Professional Troll Elon Musk At It Again

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
professional troll elon musk at it again

In addition to Elon Musk’s title as CEO — sorry, Technoking — of Tesla, along with his role as boss of SpaceX, we need to add professional troll to his resume.

How else to explain his latest Twitter spat?

For those who didn’t see it, Ford chief Jim Farley tweeted out a video touting the brand’s new BlueCruise hands-free driving system that had what many interpreted as a subtle dig at Tesla.

BlueCruise! We tested it in the real world, so our customers don’t have to.

— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) April 14, 2021

Tesla, you see, has been accused, fairly in my view, of using its customers as unwitting guinea pigs in the testing of its so-called “Full-Self Driving” system.

We’ll pause here to note that there is no car on the market that offers true self-driving. A fully autonomous experience would be classified as level 5 autonomy, and no car is beyond level 2. Tesla’s system is level 2. Our friendly rivals at Jalopnik won’t even use Tesla’s terminology anymore because it’s misleading, and dangerously so, and as TTAC boss, I’ve been thinking of following suit. While we strive to be fair in our journalism, we also exist to report the truth, and the truth is that Tesla’s system isn’t full-self driving, no matter what it calls it. And Tesla’s marketing actually is dangerously misleading, since consumers might believe their cars can do more autonomous driving than they actually can, potentially leading to accidents.

So, Ford called Tesla out. And Musk clapped back with a clip from the 1995 comedy Tommy Boy, which starred Farley’s late cousin, Chris. The clip showed a scene from the movie in which the 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX driven by the characters portrayed by Farley and David Spade experiences a hood malfunction at speed because Tommy Callahan Jr. (Farley) didn’t remove the oil can after a fuel stop.

I found some footage of the drive

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2021

At least one automotive reporter called out Musk on Twitter for being mean. As we all know, Farley died young of a drug overdose, and it’s arguably pretty awful to tease someone by dredging up footage of their late cousin acting in a movie — one in which he plays a guy who can be, at times, a bit of idiot.

That aside, it bugs me on another level. There’s a discourse now that pervades our politics, our sports, and almost everything else in which someone gets called out for doing something that most people would say is wrong — in Tesla’s case, using a marketing term that is misleading and dangerously so — and instead of working to correct the issue, decides to lash out in an attempt to hurt the critic.

In other words, instead of tweeting back at Ford, Musk should be working on either making FSD actually a truly self-driving system, or more realistically, coming up with a better name for it that doesn’t imply that it does more than it actually is capable of. Say what you want about BlueCruise or GM’s SuperCruise, neither implies that they are level 5 systems that allow the car to completely drive itself. And last I checked, GM’s Super Bowl ad made it clear SuperCruise only works on certain roads.

This is nothing new for Musk. But it’s intellectually dishonest bullshit and I am tired of it. As a society, we’ve spent too long now — at least half a decade — allowing powerful people to act like this when they’re called out or criticized. It’s childish behavior and we’re enabling it.

Musk isn’t the only one guilty of this. A certain ex-president is a master of it, as are certain politicians from both sides of the aisle, at all levels. Give me five minutes and I could think up a whole ton of athletes and celebs and pundits and contrarian journalists who embrace this type of behavior, especially on Twitter.

But since Musk runs the most divisive car company of our era, he’s our focus for this post.

I don’t know if what he tweeted to Farley is truly mean or not. Or if it is or isn’t funny.

I do know that it’s a deflection from Tesla’s misleading marketing, and that’s the problem.

[Image: Tesla]

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2 of 32 comments
  • Snooder Snooder on Apr 16, 2021

    I think the central problem is not that people get defensive and are mean to each other. That's just how people are, have been, and always will be. I mean, Alexander Hamilton got clapped by Aaron Burr for talking mad shit. The problem is that we have, for some inexplicable reason, decided to treat random trolling on the internet (i.e. Twitter) like an actual source of journalism. Nobody should care what anyone says on Twitter. It's Twitter. I don't care if God himself descends from the heavens to post on twitter that "Buddha is ghey". I refuse to care, and nobody else should either. Make them publish that nonsense in an actual publication where they have to think about it and someone has to edit it and well sift out 99% of the crap.

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Apr 16, 2021

    Musk is honestly the most compelling reason not to buy a Tesla. "Full Self-Driving" is straight-up consumer fraud.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic And this too shall pass.....Ford went thru this when the model T was introduced. It took the moving assembly line to make real money. As time progressed, it got refined, eventually moving to the Model A. Same kind of hiccups with fuel injection, 4 speed automatic, Firestone tires, dashboards with no radio knobs, etc, etc, etc. Same thing with EVs. Yep, a fire or two in the parking lot, espresso time at the charging stations, other issues yet to be encountered, just give it time. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Art Vandelay 2025 Camaro and Challenger
  • Mike Beranek Any car whose engine makes less than 300 ft-lbs of torque.
  • Malcolm Mini temporarily halted manual transmission production but brought it back as it was a surprisingly good seller. The downside is that they should have made awd standard with the manual instead of nixing it. Ford said recently that 4dr were 7% manual take rate and I think the two door was 15%.
  • Master Baiter It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. It will be interesting to see if demand for Ford’s EVs will match the production capacity they are putting on line.