Yesterday was the 12th day of Christmas so it seems time to ask some hard questions, like have you taken down your decorations, what’s the point in such festivities anyway and are there any reasons to be cheerful in 2023?

Here’s someone who was feeling optimistic back in the sweltering heat (I’m imagining) of US Independence Day in 2020:

But if you click on the date (or time) you’ll see something strange. Conversation interruptus one might call it. This may give a clue to the alert Cliscep reader that this post can be seen as a sequel to Bit Rot. It is. But when I penned those initial thoughts in February last year I had no idea that Elon Musk was going to take over Twitter. And for me that makes the question about plausible cheerfulness this year a highly interesting one. Listen for example to these four opinions:

How about the Covid vaccine debate in the legacy media today?

Would this breakthrough in the Daily Telegraph have happened without Dr Malhotra’s sterling work on Twitter recently under the liberal, free speech-loving regime of the Tesla owner? I wouldn’t be doing this post if I didn’t think there was a connection. (And if I didn’t think this issue, and others like it, were extremely important.)

But I’m interested in anyone’s view. Musk-haters. Pessimists. Covid vaccine trusters. I’m sure you get the idea.

That’s it for now. I will add to this post in the coming days. When I make an addition to the main body I’ll add a comment to that effect.

Perplexing Mr Musk

Thanks to Mark Hodgson for this:

As for Musk, the man just perplexes me. On balance, I think I’m pleased about what he seems to be trying to achieve at Twitter, and since at the Guardian he seems to have gone from hero (due to his early pushing of EVs) to zero (apparently because he says he believes in freedom of speech) then in my eyes he must be doing something right. That said, I haven’t forgotten the Thai cave incident and what he said at the time.

I wanted to talk more about Elon Musk so thanks! He freely admits of course to having Aspergers (here hosting Saturday Night Live in May 2021):

As he says there his monotone style of speech actually lends itself rather well to standup. His mother Maye Musk isn’t quite as good on that but their closeness comes through in a rather sweet way. On Musk’s diffidence generally, and competence as a ‘conductor’ for engineers, we have the first-hand testimony of Michael Kelly on Cliscep in October 2020:

Last night, my wife and I watched “Steve Jobs,” and it was like reliving my past (without the billions in wealth) – especially the scenes where Jobs and Wozniak were talking about who did what, and Jobs took Wozniak into the orchestra pit. He described himself as the conductor. It was exactly on point.

I know Elon, and like him a lot. In all of my dealings with him, he’s been straightforward, polite, and almost shy. My last hurrah in commercial space was as Chief Engineer of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the Federal Aviation Agency. I dealt with SpaceX a lot in that capacity, and tried to ensure that the federal “oversight” was not onerous. I have the utmost respect for SpaceX on a technical level, and for Elon as an orchestra leader – and more. I see what he is doing in these videos, and know why he is doing them. Been there, done that, though not on the same scale.

Cut him some slack. The life of a visionary is not easy, and the life of a successful visionary (as Elon absolutely is in the world of space transportation) is demanding as hell. He may bet on some wrong horses. I thought Tesla was one, until I took a trip in a relative’s Model X SUV a couple of months ago….l have never, ever been “wowed” by an automobile, but that one left me agape.

Judge the claims against engineering and physics, and adjust expectations accordingly. But don’t dismiss him. He has too many successes for that.

That doesn’t mean of course that he’s getting everything right on and concerning Twitter. Two months ago he talked at length to Ron Baron, a long-term investor in Tesla. This goes straight to the segment about his plans and vision for the social media outfit, though I found the rest, about Tesla and SpaceX, informative and indeed (at least in part) inspiring:

Then there’s the incident in July 2018, that Mark alludes to, where Musk called Vernon Unsworth ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter. Unsworth was one of those trying to save the lives of the kids trapped in the Thai cave system. As an aside, Thirteen Lives is a great film about the rescue, that only came out in the last six months. And the article Ron Howard’s ‘Thirteen Lives’ Is Incredibly Accurate Except for One Element in September is fascinating if one is really interested in ‘truth’ in all kinds of media and what that means.

Anyway, I googled musk pedo guy on reading Mark’s comment and was, once more, surprised by the Web. For Google happily served up this paragraph up front, from a CNN report:

Calling someone a ‘pedo guy’ means creepy. If you did a search or asked someone what it means it would be a creepy.” Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro, in his opening statement, referred to Musk’s tweet as a “JDART.” Spiro said, “It was a joking, deleted, apologized for, responsive tweet. A JDART.” (3 Dec 2019)

Does it make the reader suspicious that near the end of this section I say I believe a lawyer? Anyway, Musk won the case. The court decided he hadn’t defamed Unsworth. Or as the Guardian put it in their headline “Elon Musk: pedo guy insult was ‘not classy’ but not meant literally”.

It’s not the only thing perplexing about Musk. There’s also stuff like this

Wow. Not forgetting a proud Mum.

My subtitle for this post was Enigmatic New Year. That’s not unconnected for me with the perplexing enigma of Elon Musk himself. Further feedback welcome.


  1. On the one hand, censorship of inconvenient thoughts slackening under Musk’s control of Twitter. On the other, censorship for apparently spurious reasons at YT, just in time to prevent a Heartland live stream with Judith Curry:

    I haven’t watched any of their streams so do not know whether they violate terms of service. The timing was certainly suspicious in this case: more to do with the upcoming live stream than the one they were banned for?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jit: Yes thanks. I was thinking of mentioning that. And this one

    The YouTube incident is clearly climate-centred and that one from Facebook is kinda broader. But I think we have to be in all-for-one and one-for-all mode across this. Not least because this suspicion arises in all:

    I think ‘extremely high’ is too strong from the lawyer from Atlanta. But certainly one can’t rule much out.


  3. Musk-haters. Pessimists. Covid vaccine trusters. Where do I fit among that lot?

    As for Musk, the man just perplexes me. On balance, I think I’m pleased about what he seems to be trying to achieve at Twitter, and since at the Guardian he seems to have gone from hero (due to his early pushing of EVs) to zero (apparently because he says he believes in freedom of speech) then in my eyes he must be doing something right. That said, I haven’t forgotten the Thai cave incident and what he said at the time.

    Pessimist? Probably, on balance. There seems to be no sign of sanity breaking out among our political class regarding net zero and energy policy.

    Covid vaccine truster? Probably not any more, or at least I should say that as a fit and healthy 50 something who recently had a very mild and inoffensive bout of covid, I have decided that there is no point in me having a booster jab, given that the risk from the booster seems to be greater for me personally than the risk from covid. That said, it’s just a case of the calculation having changed. I had my first three covid jabs as soon as they were available – for the good of society more than for my own benefit. I have always been strongly opposed to compulsory covid vaccinations, and I think it is wrong that they have been pushed at the young, especially children. I still think the initial vaccination programme for the elderly and vulnerable was important and right.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Mark. My response to the first part is in Perplexing Mr Musk. I’ll have more to say about pessimism and various areas of concern where one feels free speech is vital. Not just covid and vaccines. It’s much broader than that, as I should no doubt have made clear.


  5. Richard,

    I had forgotten that Musk won the libel case! However, reading that Guardian article simply reinforces my perplexity regarding Musk. I was particularly intrigued by this quote:

    In another moment of apparent self-awareness, he said: “There are a lot of things that I say. Not all of them have the same quality of thought. I would say very little at all if I just said sense.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beth: That’s a great help. Sacks is one of the original ‘PayPal mafia’ that was already familiar to me. But his reflections make a lot of sense to me, as do some of Freddie Sayers’ probing questions. Most of all Sacks says he doesn’t know how it’s going to pan out. Plot spoiler: me too. That was one of my points coming up in the main post. Eventually.

    Mark: I’m not here to remove your perplexity! For myself, I would say that I have underestimated Musk until recently. But the warts are there for all to see. And, in passing, I found the Guardian’s reporting from all days of the trial really rather impressive. Legacy media huh? It’s nuance all the way here 😉


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