Kurtz: Why Tesla, Space X, a visionary in the fight Is crazy
‘MediaBuzz’ host Howard Kurtz weighs in on Elon Musk turning against the media after the recent negative press.
When it comes to his sudden misfire against the media, Elon Musk is losing some of his rocket fuel.
Musk was overloaded with waves of positive press as he built two great companies. He is a great entrepreneur. It is impossible not to enjoy the man.
But now that some of the difficulties at Tesla and Space X are drawing routine journalistic scrutiny, he is railing against the media—and it sounds a bit like a temper tantrum.
Musk somehow got the idea that the criticism of the business press automatically means that he is treated unfairly. Like any CEO, he has every right to push back. But I’m not sure, on the basis of his recent tweetstorm, he has a firm grasp on how the media works. Or maybe Musk is just crazy, as when he told a Wall Street analyst on a recent call, not to ask a “bonehead” question.
At Tesla, Musk in a part of the production problems of the versions of the Model 3, and the Center for Investigative Reporting has questioned the safety at the workplace in factories. Plus, a semi-autonomous Tesla sedan slammed into the back of a fire truck earlier this month. (I think Musk had a point when he called it “super messed up” that an accident that caused the driver to suffer a broken ankle “is front page news and the ~40,000 people who have died in U.S. car accidents alone in the last year get almost no range.”)
Journalists have also questioned the reliability of the Space X rockets after a few critical government reports, and a Falcon 9, which is not to have a job in January.
But the recent fusillade was lit by his car company, which Musk tweet: “holier-than-thou hypocrisy of the major media companies that claim the truth, but only known enough to sugarcoat the lie, is the reason why the public no longer respects.”
A lot of people would agree with the hypocrisy of the cost, but the second part sounds like an accusation of false news. And indeed, there was this follow-up: “someone will Always be criticizing the media, the media screaming ‘You’re just like Trump!’ Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because nobody believes you more. You lost your credibility a long time ago.”
Again, I hear at least one part of America to cheer.
But then Musk starts to veer out of the way. A tweet starts with a sharp, but pointed criticism—”the Problem is journos are under constant pressure to max clicks”—for hitting a ditch: “and earn advertising dollars or dismissed.”
Reporters do not think that way. They cover problems in the car industry, without worrying about losing their job (or actually lose their job). Tesla does no advertising, so Musk feels at a disadvantage compared to gas/diesel car companies.”
But a major reason that Tesla’s luxury cars (Model S starts at $74,500) is one such phenomenon is the endless headlines that portrayed them as sexy and the founder as a cool visionary.
The wheels really started to come off when Musk claimed he would get into the media criticism business for yourself:
“It’s going to create a site where the public can experience the truth of one of the articles, and keep track of the credibility of the score about the time of every journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda …” (Weird to use the name of the former Soviet propaganda sheet, even if tongue-in-cheek.)
At first, the idea that the public can review the “truth” of an article seems bizarrely out of touch. Why would this site not be buried under a mountain of partisan barbs from all sides? (He says that he would weed out propaganda bots, but what about the propaganda man?)
Secondly, how will the public know the “truth” about an article? And if more than half found it to be a particular story is false, would that mean anything other than your typical, self-selected online poll?
Musk seems unaware that there are facts to review sites and social media efforts, however flawed that attempt to hold journalists accountable. He seems to think he’s inventing the wheel here.
Still, he says: “Even if a majority of the public does not care about the credibility of the score, the journalists, editors and publications. It is how they define themselves.”
In his Twitter poll, 88 percent said that the proposed location “would be good,” while 12 percent say ” no, the media are amazing.” More than 680,000 votes were cast, but of course this reflects Musk almost 22 million Twitter followers, most of them are probably fans.
Musk’s stature is such that he can rip the media and have an important impact on the news, but not with a gimmick, a site. He should just get on the brakes a little bit in the process.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays at 11 am). He is the author of “Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press, and the War Over the Truth.” Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.