Elon Musk’s Most-Liked Instagram Post Touches a Nerve in Turkey


U.S. tech billionaire Elon Musk has made high-performance electric vehicles, created rockets that can land on ships and planned life on Mars — chronicling it all on social media. But his personal record for Instagram “likes” comes from a post this week about Turkey.

The chief executive officer of companies including Tesla Inc. and SpaceX visited the country to discuss the launch of rockets by Turkey’s national satellite firm. On Wednesday, he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at his presidential palace in the capital city of Ankara. They talked about a wide variety of issues and exchanged presents. That could have been the end of it.

Then, as the sun set over Ankara, Musk posted a photo to Instagram. Arms crossed, wearing a suit and no tie, he stood in partial light at the mausoleum of Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. “Atatürk Anıtkabir,” he wrote, deploying the proper Turkish characters. 

The photo had gotten more than 922,000 “likes” as of Friday, hundreds of thousands more than any previous post by Musk, who has 3.5 million followers.

To many Turks, Ataturk represents values Erdogan has been bent on disrupting, namely: secular, European and progressive. Erdogan has pushed to replace the European orientation of Ataturk’s republic with, in his words, “a more pious generation” — one assertive about its Islamic identity and its independence from Western influence.

Read more about Erdogan’s grip on Turkey: QuickTake

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