Elon Musk on March 9.

Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Fred Lambert, the editor-in-chief of EV news website Electrek, has been bashed by his colleagues in automotive journalism as continually “forwarding the rosy narrative” of Elon Musk and his company, Tesla. 

Lambert himself admits that, of the 6,000 articles he’s written about Tesla and Musk in the past five years, 95% were positive. He owns three Teslas and is a Tesla shareholder, too. 

But on Tuesday, Lambert published a column of about 3,300 words that would be staunchly in that negative 5%. In the op-ed, titled “Tesla superfandom becomes toxic, negative for electric revolution,” Lambert detailed how a group of “Tesla superfans” have provided an overly rosy view of the company for Musk.

While the brazen entrepreneur has relied on typical Twitter users for feedback on what’s right and wrong about Tesla, Musk has leaned too much on the Tesla cheerleaders in recent months, Lambert argued.

“There’s a breed of Tesla superfans who believe that the company can do no wrong, and they attack anyone who says anything that can be perceived as negative about the company,” Lambert wrote.

That’s become clear during the coronavirus pandemic. For months, Musk has pushed against the idea that the coronavirus is dangerous, declaring on Twitter that the panic over the virus is “dumb” and that children are “essentially immune” to it.

Musk’s pushback on the coronavirus and its shutdowns culminated on May 11 when he declared he would reopen a Tesla factory in California’s Alameda County, in defiance of local law, and dared law enforcement in the Bay Area county to arrest him. Tesla employees told Business Insider that they are scared going to work may put them in danger, but that if they don’t, they will lose their jobs.

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Meanwhile, more than 80,000 people have died in the US from the coronavirus. About 6% of Americans who contract the virus die from it, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Lambert wrote that, because Musk is leaning on Tesla superfans, he’s propagated misinformation about the coronavirus. One key example came when California state assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez tweeted “F*ck Elon Musk” on May 9.

Some Twitter users inaccurately stated that Gonzalez pushed pro-oil legislation, including the owner of “Third Row Tesla Podcast,” a popular pro-Tesla Twitter account. Musk, who has 34 million Twitter followers, later engaged with tweets accusing Gonzalez of being a major oil-industry supporter.

Lambert argued that engagement led to smearing Gonzalez’s name — and hardening Musk in his stance to reopen Tesla factories.

“It’s clear that if her problem with Musk stems from somewhere, it’s from her union roots and the fact that Tesla has been fighting efforts to unionize Fremont factory for a while,” Lambert wrote. “Yet Tesla superfans, who have Musk’s ear, pushed misinformation about her being a shill for the oil industry to explain her problem with Musk.”

A turning point?

Lambert, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider, wrote on Twitter that his column came from “a place of love.” 

Electrek has long been known as a staunchly pro-Tesla and pro-Musk website, even as critics have slammed Musk for hawking a nonexistent, fully-hands-off Autopilot feature, smearing a British caver as a “pedo guy,” and, most notoriously, erroneously announcing on Twitter that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private.

The publication’s defense of Musk may go deeper than ideological. Lambert and Electrek have also been questioned for an affiliate marketing program in which Tesla customers can use Lambert’s referral codes, as discussed in a 2018 story by The Drive. As the referrer, Lambert is privy through Electrek to getting freebies from Tesla that could add up to a new Tesla Roaster worth $250,000.

But this op-ed may mark a turning point for one of Musk’s biggest supporters, and was seemingly sparked by not only a new breed of Tesla “superfans,” but also Musk’s writing off of the coronavirus.

Happily for Musk, that new crop of Tesla supporters have been quick to bash Lambert’s column — with one even speculating that Lambert’s significant other cheated on him with a Tesla superfan.

 

Read the original article on Business Insider



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