1. Oggie. says

    Two money quotes from that article:

    Musk infamously does not take criticism well and refuses to be questioned or challenged — three lethal traits in a leader.


    “Elon plays by his own rules,” a former Tesla exec told the Washington Post, “but I think he underestimates the weight of his own words.”

    Hmmmm. Rich white guy. Pulling long-term debt scams. Doesn’t like being criticized, questioned or challenged. Says (and tweets) stupid things and then is surprised that people actually listen to (or read) them and react to them as reasonable people.

    Wait. One more.

    In other words: Musk isn’t sorry and nothing is ever his fault.

    Who does this sound like?

  2. HidariMak says

    So in other words, Elon Musk is the scarecrow with the brain, but not the one with access to “the button”. And with that, sleep well, everyone.

  3. logicalcat says

    Regarding the “failures to launch” section of the article; isn’t that par for the course? In science and engineering shouldn’t there be loads of failures until the success happens? Not like space travel is easy.

  4. chrislawson says

    That article isn’t entirely true — Musk did deliver on the power battery to South Australia after their grid cut out in a storm. The Tesla system has by all reports works exactly as planned, protecting the grid from collapse during demand surges, reducing electricity bills to consumers, going from nothing to fully operational in a few months, and doing so without adding to the fossil fuel burden. Also the SpaceX program has been pretty successful by historic standards. I very much doubt it’s going to get Musk to Mars in his lifetime, but it has already managed several world firsts in rocket technology. Dismissing SpaceX as a con job because Musk released film of their failed launches — just like NASA did — is the work of a hatcheteer, not a journalist, and it shows an active antagonism to good engineering practice, especially in an article that attacks Musk for being overly sensitive to criticism…but then criticises him for going public about his failures.

    Worth remembering that the New York Post is a Newscorp paper, so it is part of a machine that smears anyone or anything that puts pressure on his petrochemical clients…

    But everything else in it I agree with. To me the big problem with Musk is his narcissism, and the big problem with Tesla is the idea that their engineers could design a complete automobile engineering ecology from the ground up faster and better than existing car manufacturers could adapt to new battery technology (well, that and the terrible treatment of their workers).

  5. logicalcat says

    Yea I agree with chrislawson. I don’t like Musk because he thinks he is Tony Stark when he is tottaly not, but he has done a lot with SpaceX. There is a lot to be proud of when it comes to Musk, but of course he opens his mouth and that makes it hard. The man is definitely dishonest as all fuck.

  6. says

    Right. SpaceX has actually been quite successful lately, and the investment in battery technology meets a critical need for humanity. Yeah, the car company will probably fail but it has goaded innovation by others. The hyperloop stuff is nonsense, to be sure. His personality disorder is not helpful and some of his ideas are nuts but he’s trying to do some good and sometimes succeeding. I wouldn’t spend so much time hating on him, personally.

  7. komarov says

    The article may be right about Musk but I agree with the others here that panning SpaceX is rather unfair. Fine, going by Musk’s stated objective of going to Mars SpaceX is a failure. But by that logic the early US space programme was a failure right up to December 1968. By any reasonable standard SpaceX has been extraordinarily successful. They have built reusable rockets, making space more accessible on a smaller (not small) budget and shaking up the space industry in the process. All good things. Even if they never get to Mars SpaceX is anything but a failure.

    As for blooper reels, I’m pretty sure virtually every national or commercial enterprise developing rockets has produced one of those. They probably go through all the same stages, too:
    1) Spontaneous explosion during countdown
    2) Explosion on ignition
    3) Explosion immediately after liftoff
    4) Liftoff, then Falldown (and explosion)
    5) Pinwheels followed explosion
    6) Spaaaace! (Or a target, with a big warhead making an explosion)

  8. wcorvi says

    Going to Mars is orders (many, hundreds of orders) of magnitude more difficult than going to the moon. Musk doesn’t understand that, which tells me he is not very bright.

    Many very positive things are being said about him, but when you look, they are all being said BY him.

  9. says

    Yeah, this is kinda misleading:

    SpaceX — which Musk touts as replacing NASA and colonizing Mars — has been a literal failure to launch. So many of its rockets have burned up or crashed that Musk, for reasons unknown, has made a blooper reel.

    The famous blooper reel isn’t about failures to launch. It’s failures to land — an until-recently experimental approach which SpaceX pioneered, and which happens after a successful launch. SpaceX has only had one launch failure (June 28, 2015) and one pre-launch failure (Sept 3, 2016) that resulted in the loss of a payload, plus one post-launch partial failure (Oct 8, 2012) where a secondary payload failed to deploy. You can see their launch record at

    The reason for making the blooper reel isn’t unknown, either. These are recordings of early attempts at landing orbital rocket boosters. Failure was to be expected, and learned from. These were all experiments that taught SpaceX a lot.

    Since the blooper reel came out, almost every attempted booster landing has been a success (not all launches involve attempted landings, though). The only one I can think of off-hand that wasn’t was the in the Falcon Heavy launch, where one of the three boosters (the central one, which had a higher delta-V than the side boosters, and so was harder to land) was unsuccessful. That wasn’t entirely unexpected, though: it was one of the most difficult landings they’ve attempted.

  10. Ed Seedhouse says

    I think Musk is a somewhat more rational megalomaniac than 45, who occasionally (accidentally?) actually hires good people and lets them do their stuff.

  11. says

    I have a bit of a philosophical disagreement with the article. To whatever extent Elon Musk’s ventures might have been successful is not particularly to his credit. He just provided the money. Giving all the credit to the owners of the capital, rather than the laborers, is capitalist bullshit.

    A corrolary is that if his ventures are failures, that’s not particularly his fault either. I mean, it could be, based on bad vision, but that’s not my default assumption.

  12. laurian says

    The article is another hit piece on Musk which apparently is de jour these days but lead paragraphs ares unintentionally revealing. The fact two rich white guys have a public pissing match should not have an effect on Tesla stock as there are no clear economic policies in play. The author jumps on that corpse and proceeds to flail away.

    When any of us build organizations that can do space flight, power cities and make cars AT THE SAME FUCKING TIME then our critiques can be taken a little more seriously.

    And finally Ms. Callahan, or her editor, ought to do more proofreading. To wit: “A similar accident claimed a driver two months prior, with California firefighters reporting that the Tesla battery kept reigniting days after the smash.” Smash? I dunno, wouldn’t crash be a better word to use?

  13. komarov says

    Re: Laurian (#14):

    The fact two rich white guys have a public pissing match should not have an effect on Tesla stock

    Yes, why would you be concerned about the behaviour of some ridiculously rich people who couldn’t go broke if they tried? Okay, maybe one of them may be at the helm of the company you invested your meagre savings in. Maybe their erratic behaviour won’t affect the company at all. Maybe it’ll be just fine.

    Or maybe you’re simply better off investing your money elsewhere.

    When any of us build organizations that can do space flight, power cities and make cars AT THE SAME FUCKING TIME then our critiques can be taken a little more seriously.

    I’m sorry, reasonable critique is inadmissable unless you’re in the exact same shoes? Do I have to be running several businesses before I can point out that, for example, april fools’ over bankruptcy are a bad idea, especially when your company has been plagued by problems?
    At any rate, the best possible interpretation of your argument is still that Musk made a mistake by biting off more than he could chew. Would I have to do the same before pointing that out to him?

  14. mond says

    Since you are being picky about someone else’s writing.

    “Do space flight” and “power cities” are both hyperbole.
    Both are exaggerations of Tesla’s actually capabilities.
    Don’t get me wrong what they actually do in those two spheres are in there own ways impressive but your sloppy overreaching description is not.

    In automobile accident terms; smash and crash are synonyms (They stop writing from getting boring/repetitive).

    I think you may ‘love the leader’ a little too uncritically.
    Until someone has by been as ‘successful’ as Musk their criticism should not be taken seriously?
    I know you probably mean critique in a negative sense. But a true critique would have a full spectrum of positives and negatives.
    So NO-ONE should say a good or bad thing about Tesla unless they are equal to Musk.
    Have a funny feeling Musk himself might not like it if the positive PR suddenly died.

  15. brett says

    The Tesla stuff is mostly right, although they have delivered on the cars . . . eventually. Musk makes all kinds of promises about deadlines and blows through them, but his companies usually do deliver a product.

    The SpaceX stuff in there is just one paragraph, but it’s basically nonsense aside from Musk turning the failures into a blooper reel (turns out designing and launching rockets is hard with many failures, especially if you’re trying something new!).

  16. damien75 says

    I would take that article more seriously if it did not come from the NY Post, of racist Obama cartoon fame.

  17. petesh says

    A few semi-random factoids about Musk (many gleaned from wikipedia): The other co-founders of his first company refused to let him be CEO, but he walked away with $22m, which he parlayed via another company into PayPal, which ousted him from his position as CEO but he walked away with $165m when the company was sold. He did not found Tesla but edged in during a financing round and did a bunch of government deals to get huge subsidies. Some genius.

    But he really got on my radar for this well-known quote:

    “I would like to allocate more time to dating, though. I need to find a girlfriend. How much time does a woman want a week? Maybe 10 hours?”

  18. Reginald Selkirk says

    Tesla was founded in 2003, but the world’s largest automakers quickly surpassed Musk’s vision for electric vehicles. Tesla will never catch up.

    Oh c’mon, give the man his due. Musk’s Tesla efforts did a lot to make electric cars a reality. How many of the “world’s largest automakers” have actual full-electric cars that are more than a minor PR stunt? Toyota so far has been happy with hybrids, Nissan has the Leaf, whose specs do not rival those of Tesla. GM/Chevrolet, who ditched their much earlier EV1 effort, now have the Chevy Bolt, but that hasn’t been around long.

  19. says

    Yeah, with most of the people here. I do think that Musk “thinks of himself” like he is some sort of Tony Stark. He has an overinflated view of himself, and seems to rely on other people to both ignore the problems with his ideas, but also build them for him. I would comment on three issues in the article.

    The auto-pilot car – its is a bloody insane problem, which is only getting better, but having one that is not likely to do spectacularly stupid things some times is, ironically, like expecting human drivers to not do the same. The difference being, when a computer does, assuming we can recover it, we can figure out why the F it went off course, and add in extra logic, or sensors, to fix it. Its not like his are the only one that are doing bloody stupid things. One design, I don’t remember who was testing it, ended up moving into a lane already occupied by a trailer rig, because it couldn’t “look up” and see the rig, just that there was enough open space top move into, next to it. Needless to say, that could have been a complete nightmare, but thankfully the rig driver didn’t need to make a sudden acceleration/stop during the few moments the error happened. They since fixed it, by adding a sensor to look for situations like that (which probably should have been there anyway, since.. you know, overhangs, and other nasty things…)

    Batteries – Ugh.. Until we end the use of the most common class of battery, i.e. lithium based, in these things, we will never have 100% safe batteries in these cars. And, once one starts burning.. yeah, you are not going to put it out, since it will just self reignite, until all of the reactants have burned off. We badly need a replacement, but until we have one, we are stuck with something that they have flat out failed to solve yet. Maybe something else, in the casing, which would produce a endothermic reaction, by reacting to the same stuff that was causing the fire, and both put it out and neutralizes the materials? But, anything that might work would add weight, so… who knows if anyone is even bothering to come up with it.

    Hyperloop vs. airlines – Sigh.. Yes, the hyperloop thing is just flat stupid. All evidence points to this being undeniably true. That said, airlines are not going to be an effective solution forever. They are expensive to run, require fuels that, at least under and administration but the current one, are going to become, at some point, a serious problem that needs to be dealt with, and they are already, in many cases, failing, right and left, with the number of lines having already disappeared and the safety records of the ones that are still around calling into question whether or not even they would still be in business, if they where not cutting corners, failing to repair/upgrade parts, or just refusing to run proper, and necessary, inspections on their aircraft. I don’t see a bright future for airlines. A public outcry, when a mess of them suddenly have preventable disasters, possibly (how ever much I otherwise hope it never happens). But, we do need a better way for people to get from place to place, at least in our own borders, if for no other reason than a) its insane how many people in just California end up using airlines to just go to other parts of California, to work jobs, and b) over the longer picture, the costs have gone up enough, already, that the relative isolation between states has amplified, such that any “the world is getting smaller” view is just not true for probably 90% of the population, unless you are talking about TV and the internet, which.. frankly, do not count, at all, towards people actually experiencing what other places are like (instead of just reading one their favorite blogs about how great, or alternatively, horrible those places are).

    We do need the cheaper interconnection that a light, high speed, rail system can bring us. What we don’t need is some insane vacuum cleaner, with a toy car stuffed into the thing.

    And, to one of the things not mentioned.. I don’t see why some combination of a better public transportation system in cities, or kind of modern “people mover”, with car parking like those multi-level, compact, elevator systems you see in Japan, and other places, wouldn’t vastly improve a lot of things. But, Musk gives us, instead, some completely flipping insane “car transport” system, which would only barely be feasible if 100% of the cars on the road where already zero emission, but which, right now, would probably kill, from fumes, half the people using it, and then require all that to be vented, somehow, into the city, like, only sidewalks, since its not like the freaking place is “designed” with exhaust ports on the top of every high rise.

  20. batflipenthusiast says

    I generally agree with the notion — Musk is an obnoxious fraud, not the super genius he’s hailed as and any project he’s involved with would be better off without him or simply better off dead — but this article is pretty weak.

    For example anything in it having to do with space x in this article. It all just comes off as a lazy hit piece that makes me suspicious of anything else the author has to say. It only briefly makes mention of the various failures but doesn’t even hint at the successes, which are significant. MUCH worse could be written about NASA and yet it’s ridiculous to say they’ve been a failure. She was clearly just looking for ammo at that point and it fell flat.

    What makes it worse is you could probably take an actual deep dive into SpaceX that comes out look bad for Musk himself, but that’s definitely not what happened here.

  21. says

    This is genius?

    To a segment of Silicon Valley raised on “journalism” comprising mainly human saliva and Steve Jobs’ faecal matter: unfortunately, yes.

  22. Johnny Vector says

    As someone who is a customer of launch services, I can assure you that everyone I know would love to launch on a Falcon 9. It’s as reliable as any other rocket (32 launches since the last failure), and half the cost of anything approaching the capability. “Literal failure to launch”?? Well thanks for giving away that your article is nothing but a hit piece.

    And oh, battery powered cars catch fire sometimes in a major crash. As if gasoline-powered cars don’t? According to NFPA, “U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires per year in 2006-2010.” If there are 260M cars on the road in the US, that means the rate of fires in Teslas (200,000 sold) is <10% of the rate in ICE cars. Same thing with government subsidies; Tesla gets less than traditional car makers (and if you count the subsidies given to gasoline manufacture, and the health costs of ICE emissions, waste oil, brake pad dust (don’t forget about that; EVs make almost none), etc., again Tesla is probably getting <10% what the ICE manufacturers get.

    The Musk-hate is really getting strong these days. I have to assume it’s coming from some combination of fossil fuel and traditional car companies and United Launch Alliance. Yeah, I’m sure he’s a pain to work for, and an asshole who needs to ease up on Twitter (spoiler: he has, at least for now). But the actual, measurable issues articles like this bring up are so wrong, and so obviously wrong, that I have to assume they are orchestrated attacks.

  23. batflipenthusiast says


    “The Musk-hate is really getting strong these days. I have to assume it’s coming from some combination of fossil fuel and traditional car companies and United Launch Alliance.”

    That would be a real dumb assumption…

  24. Johnny Vector says

    batflipenthusiast @#25

    That would be a real dumb assumption…

    Why? Do you have reason to believe it’s simple incompetence? I mean, it might be, but you’d sort of expect simple incompetence to err in multiple directions. Like Business Insider’s recent review of the Bolt; clearly the writer knows nothing about EVs so it says both good wrong things and bad wrong things about the car. When all the errors are of the form “Tesla is evil. Oh, and so is SpaceX,” it starts to get suspicious.

  25. brett says

    @19 Petesh

    That sounds about right. I think SpaceX is the only one of his companies that lists him as the sole founder (aside from way back in the pre-PayPal days).

  26. jack lecou says

    The famous blooper reel isn’t about failures to launch. It’s failures to land — an until-recently experimental approach which SpaceX pioneered, and which happens after a successful launch. SpaceX has only had one launch failure (June 28, 2015) and one pre-launch failure (Sept 3, 2016) that resulted in the loss of a payload, plus one post-launch partial failure (Oct 8, 2012) where a secondary payload failed to deploy.

    Tellingly, the supporting link in the article is not to any of these, but instead to a preliminary NY Post piece from January on the Zuma spy satellite launch.

    Which was, to the best publicly available knowledge, a failure, but not a Spacex failure. (Top secret spy satellites being what they are, the official sources are all pretty tight-lipped. However, the problem was apparently some kind of separation failure with the Northrup Grumman-built payload adapter. The Falcon boosters underneath it seem to have worked fine.)

    I would, contra PZ, classify at least that paragraph as rather untrue. (Both the specific reference and the general implication: engineering-wise, at least, spacex has had some impressive successes.)

    But the rest of the article is possibly even worse. I mean, the ‘pedo’ tweet was dumb and offensive as hell, but was that really the moment Musk was revealed as a fraud? Further evidence of anger issues, impulse control, and being a generally awful human being, sure. But that isn’t exactly a revelation, nor, unfortunately, unheard of in the ranks of our current society’s ‘successful’ classes. (For that matter, neither is burning through hundreds of millions of dollars a week, especially while getting a capital intensive production line up and running.)

    And then there’s the bit about hyperloop. One of the dumbest ideas in the history of dumb ideas, to be sure. It should be very easy to criticize.

    But it’s not dumb because “they’re up against the airlines”. After all, high-speed rail also competes with airlines, and requires at least as many hundreds of miles of track. Yet (though I doubt you’ll read about this in the Post) HSR would be an immensely good idea in quite a few regions of the US – in part because airlines are running into severe capacity and crowding issues with the facilities they do require (namely, sufficient space around cities to safely fly and land planes in). There’s also an energy efficiency/global warming argument in favor of heavier use of rail transport. No, airlines or no, HSR is a very a good idea indeed.

    And that is why hyperloop is dumb. Because although HSR is slightly less-flashy, it’s also actually proven technology which has more passenger capacity than hyperloop, even with the most optimistic assumptions for the latter. And probably similar or better construction costs and door-to-door travel times. (Musk’s initial, irresponsible, ‘back of the napkin’ proposals placed hyperloop as a cheaper, faster, higher-tech alternative to California’s HSR plans, but then, among other errors, ignored most of the actual costs and complexities of building high-speed tracks of any kind on the geography in question, and did not place terminals all the way into the city centers, as the HSR plans did.)

  27. Rob Bos says

    Wow, that is just a straight up hit piece. That’s like, creationist level stupid mischaracterization.

  28. petesh says

    @24: Yes, Musk eased up on Twitter. Remember why? He was open to a huge lawsuit for lashing out in frustration and calling someone a pedophile without a shred of evidence. Oops.

    @29: Yes, it is a hit piece. Nothing wrong with that if you’re hitting the target. The Elon fan-folk are the ones with the faith that I would call “creationist level stupid.”

  29. Rob Bos says

    @30: Is there room in your world view for people who think Musk’s doing some pretty cool stuff, but aren’t lionizing or demonizing him? I mean shit, man, there’s plenty of things you can criticise, but he’s moving some pretty big indicators in a positive direction. SpaceX is doing great things under Gwynne Shotwell, and Tesla has almost solely turned the electric demand away from compliance car bullshit into enthusiasm for the tech.

  30. says

    Considering how many trillions the US military wastes on lethal war toys, Musk’s expenses are small beer. And his order books purportedly still hold around 400K deposits for his electric toys. Not bad for a rich psychopath I say. The disruption he has caused in the transport industry can only be a good thing, the old method is stuffed from a climate perspective. You don’t have to like the guy to understand what he’s doing for progress in cleaning up human mobility.

  31. logicalcat says

    I get why people like Musk. I just want him to get his head outta his ass, stop pretending he’s Tony Stark, and be open with criticism so that I can like him too. I think he’s a dishonest weasel, but this article was still a hit piece imo.

  32. chrislawson says


    “Do space flight” and “power cities” are both hyperbole. Both are exaggerations of Tesla’s actually capabilities.

    Actually, these are not examples of hyperbole. SpaceX has successfully launched a geosync satellite AND launched orbital flights AND docked with the ISS. This is clearly space flight by any reasonable definition. As for powering cities, Tesla has done better and helped power an entire Australian state. There’s plenty of real hype and exaggeration coming out of Musk’s fever’d brain, but these are not them.

  33. chrislawson says


    No, a hit piece doesn’t mean “this is critical of someone”, it means “this is a crappy piece of reporting intended to smear someone using unfair arguments.” I’m definitely not a Elon Musk fan, but even I think it was appalling journalism and shouldn’t be excused just because I don’t like Musk.

  34. Nemo says

    Working electric cars* + working spaceships = not a fraud.

    You could fairly call him an asshole.

    And no, “the world’s largest automakers quickly surpassed Musk’s vision for electric vehicles” is laughable.

  35. chrislawson says


    As Vector says, there is no reason to think that hit pieces on people opposed to the petrochemical industries is a stupid idea. That’s what was behind “Climategate” after all.

    But specifically with regards to Musk: About 2-3 years ago, it was quite clear to me that there was an internet campaign to denigrate Tesla. I was hanging out on a number of pop culture sites and whenever Musk or Tesla was mentioned in comments, within 30 minutes there would suddenly appear comments from 2-3 newly-registered nyms who had nothing to say other than that one of Tesla’s car batteries had exploded. It didn’t matter what the actual topic of conversation was (often it had nothing at all to do with the cars). And yet mysteriously, at the very mention of Tesla or Musk a bunch of unknown contributors felt obliged to create an account just to point out that a Tesla car had blown up in a test. Now I would say that the only reasonable interpretation is that someone was paying online marketers to damage Tesla’s brand. And who would pay to damage Tesla’s brand?

  36. chrislawson says

    Reginald Selkirk@20–

    I agree that Tesla has done a pretty remarkable job with their engineering and manufacturing given where they started, but…

    Nissan has the Leaf, whose specs do not rival those of Tesla…

    From the USNews car reports MSRPs:

    Nissan Leaf $30-36k
    Tesla Model 3 $44k
    Tesla Model S $75.5-135k
    Tesla Model X $79.5-140k

    So, sure the Leaf is not as well specced, but it’s in a different market bracket (and its 2018 model added 50% to its range, still a lot less than the Model 3 but enough to get it out of local-trips-only mode).

  37. Johnny Vector says

    jack lecou @#28:

    And then there’s the bit about hyperloop. One of the dumbest ideas in the history of dumb ideas, to be sure.

    One of, maybe. But not the dumbest. That has to be Musk’s idea of busing people to Mars. In what, 10 years? I really hope he doesn’t actually believe that, cause ain’t no way it’s even close. A hyperloop you could actually build, and maybe in some edge cases it could be competitive with current-technology high speed rail. The Mars thing is up against basic physics and biology, as well as economics.

    Which is weird because he knows how hard it was to get SpaceX into a place where it actually works. But y’know, if Mars as his goal keeps him building rockets that get us to space at 1/3 to 1/2 the price of what we have now, I guess I’ll take it.

    Let me also mention something about the “can’t take criticism”. Look at what happened when Consumer Reports reported on the braking issue. He immediately tweeted back that they hadn’t seen any such thing, but if it’s real it’s a problem. Two days later, he said it was a problem (only on repeated emergency braking, which isn’t really relevant to real world action, but still). A week after that, they had a fix which was being sent over the air to all the vehicles. And he thanked CR for bringing it to their attention. So “Can’t take it” is clearly an incomplete description of his reaction to criticism.

  38. petesh says

    I note that none of the Musk fans have addressed his misogyny.

    Incidentally, I am not a big-oil or any other kind of troll. I am not convinced that the Boring Company (hah!) is any kind of good idea, partly because of the energy cost of implementing it. The Mars expedition seems to me to be an immense ego trip (and waste of resources). And I am continually reminded of the observation (not original to me) that it is seriously ridiculous for people who helped solve the essentially trivial problem of transferring money electronically (and made lots of cash by so doing) should consider themselves instant experts in other fields.

  39. jack lecou says

    @29: Yes, it is a hit piece. Nothing wrong with that if you’re hitting the target. The Elon fan-folk are the ones with the faith that I would call “creationist level stupid.”

    You’re replying to Rob Bos, but who are you referring to? With the possible exception of Laurian I’m not sure I actually see any ‘Elon fan-folk’ in evidence.

    I mean, 29 didn’t go into too much detail, but plenty of others had already pointed out some of the factual flaws in the piece by then, so the charitable thing would be to assume it was referring to that, rather than any occult desire to earn more gold stars in the Elon-ass-kissing club. Maybe Rob has a history I don’t know about (the follow-up at 31 sounds perfectly reasonable, so this seems unlikely), but otherwise, invoking the spectre of ‘fan-folk’ seems premature at best. Deflection by way of non-sequitur at worst.

    And, while you seem disinclined to acknowledge this for some reason, it’s not so much that the article is a hit piece, as that it’s a transparently poorly-researched, dishonest hit piece (but I repeat myself). Even if you’re targeting Musk for some reason (not the top of my target list, but whatever floats your boat) I’m not really sure such a thing qualifies as “hitting the target”. There’s plenty of legitimate criticism to level at him. Leveling illegitimate criticism is at best unnecessary, at worst counterproductive (assuming one’s goal is to make the legitimate criticism stick).

    And putting that together, the way I’m paraphrasing your position at the moment is something like “either blindly accept any and all criticism of Musk/Tesla/Spacex/etc (no matter how false or how much collateral damage) or you must be a smarmy Elon groupie.” Maybe you want to clarify, because if that’s really your position, it’s obviously kind of a false dichotomy. I don’t know about you, but I can see an awful lot of light between those positions, including not a few demonstrations right here in this thread.

    I for one certainly I don’t think I’m obligated to start badmouthing spacex, or the pursuits of cheaper space flight and (eventually) space settlement generally, for example, just because a deplorable human weasel-person is one of the people most successfully (or at least most prominently) working to push it forward at the moment.

  40. says

    “Everything she says is true”

    I don’t think there is much to add to the debunking of this sleazy tabloid hit-piece than what has already been posted.

    What I think is more concerning is that you simply reposted this as something reliable without apparently doing the slightest fact checking (a due diligence which instead got delegated to your commenters).

    Do you think this is good skepticism?

  41. says


    I note that none of the Musk fans have addressed his misogyny.

    It hasn’t been mentioned specifically until you did but it’s well known by people who are even slightly awake. However, one can still admire the man for what he is successful at. If you want to wait for the perfect hero to step forward to save the world, you’ll be dead of old age before anything happens. In an imperfect world one makes the best use of available human resources, while watching one’s back.

  42. Ichthyic says

    I have to say, I don’t like the way Musk runs the company he founded, and think he’d be better off handing it to a better figurehead.

    that said, this article, as some have already mentioned, DOES feel more like hatchet job than fact.

  43. cartomancer says

    I’ve never understood why anyone would think this charlatan Musk anything but a symptom of fatuous capitalist excess.

    We don’t need electric cars. We need effective public mass-transit systems. We need to get over the ridiculous consumerist obsession with owning a personal vehicle and come up with a communal transportation system instead. We certainly don’t need underground car tunnels, which literally nobody thinks are a good idea.

    We don’t need commercial space travel. Apart from scientific exploratory missions there’s no point in going to space. It’s a big, dangerous, unpleasant vastness of nothing. When all our problems here where we actually live are solved, then we can do extravagant wastes of resources like that. We might as well spend money trying to colonise the bottom of the ocean or the middle of Antarctica – both of which would be much easier and more productive uses of our limited resources. It’s facile rubbish to no useful end. In fact, government space agencies only did it in the mid 20th century as a cover for developing more powerful rocket weapons.

    And what we need least of all is vast, feudally-run capitalist corporations sucking money from our society like vampires and distorting our political systems for their own enrichment. Even if what they’re doing is the most wonderful and life-enriching thing imaginable (and not the sort of pointless facile nonsense Musk’s concerns are doing), they’re still doing it through a fundamentally unjust and immoral system. We wouldn’t praise hospitals for sick children where all the doctors and nurses are slaves, would we?

  44. says


    We don’t need electric cars. We need effective public mass-transit systems. We need to get over the ridiculous consumerist obsession with owning a personal vehicle and come up with a communal transportation system instead. We certainly don’t need underground car tunnels, which literally nobody thinks are a good idea.

    Good luck getting the average modern human out of a personal car and onto mass transit. And a goodly percentage of the population lives well away from areas serviced by mass transit too. Thinking of herding the world’s population into vertical cities and leaving the countryside to robotic farmers?

    No amount of petty bickering will change human nature. Musk’s products have a purpose even if you can’t see it that way. And in 10 years they’ll probably evolve in ways you wouldn’t have dreamed of.

  45. says

    “We don’t need electric cars. We need effective public mass-transit systems.”

    I think you need to take into account that not everyone lives in a city or otherwise densely populated area where mass transit makes sense.

    We do need electric cars, and just more clean and efficient transportation over all. We also need good mass transit systems. They are not mutually exclusive.

  46. cartomancer says

    Lofty, #48

    There are many places around the world where the majority of people use mass transit systems, and don’t even own personal cars. Even in many rural areas it is entirely possible to rely on buses and trains. I have lived in rural Somerset most of my life, and never even learned to drive a car. When I go out around the county I use the bus. When I go elsewhere in the country I use the train. When I’m in a big city I use their local buses or trams or underground systems.

    The key point is that one needs to have the infrastructure for it in place. As long as we support the capitalist classes, whose interest is in making money by selling us dangerous and expensive personal vehicles, rather than initiatives to build and subsidise mass transit, we’re making the problem worse.

  47. says

    “Apart from scientific exploratory missions there’s no point in going to space.”

    That’s a wee bit pessimistic don’t you think? Space exploration holds enormous potential for gathering resources, without having a significant impact on the Earth.

    Building colonies and outposts, is only a natural part of the scientific exploration you seem to find agreeable. Unless you think chilling in Earth’s orbit and sending probes about should be the full extent of space exploration.

  48. mond says


    The ‘Do space flight’ is technically correct but when you add Musks public statements about going to Mars then the phrase is used as hype to suggest more progress to that goal than is warranted.

    As for the megabattery in Australia (from BBC website)

    When fully charged, the battery can power up to 30,000 homes for an hour.
    However, it will mostly be used to support and stabilise existing electricity supplies

    Again impressive but not powering a city.
    One hour backup for a reasonable sized town and great for power grid smoothing.

  49. says

    Cartomancer @50, good to see that you can manage without a car. Now all you need to do is to convince the other billions of selfish commuters to do the same. How well do you think that project will go?

  50. petesh says

    Lofty @ 53: If the full economic cost of individual motor transport were paid by the consumer, yeah, we’d see a major shift real quick. BTW, billions?

  51. jack lecou says

    If the full economic cost of individual motor transport were paid by the consumer, yeah, we’d see a major shift real quick.


    In fact, I suspect that if even just the private costs (fuel, maintenance, capital) were paid in a more visible, transactional manner on each trip (like a farecard and a dashboard mounted meter, say), you’d see marked changes in behavior. It’s one thing to hop into the car to go to the grocery store, another thing to be reminded each time how much that’s actually costing you.

    And if you added in all the public costs and externalities that should be baked in on top of that…

  52. jack lecou says

    I think you need to take into account that not everyone lives in a city or otherwise densely populated area where mass transit makes sense.

    People live where it has been made convenient and affordable for them to live. It’s not just some exogenous variable.

    For a lot of people right now, that does mean living in places that aren’t built in patterns congenial to mass transit. But that’s because car-oriented suburban development (and the associated freeways, parking lots, etc.) has been heavily publicly subsidized for 3/4 of a century.

    And that’s not a sustainable path, either economically or environmentally. It’s not even a particularly desirable one — even with all the subsidies for suburban habitat, accommodation in denser, transit-oriented city-type locales is in pretty high demand.

  53. cartomancer says

    Christopher Svanefalk, #51

    Actually I’m not even all that keen on going into orbit. The only reason I’m not against exploratory space science is that it’s comparatively cheap.

    I think space is a project for many, many generations down the line. When we’ve sorted out this awful mess here on earth, achieved a fair and egalitarian political system, nobody is dying of preventable diseases or starvation, and we have the spare resources for such things.

    Or not – there’s plenty to keep us occupied here, after all.

  54. petesh says

    I know this thread is pretty much dead, but I did want to connect the dots to my “misogyny” comment. Not only does it show Musk in a terrible light, as does his notorious “pedo” tweet, but it shows him as having a self-centered, transactional approach to relationships, which does I think get reflected in his attitude to cars (ignore the social costs) and space travel (for those who can afford it). Add in the government subsidies he has so carefully negotiated and you have not just an asshole, but a self-centered asshole who thinks that self-centeredness is the way society naturally is. Need I point out the similarities with Trump?

  55. says

    petesh, all of what you say is likely true, that still doesn’t negate Musk’s role in the cleaning up of transport. His battery operated vehicles are just one step in weaning people off fossil fuel powered private vehicles, and transitioning them to clean autonomous vehicles that serve many people sequentially. His batteries (and solar panels) are finding roles outside of his cars to stabilise electricity grids as fossil fuel powered generators retire from the fleet. And who knows, his boring company may yet morph into a company that makes rapid transit within cities cheaper and cleaner.

  56. rydan says

    Except you are wrong. She states “Musk has been in business since 2002.” Except this is completely untrue. Musk founded in 1999 (eventually becoming PayPal) and also co-founded a company before that called Zip2 acquired in the same year. So right off the bat she says something false and it isn’t like a simple fact check couldn’t have spotted such an error. There are plenty of reasons to condemn him but there’s no reason to blanketly agree with everything someone says just because they do.

  57. neroden says

    I somewhat dislike Elon Musk at this point, and some of the items in the article are true, but a bunch of them are blatantly false, as other people in the comments section have pointed out.

    I’ll just point out that the claim that he’s a “fraud” is completely baseless. No evidence for it is provided whatsoever. Claim that he’s crazy, a narcissist with a messiah complex, ridiculously optimistic, delusional, dismissive, arrogant, even misogynistic…. well, OK, there’s evidence for all of that.

    But there’s absolutely no basis for calling him a “fraud”. Musk’s been almost ridiculously honest about what he believes and has gone to extraordinary efforts to get people what they paid for.