Thin Skin

It seems Elon Musk’s submarine really was crap:

A British cave explorer who recently helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a Thailand cave network slammed Elon Musk’s child-sized submarine proposal as a “PR stunt.”

The Tesla CEO had traveled to Thailand earlier this week, touting his “mini-sub” that he said was built with rocket parts and could be carried by two divers.

But British caver Vernon Unsworth told CNN that Musk “can stick his submarine where it hurts.”

Unsworth, who lives in Thailand and has spent years exploring the Tham Luang cave system where the boys were trapped, said Musk’s submarine wouldn’t have made it past the first 50 meters into the cave after the dive start point.

“It just had absolutely no chance of working. He had no conception of what the cave passage was like,” Unsworth said. “The submarine, I believe, was about five-foot-six long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles.”

When a CNN journalist pointed out that Musk had been inside the cave, Unsworth shrugged.

“And was asked to leave very quickly. And so he should have been,” he said.

I expect we’re going to hear more feedback along these lines as the rescuers start telling their stories. Given the way Elon Musk has reacted to Unsworth’s comments, he seems to have struck a nerve:

Musk lashed out on Sunday, saying he would make a video proving that his “mini-sub” would have been successful and adding: “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”

The accusation, presented without evidence or context, was directed at Vern Unsworth, a British cave explorer who recently said Musk’s attempt to help the rescue effort was a “PR stunt”. No evidence has emerged to substantiate Musk’s claim of pedophilia.

On Sunday, when a Twitter user pointed out that Musk was “calling the guy who found the children a pedo”, the billionaire responded: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

Intense criticism followed. Some Twitter users pointed out how “dangerous” and irresponsible it was to make such a serious allegation and to broadcast a potentially libelous insult to his 22 million followers.

Spokesmen for Musk and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Later on Sunday, Musk deleted the “pedo” tweet and its follow-up.

Publicly calling someone a pedophile because they didn’t like his submarine PR stunt is pretty low from Musk, and there’s a good chance he’s going to get sued for libel. There’s really something not quite right about the man, at least to my eyes; I’d not be surprised if he does a stretch behind bars at some point in his life.


22 thoughts on “Thin Skin

  1. Some of m’learned friends read this blog. Is it possible to sue for libel in multiple jurisdictions simultaneously? Crowd funded?

  2. I think Elon was a lucky investor in paypal, who is otherwise shit at everything.

    Spacex has no new tech and financials are unknown. Tesla is a joke his other ideas (tunnels etc) don’t exist.

    He is a PR fantasy.

  3. The idea of that a rigid submarine could navigate all those little, twisting passages that a person couldn’t even get through with a full scuba tank was obviously ridiculous, you didn’t have to be any kind of diving expert to know that.

    Someone here pointed out a few days ago that Musk had to keep the PR stunts coming or else investors would start to look at their Tesla shares like any other underperforming stock rather than an option on Musk’s genius. And he appears to be losing his touch at PR stunts. Tesla stock: Sell it if you got it!

  4. There was another guy interested in rockets, internet-based disagreements and submarines – his name was Peter Madsen. That didn’t end well, and you’d think it might be a warning to others.

    Personally I lost all respect for Musk when he launched a scrap car into space – about as crass and disrespectful and as far from, say, Voyager or Pioneer as it’s possible to be and still be in nominally the same business.

    I’d guess there are lots of white South Africans who aren’t boorish thugs, but they’re certainly the less noticeable subset of their population.

  5. I’ve read unsubstantiated rumours that Tesla is seriously underwater and Musk is being investigated by the SEC. If true, we might have an explanation for his behaviour, i.e. the pressure’s getting to him.

  6. I have family who wet themselves at the thought of Musk saving London with free-to-use, no-environmental-risk cars. The more restrictions that are put on petrol and diesel vehicles, the more they are convinced the future will be a motoring joy to behold in their cheap, efficient, wholly controlled cars.

    The last bit is the key factor: these people love the idea of being controlled. Freedom is, to them, merely the ability to choose who controls you most.

  7. Back in the day, they did actually design and build one man escape pods. To be used in medical (non diving) emergency evacuation of N Sea divers. The pod isn’t the problem, it’s the life support kit. CO2 scrubbers, O2 bleed-in, pressure control, heat, humidity, etc. Result was a “miniature” bit of kit too large to go in a 6 pax helicopter even though the journey was a couple of hours max.

    Same physics applies in Thailand. Even with choke points twice as wide, it wouldn’t have worked.

  8. ‘Spacex has no new tech and financials are unknown’

    Sigh, yet another idiot who knows nothing about SpaceX. Google PICA-X, Supersonic retropropulsion, propellent densification, or just have a look at the wiki page on the reusuable rocket tech have developed ( and say that again.

    As for the financials it is stated to be profitable right now, and this will only get better as their costs drop with reusability and the launch rate increases.

    Regarding the orginal post, these comments were quite crass and unwarrented and I agree that the pressure with Tesla is probably getting to him (there was a similar situation 10 years ago when both SpaceX and Tesla were on the verge of going under). I’m not fussed about Tesla but it will be a crying shame if it takes down SpaceX with it.

  9. I’ve no time for his Tesla trough feeding, nor his solar power fiasco before that. But SpaceX do seem to be both innovatory, and genuinely free enterprise and profitable. US Gov buys launches, but hasnt paid for development, nor paid for ‘capability’ fee like ULA’s $1bn a year just to be there. Just pay for delivery, UPS with rockets.
    Unlike Dave above, I thought his ‘spaceman’ stunt was clever: it had to be a dummy payload anyway, so why not make a huge PR stunt from it, excellent value for money. Starts to seriously demonstrate ability to send large payloads to deep space, and now NASA big wigs seriously considering if some or all SLS launches should just be bought OTS from SpaceX.
    His behaviour in the Thailand thing has been extraordinary and very damaging. Getting involved at all was unwise, but to turn it into a PR disaster by such allegations? The man is losing it. Self-destruct activated. 60…59…
    I hope the diver just gets on with his life, why get involved in years (and $$$$) of lawyering? Who would choose the Mark Steyn legal stasis of hell? He doesnt need this.

  10. The issue for me is not the obvious non-viability of a fucking mini submarine to be piloted by drugged 13 year olds through 2 miles of mud 16 inches wide and up and over dry areas too and a 100 yard stretch requiring a zipline. (!!! Fuck knows what kind of knobber ever thought that was a runner).

    The issue is Musk’s arrogant, slimy, dismissive, petulant, childish and downright nasty reaction to having the above pointed out. And then he accuses the pointer-outer of being a ‘pedo’. Pure class that. What a Grade A dick.

    I used to think he was quite cool – taking his Paypal fortune and disrupting the satellite launch industry with it. Now I just think he’s a c*&%.

  11. Let’s see if the diver sues. What if Musk actually has something on him? Or is Musk assuming that 9 out of 10 Western male retirees in Thailand are there for underage sex?

    This exhange isn’t much of a surprise to me after Musk’s antics at the 1Q18 earnings call (apologies for self-promotion). I could understand those outbursts if Tesla were mostly owned by retail investors – but it’s not.

  12. What if Musk actually has something on him?

    A pal of mine wrote to me saying there was some speculation in a below-the-line comment on one of the newspapers about this guy. It’s not something I’m daft enough to write about on a blog, though.

  13. Anyone who comes from nowhere to rise on the back of state funded money just has to be suss. Or maybe not nowhere as he had turned up in Russia with an attache case of money to buy ICBMs off of them. Definitely potentially CIA and in the Obama reign, Trump may be the root cause of his angst.

  14. Or maybe not nowhere as he had turned up in Russia with an attache case of money to buy ICBMs off of them.


  15. Russian space bosses SPAT on Elon Musk when he tried to buy a rocket

    “They met with Kosmotras officials in an ornate, neglected, pre-revolutionary building near downtown Moscow.

    ‘The vodka shots started -‘To space!’ ‘To America!’ – and, a little buzzed, Musk asked point-blank how much a missile would cost.

    ‘Eight million dollars each, they said. Musk countered, offering $8 million for two.

    ‘They sat there and looked at him,’ Cantrell said. ‘And said something like, ‘Young boy. No.’

  16. AH- here’s the answer:
    “My words were spoken in anger after Mr. Unsworth said several untruths & suggested I engage in a sexual act with the mini-sub, which had been built as an act of kindness & according to specifications from the dive team leader.”

    The remark from Vern Unsworth seems to have been “he can stick the submarine where it hurts”.

    A non-smart outburst from a smart guy.

    There’s an interesting analysis of it here:

  17. I was very impressed by Spacex but Tesla doesn’t seem to work without state subsidies at one end or the other. Musk’s behaviour at the analyst call was pathetic and frankly he got away with it bigly.

    Unlikely, especially as he seems to have sub-Trumpian twatter impulse control, that he knows anything about the Brit expat.

    There’s a lot of settled European sex tourists in Thailand. Almost none of them are nonces.

  18. CJ Nerd, many thanks for the link. In his answer, Jeremy Arnold also links to a discussion of the unusually large short position in Tesla stock and the people behind it. It turns out one of the major skeptics and shorters is Jim Chanos. He is best known for calling Enron’s bluff but less well for trying to bring down Fairfax Holdings by spreading lies and intimidating their employees. Fairfax saved itself by suing Chanos and his allies. The shorters’ shenanigans became public information as a result.

    Musk probably knows this, and much more. He understands that nothing is beneath some of the operators betting against him. Naturally he’s getting paranoid.

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