Elon Musk, Tesla, The Times discussed on Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan
Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez talking about her ongoing beef with Elon Musk. How did the Tesla boss become this? Big Name this hero an icon to so many. How did he get so much? Fawning media coverage both in the tech world and beyond. How did this cult of personality arise? Jack Crosby is a writer and journalist. Who's been reporting on uncovering Elon? Musk for several years now. He's covered politics tech and labor issues for splinter rolling stone the Atlantic and many other publications in fact Jack recently wrote a piece for the worker on newsletter discourse blog headlined Elon. Musk made me a socialist. He joins me now from New York. Jack thanks for joining me on deconstructed. Thanks for having me. How did he lawn? Musk make you a socialist. So at the time this was sort of early on in my career as a journalist I was working as attack and transportation reporter and this was in a sort of two thousand sixteen and twenty seventeen. Which for the most part. We're really good years for Elon. Musk there is a huge amount of focus on electric vehicles and autonomous cars and he was kind of on the forefront of both of those industries Had A lot of other really successful projects. Going on with SPACEX and things like that it was not however a great time for the digital media industry and I think sort of a combination of covering mosque for the most part. Doing very sort of flattering uncritical reporting on him. In order to you know because that was what was liked by Google Algorithms and our facebook fans and You know outlets. Were kind of doing whatever they could for traffic. At the time I think I saw his predatory approach to his own workers that was going largely unremarked by the press and I kind of saw that mirrored in my own kind of work environment At a at a digital media startup and I think that just sort of contributed I think of course with the twenty sixteen election of Donald Trump but All of these things covering an industry. That was very much sort of like an unrestrained level of capitalism kind of contributed to radicalizing my own personal politics so I want to back to the media coverage of Moskva moment before we do that. Just sticking with your piece in your piece also compare musk to trump to donald trump. Say that both billionaire snake oil salesman. How so so? He is a very gifted. Ceo in a lot of ways. The image that he presents to the world is as this sort of like Tony. Stark character is a genius inventor as someone who is going to save the world through science. And as as I'm sure most people covering him we'll tell you his his genius isn't particularly in engineering he. He's very good at hiring. Good engineers SPACEX has had a mixed record of how their rockets will work. But in general with the government contracts that they've fulfilled they've been relatively consistent Tesla vehicles are for the most part well engineered in well-designed vehicles that to do with Ilan differs based on who you ask I sort of came to the opinion that his real genius is a salesman similar to Donald Trump. He's very very good at projecting an image of himself in an image of the brand that he's selling to his fans and convincing them and that's what they want to buy into. And that's why you see such a strong reaction owes. Musk and trump have many many people that are convinced that what they are offering. The world is going to benefit them personally Musk has thousands and thousands and thousands of Primarily I would say that. His fans are primarily men. Who are you know? Sort of curious. Future forward Maybe a little nerdy kind of guys who are interested in these concepts of renewable energy of electric vehicles of space exploration and things like that. And they're convinced that musk is the one that's going to be able to deliver them deliver that for them and the founded dorm don't they jack especially online in the comment section on? Youtube and elsewhere. Yeah he has a very similar following to to trump into what you see in a lot of kind of very passionate online communities. Which is that any sort of criticism or attack on. Musk is treated as both a personal attack and a sort of reputation of things that must allegedly stands for. So if you write an article that says Elon. Musk is treating workers particularly well. And he's been union busting for years that's going to be perceived by his fans as you standing in the way of progress as you are you know. Why are you trying to disparage the one man who is going to save us? Who is working for a cleaner future for electric cars? They'RE GONNA they're gonNA love me off to the show goes out from this. You mentioned the union issue. One very he claims not to be very political but one very political position he has taken is anti union. He doesn't like organized labor. He's fought tooth and nail to prevent workers in his bay. Area Tesla plump from unionizing. Hasn't he yet he's. He's done this for years there. There have been a couple of sort of notable points in this. There was a a tesla employees in two thousand seventeen named Jose Moron Who wrote a public medium post detailing sort of the conditions in in one of the Tesla facilities? I believe it was the Fremont Facility Talking about mandatory overtime a workplace injuries and things like this musk's response was basically to claim that this guy was a plant by the united auto workers that was trying to organize it tesla and there was a sort of whole mini news cycle at the time where he was railing on like the. Uaw spies and he. He sent out a public email. That sort of compared him in a David and Goliath analogy where Tesla which at the time was one of the highest valued automakers in the country was David Arrayed against these forces arrayed against him and he's one of the men on the planet. Yeah Yeah Yeah I mean I. I think he is not worth at. The time was not in the not in the gates are basis territory. But yeah he's he's a billionaire. Is it true? He wants promised his employees a coaster if they agreed not to union he he did must general strategy in dealing with adversity is to make outlandish promise And then sort of hope that everyone forgets about it by the time. The news cycle is ended so in in public that often comes with. He'll he'll make big promises about what Tesla cars are going to do. When his employees were expressing some discontent he sent out this e mail that was basically saying once Tesla becomes a profitable company. We're going to be able to do all these things that I've wanted to do for ages one of which was free frozen yogurt at a lot of the facilities and another was something he referred to as a tesla. Pod Roller which. I think it's safe to say I have not seen anything about that actually happening. I don't believe that Tesla currently has a pod roller coaster If they do I would be extremely the making the of sweeping sweeping promises. Exactly no fact check exactly and that's a lot of these things have just gone by wayside. the big the big thing in in two thousand seventeen of parliament's vehicles and musk was one of the first people that was really at the forefront promising. Our vehicles are going to have. There's some technical details level four and level five automation and things which basically means that they could drive in a variety of circumstances on assisted by a human driver and musk had a whole. You can't really call an ad campaign but sort of a marketing blitz where he was promising that by the end of two thousand seventeen tesla would be able to do across cross country coast to coast road trip in one of its vehicles with no with no human input and as we've seen now you know that that has not really happened. The limitations on autonomous cars are far far more than the experts were predicting well. Then the the inventors were predicting back in two thousand seventeen and these things have not really gone forward as he said they would and he gets away with it because the media let him get away with it. You yourself say. You spent years writing quote credulous pieces about his business and technology achievement. Lots OF PEOPLE. Right puff pieces about him. Those who don't get as you say attacked by his supporters. How much is the media to blame for the cult of Elon? Musk so I think. An enormous amount. At that time I will say that it does seem now to be changing and of course there you know. This is not a discount. There were reporters at national publications. I think I mentioned RIMAC earlier at Buzzfeed News and Mike Isaac at the Times was mostly covering Uber. Dana Hall who now writes for Bloomberg. I think these reporters were doing very good. Fact-based responsible journalism about mosque. And if you look at Dana Hall's mentions on twitter at any given time. She has hundreds of musk fan boys even though she's one of the most sort of even keeled reporters on him in the business must convoys attacking her all the time for being anti Tesla but at the time in this sort of digital media landscape for a lot of different reasons laudatory coverage of mosque was extremely widespread. And it wasn't just him. This was the thing that we saw People doing for facebook people doing google. There were there were whole outlets. You know who's WHO's ethos was in sort of positive. Press for the advance of of big technology and musk was one of the most interesting and sort of engaging figures in that world and so people got a lot of traffic off of posts. That were that we're highlighting the crazy weird ambitious things that he was he was doing. You mentioned the crazy weird stuff prior to this week's decision which has gone in his favor on reopening the tests and our plan he seemed to be melting down quote unquote. He was tweeting that I'm willing to be arrested. He was tweeting the other week. The Oh my company share prices too high. Is that all. Acta wonder because people like musk and trump and Boris Johnson. I sometimes wonder if the whole eccentric stick is just that stick distraction totally performance and fake. What do you think having covered? Musk for so many years. I think it's a bit of both has always been streak. He's always leaned into this image of being an centric billionaire. I think in recent years he really has perhaps gone a little bit too far. I don't know what has been going on with him personally. His personal life has certainly been chaotic and the decisions that he's made appear to have gotten him in real trouble most notably in the in the defamation case in countersuit involving when he called the cave diver who decided his plans to build a submarine to get the tie soccer team out of a cave. He called this British Cave. Diver a pedophile twitter. But he won that case interesting he got away with it. This is the classic thing with must and this week. He's gotten away with it again. Having defied the law reopened his plant. And now he's got the county retroactively approving. What he did is pretty dangerous isn't and they'll just immediate. Let's let him get him. Get Away with stuff politicians especially in California where he has a lot of clout. They basically saying this week. Almost can do it every once right and I think he's. He's also been enabled by his own board of directors for a long time because we saw another Bombastic sort of hard charging CEO. Travis Kalanick's who is an uber and twenty seventeen whose indiscretions eventually did end in him. Being sort of ousted from the pub. The company is public facing side. That hasn't happened to mosque because as you said he does continue to get away with it and he knows that he wields a tremendous amount of power over the communities that his his companies in his facilities operate in. And.