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The Cult of Elon Is Cracking (theatlantic.com)
11 points by AndrewBissell 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 1 comment

This article is strange. There are a few random anecdotes, which aren't useful since they could be selectively picked to paint a certain narrative that fits this headline. It's more interesting to focus on the things Elon has said that this article chooses to call out. The article notes that Elon's claims are false but that isn't true across all the examples shared in this article.

> In the past few months, Musk has downplayed the dangers of the virus, offered unfounded predictions about how many Americans it will infect, and falsely claimed that children are “essentially immune” to COVID-19.

Kids are essentially "immune", although that word is being used somewhat informally in this text, since they can still transmit the virus despite almost always experiencing mild or no symptoms. Children have incredibly low infection mortality rate from COVID-19. Case fatality rate for children 0-9 is still 0 (https://www.hopkinsguides.com/hopkins/view/Johns_Hopkins_ABX...), and other sources that disagree nevertheless report very low non-zero figures. The recent reports of children exhibiting symptoms of Kawasaki disease due to COVID are dubious and even if they are confirmed, the incidence rate would be incredibly low (https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/no-severe-inflammator...). The incidence of severe symptoms required intensive care among children is as low as 0.58%, and this is among those who are confirmed cases, which is a biased sample due to the lack of universal testing (https://www.uptodate.com/contents/coronavirus-disease-2019-c...).

> He has called, over and over again, for rolling back the widespread measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus, a move that public-health officials believe could be lethal.

There is nothing unreasonable about making the case for reopening. Many countries have already taken various steps towards reopening, as early as over a month ago (https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/0...). Some US states relaxed their orders partially at the beginning of May and they haven't seen spikes either (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/so...).

We wouldn't shut down society to save just one life - that would mean that we need to just keep society shutdown even under normal (pre-COVID) conditions, since there is always some degree of risk as we go about our lives. So clearly there is a nonzero number of deaths that is acceptable, and there isn't going to be one "correct number" for everyone. We all have different values, worldviews, and risk tolerances. Additionally, vaccines are not a near term solution. And keeping society in this shutdown state for 1-2 years is likely unacceptable to most people. So we have to confront the reality of choosing guidelines that allow a responsible reopening. Discussing or advocating for that is OK and is not irresponsible. This isn't a binary choice between complete shutdown and total normalcy.

> About two weeks later, Musk tweeted that, “based on current trends,” the United States would have “probably close to zero” new COVID-19 cases by the end of April. The prediction turned out to be wildly incorrect, but Musk didn’t acknowledge his error. That irked some of his fans, who trusted him to get it right.

This is about the only critique from this article that I think is fair. Elon was incredibly off on this prediction, and hasn't owned up to it. But on the other hand, I also think we should acknowledge the incorrectness of experts and predictions made by sources we are told to trust. Many predicted doomsday numbers that didn't come true. Models from sources like the IHME are constantly revised, and figures have shifted wildly through these updates. The WHO was wrong about there being no human to human transmission, and about the efficacy of masks, and other aspects. So does it really make sense to be outraged at just Elon Musk when everyone else isn't being held to the same standard of perfection?

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