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Gender + Sexuality

Who Speaks Truth to Elon Musk? The Grandma of His New Kid

Mom to Grimes is Sandy Garossino, the feisty Vancouver-based writer. She’s already schooling Elon.

Steve Burgess 20 May

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

Comedians used to love mother-in-law jokes. Thankfully those one-time comedic staples have been for the most part retired. They were always unfair. Why are there no son-in-law jokes?

That might be a good question for Sandy Garossino. These days the local journalist, lawyer, politician and community activist has son-in-law issues — like Tokyo had rampaging lizard issues.

Her son-in-law, at least unofficially, is Elon Musk. Garossino's daughter is Claire Boucher, a.k.a. Grimes, the musical superstar whose inventive work has expanded the boundaries of pop music and more recently baby naming. Grimes was raised in Vancouver before relocating to Montreal, attending McGill, and starting her critically-acclaimed and highly successful musical career. Grimes and Musk became a couple after apparently bonding over a shared online joke a couple of years ago.

Garossino has had a multifaceted Vancouver career. She is an award-winning writer and regular contributor to the National Observer. As a former Crown prosecutor, her analysis of prominent legal cases such as the Jian Ghomeshi trial have been must-read material. She has also challenged the case surrounding Omar Khadr, and more recently has held Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's feet to the fire for his political antics. Garossino is a former independent candidate for city council who, among other causes, fought to prevent casino expansion in the Lower Mainland.

Elon Musk is many things. The mastermind behind PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Boring Company has been by turns a tycoon, an innovator, an industrial pioneer, a subsidy farmer, an alleged Ayn Rand fan, a successful defendant, a bloviator extraordinaire, and once again a new father.

But as if proud grandmother Garossino didn't have enough on her plate monogramming little footy pyjamas with “X Æ A-12,” she has been forced to bite her tongue as Musk made a series of increasingly crackpot pronouncements about COVID-19. Musk got a head start on the stupid with a March tweet that “The coronavirus panic is dumb,” and a later prediction that the U.S. COVID-19 spread would amount to “zero new cases by the end of April.” More recently he called COVID-19 restrictions “fascist,” and threatened to move his Alameda Tesla plant out of California if he was not allowed to open it up.

Garossino largely kept her own counsel with the occasional subtweet, at one point tweeting that it was a good thing she had muted a certain name in her Twitter feed.

But it seems Sonny Boy finally pushed her too far. Musk recently tweeted a picture of a rose and the message: “Take the red pill.” The tweet was immediately answered by one from Ivanka Trump — “Taken!”— after which both tweets were answered by film director Lilly Wachowski, who tweeted: “Fuck both of you.”

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Sandy Garossino. When her unofficial son-in-law Elon Musk tweeted ‘Take the red pill,’ shortly after fathering her grandson, she let fly a tweet implying Musk exhibited emotional intelligence barely worthy of a 16-year-old boy.

There's a lot to sort out there. “Take the red pill” originates with the movie The Matrix, co-directed by Lilly and Lana Wachowski, transgender filmmakers who released the movie in 1999 as the Wachowski Brothers. In recent years the “red pill” metaphor — essentially a call to wake up to reality, to see though societal norms and narratives that blind you — has been adopted by elements of the extreme right (a development the Wachowskis are clearly unhappy with). The “red pill” symbol has been used by white supremacists but its most prominent adoption has been by a community of men's rights activists who peddle a misogynist ideology of the sort also associated with the “incel” movement.

It's hard to know exactly what Musk was getting at with his “red pill” tweet. However intended, it placed him cheek by jowl with the likes of InfoWars and the sort of racist, anti-Semitic trolls who populate QAnon message boards and worship an idealized version of Trump as a global warrior who will destroy all the globalist cucks. It also associated Musk with a barge-load of toxic misogyny. And it provided the world with yet another affirmation that being smart about some things doesn't make you smart about everything.

Garossino finally lost her patience. In a since-deleted tweet she wrote: “If your partner went through a challenging pregnancy and childbirth in the last two weeks, and you were over 16 years old, would you be blaring MRA bulls*** on Twitter right now?” (Garossino, who declined to comment for this article, traveled to Los Angeles to be there when the baby was born.)

She also retweeted a message from the Pivot podcast, criticizing Musk's decision to reopen the Alameda plant.

It is hard to know quite what to make of Musk. There was a time, increasingly obscured by subsequent events, when the Tesla entrepreneur was seen as a futuristic hero on both sides of the political spectrum. In fact The Matrix may not be the most apt cinematic sci-fi metaphor for Musk — his public character arc has been more along the lines of Anakin Skywalker.

Perhaps it is understandable that a sui generis innovator like him would develop a Randian self-image as a libertarian superhero (overlooking the inconvenient fact that his various industries have received almost $5 billion in government support). Yet it has to be disturbing that someone whose enterprises rely so heavily on science has opted to dabble in so much right-wing lunacy. Presumably NASA will not accept “Take the red pill” as a legitimate user's manual.

In a later (now deleted) tweet, Garossino insisted that she does not dislike Musk, believes he has a lot to give and simply ought to do better. She's just, you know, disappointed. Say this for COVID-19, it is probably preventing some very awkward family barbecues about now.  [Tyee]

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