorce while raising three brilliant children.
What The Articles Don't Mention
What the articles, especially the second one, do not mention is the fact that Elon's mother divorced Errol because he was abusing her.
Errol was abusing Maye physically and mentally. In an interview with Page Six, Maye said, “When my husband was actually going to beat me up at a social event, my friends took me to my mom’s home, and she didn’t know that I was getting beaten up.” She also added, “I didn’t share it with her. I didn’t share it with my friends until they saw it publicly, and after that he wasn’t allowed to beat me.”
Maye also gave an interview in Harper's Bazaar where she recounted some of the things Errol told her:
“He told me over and over that I was stupid, ugly, boring. He was very rich, but he made sure I had nothing. Once the kids were living with me, they visited their father some weekends. He would throw out everything they arrived with, so I had to buy them all new clothes and school things. Then he’d sue me and say that I was unfit to parent. He saw a blister on Tosca’s mouth and said I was malnourishing her. He saw a bruise on Kimbal’s arm— imagine, an active little boy with a bruise!—and said I was beating him.”
Separating Myth From Truth
2/2— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2021
My father & his extended family have been dependent on financial support from my brother & me for over 20 years.
This article is actually accurate: https://t.co/eVpCX9V1NB
Jeremy Arnold actually interviewed Elon recently in his Saving Journalism piece and he explains what actually happened and where this myth comes from. The truth is that Elon's father owned the emerald mine--not Elon.
The narrative around this says that Elon used his wealth from the profits that his father earned from the emerald mine, which according to the narrative, is connected to apartheid. Again, that's the narrative. Another part of the narrative I've seen on Twitter also mentions diamonds--some accused him of owning diamond mines and when you correct them, you get called a simp and bootlicker.
Jeremy explained how this narrative came to be. Errol had a story that was most likely unable to be corroborated. The stake in the Zambian emerald deposit, which had nothing to do with apartheid, Jeremy noted, may have generated enough money to buy one or two Tesla Roadsters today.
But the flow of emeralds from that mine had already ended by the time Elon left South Africa at 17 with only $2,000. It should be noted that in her book, A Woman Makes A Plan, Maye Musk mentioned that it was she who gave Elon the $2,000.
Jeremy also pointed out that although both articles talk about the mine and claimed that Elon's family owned it, there was no proof--not even of past ownership or partnership. And Elon had been estranged from his father for decades.
Elon Musk Did Not Support Apartheid
Another take away from Jeremy's pieces was that both Elon and Kimbal left South Africa for a few reasons. One was to avoid the mandatory service in the apartheid-affirming South African army. Jeremy noted that they abhorred the idea of their contributions being used on the wrong side of a civil war.
One more thing Jeremy pointed out in his piece was this:
"So while it’s generally true that all white people in South Africa benefited from apartheid in some ambient sense, if we’re going to talk about the Musk family’s relationship with South African politics specifically, we ought to ground that discussion in an admission that the family took meaningful risks to explicitly oppose a power structure they disagreed with. And in the case of Errol’s sons, they both voted with their feet and left their homeland at first opportunity, little security in hand."
My Final Thoughts.
This is just an example of the damage the media (as a whole not each and every reporter/writer) can have on someone, ideology or even a company. These two article make waves on Twitter and fuel the fires of the Twitter trolls who feel as if they have a moral victory over Elon Musk.
These types of damaging articles hurt people on all sides and they do nothing for those who are truly the victims--people working in the mines for low wages or even as slave labor. These articles inspire the hatred of Elon Musk because they paint him as a cold, uncaring rich guy who eats emeralds for breakfast.
Whenever you see a story like this, ask yourself "why?" What's the purpose? And why do you react the way you do? Your reaction is most likely the goal of the writer of such a story.
Also ask yourself, "Why does this author want me to believe that this person is so bad?" And when you see multiple articles about the topic, don't just rush to believe them. Instead, do your own research.