Fact Check

Did Elon Musk Say 'Wokeness Gives People a Shield to be Mean and Cruel, Armored in False Virtue'?

There's no shortage of fabricated quotes on the internet that purportedly came from noteworthy figures.

Published Apr 12, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 13: Elon Musk attends TIME Person of the Year on December 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIME) (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIME)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 13: Elon Musk attends TIME Person of the Year on December 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIME)
Claim:
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said of "wokeness" that it "gives people a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue."

On April 8, 2022, a Twitter user tweeted a quote that purportedly came from Tesla CEO Elon Musk: "Wokeness gives people a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue." While we've seen no shortage of questionable quotes passed around online for more than two decades, including a few about Musk, this one was genuine.

Merriam-Webster defines "woke" as "aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)."

Musk's quote about "wokeness" has also appeared in memes on Facebook:

Musk spoke the words that appeared in the "wokeness" quote memes during a video interview with The Babylon Bee, a website that describes its output as "satire." The interview was published on Dec. 21, 2021.

The relevant portion of the interview was reposted to Reddit:

Here's the full question and answer:

Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon: The problem of "wokeness," specifically, you mentioned that's like a "mind virus" and it's destructive. Why do you think "wokeness" is so destructive?

Musk: I'm interested in your opinions too, but, you know, like, I mean generally, I think we should be aiming for, like, a positive society and, you know, that it should be ok to, you know, be humorous, like, you know, like we should, we should like, like "wokeness" basically wants to make comedy illegal, which is not cool.

Dillon: We've experienced a little bit of that.

Musk: I mean, like [Dave] Chappelle, what the (censored)? I mean, trying to shut down Chappelle? Come on man. That's crazy. So, you know, so do we want a humorless society that is simply rife with condemnation and hate, basically.

Dillon: And no forgiveness, right? Hmm.

Musk: Yeah. At its heart, "wokeness" is divisive, exclusionary, and hateful. It basically gives mean people a reason, it gives them a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue.

Musk's reference to comedian Chappelle was about the times Chapelle had been criticized for making jokes in his Netflix specials about people who identify as transgender.

In sum, yes, Musk said about "wokeness" that it "gives people a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue."

Source:

The Babylon Bee. FULL INTERVIEW: Elon Musk Sits Down With The Babylon Bee. 2021. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvGnw1sHh9M.

Jordan Liles is a Snopes reporter with expertise in investigating misinformation, inauthentic social media activity, and scams.

Become
a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.

Perks

Ad-Free Browsing on Snopes.com
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime
default