SpaceX supreme leader, Elon Musk, is in trouble again – and again Twitter appears to be his downfall. Musk is alleged to have broken corporate law in using Twitter to publicly offer to buy back all the shares of his Tesla electric car concern in order to make it a private company again. The stock market price of Tesla shares rose on the news.
Musk is believed to want to make the firm a private company again as he has been irked by repeated questions by financial analysts, journalists and shareholders on his strategy for the Tesla firm which is still struggling with production problems. Musk is said to have also wanted to get his revenge against “short sellers” who try to make money on a falling stock prices as Tesla’s had been.
Update on 15 August 2018: The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now formally investigating Tesla and the veracity of Musk’s offer.
Update on 25 August 2018: The SEC is likely to continue with its investigation even though Musk formally withdrew the privatisation plan on 23 August following a board meeting at Tesla. The net result of these events is that despite an initial rise, the Tesla share price fell 20 per cent less compared to where it started from.
This is not the first time that Musk has fallen foul via unguarded comments on Twitter. Last month, Elon Musk received strong criticism for his Twitter spat with Vernon Unsworth, a member of the diving team which rescued the Thai boys who had been stranded in a flooded cave complex. Musk used Twitter to call Unsworth a “Pedo guy” – a cruel and unfounded suggestion that he is a paedophile/child molester. This was in response to a similarly unjustified attack by Unsworth questioning Musk’s motives in offering to try and save the boys with a novel submersible design. Musk has, of course, got young sons himself and obviously felt sympathy for the Thai boys’ situation. To his credit, Musk did apologise later for his own remark, blaming his sudden anger for it. However, later he openly wondered why Unsworth did not sue him.
Comment by David Todd: We all make mistakes
Twitter, in being so quick and easy to publish, has famously caused many a user to make foolish public statements which they later regret. U.S. President Donald Trump has become well known for his often ill-judged Twitter comments but has not his job over them. Well, at least, not yet. Film director James Gunn was not so lucky. He lost his latest Guardians of the Galaxy film assignment due to his own past poor taste Twitter jokes.
And you don’t even need Twitter to offend if you have a newspaper column as UK Prime Minister-wannabe politician Boris Johnson recently found out with his own politically incorrect jibes.
The freedom to make poor taste and politically incorrect jokes and jibes is, of course, what free speech is all about – whether on Twitter or elsewhere. As it is, while political correctness and its advocates have their heart in the right place, it is always fun to tweak their po-faced preachy pomposity. Nevertheless, it is sometimes justified to receive criticism for ill-judged utterances and postings. Your correspondent regretfully found this out once himself when he caused a mini-Twitter storm after he reposted (on this blog) an amusing but nevertheless poor taste internet joke image referencing one of Space Shuttle disasters. It was not that bad but it was enough to offend others, including, of course, probably those who still mourn their loved ones, even after all these years. We all make mistakes.
For, when it comes to jokes and criticism at the expense of others, the rule should be: do unto others what you wish for yourself. And, similarly, if you plan to give it out, make sure that you can take it by return. By the way, as a general rule, given the cost of doing it, from a financial perspective it is usually only ever worth suing the rich. As such, billionaires should be even more careful in what they put out publicly on Twitter.
With respect to Elon Musk, he really should try to be less prickly and less reactive to criticism. But he should also make less criticism of others himself.
Elon Musk is famous for combining his business interests via a publicity stunt in which he used the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy flight to launch his Tesla Roadstar sports car around the Sun. Nevertheless we advise Elon to give up his financial interest in Tesla, if nothing else to shorten his reported 120 hour working week. Likewise he should also give up making public pronouncements on Twitter. Instead he would be wiser to concentrate his time and effort instead on the things he really loves: his family (his boys), and his SpaceX plan for Mars exploration. If he does not, he risks burn out and failure in these endeavours as well.