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Hey Elon: Caffeine-Free Diet Coke Is For the Weak

Not very hardcore!

Caffeine Free Diet Coke
Photo illustration by Slate. Image by Coca-Cola.

On Monday morning, Twitter owner/megalomaniac Elon Musk tweeted an embarrassing photo of his bedside table:

A tweet from Elon Musk, showing his bedside table with some guns and also four cans of Caffeine Free Diet Coke on it.
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Elon Musk obviously believes himself to be hardcore. In his now-infamous memo to Twitter employees, he urged the most hardcore among them to join him on his relentless campaign for dominance, which requires “working long hours at high intensity.” And this is not the first time! He told Tesla employees to “go super hardcore” in 2021. Earlier this year, he tweeted a request for “hardcore street fighters” to join Tesla’s legal team. Hardness of core is a quality Musk prizes, perhaps above all others.

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That’s why this image is so embarrassing. All those guns and then … caffeine-free Diet Coke. As this magazine’s foremost expert on Diet Coke, as measured in total gallons consumed, I can tell you that a self-described “hardcore” person who drinks caffeine-free Diet Coke is not, in any way, hardcore. He is a soft baby who can’t handle the real stuff.

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Sure, there are legitimate reasons for drinking caffeine-free Diet Coke, I suppose. Perhaps you are a nursing mother, or have a health problem that restricts your caffeine intake. Perhaps you are a Mormon who never heard about the church’s 2012 statement that caffeinated soft drinks are doctrinally permitted. Perhaps you have COVID and have completely lost your sense of taste and are, additionally, trapped on a desert island where the only drink available to you is caffeine-free Diet Coke. Then, to survive until a rescue party spots you, you might consider drinking caffeine-free Diet Coke, although you’re not going to be alert enough to flag down a faraway ship.

The fact is, caffeine-free Diet Coke is the coward’s way. If you are a ride-or-die Diet Cokehead, you understand that the only acceptable version of Diet Coke is the classic variety, perfect since its unveiling on July 8, 1982. (Happy 40th birthday, Diet Coke!) Every cold, delicious can contains 0 calories, 0 grams of sugar, infinite fizzy flavor, and 46 milligrams of rich, satisfying caffeine. Carried by happy little bubbles directly into your brain, the caffeine blocks certain receptors from binding with the organic compound adenosine, a central nervous system inhibitor. The result: increased alertness, sharper cognitive function, and general happiness and satisfaction about pretty much everything. It basically turns you into Captain America. Pretty hardcore!

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So why, why would you drink the caffeine-free version of this wonderful product, which doesn’t taste as good and doesn’t deliver this miracle drug to your brain? Why would you replace the world’s finest beverage with a weaker, less effective version? It’s as foolish as thinking that a car driving through a tunnel is a suitable replacement for a subway.

Most of all, why would you advertise this preference on a social media platform to your 119 million followers? I can think of only one reason: You are not hardcore. Unlike some of us—the truly hardcore—you are not so inured to the effects of an addictive drug that you can drink a can of Diet Coke after midnight and then immediately fall asleep. So, Elon, it doesn’t matter how many pictures of George Washington or video-game gun replicas you leave by your bed. Your intensity will never reach the levels of Taylor Swift, Bill Gates, Michael Musto, or Donald Trump. You are not, and will never be, the real thing.

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