STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Has Elon Musk lost control of his hype machine?

Elon Musk is hard at work disrupting industries, such as transportation and energy, and plans to go ...

Posted: Jul 27, 2018 10:06 AM
Updated: Jul 27, 2018 10:06 AM

Elon Musk is hard at work disrupting industries, such as transportation and energy, and plans to go to Mars to save humanity from extinction. But even with these ambitions, the billionaire entrepreneur still found time to silence an anonymous blogger.

The latest example of Musk's focus on protecting the image of his companies - and himself - came this week when a blogger critical of Tesla shut down his own Twitter account and stopped writing for the financial website Seeking Alpha.

According to the author, who used the pseudynom "Montana Skeptic," Musk called his boss and threatened to sue if he continued to write for Seeking Alpha, which allows anyone to post stories, including with pseudonyms. (Montana Skeptic was shorting Tesla, meaning he bet money the company's stock price would fall. If Tesla succeeded, he stood to lose.)

To avoid dragging his boss into potential litigation, Montana Skeptic chose to no longer publish content on Seeking Alpha.

Seeking Alpha's editor George Moriarty responded to the news Wednesday, stating his platform will continue to embrace pseudonymity and give a voice to all investors.

Montana Skeptic said he believes Musk learned of his identity and place of employment after it was revealed by social media users. When asked if he called Montana Skeptic, Musk responded on Twitter that he'd "never heard of this girl." He later tweeted an image of Miley Cyrus, the actor who once played a character named Hannah Montana, with the words "they grow up so quickly." The tweets have since been deleted.

In a statement, Tesla said that the blogger's employer was a longtime Tesla supporter and one of the first to purchase a Model S.

So why is Elon Musk going after no-name bloggers who criticize Tesla? Because right now, the company needs all of the hype it can get.

Tesla has had a challenging year. It is burning money at an increasing rate and had to lay off 9% of its staff in June. Tesla also repeatedly missed production goals for the Model 3 and has yet to sell one at the long-promised price of $35,000.

Related: Tesla's magic is wearing off as Model 3 excitement dwindles

According to some experts in the industry, Musk must maintain the hype and story surrounding his vision of the future.

"Confidence in Tesla is an existential issue," Benedict Evans, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz tweeted earlier this year. "It has to raise lots more capital, based on public confidence its vision will work. It lives on perception."

University of Maryland business professor David Kirsch argues Musk's recent irritable behavior on Twitter highlights how he has lost control of the narrative surrounding Tesla.

"Given how much he talks about how busy he is, and [Tesla is undergoing] production hell - and he's been pulling out a sleeping bag on the factory floor - it raises some question about how thin-skinned he is that he'd need or choose to take time to silence one measly critic on a stock blog," Kirsch said.

Meanwhile, Veljko Fotak, a University at Buffalo professor who researches short-selling, expects that silencing Montana Skeptic will backfire by attracting more attention to a critic who isn't widely known.

"He'd better to ignore the critics and try to prove them wrong," Fotak said.

Over the years, the Tesla CEO has gone to great lengths to shape the perception of his businesses, including Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company.

He often reveals product and company news on his popular Twitter account which has 22 million followers, rather than allowing his communications team to take the lead. Even before the incident with Seeking Alpha, Musk has been known to personally reach out to high-ranking editors of publications that criticize his businesses.

When journalist Ashlee Vance began writing his best-selling 2015 book on the entrepreneur, Musk had unique demands, too. He initially requested to read the book before publication and add footnotes in places he felt were inaccurate. (Vance didn't agree to do that.)

As effective as Musk has been at spinning stories about his companies in the past, he may need to take a break from engaging so heavily in media coverage.

Earlier this month, Musk apologized for calling Vernon Unsworth, one of the Thai cave rescuers, a pedophile without justification after he called Musk's attempt to help save the stranded boys with a "kid-size submarine" a PR stunt.

Vivek Wadhwa, who teaches entrepreneurship at Carnegie-Mellon University, suggests Musk should delete Twitter from his smartphone to cut down on spontaneous tweeting.

"Anyone in his situation would reach a breaking point if they were harangued like he was," Wadhwa told CNNMoney. "He is both the Edison and Einstein of our times. All of our heroes were imperfect as is Elon."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 119066

Reported Deaths: 3612
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21563768
Lake10745324
Elkhart6734112
St. Joseph6679115
Allen6364205
Hamilton4965109
Vanderburgh384231
Hendricks2779124
Monroe267137
Tippecanoe259013
Johnson2362125
Clark226757
Porter222447
Delaware201162
Cass19589
Vigo187928
Madison171475
LaPorte151941
Warrick140743
Floyd140464
Howard133964
Kosciusko127117
Bartholomew119357
Marshall102124
Dubois100919
Boone99746
Grant96636
Hancock94843
Noble92932
Henry82226
Jackson77610
Wayne77314
Morgan73940
Shelby68329
Daviess68129
Dearborn67928
LaGrange64711
Clinton63414
Harrison59824
Putnam59011
Gibson5455
Knox5379
Lawrence51829
Montgomery51321
DeKalb49111
White48814
Decatur46139
Miami4394
Greene42936
Fayette42314
Jasper4032
Steuben3977
Scott39311
Posey3541
Sullivan33812
Jennings31712
Franklin31525
Clay3105
Ripley3108
Orange28724
Whitley2876
Carroll28013
Adams2773
Wabash2758
Starke2737
Washington2702
Wells2694
Spencer2683
Jefferson2523
Huntington2503
Fulton2462
Tipton22922
Randolph2238
Perry22213
Jay1920
Newton17411
Owen1711
Martin1690
Pike1691
Rush1584
Vermillion1320
Fountain1302
Blackford1223
Pulaski1141
Crawford1100
Parke1072
Brown1033
Benton860
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren411
Unassigned0227

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 152907

Reported Deaths: 4783
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin27283615
Cuyahoga17603657
Hamilton13340321
Montgomery7993166
Lucas7377364
Butler6151112
Summit5393252
Warren313649
Mahoning3114282
Marion311447
Stark2946175
Pickaway268445
Lorain234286
Delaware232821
Fairfield214654
Licking196063
Columbiana195180
Wood194273
Trumbull1921132
Clark185341
Clermont176123
Lake166051
Greene153634
Medina149339
Miami147652
Allen147372
Portage117766
Mercer113919
Erie96047
Tuscarawas94320
Wayne94268
Richland94119
Ross90426
Madison85512
Darke81144
Athens7402
Geauga73349
Hancock73110
Belmont72427
Lawrence68622
Shelby66910
Ashtabula66248
Auglaize62511
Putnam62523
Sandusky58720
Huron5727
Union5512
Scioto5287
Seneca49514
Ottawa47230
Muskingum4553
Preble44716
Holmes3999
Jefferson3424
Henry33715
Defiance33212
Champaign3143
Logan3143
Clinton30512
Perry3039
Fulton2991
Brown2923
Knox28915
Jackson2667
Washington26323
Morrow2622
Hardin25713
Ashland2484
Crawford2486
Coshocton23511
Fayette2346
Highland2313
Williams2163
Wyandot21512
Pike2040
Gallia19713
Meigs17711
Guernsey1748
Hocking1679
Carroll1527
Adams1374
Van Wert1283
Paulding1130
Monroe11018
Harrison643
Morgan500
Vinton483
Noble350
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 59°
Angola
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 59°
Huntington
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 59°
Van Wert
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 59°
Few Showers Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events