Elon Musk appears to have lost the plot

Billionaire’s disrespect of the efforts that Thai and international teams put in to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach smacks of extraordinary arrogance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 10:29am

If there is an international award for Jerk of the Year, Elon Musk would win hands down. The entire world is still celebrating the extraordinary rescue of 12 boys deep inside a cave in Thailand and their soccer coach. It was the best outcome of national unity and international cooperation.

But the Tesla CEO is smarting over the rejection of his submarine, which he offered for the massive rescue effort, having gone so far as to dismiss the Thai rescue chief as “not the subject matter expert” and to call British hero diver Vernon Unsworth “a pedo”. Unsworth is now threatening to sue for libel. Given the uniquely challenging problems faced by rescuers, it’s doubtful anyone could claim to be an expert, least of all Musk.

Musk has revolutionised modern transportation with his electric cars, driverless vehicles and commercial spacecraft. It’s been claimed that the flamboyant Tony Stark, the genius engineer who is Iron Man in the Marvel movie franchise, was loosely based on Musk. Even his name has a sci-fi feel to it.

Musk loses US$295 million as Tesla shares fall after ‘pedo’ attack on cave rescuer

But his self-confidence may be misplaced. He should also know that the whole thing was never about him. A Thai military diver died during a rescue attempt. Think for a moment about his ultimate sacrifice, Mr Musk.

Perhaps the billionaire businessman could take a lesson from a fellow American, James Cameron. Both men have egos, as they say in America, the size of Texas. But there, the similarity ends.

During the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the worst in US history, the Hollywood director of  Titanic and Avatar criticised BP engineers for incompetence because they initially had trouble closing the deep-water valves that kept pumping out massive amounts of oil. Cameron fancied himself an expert in deep sea navigation because of the work he did during the making of  Titanic. BP engineers, who were actually experts, gave him a briefing. Afterwards, he released a statement saying “these guys really know what they are doing”.

Cameron, at least, had enough self-awareness to recognise real expertise when it was presented to him. The oil disaster was later turned into a Hollywood movie starring Mark Wahlberg. Unfortunately, Cameron didn’t direct it, otherwise, it might have been good.

Musk is known to be under a lot of pressure from his struggling businesses. Sadly, he may have lost the plot.