Debunking the media’s smear campaign against Elon Musk

I’ve written extensively about Elon Musk and Tesla, mostly regarding Tesla’s financials, and how, contrary to the doom and gloom by the media, Tesla is not at risk of bankruptcy and predicting that the stock will do well. Although I’m not usually one to entertain conspiracy theories, I believe there is a concerted effort by the media (generally the left-wing media) to defame successful Silicon Valley tech companies, especially Tesla, Amazon [not a Silicon Valley company but a favorite target of the media], Facebook, Apple, Google, and Uber. Usually these articles concern taxes and working conditions, but the left-wing media, of course, glosses over the fact that low-tech companies such as Target, Starbucks, and McDonald’s score as bad, if not worse, than the aforementioned tech companies on surveys of working conditions yet get far less negative media coverage, and many of these companies use the same tax schemes as do tech companies. I firmly believe there is a systemic effort by the left-wing media, which includes the New York Times, possibly in collusion with Tesla short sellers, to defame Elon Musk and Tesla.

The most recent salvos against Tesla pertain to doubts over Elon Musk’s sanity, specifically his off-color remark directed at rescue diver Vern Unsworth, his errant tweet regarding Tesla being acquired, him smoking weed with Joe Rogan in a recent podcast, occasional Twitter outbursts, and his use of Ambien and other possible drugs, as evidence that he is ‘mentally unstable’ and unfit to be CEO, which threatens Tesla future.

Let’s go through all of these. First, the sleep aids. This is a really weak argument as evidence of his supposed insanity. If by taking sleep aids he is emotionally unstable, then by that logic 50 million Americans are also unstable. Regarding his outbursts on Twitter, critics argue that someone so important should ‘know better’. The same for Musk’s ‘pedo’ comments, which according to critics is demonstrative of mental instability on Musk’s part. What is often lost in the discussion is that Unsworth started it, telling Musk to “stick [it] where it hurts”. The media narrative is that Musk started it, or the media fails to give the proper context of how the exchange transpired. Of course, I agree that if there is no proof the diver is a pedo, Musk should let it go.

Nassim Taleb constantly insults people on twitter. How come no one questions his sanity. People may say he’s short-tempered, but his soundness of mind is never called into doubt. Having a big ego is not the same as being mentally unstable. Elon Musk cares a lot about his personal brand and Tesla. When short-sellers, critics, media, etc. make unfounded attacks, he feels obligated to defend himself, and why shouldn’t he. Yeah calling the guy a pedo was bad (unless he actually has definitive evidence the diver is a pedo), but, again, many public figures have on Twitter said mean things at one time or another. Look at Richard Dawkins. He says mean things about Islam. Or Wil Wheaton calling a Paul Ryan a ‘piece of shit’. The list goes on.

Being an asshole a few times on twitter is not sufficient evidence of mental instability, especially considering Musk has a certain swagger and brashness about his personality. If Obama made such a tweet then, yeah, that would be cause for concern, at least for Obama fans. But Elon Musk has built a reputation for having an outspoken personality, and does not suffer fools.

How about the drug use. Again, a really weak argument. If by ‘drug use’, barely puffing a joint on the Joe Rogan podcast, then, yes, Mr. Musk must be a drug addict on par with Tommy Lee and others. Steve Jobs’ own experimentation with drugs is the stuff of legend, yet few questioned his sanity in the same way people are questioning that of Elon Musk. Musk didn’t really smoke it though, but rather took one puff. He was goaded into doing it by Rogan and didn’t want to be rude by rebuking him. He said on the podcast he never smoked weed before.

And how about that errant tweet about the buyout. OMG…he may have misspoken (or mistweet-ed?)! Lock him up! Burn him at the stake! He should have known better! Elon Musk uses Twitter to communicate with his fans and to announce developments. He tweets a lot, and some mistakes and lapses in judgement are expected from time to time, especially for someone as prolific and outspoken as he is. A lot of these ‘armchair experts’ believe that CEOs must adhere to saintly standards of conduct, when, in reality, they are regular people like the rest of us, and make mistakes like everyone else too. Musk apologized for the tweet, and has put it behind him, and as I predicted a few weeks ago, he won’t go to jail but will probably pay a fine and get a warning. So far, in agreement with my prediction, the investigation seems to have stalled as of mid-August.

The media is really hitting rock bottom if this is all they have against Tesla and Elon Musk, although my expectations were low to begin with.

Update: looks like I was right again. Elon Musk and the SEC reached a settlement and the judge signed off on it.