Elon Musk turned me into a meme

Elon Musk attends political festival Atreju in Rome, Italy, December 16, 2023. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Elon Musk attends political festival Atreju in Rome, Italy, December 16, 2023. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Climate justice activist Clover Hogan writes that X has become a “playground of misinformation” on climate change

Clover Hogan is a climate justice activist and founding director of Force of Nature, a youth non-profit.

Yesterday, I tweeted highlights from a recent panel explaining the dangers of ‘silver bullet’ tech solutions to address the climate crisis.

I used electric vehicles as an example: their popularity has led to an increase in demand for materials like cobalt and, as a result, widespread human rights abuses. I also said if we make cities less car-friendly, they could be both safer and greener: from parks and playgrounds to better cycling infrastructure.

I didn’t think about the post again until this morning … when I woke up to learn that Elon Musk had turned me into a meme:

My first reaction was to laugh. It’s pretty absurd to think about a 52-year-old billionaire having nothing better to do than turn my face into a subpar meme.

Then came the nausea as I started to scroll through the thousands of responses; every flavour of climate denial imaginable (with an undercurrent of misogyny, to boot).

It’s unsurprising, given the recent perspectives he’s shared: from tweeting that “What happens on Earth’s surface (eg farming) has no meaningful impact on climate change,” to saying at a right-wing political gathering organised by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party that "Climate change alarm is exaggerated in the short term.”

Beneath his ‘hot takes’ and meme culture is a disturbing reality: one of the world’s richest men has taken possession of a global social media platform, and turned it into his very own playground of misinformation, conspiracies and hate speech.

Many people working on climate have fled X, formerly known as Twitter, for this reason. Yet the challenge runs deeper than trolls on the internet. We have a media landscape that’s less concerned with reporting on the climate crisis than it is generating engagement by demonising activists.

Whether it’s Richard Madeley belittling activist Miranda Whelehan on Good Morning Britain (which became a parody of the movie “Don’t Look Up”), or media organisations popularising terms like “eco-terrorists” and “climate hysterics”.

Instead of attempting to refute climate science, these outlets find it easier to ridicule the people who are sounding the alarm. Elon Musk has just done the same: instead of addressing the facts I shared, he can simply brand me a “communist” and be done with it.

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The role of activists throughout history is to call out injustice and highlight abuses of power; to challenge incumbent systems, and those who benefit from them. Musk’s retaliation is evidence that our message is getting through. Yet we need support.

While many people wouldn’t agree with Musk, or the vitriol peddled by his followers, they’re not defending activists either – at least not loudly. 

I recently spoke to a room full of business leaders, relaying the latest stats on climate and our lack of progress, only to be booed and heckled. I made a quick exit: my face stoic until I could ugly-cry in the privacy of my hotel room. 

In the aftermath, I received messages of support from those in attendance. Yet all I remember from the event is looking into a sea of hostile faces and feeling utterly alone.

It would have made a world of difference if just one person had voiced their support - not behind the comfort of an email, but out loud. 

We need to defend those who are brave enough to disrupt the status quo. Whether that’s X users clapping back at Elon with memes of their own, or the person who uses their voice at work, among friends, or at the dinner table, to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of widespread action.

Many activists will tell you that this work is exhausting, and it often feels as if you’re alone. We need allies. So my question is, are you with us?

Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Context or the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


  • Disinformation and misinformation
  • Climate policy
  • Twitter
  • Climate and health
  • Communicating climate change
  • Social media
  • Climate solutions

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