There have been very few gifts bestowed to us in the dumpster fire that has been 2020: Nathan Apodaca drinking cranberry juice on a skateboard while lip syncing Fleetwood Mac; Ben Shapiro completely botching the meaning of WAP; Harry Styles looking effortless in a Gucci dress on the cover of Vogue. And now, in the name of science and reality and common sense — all things in short supply this year — the internet has gifted us with “Space Karen,” or as you may commonly know him, Elon Musk.
In order to explain how Space Karen became Twitter's Monday obsession, let's start with how the CEO of SpaceX earned this title. Musk, who fancies himself the real-life Tony Stark, tweeted his, shall we say, disdain for his recent COVID-19 test results. “Something extremely bogus is going on,” Musk’s tweet begins. “Was tested for COVID four times today. Two tests came back negative, two tests came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse. Rapid antigen test from BD.”
In response, Dr. Emma Bell, an academic who has a Ph.D. and specializes in bioinformatics, gave Musk a moniker that best represents his place within the scientific community. “Rapid antigen tests trade sensitivity for speed,” Bell tweeted. “They return a result in <30 minutes, but can only detect COVID-19 when you’re absolutely riddled with it. What’s bogus is that Space Karen didn’t read up on the test before complaining to his millions of followers.”
Naturally, Space Karen became pretty popular on the internet, with a few people even creating imagery for Musk's newly-discovered alter-ego.
I will never not laugh at Space Karen https://t.co/InvR5sTRMy pic.twitter.com/92vQfIyzHi— dan hett (@danhett) November 16, 2020
And to no one’s surprise, Musk’s Space Karen moment isn’t his first swing and a miss when discussing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Musk tweeted, “Based on current trends, probably close to zero new cases in US too by end of April.” There have been over 135,000 new cases reported on Nov. 15 alone. Musk also actively refused to shut down his business operations, galvanizing his 40 million Twitter followers to also defy lockdown measures,
It's also hardly the first time Musk has positioned himself as an authoritative figure on matters he clearly knows nothing about, pandemic or otherwise. In 2018, Musk volunteered to aid in the rescue operation of 12 boys and their soccer coach, who were trapped in a cave in Northern Thailand. The tech billionaire “dreamed up” a “kid sized” submarine, The New York Times reported, that was ultimately rejected by the head of the search operation as a “PR stunt.”
Musk also promised to fix Puerto Rico’s power grid after Hurricane Maria, but this was just a chance for the engineer to tinker and theorize and test rather than create a meaningful dedication to help stabilize a region that has been ravaged by mother nature and government incompetence. In Jan. 2020, residents are still urged to conserve energy due to the prevailing issues with the island’s overall infrastructure, and Musk has not helped in any capacity.
Like most overtly wealthy and ultimately bored white men, Musk wants all of the accolades that come with being a certifiable genius without the hard work of, I don’t know, actually researching what it is you’re talking about before you write a tweet and press send. And it's particularly dangerous with respect to the COVID-19 outbreak, as Musk's base of loyal followers revere him as some sort of genius whose influence transcends even doctors. In reality, he is just a powerful man who spews nonsense without fact checking (sound familiar?)
And much like the department store Karen, who doesn’t know store policy and insists to speak to a manager, or the COVID grocery store Karen, who refuses to wear a mask in Trader Joes, Musk, who now very likely has COVID-19, seems perfectly happy to just continue to sow confusion and discord.