Tesla CEO Elon Musk is making waves with the media for calling out some of their sloppy reporting.
As prolific Twitter commenter @comfortablysmug might say, Musk is “owning the journos.”
A series of Tweets lambasting journalists for their carelessness and lack of accountability was step one.
Step two was offering to start a website wherein people could rate the trustworthiness of various news sources as a way for the public to hold the media accountable.
Several prominent journalists attacked Musk. The Tesla CEO struck back hard, declaring that the media act as though they are above reproach, when in fact, there is a reason the public by and large no longer trusts them as an institution.
The most interesting part of all of this was not anything Musk said, though that most of it was certainly quite interesting.
It was the response to what was said from the journalists who seem to be incapable of introspection and unable to take criticism of any kind.
And it highlights something that we more or less already knew: for many journalists, this is not about just reporting the facts and doing a job. Instead, it is about arrogantly letting people know they are an indispensable part of our democracy, and any criticism of them is somehow an attack on America itself.
It is quite odd that we would see this attitude from people whose job is to hold the powerful to account.
It seems as though they believe they can say and report anything they want about anybody but if a pattern emerges of doing a poor job and people push back, then those doing the questioning get accused of being anti-facts.
When journalists break a huge story — for instance, Ronan Farrow’s exposes on Harvey Weinstein and Eric Schneiderman — they correctly get praise heaped upon them.
But when they get a story wrong? When a pattern emerges of specific reporters and outlets routinely playing fast and loose with the truth to fit narratives and push agendas and somebody notices and says so publicly?
Apparently, that means you hate freedom of the press.
Well, I can assure you, I do not hate freedom of the press. And neither does Elon Musk.
But there is a difference between being a supporter of a free press and thinking the press should have a free pass to do whatever it wants without having its feet held to the fire.
See the recent President Trump “Animals” controversy for an example of what I am talking about.
The same entity that exposes the powerful should never be above being exposed itself.
And to that end, there is absolutely no reason why journalists should oppose or be afraid of public websites that rate the trustworthinees of their work as a way of holding them accountable for what they do.
I am not really sure why that is a controversial statement, because it should not be.
To his credit, thus far, Musk has refused to back down and does not seem to care about the mob.
But now one has to wonder if these same journalists coming at Musk — who arguably reported maliciously against him already — can ever be trusted to be fair to him again.
We have already seen how thin-skinned so many media members seem to be, so it stands to reason that quite a few of them may have future axes to grind with the Tesla CEO now.
And if they do? If they report in a hostile and unfair manner simply because they find him and his comments personally distasteful?
Well, then they will prove Musk’s point better than he ever could himself.