SCOTLAND’S new Hate Crime Act comes into force on Monday – attracting criticism from expected quarters.

But some unexpected commentators have also entered the fray. Namely, the owner of Twitter/X Elon Musk and shock jock podcast host Joe Rogan.

It’s not the first time that either have spoken about Scotland – with the latter once listening to Scottish drill music on his podcast and the former once branding the First Minister a “blatant racist”.

But since Musk has more Twitter/X followers than there are people living in Scotland (ditto Rogan), it’s always bound to make the headlines when they intervene on Scottish affairs.

Musk responded to a contested summary of the Hate Crime Act which said it would lead to people being “arrested” if they shared a “spicy meme” or mocked transgender people.

Rogan for his part claimed that stand-up shows would come under the scope of the Act and expressed scepticism about Police Scotland’s insistence officers would not “target” comedians.

The Scottish Government maintains there are stringent protections for freedom of speech in the legislation and one of its opponents before the Act was passed, former Tory MSP Adam Tomkins, has since said "propagandists" were sharing mistruths about the new law. 

READ MORE: Does Scotland's Hate Crime Bill ‘target’ artists? Police Scotland clarify legislation

So why did this story – admittedly a deeply controversial one at home – fire up so much international criticism?

Jared Stacey, an American academic and journalist based in Aberdeen who specialises in conspiracy theories, puts it simply: “There is profit in paranoia.”

The National: Joe-Rogan-Apology

For both Rogan (above) and Musk, the Scottish Hate Crime Act functions as a “cautionary tale” about what they see as the creeping rise of authoritarianism and death of free speech, said Stacey.

He told The National that the “disinformation” surrounding the legislation fed into a “general conspiratorial narrative that tyranny is just one piece of legislation away”.

“When Rogan seizes on this, it’s because it has plausibility in the story or the world that he’s curating for his listeners and has been for years,” said Stacey.

He added: “Because profit is that key motivator, there’s not a lot of incentive to actually read the legislation.”

READ MORE: What is - and isn't - in Scotland's new Hate Crime Act?

Musk responded to the story for similar motivations, said the Aberdeen University academic.

The tech billionaire is someone who is “seeking to rebuild the world”, said Stacey – pointing to Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service becoming a focal point in the war in Ukraine.

The National: Elon Musk

Musk (above) would criticise the Act, according to Stacey, because it provides “proof” that his “new order” and defence of “free speech” was essential.

“In Musk’s pitch, what we have is illiberal and persecuting us,” Stacey added.

For both, Stacey contends, the Hate Crime Act is proof positive that their self-styled crusades against censorship and illiberalism are essential.