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Comrade Musk Wants to Launch “Pravda” Website to Rate Journalists

Tesla CEO increasingly intolerant of media, investor critics, even taking shots at owners.

by on May.24, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has another new idea: a news site! He'd call it Pravda.

It’s hard to tell whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s latest idea was more influenced by the old Soviet Union or the current resident of the White House.

Like President Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepreneur has had his run-ins with the media, Tesla coming under increasing scrutiny in recent months due to production problems, lawsuits, quality issues and mounting financial losses. So, it seems, Musk might lift the name for the old Soviet government’s official media mouthpiece, Pravda, and use it as a way to fire back at critical journalists.

Dig Deeper!

“Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication,” Musk said in his latest burst of tweets. “Thinking of calling it Pravda …”

Meaning “truth,” in Russian, the Russian “news” paper was published from 1918 to 1991 as the official mouthpiece for Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and their successors. It endlessly praised the achievements of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or CCCP in Cyrillic. And it routinely faulted Soviet foes.

(Safety groups want Tesla Autopilot name banned. Click Here for the story.)

Tesla's Model 3 isn't getting the rave reviews from some media outlets the company would like.

The burst included criticism of what Musk called a “holier-than-thou hypocrisy” on the part of “big media companies who lay claim to the truth, but publish only enough to sugarcoat the lie.”

Andrew J. Hawkins, a reporter with The Verge, was one of those firing back, calling Musk “a media-baiting Trump figure.”

He wasn’t alone in suggesting Musk was starting to sound like President Trump, who routinely dismisses unflattering reports as “fake news,” Musk responded to Hawkins by saying that he, “Thought you’d say that,” adding, “Anytime someone criticizes the media, the media shrieks,’You’re just like Trump!’ Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because no ones believes you anymore. You lost your credibility a long time ago.”

The irony, according to several media followers of Musk and Tesla, is that the company has generally been a darling of media coverage that, for quite some time, seemed reluctant to criticize the South African-born executive and his various ventures.

There are a number of media outlets that dedicate specific columns to following Musk’s every twitter feed, blog post and other pronouncement. Users of Apple News can have entire Musk sections set up to read on their iPhones and Mac computers.

But while there are still plenty of reports breathlessly praising his plans to dig tunnels under Los Angeles, launch a colony on Mars and drive the internal combustion into extinction, Musk’s apparent rage at the media – or at least some within the media – seems to be triggered by ever more critical scrutiny of his corporate problems.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a plan for dealing with the news media.

(To see more about Elon Musk striking back after tough reviews of the Model 3, Click Here.)

That includes reports on a series of crashes, some resulting in battery fires, some linked to Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system. There have been several fatalities and a number of injuries, and the incidents have triggered several investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S., and another by Swiss authorities.

Things seemed to start going sour in mid-2017 when production of the critical new Model 3 battery-sedan got off to a horrendous start. Production is still running well behind schedule and that led to Tesla reporting record first-quarter earnings.

It has also resulted in less enthusiastic coverage of Tesla’s and Musk’s frequent sales and earnings forecasts. It has almost never hit key targets, the Model X SUV, for example, coming to market two years late.

The Model 3 production problems have led to increasing scrutiny by investors, as well, several large groups currently trying to block the re-election of two Tesla board members seen as too close to CEO Musk.

A rating system for journalists should solve all of his media problems.

Industry analysts have issued more scathing assessments in recent months, among other things questioning Musk’s repeated assurances that Tesla won’t need to raise new capital this year. A new Goldman Sachs assessment forecasts the company will need another $10 billion in equity by 2020.

Musk doesn’t appear to be limiting his disdain to media critics. During a conference call triggered by the first-quarter earnings call, the Tesla CEO cut off questions from several analysts, calling them, among other things, boring. But while each analyst was told they could ask just one question and one follow-up, Musk spent nearly 20% of the 75-minute call fielding a dozen or so queries from one who repeatedly voiced his adoration of the executive and his company.

His handling of that call was sharply criticized, and Musk also was rebuked by some for attacking the driver killed in a California crash of a Model S earlier this year – one of the incidents under NTSB investigation.

Even traditionally friendly faces have been less fawning in recent months. Consumer Reports magazine, which once declared the Tesla Model S “broke” its rating system with a more-than-perfect score, this past week refused to give an endorsement to the Model 3, citing a series of problems, including poorly performing brakes. After Musk fired back, CR did agree to a retest, and the exec’s plan to attack the media came shortly afterwards.

(Click Here for more about Musk looking beyond Model 3 problems, but creating some headache in the process.)

Of course, Musk could use his own, news site to snipe at any and all of his critics, whether they be journalists, analysts, Tesla owners, government officials or anyone else who doesn’t show him the expected degree of fealty and deference. That would be quite in line with how the Russians used their own version of Pravda.

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5 Responses to “Comrade Musk Wants to Launch “Pravda” Website to Rate Journalists”

  1. Bob Wilson says:

    It is about time!

    A 13 year Prius owner, I’ve seen a stream of misleading articles about the Prius. Elon is fighting back against the same media malpractice. For example, the 2001-07 FARS data clearly showed SUVs and pickups were the leading cause of pedestrian fatalities (see link.) Yet there were huge numbers of articles (even The Detroit Bureau) claiming the Prius needed a noise maker to save pedestrians.

    Toyota was too timid to support the Prius against the scurrilous media articles. Tesla has the testicular fortitude to hit back at media bullies.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Laughable, Bob! Elon is screeching at everyone, right now, including analysts (asked tough questions during an earnings call he cut them off as “boring,” while talking to a sycophant for 15 of the 75 minutes available); drivers (have a problem? YOU are the problem, according to Musk); and the media. He LOVED the media when it was all great coverage, just adored it. But when crashes mount and the safety agencies raise concerns, he bitches at coverage. No, Elon is just incredibly thin-skinned. It has little to do with “testicular fortitude,” v TOO much testosterone to be able to acknowledge problems and the legitimacy of criticism.

      As to the Prius issue, you seem to have missed the fact that we (and others) have written about SUVs, pickups and pedestrian crashes (one report earlier this month, in fact). As to the Prius issue, you are clearly missing a key point: ANY vehicle operating in electric mode is nearly silent, especially at low speeds. It isn’t just Prius but all electrics that need to ensure that pedestrians can hear them coming. And that’s especially true with the blind who have to rely on hearing to recognize when there’s a car approaching. I have talked to numerous industry officials who recognize this as a clear issue, not just some scare tactic or over-reaching government move.

      Sorry, sir, but your bias — v your facts — is showing.

      Paul E.

  2. Dick says:

    Only someone in the media would not accept the fact that the media is biased. There is no use repeating the thousands/millions of examples because the media would twist or ignore the facts to “prove” they are saints. Unfortunately, most Americans are too ignorant or lazy to uncover the facts and are easily manipulated by the press. Unfortunately, Musk will learn the hard way not to pick a fight with people who buy ink by ha barrel. Thanks that Trump ignores that rule.

    I don’t know if it’s true, but a European friend once told me that, unlike Americans, Europeans don’t believe anything the press says.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Dick, sheer nonsense.

  3. EB says:

    Statement is funny about how the Europeans don’t believe anything the press says. The statement I am familiar with is Russians saying in the Bolshevik/Stalinist era that if it’s in print, it must be a lie. The Party’s press organ? Why, Pravda of course!