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Elon Musk won't help solving world hunger. Beasley is to blame for it

Interesting diatribe on Twitter.

Many lessons learned for power dynamics, persuasion, frame control, and PR strategies.

It all started with Basley's tweet:

Power Move 1: Challenging (& Disempowering) Elon Musk

The original Tweet from the director of UN's World Food Programme:

Lots of power moves there:

  • Social exchange manipulation: "I’m offering you a once in a lifetime opportunity" reframes his asking for value, into him offering value

Why it fails: If Musk were to help now, he wouldn't even get any credit.
He was offered the opportunity on a silver platter

  • Power scalping: "I'm offering you", talks to Musk as if he had the power, which heavily disempowers Musk

Why it fails: If Musk helps now, he does so in a disempowered position. And who wants that?

  • Stopwatch power move: the offer ends "soon"
  • Defamation / guilt-tripping power move: "and lives do too" unless you take action soon, people will die (and if you don't take action, you're a terrible person)

Why it fails: This might work, in some limited cases.
But it works the same way that twisting someone's harm does. If one has the power to stop the arm-twisting, he's more likely to do that, rather than give in.

It also fails because if Musk helps now, he again gets no social credit because his help was (over)due.
And who wants to part with 6B and not even get some recognition and good vibes?

Power Move 2: Defaming & Disempowering

Beasley doubles down with a CNN interview.

This all video is a power move:

In my opinion, lots of "nasty power moves", ranging from:

  • Guilt-tripping: "you are letting these starving kids die"
  • Defaming: he harms the reputation of his targets
  • Burning stake power moves: he incites further hate and attacks on the target (which happened plenty)

But also:

  • Minimization power move: "it's not complicated", frames it as if it's all set up and ready to, all he needs is the money, and the problem is magically solved (but... Is it?)
  • Minimization power move 2: "all I'm asking is" and laughs and exhales as if to say "such a ridiculously low sum that it's laughable"
  • Savior self-frame power move: while he attacks billionaires, he also self-frames as the pure savior (typical of "burning stakes attacks", the attacker is always a purist / savior against the "bad ones")

And again, it's poor persuasion at work.

While that approach can get you attention, which is great, you must be careful with the effects it has on your intended targets.
Because, generally speaking, you don't want to seek donations by attacking the people you're asking money from.

Just some examples of the power moves:

Beasley: and this is what's heartbreaking, I'm not asking them to do this every day

Frames the "billionaires" as monsters who break his heart by refusing a one-off, small thing.

And more:

Beasley:  What if it was your daughter starving to death? What if it was your family starving to death? Just, wake up, smell the coffee and help

On an already bellicose message, he ends on an even higher high.

And delivers his last barb from a high-horse, high-power position.

Most people with a spine don't like being told "wake up and smell the coffee".
And especially so high-power people, who are most likely over-represented in the billionaire population.

That makes his message un-calibrated, and un-persuasive.

Good to get clicks, but not money (at least, not from the billionaires).

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Elon Musk Picks Up the Gauntlet, Challenges Back

Musk on Twitter:

Musk: If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.

Musk puts the power back into his corner.

He's got the money and Beasley is the one who needs him.
So Musk can demand anything he wants.
Beasley is not forced to give, but Musk can dictate where the negotiation starts, if it starts at all. And that's what he's done here.

Some power moves:

  • "I'm the prize power move"

Musk's offer puts Beasley back in the low-power, chaser position.

Beasley should now explain himself to seek Musk's money -as it should be-.

  • "Dance money dance" power move

Beasley should prove himself on Musks' conditions, -on a public Twitter thread-.

That's very disempowering for Beasley since he has to follow Musk's orders, open his books, and convince him.

I bet that the CEO of a highly bureaucratic NGO doesn't exactly like that.

  • "raising the stakes" power move: Musk raises the stake by 10x-ing his possible contribution
  • "defaming back: Musk attacks Beasley's authority, and the usefulness of his whole mission and work

His tweet sub-communicates:

Musk sub-communication: I'm so skeptical of these guys, and I'm so confident he can't do it, that I'm going to put ALL my Tesla stake on the line

Beasley's Risk: "Chasing A Non-Existing Treat"

Musk's new frame puts Beasley in a difficult spot.

Musk's new frame is that he will give the money IF Beasley can convince him.

But because the final decision is on Musk's part, all the power is on Musk's side.

Musk could string Beasley along and STILL play the part of "wanting to help IF you can prove the money will help".


Simple, Musk could ask 1.000 probing questions and play "not good enough", thwarting Beasley's effort ad-infinitum.

Musk's Offer Was a Power Move, Not an Offer

Musk's reply puts the power back in his place.

And then some more.

PLUS, Musk's "raisin stakes power move" raised the stakes to a level where it's unlikely he'd ever want to follow through.

That makes his reply not a serious negotiation starting point, but a power move.

Given how he was attacked, it's fair for Musk to answer with a power move (but not smart from a PR / strategic point of view, see next post).

Beasley called the power move on himself.


Beasley Lost His Chance

Beasley now had Musk's attention.

He had his foot in the door.
And that's exactly where this "ruckus-creating" strategy can help.

If Beasley really only cared about solving world hunger, he could have taken a BIG step back, re-empowered Musk, and turned it into a meeting opportunity.

He did SOME of that in his next tweet, but not nearly enough to make Musk whole:

Basley: With your help we can bring hope, build stability and change the future. Let’s talk: It isn’t as complicated as Falcon Heavy, but too much at stake to not at least have a conversation. I can be on the next flight to you. Throw me out if you don’t like what you hear!

Musk stuck to his guns of wanting "public accountability", and that was the end of it.

The Starving People Lost

If Beasley could truly make a positive impact, THAT what was lost here.

The people in need lost, because of power moves and poor persuasion strategies.

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Lessons Learned

What could have been done better:

  • WFP Chief, don't disempower people

And don't back them into a corner where they want to fight you back.

  • Elon Musk, don't thread expand on negative threads

Even after his re-empowering reply, that conversation's frame was still:

Will Musk help starving children?

Given Musk is already helping the world, he cannot stay in that frame and entertain that question.

  • Elon Musk, soar higher, don't stoop to turkey level

Elon Musk retweeted news of UN officials who asked for oral sex in exchange for food:

It was his way of hitting back at Beasley, which is understandable.

But that was low and uneeded.
The replies under that tweet also tell us it was also very bad PR -and for good reasons-.

  • Elon Musk, set your own frame:

Set a totally new frame.

For example:

"Musk is busy helping humanity survive by reducing emissions and colonizing other planets. He invest all his money into those two missions because he believes they have the biggest impact to save and help people"

And can even attack back with that new frame:

From what I've heard, those UN bodies aren't very efficient.
So here's Musk hoping that Beasley can do the same with his mission.

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Thank you for this breakdown, Lucio!

Patrick Bet-David, an entrepreneur and WSJ bestselling author I have respect for, commented on this as well:

There are a couple of things he said that I'm not sure I fully agree with, but I do believe in empowering others.

And, I think he's right when he says that the "give a man a fish vs teach a man to fish" analogy could be very wise guidance for the efforts to resolve poverty.