Fatuous Howler: Elon Musk Biography by Isaacson “misleading and even flat wrong”

An impressively astute book review has been published on Defector.

He welcomes the return of a space race, not between rival superpowers, but between capitalists indulging in healthy competition “like that of the railway barons a century earlier.” This is fatuous in a familiar way, but also wrong: The American railway boom was 150 years ago, and brought about not by “competition” but continental-level corruption, kickbacks, bribes, and unfettered monopoly—all of it built on the backs of ruthlessly abused workers. (The injury rate at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif. facility, per a report from 2017, was 31 percent higher than the rest of the industry.)


The biography lacks basic truth about history.

Oh, but then it gets so much worse. The book lacks basic truth about the present, thus enabling fraud.

Even the release of Elon Musk was marred by one of Isaacson’s howlers. The biography was launched with a much-trumpeted “exclusive” published by CNN, Isaacson’s old haunt. The story, based on reporting in the book, detailed how Elon Musk personally ordered the Starlink internet service used by the Ukrainian army to be switched off as they prepared for a strike on a naval base in Russian-occupied Crimea. If you turned that upside down and tickled its tummy, it would still not resemble an exclusive. The details of the story had been reported six months prior by Oliver Carroll in the Economist, and were repeated by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker in late August along with the tidbit, missed by Isaacson, that Musk may have turned off Starlink after speaking to Vladimir Putin.

Isaacson subsequently issued a correction (on Twitter, of all places), clarifying that the Ukrainians “asked Musk to enable [Starlink] for their drone sub attack on the Russian fleet. Musk did not enable it.” Musk himself is now on to a third version of this event—it’s hard to parse, but he blames U.S. sanctions—but whatever was claimed in the biography is now, by its own author’s own admission, apparently untrue

“Fatuous Hitler’s Turd Reich” was suggested to me by a predictive algorithm, as I started to type the word “howler” for the headline of this blog post.

The computer algorithm isn’t far off the mark. Accurate prediction.

Please read the very sharp book review in Defector instead of the fascism fluff book by Isaacson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.