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Random Thoughts On Elon Musk, The Fremont Factory, Liberty, & The Coronavirus

Dear Elon. Grow up and stop throwing tantrums like a two year old. Please, I’m begging you.

First things first. The following is the product of my fertile imagination and is worth precisely what you paid for it. Second, my thoughts are mine alone and do not represent the official policy of CleanTechnica or any member of its staff. You are free not to like what I have to say just as I am free to not like any comments you may wish to post at the end of this article.

Elon Is An Arrogant Ass

Elon Musk

For years, I have had a sneaking suspicion that Elon Musk is an arrogant ass. His intransigence about calling the automated driving features of Tesla automobiles Autopilot when that label confuses some people is troubling. Yes, everything is covered in great detail in the manual, but the truth is, lots of people assume the technology can do far more than it is capable of. That is not necessarily Musk’s fault.

Lots of people have “Hold my beer moments” when they decide to do stupid, irrational, and/or dangerous things. What is Elon’s fault is not recognizing that the world is filled with idiots and not taking reasonable steps to protect those jerks from their own bad judgment. Tweeting about the company’s stock price is, quite frankly, stupid. The rules and regulations of the SEC are complex. No prudent person would risk violating those rules for his own selfish gratification.

Fremont & Public Health

Telling officials of Alameda County to take their public health directives and shove them is not the act of a wise man. Nor is threatening to move the company to another state. Both come across as the actions of a self-important jerk who believes he can defecate in the middle of a crowded room and pretend nothing out of the ordinary happened. We expect such rash, unhinged behavior from the alleged Leader Of The Free World, not from the head of a major public corporation.

Such shenanigans have a deleterious effect on other members of society. It is becoming fashionable now, as the coronavirus crisis drags into its 9th week, for some people to claim — loudly — that all health directives, whether at the city, county, state, or federal level, are unconstitutional violations of their personal liberty. Want some examples?

Men with assault rifles invaded the Michigan state house to protest the health directives of governor Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Protesters like to get within inches of reporters so they can scream at them while covering them with possibly infectious spittle. A security guard in Michigan was shot for asking customers at a Family Dollar to wear a mask in the store. In today’s news, another security guard at a Target in Los Angeles had his arm broken when he told a shopper to put on a mask.

Elon would never acknowledge this, but his actions encourage such outrageous behavior. We all set an example for those around us. If Musk was a private citizen on an island in the Pacific, no one would care if he walked around naked throwing hand grenades at the local fauna, but a person who thrusts himself into the public eye should expect to behave with some decorum.

America is currently ruled by petulant people who behave like two year olds with full diapers. Liberty does not mean being able to do any goddam thing you please. And while building electric cars is important, it does not override a duty to protect all members of society from foreseeable harm. A string of extra zeroes in your bank account is no excuse for boorish behavior.

All “Rights” Are Limited

In a society, there are no absolute rights. Free speech is dandy, but it does not convey the power to slander others or threaten bodily harm with impunity. We are all free to be you and me, but offering to punch someone in the nose is a crime no matter what the Bill of Rights has to say. Equal justice under law does not mean the rich get to behave one way while the rest of us have to behave in another (in theory, anyway.)

As of this moment, the standoff between Musk and the county of Alameda seems to have been resolved. According to Forbes, the Alameda County Health Department has agreed the Fremont factory can prepare to reopen this week and resume operations as soon as next week if the company follows state and local guidelines for reopening manufacturing facilities, which include closing break rooms and using barriers to keep employees separated, among other measures. The Fremont police department will verify whether the factory is following safety guidelines and maintaining appropriate distancing between workers, officials said.

What Was The Payoff For Musk?

So, what did Musk get for his raging outbursts and lawsuit? Nothing of substance that could not have been obtained through the normal give and take of negotiation. Instead, Musk came off looking like an arrogant jerk. The result of his tantrum is impossible to know at the present time, but it will have consequences.

Speaking only for myself, I am far less likely to purchase a Tesla automobile this week than I was last week. And I sure as hell would not join a space mission to Mars to live in a colony ruled according to the dictates of an egomaniac like Elon. The nefarious deeds of Governor Wilhuff Tarkin in Star Wars were enough to convince me I did not wish to live in a totalitarian regime dominated by a madman.

One person’s liberty is another person’s involuntary servitude. I prefer to work toward a sustainable future on Earth instead of living under the autocratic rule of some tin horn dictator who spends most of his time telling himself how wonderful he is. Ripping society apart with bile-filled outbursts is the polar opposite of what the world needs to meet the challenges of the future. Grow up, Elon. It’s time to act like an adult, not an overgrown baby.

Editor’s note: There are opinions across a very large spectrum on Elon Musk’s tweets and statements this past week or two. I have seen many longtime Tesla fans on both sides of the debate — far, far apart from each other, considering how broad the spectrum is. I have seen many hardcore Tesla fans flip against Elon Musk all of a sudden and debate at length with people they previously agreed with probably 95% of the time on the topic of Tesla. I’m not a huge fan of the sideshow, but it is what it is — there’s no erasing history. I would like to get back to publishing more content on clean technology itself, and market analysis, but when my neighbor who I’ve never talked to about Tesla before is bringing up Elon’s tweets and lawsuits, it is clearly the cleantech news of the week — and op-eds are bound to bloom.

Also, I know for a fact that Steve Hanley was seriously considering — planning on — buying a Tesla Model Y. I trust that his comments above about his rattled purchasing plans are genuine. I am also sure that many others who have followed Tesla and planned to buy a Tesla or thought about buying one are essentially in the same boat. I do think it’s something to consider — when people are shifting purchasing plans because of certain company actions, or even just because of the framing/communications around those actions, perhaps the best solution is not to just “stand your ground,” but to think about how and why you are upsetting people.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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