Elon Musk allegedly silenced an online critic with Peter Thiel’s playbook

By Cale Guthrie Weissman

July 25, 2018

It’s crazy how some of the most prominent proponents of personal (read: financial) freedom love to silence critics. The most egregious recent example, of course, is Peter Thiel, who secretly bankrolled a lawsuit to kill Gawker because he didn’t like its coverage of him. Today we have a slightly less diabolical, but nonetheless disturbing, example: The case of Elon Musk versus an online critic.

 

An unnamed investor who goes by “Montana Skeptic” online has written a great deal about Tesla. In short, he’s a Tesla short, meaning he’s betting that the stock will tank. Skeptic had a Twitter account as well as a prominent presence on the financial analysis blog Seeking Alpha. And it seems Musk did not like Skeptic’s analysis.

In Skeptic’s latest blog, he explains why he has decided to both deactivate his Twitter and stop writing about Tesla: Because Musk allegedly found out who he was, called his company, and threatened to sue. Skeptic writes:

I do not know what Mr. Musk’s precise complaints are about me. I do not believe he has any valid legal claim, and I would have no trepidation in defending myself vigorously were he to bring any claim. My response to his threats was simply to protect my employer and preserve my employment.

And so, Montana Skeptic is no longer writing about–or shorting–Tesla.

There are a few important threads to this story. For one, as Jalopnik writes, Skeptic allegedly worked for a firm that has invested in oil companies. To pro-Musk folks online, this was proof enough of ulterior motives, and proof that the critic was only interested in his protecting his own portfolio. But according to Jalopnik, Skeptic’s business didn’t seem to be too in bed with the oil companies, so this reaction may have been overblown.

Regardless, this marks another bizarre development in the ever-unfolding saga of Elon Musk Being Online. Musk, for whatever reason, didn’t like what Montana Skeptic was saying, and allegedly decided to use his power to silence him. Meanwhile, there are, of course, numerous other Tesla critics out there. Is Musk going to go after them, too? Was this a singular grudge?

I reached out to Tesla for comment and will update this post if I hear back.

Whatever the case may be, a disturbing precedent is being set. It gained momentum with Thiel and is continuing apace. Unhinged billionaires know they can wield their power erratically and see swift results. Which is to say: It’s a scary time to be a critic of the rising tech elite, because they are always listening and can take things extremely personally.

 
 

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