Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, billionaires with a fist: “They play at being Schwarzenegger with thousands of jobs at risk” | News | icon



Only a fine line separates the most publicized cockfight of the moment from charlatanism and reality. These are those crazy messages exchanged between Elon Musk (52 years old) and Mark Zuckerberg (39) in which they challenge each other —although their weight difference is not very mandatory— to face each other inside a cage, a common format in combat of arts mixed martial. The reason for beef: the new Twitter that the latter intends to launch to compete with the increasingly decadent and dysfunctional social network that the former bought for 44,000 million dollars (about 40,300 million euros). Musk has already proposed a place, the Octagon in Las Vegas, an enclave associated with this type of event, and even suggested his friend El podcaster Joe Rogan, apparently, expert in the matter. Too much planning for a prank?

This renewed concept Celebrity Death Match [programa de MTV que enfrentaba cómica y exageradamente a famosos en versión plastilina sobre un ring] it is not so alien, since martial arts and boxing have long been activities that they resort to streamers and youtubers to increase your visits. This same weekend, Ibai Llanos once again broke the record for views on Twitch with The Evening of Year 3a hybrid of fights between celebrities or near-celebrities and a music festival that brought together 3.4 million viewers, a dream figure for most of the television prime time slots.

If this fight between billionaires may sound absurd and childish, the fact that Maye Musk, Elon’s mother, has asked the podcaster and artificial intelligence researcher Lex Fridman interceding to avoid the fight, as if social networks were the schoolyard, has done nothing more than underline the absurdity of this possible battle that is increasingly similar to a teenage fight than to a supposed one. conflict resolution between two influential and powerful rich.

It is from this sphere of influence precisely where, beyond the absurd, Musk and Zuckerberg intend to enroll in the culture of the macho, which since 2018 has been fed by internet personalities such as YouTube stars KSI and Logan Paul, who have faced each other in combat on several occasions. “The machosphere it is seen as ridiculous and therefore harmless. But it is not harmless: it is an interconnected spectrum of different but related groups ”, warns Laura Bates in Men who hate women. Incels, seduction artists and other misogynistic subcultures online (Captain Swing). Kika Fumero, director of the Canarian Institute for Equality and Human Rights Activist, believes that the future fight and, as a whole, all this incipient subgenre, is a response to the perceived threat from traditional masculinity for gender equality and the advance of feminism.

Mark Zuckerberg, at the moment, seems in better shape than Elon Musk.
Mark Zuckerberg, at the moment, seems in better shape than Elon Musk.

“These demonstrations represent a form of resistance to changing expectations about gender roles,” she tells ICON. “In feminism, the concept of toxic masculinity is handled, which refers to social norms that promote aggression, lack of emotion and domination in men. This resurgence of displays of force and violence could be seen as a way to resist changes that challenge these structural norms of power.”

Erick Pescador Albiach, sociologist, sexologist and specialist in the Development of the Culture of Care, agrees that this possible battle is a continuation of the machosphere previously reduced to non-technological public spaces, longing for a supposedly lost masculinity. “Using violence as a mechanism of interaction is part of a tactic of the machosphere to make something dead become part of the present again. This movement trumpian it has a lot to do with the rancid and the longing for the old”, he tells ICON. “They live between arrogance and ego, so violence is cheaper for them.”

violence and masculinity

How could a business dispute have escalated into a physical fight? Is it a coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg now practices Jiu Jitsu and that Jeff Bezos has spent years building both muscle and fortune? Do they both intend to convert the figure of the nerds into new superheroes with strength, and not intelligence, as a superpower? “The very learning of masculinity is violent, because it teaches us that the world is divided into men and women. We are taught through misogynistic stereotypes that women’s place is opposite to that of men, who aspire to appear strong, rational and sensitive. It is learned by beatings and it is configured by learning to exert violence on other men and, of course, on women, to distance ourselves from the emotional space”, Iván Gombel, historian and doctor in Gender Studies, explains to ICON.

“The threat of violence is a way of highlighting virility. The more virility, they believe, the greater the power to exercise violence. A problematic discourse emerges, which is the threat of lack of control. When we talk about violence from the point of view of masculinity, there is the metaphor of the volcano: men have to learn to control their emotions and their strength so as not to harm others. Therefore, it promotes the idea that you have to be afraid of that violence that can be unleashed at any moment”, believes the academic. It is when the ideal of masculinity is linked to youth when, according to Gondel, elderly characters or politicians trigger overcompensations: the language of masculinity mutates with age.

“The association between physical strength and economic success is a manifestation of the culture of hypermasculinity, which glorifies strength, aggression and domination,” says Kika Fumero. “It is possible that we are witnessing a regression to these ideals. They are dangerous behaviors if we naturalize them, if we laugh at them and legitimize them, since they perpetuate the idea that leadership and success require aggression and dominance.

Faced with failure at work… Hit the table?

Among the plans to restructure Meta, Zuckerberg has announced a new batch of layoffs that affects 10,000 jobs until the end of the year, with more than 5,000 unfilled vacancies, and the cancellation of an unknown number of “non-priority” projects. Musk, on the other hand, claims that Twitter now costs less than half of what he paid for its property. While his business empires are cracking (although not his personal fortunes, as they occupy the top two places on the list of the world’s 500 billionaires according to Bloomberg, Musk ahead of Zuckerberg), the longing for the image of triumph arises through the physical domain. “They are playing at being Schwarzenegger”, describes Erick Pescador Albiach. “By doing these stupid things, when there are thousands of jobs in danger due to the decisions they make, they look for their inner hero in a ring, the one we supposedly have and the one we have to go to when everything reaches its limit. They are epic fights out of time, that no longer strain. You have to understand that it is a studied publicity matter to which they go in pursuit of the essence of business masculinity, so much of the Wall Street of the two thousand, that links the power of men with money and violence”.

The moment of alpha influencers

In an article in The New Statesman, Sarah Manavis warns of the emergence of assumptions alpha influencer, with accused trafficker Andrew Tate as the ringleader, a former wrestler from kick boxing that fosters an obsession with physical strength and male dominance while glorifying pain and struggle as supposedly manhood-building experiences. “There is always a warlike language in which individualism is highlighted, this idea of ​​the loneliness of the warrior,” reflects Iván Gombel. “There is a masculine narrative of pain as a validation space. The idea that when men suffer, their suffering is more important than any other. These alpha influencers they reinforce these aspects, they promote the culture of bodily effort, of struggle and of confrontation with the world as a hostile place, in which you have to defend yourself and be in a perpetual war so that you don’t get stepped on. They are very military ways of understanding the world and the relationship with oneself, with one’s body and with one’s life”.

When so-called 'alpha masculinity' collides with the law: Andrew Tate, at the time of his arrest in late 2022 by the Romanian police.
When so-called ‘alpha masculinity’ collides with the law: Andrew Tate, at the time of his arrest in late 2022 by the Romanian police.PA

Kika Fumero links the rise of the extreme right to this negative impact on the perception and social expectations of masculinity. “The extreme right promotes a vision of masculinity linked to traditional ideals of dominance, aggression and power. She has already shown her resistance to the social changes that feminism and LGTBIQ+ rights movements are promoting, which seek to challenge and dismantle these harmful and destructive gender norms. But promoting a culture of violence and power perpetuates gender inequality, and undermines the mental and emotional health of men, not just women.”

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