Friday, December 11, 2020

Rolling Stone: "Elon Musk is the Messiah" Vanity Fair:"Hold my beer"

Admittedly, Nick Bilton's profile lacks the Christ imagery of that notorious Rolling Stone cover story, but in terms of buying into the myth of Elon bullshit, we may have a new winner.

Here's a heavily annotated taste:

Elon Musk is on a mission. He’s on a mission to Mars. He’s on a mission to save humanity from its reliance on fossil fuels, which could destroy the planet and kill us all. [EVs, while helpful, address only a part of fossil fuel dependency. Tesla is just one of the EV makers. Musk didn’t found Tesla (except in the retcons). Other than that. -- MP] He’s on a mission to save us from artificial intelligence algorithms going rogue and machines ending human life as we know it. [It’s not at all clear that  Neuralink is serious about its technology which, even if it works will almost certainly won’t accomplish what it claims and will not even in theory address major concerns over unintended consequences of AI. --MP]
He’s on a mission to help save a group of boys trapped underground in Thailand. [Do I even need to comment? -- MP] A mission to transport people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in giant air tubes. [It takes a lot of time to debunk a hyperloop story. When dealing with a writer who describes a maglev vac-train as “giant air tubes,” it’s almost certainly not worth the effort. -- MP] A mission to build ventilators for hamstrung hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. [Musk boasted  that he could make all ventilators ICUs would need. When he was caught in the lie, he bought a load of surplus sleep apnea machines and claimed those were the kind of ventilators he had been talking about all along. -- MP]

He’s on a mission to prove the coronavirus fatality rate is greatly overstated. [That one I’ll have to give Bilton. -- MP] To dig tunnels underground to alleviate the fatuous cycle of traffic jams. [Once again, Musk made some wild claims then, discovering he was supposed to follow through, had his engineers slap together a half-assed demonstration that literally involved bolting wheels to the side of a Tesla. -- MP] To save journalism. [“Save” in the sense of preventing it from saying critical things about Elon Musk. (though Bilton does acknowledge this deep in the profile) -- MP] To mitigate the effects of climate change. [By setting up a Ponziesque solar panel company to screw over taxpayers and Tesla shareholders -- MP] To transport people in earthbound rockets from one continent to the next in mere minutes. [Once again a claim with little to support it. -- MP] To inhabit other planets before the sun explodes and turns our oceans into boiling vats of water, our skies into steam-filled death, our lands into carbon crusts of darkness. [Bilton’s grasp of science here is actually weaker than Musk’s. -- MP] He’s on a mission to inhabit other star systems. [Calling your rocket a starship doesn’t actually make it capable of interstellar travel. -- MP]  All of these missions are completely possible in the realm of physics and science, especially with Elon Musk’s brain working to solve these problems.

And it just goes on and on and on. The level of fawning and credulousness seen here is both stunning and sickening, comparable and in some ways worse than the most sycophantic Trump coverage from Fox or OAN. Musk is "a true genius" with "superhuman abilities" who is "not merely changing the world but the very fabric of the universe."

Bilton doesn’t have even the courage of his lack of convictions. He tries to hide his sycophancy and lack of professionalism behind touches of hip detachment without showing any skepticism or real distance. The mad genius/flawed messiah narrative is fundamentally dishonest but it allows journalists to maintain a pretense of doing their job.

Perhaps in these times, we should demand more than that.

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