Elon Musk – continuing his recent streak of bizarre behavior - has publicly questioned the authority and expertise of one of the key individuals responsible for successfully navigating the rescue of 12 boys and one soccer coach trapped in a cave in Thailand.
If there has been one major world event that has brought people together and dominated the news over the course of the last several days, it has been this successful rescue. The rescue sparked jubilation and feel good headlines worldwide like this one, from the Guardian:
The group was trapped unexpectedly after the cave flooded due to heavy downpours and they were stranded for more than nine days before anybody was able to reach them or definitively figure out their location. 18 days later, all 12 boys and their coach were rescued successfully, thanks to the efforts of Thailand’s Navy SEALs and a collaborative effort by thousands of people who helped bring a happy ending to this national news story.
The ending was feel good for just about everybody – except Elon Musk.
Musk had thrust himself into the headlines of the story over the last few days as he frantically posted on social media about efforts that he was trying to lead to construct a device that could help rescue the trapped individuals.
Within the last 72 hours, Musk posted that his team of engineers had come up with an "escape pod" that they had tested locally in a swimming pool and were going to deploy to Thailand to try to help with the rescue efforts. Musk himself also wound up traveling to Thailand. Over the last 48 hours, Elon Musk and the story became intertwined with one another, with some people commending him for his efforts to try and help and others accusing him of trying to thrust himself into the spotlight of the national event where his help wasn’t specifically asked for.
Regardless, as the rescue effort took place over the course of several days and finally, when on Tuesday it was reported that all 12 children and the coach were in fact safe, Musk's "escape pod" wasn’t deployed or used in any fashion.
And instead of assuming that "all’s well that ends well" and being happy for the individuals who were rescued, Musk took it upon himself on Tuesday to actually question the authority of one of the joint commanders of the operation.
The Guardian picked up the story on Tuesday and wrote:
Elon Musk has questioned the expertise of Thai rescue officials who turned down his offer of a submarine, despite their having organised the successful rescue of all 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded cave.
The entrepreneur had offered his help and posted footage of tests being carried out on the apparatus he proposed in recent days.
But while Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre co-ordinating the operation, acknowledged Musk’s offer he said that the mini submarine would not have been practical for the cave rescue.
“Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave,” Osatanakorn told reporters.
In response, Musk said Osatanakorn was “not the subject matter expert”, adding that he believed he had been “inaccurately described as rescue chief”, and should be more accurately referred to as the “former Thai provincial governor”.
After this, Musk said he was going to leave the mini-sub behind in case it becomes useful in the future.
Elon Musk's petulant behavior - taking a shot at the project's rescue chief, instead of simply congratulating all who were involved - continues to validate the concerns of many who believe Musk may not be fit to head up Tesla, or that he may be spread too thin and under too much pressure, resulting in him being "all over the place" and mis-allocating his time and resources into numerous projects that aren’t bearing fruit.
Musk's behavior has gotten more and more bizarre as the days have gone on. Unfortunately for him, from a PR standpoint, his conduct on the Thailand cave issue has overshadowed what was supposed to be "good news" from the company as it reported – for at least the third time in the last 3 years – that Tesla would be moving into China.
CEO Elon Musk himself also had another PR meltdown last week, once again lashing out at members of the media who have written even the slightest bit of critical press about his company. It has led some analysts to ask, "What the F*ck is Elon Musk Doing?"
This isn't new, either. We have seen Musk lash out at the media over the last couple of months – blaming everybody from the Economist to Consumer Reports for being in a conspiracy to defame the company.
This latest round of attacks on journalists goes after Linette Lopez at Business Insider, who was one of the first to break the story that Tesla may have been suspending certain of its Model 3 brake tests in order to help move vehicles off the line more efficiently.
Musk's behavior even caused left-leaning media outlets like Slate to publish articles like this one called, "Elon Musk Needs to Stop Tweeting Things He Can't Prove (And Grow Up)". Similarly, articles about Musk's handling of the Thailand situation haven't exactly been favorable.
It seems that as of late Musk is focused on anything but Tesla. Could this be foreshadowing?