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Elon Musk royally trolled over Pride Month ‘rainbow capitalism’ meme

Danai Nesta Kupemba June 1, 2022
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Elon Musk has put in a bid to buy Twitter for $44 billion. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP via Getty)

Elon Musk has once again exercised his free speech to mock tech brands, including Twitter, for changing their logos to mark Pride Month.

The world’s richest person posted a meme to Twitter of an approaching storm swirling with brand logos in rainbow colours, with the words “June is almost here” on the eve of Pride Month.

The logos included those of Facebook, Google, Spotify and even Twitter, the company Musk is attempting to buy for $44 billion.

While some framed Musk’s tweet as a critique of “rainbow capitalism”, others pointed out that Musk’s company Tesla had made a similar move when it tweeted a picture of a rainbow car for Pride Month in 2018.

Previously Musk has positioned himself as an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

After Tesla’s Pride car was criticised by trolls in 2018, he defended it, saying: “Don’t buy our car if that’s a problem. People should be free to live their lives where their heart takes them ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🖤💖🌈.”

Around the same time, Musk also boasted about the company’s perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index – a score that faces being undermined by a lawsuit alleging ‘festering’ racism and homophobia in its California factory.

His tone has shifted somewhat in the years since. In 2020, Musk came under fire for mocking pronouns on Twitter.

He was criticised over a tweet which contained a meme of a British Redcoat smearing blood on his face and read: “When you put he/him in [yo]ur bio”.

The Human Rights Campaign called on Elon Musk to apologise. However, Musk simply doubled down and tweeted: “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an [a]esthetic nightmare.”

LGBTQ+ groups have also expressed concerns around Musk’s plan to buy Twitter after he said he would prioritise “free speech”.

In a statement following news of his takeover bid, GLAAD president Sarah Ellis said: “LGBTQ people are at disproportionate risk for harassment online and violence in real life,” she added. “The cost of hate speech further erodes basic safety and civility across society.”

Rainbow capitalism

Though debate rages about Musk’s intentions, many agree his meme is not far off the mark. 

It has become standard practice for businesses to adopt the colours of the rainbow flag for Pride Month, which takes place in June each year.

And each year, it’s pointed out that many companies are merely pandering and attempting to profit from Pride Month, a sad phenomenon known as rainbow capitalism.

Psychologist and author Joshua Coleman told USA Today that while “on the one hand, it promotes acceptance in the sense that it’s normalising something that does need to continue to be normalised and accepted”, there is also “a kind of annoyance about the rank hypocrisy of some of these companies, which in the past might have actively discriminated against the LGBT community”.

Fortune magazine has noted that many companies who change their logos in Western countries do not extend this display of support to countries where LGBTQ+ rights are limited.

“Such contradictions do not go unnoticed on social media, drawing questions and even mockery of brands that couldn’t keep their messaging consistent across markets,” the article stated.

The outlet noted that car companies like BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have previously changed their logos for Pride Month but not for its regional brands in the Middle East or Asia.

Musk is still in talks to buy Twitter although the deal has stalled while he verifies how many false or spam accounts there are on the platform.

The Independent has suggested that this could be a ploy to reduce the takeover price as the value of Twitter has significantly decreased since talks of a deal started.

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