It’s a common misconception that words have meaning – specifically that “paedo guy,” for all intents and purposes, would refer to a man (guy) who harbours or acts on sexual attraction towards children (paedophile.) In this simple confusion of terms, you would be excusably but insurmountably wrong, argues Elon Musk in a recent court filing.
This bit of linguistic contortion is just the latest ridiculous twist in a long-running defamation suit which began when Musk suffered the public humiliation of building a non-viable and unasked-for miniature submarine to rescue a children’s football team that had become trapped in a cave in Thailand last summer. A British ex-pat diver, Vern Unsworth, both assisted in the actual extrication of the kids and assisted in publicly telling Musk to fuck himself for turning a difficult mission into a PR stunt; Musk, using the same poor Twitter judgement that cost him millions in US Securities and Exchange Commission fines, called Unsworth a “paedo guy.” The rest is history. Well, history and an ongoing defamation lawsuit.
In fairness to Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO is by far the single individual most closely associated with the phrase “paedo guy” at this point, lending him a certain expertise in the matter. As it relates to Unsworth’s lawsuit against him, Musk argued that “‘Paedo guy’ was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up [...] synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanour.” You know, the way people say “murderer” or “rapist” to mean “a rude person I find disagreeable.”
I have not personally been to South Africa or know much about its colloquialisms in the 1970s when a young Musk would have been reared there. What does seem quite apparent is that this appeal towards a softer definition of the easily-grasped term “paedophile” is contradicted by Musk’s other statements. Specifically, by emails with Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Mac, which Musk unilaterally claimed were “off the record,” where the CEO told the reporter that he should “stop defending child rapists.”
The filings also reveal Musk hired a private investigator to look into Unsworth’s background, which might be troubling in itself, although Musk’s remarks do not make clear what definition of “private investigator” he’s operating under. Seemingly not the one that means “a person who uncovers factual information about another person or group in exchange for money,” because Musk states the investigator he retained – a Mr Jared Birchall – had reported Unsworth moved to Thailand to wed a woman who was 12 years of age. At some later date, Musk appears to have learned Birchall’s findings were false.
So to summarise:
Elon Musk referred to a guy as a “paedo” (a creepy old man who does not have sex with children, according to Musk’s definition). At the very least, he later appeared to believe the man was a paedophile (someone is attracted to or has sex with children). He then found out the guy he accused of being a paedophile (ibid) in an email to a reporter was, instead, just a diver living in Thailand.
The lawyers certainly have their work cut out for them.
Featured image: Drew Angerer (Getty)