How Many Progressives Have Been Duped By Anti-Tesla, Anti-EV Propaganda?

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I am proud to be on the side of working-class Americans. I’m proud to support progressive political candidates who are working to get millions more people the basic health care, livable wages, and core education that are the bedrock of a healthy, happy, successful country. Working for the working class involves a lot of fighting back against propaganda from the super wealthy. It means helping to frame discussions in the most valid, complete, societally beneficial way possible when your political opponents want to cherry pick, deceive, and irresponsibly frame policies that benefit only a tiny fraction of wealthy individuals.

So, I’m a bit disappointed when propaganda and smear campaigns from right-wing extremists are effective in turning progressives against themselves.

One thing to remember: If someone is a billionaire, that doesn’t inherently mean she or he is evil. In fact, some billionaires are billionaires specifically because they’ve been so effective at helping to improve society and the lives of other Americans.

Another thing to remember: Dozens of oil & gas billionaires, automotive billionaires, and coal billionaires are under threat from the electric vehicle and solar energy revolution. Legacy billionaires in those industries tend to spend a lot of money trying to shape public opinion and trying to destroy or defame their enemies. Who is enemy #1 for them? Think about it for a minute.

If you look around the cleantech revolution bunkers, there are a lot of leaders. There are a lot of people working to cut pollution from many sources in many ways. However, one face stands above the crowd. Actually, in the energy sector as well as the transport sector as a whole, it seems one face now stands out above every other face. But you don’t even have to take my Cleantech-Kool-Aid word for it. In that Forbes article linked above about “The 93 Global Billionaires In Oil And Energy,” the lead image was a photo of Elon Musk.

So, public target #1 for those opposed to and threatened by cleantech is obvious — Elon Musk. But how do you expect oil, gas, and coal barons to respond to him. How do you expect billionaires like the Koch brothers, Trump buddy Robert Murray, and Trump buddy Carl Icahn (who is reportedly the person who selected Scott Pruitt to head of the EPA) to respond? Do you think they’d only encourage their base to hate Elon Musk? No, if you want to take a public image down, you have to go after the people in the middle, or even the public figure’s own supporters and likely supporters.

With that in mind, consider some of the common attack lines on Musk. He’s been attacked as anti-labor/anti-worker, even though he seems to be anything but. He’s been attacked as just another misogynist “bro culture” tech founder, even though he seems to be anything but. His cars have been attacked as “actually bad for the environment,” even though Tesla is on the obvious frontlines of transitioning society to zero-emissions transport and zero-emissions energy. He’s been attacked as an arrogant crazy person, even though he typically comes across as a humble, highly pragmatic dude. He’s just trying to use his engineering, business, and scientific expertise to improve the human experience for millions of people, yet there’s common insinuation that he’s only in it for money, fame, and Ambien.

All of this negative framing has been picked up to a much greater degree this year by the “progressive press.” A strong narrative has been forming that basically says, “Elon is not one of you. He’s not trustworthy and not worthy of your support.”

But again, who benefits from this narrative, who worked to seed this narrative, and how counterproductive is this narrative among the progressive base that supposedly has climate stabilization as a top priority and that supposedly wants to generate millions of well paying jobs in the green economy?

Liberal players across society have gotten into the habit of hating on Elon Musk and Tesla. They apparently think they’re championing a noble cause, and are oblivious to the fact that they’re “doing the work of the devil.” However, I have perhaps been most disappointed by The Guardian, since it has long been my favorite major media outlet. Aside from possibly being hoodwinked in some major reports*, I consistently see a negative tone or editorial focus when it comes to Elon Musk and Tesla. (*I can’t verify one way or the other if they were hoodwinked, but Tesla implies that’s the case.)

Even more deeply, there’s not great pro-EV coverage there. The Guardian is wonderful with bicycling and other green modes of transport, which is awesome, but it appears to have dropped the ball or fallen into some oil-generated anti-EV talking points when it comes to electric cars. Just one example is this sidebar feature I noticed in a recent article I was reading on the site (screenshot above). The linked analysis has many faults that I won’t even get into here, but the title alone tells you what you need to know — The Guardian has no problem fooling itself and readers into believing that you need to be skeptical about claims that electric cars are much greener than gas cars.

In fact, you don’t need to be skeptical. They are much greener.

In that screenshot above, which was from an article about the Nissan LEAF, there were a few things even more surprising notes.

The first was this line: “Fast forward a century and we still have electric vehicles buzzing about our streets — and none has been more successful or influential than the Nissan Leaf.” Huh? None has been more influential? Seriously? The Nissan LEAF is a great car, but it doesn’t have nearly the influence of some other electric cars.

Of course, your mind goes straight to Tesla now. Everyone knows the Model S and Model 3 have been far more influential electric vehicles. The second shocking thing about the article is that it doesn’t mention Tesla once. In an article about the LEAF and one with the subheading “Nissan’s second-generation electric car is charging ahead of the crowd,” it is odd that the Tesla Model 3 isn’t brought in for some extra context once. I couldn’t tell if there was a specific goal that led to that or the writer just didn’t have the sense that more context would be useful for readers.

And then the article got really weird. “If you have never driven an all-electric car before, it can take a while to get used to. The utter silence is unnerving. I am never sure if I have turned the car on or not. The moment you touch the throttle and it creeps forward always gives me a small jolt of panic.” Unnerving? Panic? Man, sounds like electric cars are a royal pain in the buttocks. It sounds like, for psychological reasons alone, everyone should stay away from them. That’s not good if you want to cut critical carbon emissions.

Overall, the review was okay. It wasn’t horrible, but it certainly wasn’t spectacular. The oddities above would be hard to find in any other EV review in one package, but they in part reflect the growing anti-EV, anti-Tesla narrative among the progressive press. I’m concerned. Progressives lay claim to being more science-based, thoroughly vetting information to come up with a holistic perspective, and not falling for propaganda campaigns the right has fallen for. Yet, more and more of them are on the wrong side of the line in each of these categories when it comes to Tesla and Elon Musk.

Related: The Tesla Smear

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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