Elon Musk’s plan to rate press reliability isn’t off to a great start
Just three days after suggesting non-journalists should have a site ranking the press for credibility, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk provided a very timely reminder that most people just aren’t qualified to do so.
In a since-deleted tweet, Musk highlighted a piece of journalism that he regarded as “excellent”. Entirely coincidently, it was a piece largely supporting his position on journalism entitled “Elon Musk plans a media credibility site. The media’s response may support his argument.” Just to put the cherry on the cake, Musk added a link to the critical thinking page on Wikipedia.
There was just one problem. As highlighted by Slate, there’s a reason you may be unfamiliar with The Knife Media website linked to by Musk: it’s a rebranded version of The Knife of Aristotle. Again, the name might not ring a bell, but suffice it to say it was subject to a memorable investigation by Paste last year which summed it up with the following headline: “The Knife of Aristotle isn’t just a fake ‘fake news’ site – it’s a cult.” As the article explains, it has ties to NXIVM: a suspected sex cult.
You would imagine that this accidental endorsement might make Musk reconsider the merits of his plan to judge journalists, but apparently not. For someone who wants to see journalists held accountable, he didn’t accept much responsibility for his misstep:
The piece below explains how Musk first announced plans to rank the media:
Tesla boss Elon Musk yesterday launched a scathing attack on the press in a series of tweets, eventually claiming he would launch a site that scores the credibility of journalists, editors and publications.
The rant appears to have been prompted by a high volume of negative reports about Tesla of late, which the CEO feels are unfair.
In recent days, the company’s Model 3 has under fire after Consumer Reports claimed it has stopping distances “worse than any contemporary car” tested – a problem Tesla plans to fix with over-the-air updates. Last week, a crash involving a Tesla Model S was also widely reported, much to Musk’s frustration. The Tesla boss said it was “super messed up” that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle could make the front page news when so few fatal road traffic incidents in the US receive similar coverage.
Tesla also fared badly in National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s recent teardown of its workplace conditions, with the report saying that serious injuries were 83% higher than the industry average. An investigative article by non-profit website Reveal about working conditions at its plants, which Tesla would later label “an ideologically motivated attack by an extremist organization” further compounded the company’s woes.
In his most recent Twitter rant, Musk argues that the public no longer respects media companies who “lay claim to the truth, but publish only enough to sugarcoat the lie”. This is despite the fact some analysts have claimed Tesla’s stock will rally as such negative reports are seen as “increasingly immaterial”.
When labelled as “a media-baiting Trump figure screaming irrationally about fake news” by one automotive reporter from The Verge, Musk responded by saying: “Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because no one believes you anymore. You lost your credibility a long time ago.”
He continued to say that the problem stems from the fact journalists are “under constant pressure to get max clicks and earn advertising dollars or get fired”, before pointing out that Tesla doesn’t advertise while traditional car manufacturers are among the world’s biggest advertisers.
Musk then claimed he will create a site that enables the public to rate the veracity of articles and to track the “credibility score” for journalists and publications, while ensuring bots have no influence. His follow up tweet was a poll, in which he asked the public if they thought his idea is good – at the time of writing, it has received almost 500,000 votes, with 87% of respondents endorsing the Tesla CEO’s view.
Some five hours later, Musk tweeted: “For some reason, this is the best I’ve felt in a while. Hope you’re feeling good too.”