Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Elon Musk Needs to Stop Tweeting Things He Can’t Prove (slate.com)
40 points by kgwgk 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

I really don't understand some people on HN's desire to shield Musk from any criticism.

When I started in tech as a career nearly 20 years ago I was really excited because I wanted to make the world a better place through technology.

In some ways Musk embodies the kind of person a younger me would have considered a hero. Now increasingly I question his propensity to make outlandish claims on all sorts of topics and then get defensive when he can't substantiate them. The worst outcome of this kind of behaviour is Theranos.

Musk and his companies have achieved a lot. He should focus more on that (and improving ethics in the manner in which they get their results), and less on his appearance.

It's not that people are shielding Musk, it's that they are pointing out inaccurate reportings. It just so happens that the ones most informed are...the fans. Oops. Journalists should be more careful, they're starting to look pretty stupid.

>>Musk and his companies have achieved a lot.

That is generally possible for an immigrant, college dropout with $100K in student loans only if they aim crazy and fail upwards.

Try that for a change. It works.

Yup. It's just a cult though.

That’s absolutely a factor but I believe there’s more to the issue than that.

For a certain segment of people, Musk represents one of precious few glimmers of hope in several high impact fields. These people are sick of mega industry, boundless bureaucracy, and financially incentivized shortsightedness stymying progress and actively fighting to preserve the status quo. In their view, Musk possesses the qualities, resources, and initiative necessary to succeed in spite of these problems.

There aren’t many who fit that description or the or even give the appearance of such. It’s exceptionally rare, no matter how you slice it. With this in mind, it’s easy to imagine how some might feel inclined to defend Musk from perceived threats, even if it’s criticism rooted in truth. More than Musk himself, these peoples’ hopes are at stake, which naturally motivates strong reactions.

Personally, I feel conflicted. I do wish he’d tone down his tweeting and provide concrete proof of things like adequate factory safety, but I also feel that SpaceX, Tesla, and the Boring Company are all important for moving humanity forward (especially the first) and would hate to see them unduly impeded.

The Elon hate brigade is way more out of control. It's a festering pile of clickbait, anti-intellectualism / nerd discrimination, misapplied social justice warriorism, financial speculators / incumbent economic cartel misinformation, and an out of control fourth estate with no ethics or conduct.

Maybe, but please don't rant like this here. It just lowers the signal/noise ratio even further.

Journalists need to stop "commenting" or "sharing knowledge" on topics they are woefully under-powered (both in terms of rhetoric and intellect) to understand at even a basic cursory level...

Slate has tweeted a number of things they haven't been able to prove, some that could even be considered slander...

couldn't you say the same thing about musk?


Take a close look at the chosen Tweets in the article. None of them technically levy an accusation or claim that needs to be proven by him. They are almost all formed as questions. The few statements that exist are opinions (i.e. "this is not journalism"). He has carefully constructed his Tweets to be free from legal requirements regarding slander, libel, etc. by not actually making any non-opinion claims.

Basically, he's following Cartman's method of "asking questions" on South Park to discredit someone by implying something without actually stating it or providing any actual evidence to support the implied claim.


Anyone who utilizes these methods of underhanded, disingenuous attack should be ridiculed and ignored.

He needs to stop tweeting? Why should he? I don't get these articles calling on people to stop saying something the author disagrees with. If Musk is wrong then history will judge him. He will eventually have to deal with whatever the consequences of his speech is.

> He will eventually have to deal with whatever the consequences of his speech is.

That may have been true in the past, but is no longer. Source: donald trump.

> I don't get these articles calling on people to stop saying something the author disagrees with. If Musk is wrong then history will judge him.

How will history judge? I don't mean "what will the judgement be?", but "what will the mechanism of judgement be?". The calls for (what is or what is perceived to be) undesireable speech to stop are the judgement of short-term history. In the long term, I believe that the consensus in good historiography is that later judgement must be based at least in part on contemporary perceptions, which won't be available if people silently wait for history to judge.

This a weird article. I have been closely following Tesla for the last 5 years and it has been the target of constant FUD and misinformation. Some very powerful people are on a mission to take down Tesla. Look at the stream of negative opinion pieces that come out of WSJ. Weirdly, when Musk fights back against the FUD, the press claims he needs to "shut up". Well, maybe if the press covering Tesla didn't have a clear agenda, may be he will shut up ? Maybe Slate will write an article covering the agenda driven hit pieces against Tesla ?

Better yet would be for the press to stop covering Musk-related activities except when they are newsworthy.

What's with all the Musk hit pieces lately? Complaining about his tweets? Really?

I could no longer suppress the urge to troll on twitter. Before doing so, I read maybe 100 tweets on a thread. It was a political tweet, so the standard of truth was not that high.

Guess what I found? 100% of the tweets were not falsifiable. They were as reliable as tarot reading, probably less scientific than same, and certainly less entertaining.

If this can be generalized to "<Anyone> Needs to Stop <Saying> Things He Can’t Prove" nobody would be able to say things like "God exists." or "God doesn't exist." (because you can't prove this) and similar.

> If this can be generalized to "<Anyone> Needs to Stop <Saying> Things He Can’t Prove" nobody would be able to say things like "God exists." or "God doesn't exist."

So it can't be generalised to that. It means that factual statements about real people with the easily foreseeable potential to do harm to those real people shouldn't be made without proof (with which you can agree or disagree), but that's less punchy.

Is this where we are headed? Pretty soon we will be a world of endless flame-wars. It works for Trump (someone I do not like) and it'll work for Musk (someone I like). It might even work to the author of the article if they manage to gather as large of a following.

I think this is a symptom of the effects of deindividuation. When your communications are always broadcast to a large group you get to feel like the head of an army but are actually closer to the ring-leader of a mob. One is able to justify saying whatever they want because that is where it ends for them, they have spoken their minds. In other words one is able to detach themselves from the ramifications of their words because those are other people carrying on the cause.

To end my rant, instead of telling people to shut-up and grow up which is rarely effective, perhaps we can try to gain a deeper understanding of our society and the side-effects of the rapid changes taking place.


Never understood why people use the phrase reverse sexism or reverse racism. That sort of implies that only men are capable of sexism or only whites are capable of racism.

Not picking on your comment, but it got me pondering that phrasing so just thinking out loud here.

Granted, I've seen some people outright claim that minorities can't commit acts of racism because minorities don't have the the power structures in place to benefit from their prejudice. So that concept would fit in with that phrasing. But that seems like some mealy-mouthed crap to get around the idea that crimes (or acts in general if not meeting the threshold of crime) committed by minorities can't or don't have the same underlying motive simply based on race, which is simply an absurd notion. Not to mention that treating prejudice as separate from racism doesn't make sense since both incorporate a belief or preconceived idea about someone or a group of people based on a general characteristic - in this case, race.

Whites can't be the victim of racism because they are the oppressors. When 1000 years of slavery and capitalist exploitation are reversed, then I'll stop enjoying white people tears.

Men cannot be victims of sexism, because see above.

Would you please not post ideological rants to HN, like this and your other recent comments? That's definitely not what this site is for.


Edit: it looks like you've been using HN primarily for ideological battle. We ban accounts that do that, regardless of ideology, because doing it destroys the intellectual curiosity this site exists for. So if you could please (re-)read the guidelines and not use HN that way, we'd appreciate it.

But that's a racist and sexist statement.

You are fundamentally seeing people as 'White' or 'Men' instead of as they are, people. A persons ability to be racist or the victim of racism is solely dependent on if they are committing racist acts or having racist acts committed against them. Their race has nothing to do with it.

Although I don't really have a dog in this fight, it's important to note that the contemporary literature in the fields of philosophy, sociology and critical race theory generally considers racism to be involving not only a prejudicial element, but also "acts" (it's important to not restrict racism to acts but also to include ideologies) directed from a position of power. The characteristics (i.e qualitative differences) absolutely matter, along with the history which forms both the perception of what's being said (giving words and actions their meaning) but also may provide context for the action to point towards analysing the act critically.

Regarding a related topic, there's a wonderful paper by Swanson[0] on the use of slurs (in particular racist ones) and the ideologies they hail, and the ideologies hailed absolutely depend on who's using them, in a similar way that the use-mention distinction most people would agree exists.

But there's another point here: you have directly assumed a subjectivist-individualist interpretation of racism (and perhaps even race, for a fresh look at the relation between race and racism see "Racecraft" by Fields and Fields[1]), but while you may account for individual actions of prejudice based on "race", it won't account for structural (going by structure driven through ideology) interpretations of racism.

[0] http://www-personal.umich.edu/~ericsw/research/Swanson,%20Sl...

[1] https://www.versobooks.com/books/1645-racecraft

Historical period extends around 5000 years ago and has plenty of examples that disprove your theory. From the Old Egypt always in war against other mediterranean people, to how the Roman empire talked about the so called barbarians or the proto-Islamic expansion in the caucasus and south of Europe.

Paraphrasing Prince, you can find snakes in every color, every nationality and size.

I think the millennial journalist without ample purpose or tools to navigate life is the one who's "obsessive and deranged".

I hate how people idolize someone who has a past built on the racist exploitations of the South African system of apartheid, built a payment system that creates a class of haves and have-nots, builds a luxury vehicle for his white friends to virtue signal with, and now exploits a tragic situation involving people of color to further his drilling company.

Slate has it right, Musk should stop tweeting.

This sounds like it could be satire.

A story about Trump would have been a better use of time.

Maybe we all want a break from news/discussion about "that orange guy".

Not me. Hate him or love him, Trump news is hilarious and easily the most entertaining thing I've ever seen. I work in downtown Manhattan and despite whatever despair anyone may be feeling at whatever the latest Trump antics of the day are, we can all still share a good laugh at the absurdity of it.

I recall Dave Chappelle musing that "the news had never been so good" when the Clinton scandal was the biggest thing.

"Baby, turn the lights down...the news is coming on". How true, perhaps now more than ever.

I also enjoy watching circus clowns at the circus, but I don't want them driving our bus. He should have kept his day job.

Caustic indifference to newsworthy events on the national scale is not something people should be bragging about IMO.

Trump is Trump. He's the President of the USA now. We should give him the proper respect that his office demands. In his hands lie the future of the North Korean / USA relations, US / China relations, the Supreme Court (which lies the future of Roe vs Wade, Citizens United, and other such cases decided by the court). US Border policy (at least for the next few years), etc. etc. A wide variety of issues that determine the future of this country.

Its one thing to deeply care about the future of the country, be it on the left or right side. But its another thing to simply not care about it and laugh it off.

You can deeply care about the country and where things are headed and still find humor in the absurdity of a lot of his actions. This is quite literally what every late night talk show host does every single day - Trevor Noah, Colbert, Kimmel, etc.

If we are on the express to hell, I am at the very least going to enjoy the ride. Just as I will make sure I vote.

And I'm beginning to have doubts that laughing at other people and making fun of them has any useful purpose in the greater political discourse.

Colbert in particular is incredibly caustic, and almost exclusively caters towards making fun of the other side and "how stupid / hypocritical they are". As far as I'm concerned, this kind of trolling and sarcasm is part of the problem. And while Colbert himself is relatively tame, the twitter / internet goons who worship him are just as bad as Musk's online Twitter goons and trolls.

But this is getting quite far away from Mr. Musk and the point of the article. Bringing it all together: the general problem in today's discourse are the hero-worshiping trolls who take a personality (be it Trump, Colbert, or Musk), and take their fight to the internet to harass others.

And btw, Mr. Colbert was one of the first users of this methodology.


This was Colbert in 2006, so 12-years can change a person. I don't see Colbert really unleashing the troll armies upon anyone else anymore. But it is good to remember that Colbert was one of the first to launch a "media invasion" on the online space.

In a very similar manner to what Mr. Musk is doing in the article.

Oh, I agree that it's contributing to the problem. Or at the absolute minimum, it's not helping. But it's funny. And that was all I was saying, really.

As for your larger point - yes, the online trolling is bad. People unleashing their dogs, so to speak, is also very bad. But the real problem is social media itself. I'm sure you've seen over the past year all the Silicon Valley insiders coming out saying they knew what they were doing when creating Facebook and things like that. This funnels into the whole "echo chamber" concept. The real issue sitting on top of all of this is that social media isn't designed at all, whatsoever, to increase communication, connectivity, or "togetherness". It is designed entirely to engage and retain eyeballs on screens, sucking up ad-revenue. Exposing oneself to opposing viewpoints is rarely something people find entertaining enough to keep them clicking for more. Just as the things that go viral are virtually never well-reasoned debate - they are insult wars and snark for snark retorts that must be contained within the 280 character limit.

> We should give him the proper respect that his office demands.

Disagree 100%.

Blind respect for your country's leaders leads to dark paths.

"Respect" doesn't mean "agree with". If you disagree with Trump, then you should vote on 2018 for people who will oppose Trump, and then vote in 2020 for the most reasonable alternative to Trump.

That includes the primary vote (if Trump is defeated in the Republican Primary, the game is effectively over), in both the Republican and Democrat races. The general election vote, and so forth.

Finally, if you disagree with Trump's Executive Orders, or the laws that come about through his administration, then I guess a bit of civil disobedience can be fine. But you need to ensure that whatever civil disobedience you do actually furthers your point and improves your political sphere. Any 2014-like "Occupy" situations is a waste of effort. "Occupy" without a plan to vote or otherwise obtain power in the future elections is a futile waste of time and effort.

I don't merely disagree with Trump. I think he's a xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic demagogue. He's a terrible human being that isn't worthy of respect. He wants power for the sake of power but is utterly incompetent at wielding it.

(On a completely unrelated note, are you a PDXLAN attendee? If you are, I've met you and we were on the same Overwatch team a year ago, I think. If not, nevermind, just someone else that uses a "dragontamer" alias)

No, sorry. I never played Overwatch before.

> I don't merely disagree with Trump. I think he's a xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic demagogue. He's a terrible human being that isn't worthy of respect.

A wild animal, like a shark, bear, or lion, needs to be treated with respect. They're apex predators who are mostly selfish. They don't give a care about you and are prone to aggression, downright killing people who get in their way.

And yet, if you see a wild bear, you better give it the respect it deserves.

You can completely disagree with a man while being forced to give respect to their position of power.

> And yet, if you see a wild bear, you better give it the respect it deserves.

> You can completely disagree with a man while being forced to give respect to their position of power.

But neither of these is your original statement (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17492143), which is that Trump should be given the respect due the presidency.

The first statement, that someone (or something) should be given the respect it deserves, is a tautology; I think most people would agree that Trump should be given the respect he deserves, with only the question of how much respect that is.

The second statement says that respect is given to the position of power, which is different from giving it to the man. Respecting the presidency as an office is different from respecting the president who is its current office-holder.

> We should give him the proper respect that his office demands.

Respect, as you rightly say, is due to the office, but not necessarily to the person occupying it.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact