For months now, Elon Musk, the billionaire inventor trying to colonize Mars, tunnel under Los Angeles and make electric vehicles mainstream, has been seemingly preoccupied with another obsession: the media.
What began as frustrated swipes at the press during earnings calls last year blossomed into full-blown fury on Wednesday when Musk attacked the “holier-than-thou” media on Twitter for a litany of perceived abuses. Among them:
Disproportionately covering automobile deaths involving Tesla.
Improperly highlighting injuries at his factory.
Helping to elect Donald Trump.
The biased coverage has conspiratorial roots, Musk claimed, the result of an advertising alliance between fossil fuel companies and the media.
Musk tweeted “Problem is journos are under constant pressure to get max clicks & earn advertising dollars or get fired. Tricky situation, as Tesla doesn’t advertise, but fossil fuel companies & gas/diesel car companies are among world’s biggest advertisers.”
Musk even offered a solution for fighting back against the negative press coverage, a website called Pravda, “where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score of each journalist, editor & publication.”
Pravda – the name of the Soviet Union’s chief propaganda platform – was one of the 20th century’s most influential publications. Musk may have been trolling his online audience, combining a scathing media critique with his notoriously quirky sense of humor. But it appears he also may have been more serious than many suspected, according to Bloomberg.
The outlet noted that the California secretary of state’s website shows a Pravda Corp. was registered in October in Delaware and used the same filing details as two other Musk start-ups.
Musk tweeted “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. Thinking of calling it Pravda …”
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Musk’s tirade.
Musk’s latest attack on the media arrives amid a blitz of negative Tesla headlines that continue to cast doubt on the company’s spending habits and profit turning ability.
Those headlines have raised questions about Musk’s behavior during a recent earnings call and the slow pace of Model 3 production, as well as several investigations into the performance of Tesla’s autopilot feature.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation last week into a crash involving a Tesla Model S. The vehicle was in autopilot mode when the accident had occurred, the driver reportedly told authorities. If true, that crash would be the second accident this year that has occurred when a Tesla was operating in the semiautonomous driving mode.
Musk has repeatedly criticized reporting about auto accidents involving his vehicles.
Musk tweeted “It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the 7/840,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage”
On Wednesday, the tech website Electrek published a story highlighting an auto analyst’s prediction that Tesla stock will eventually rally despite negative coverage that has “dominated news cycles.” Musk tweeted a link to the article with the following message:
“The holier-than-thou hypocrisy of big media companies who lay claim to the truth but publish only enough to sugarcoat the lie, is why the public no longer respects them.”
After months of periodic skirmishes with the media, Musk seemed to declare war on journalists Wednesday, attacking their credibility and honesty with a new relentlessness over the course of more than two dozen tweets.
Mid battle, he even paused to say he was feeling better than usual.
Musk tweeted “For some reason, this is the best I’ve felt in a while. Hope you’re feeling good too…”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.