Spaceflight Insider

Is SpaceX’s Elon Musk conducting a Twitter ‘war?’

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

When the first Falcon 9 rocket took to the skies in 2010, it reignited interest in space exploration and saw a legion of fans form behind SpaceX, the rocket’s manufacturer. The founder of the company has made recent statements, however, that have created less than positive press.

SpaceX’s CEO and Founder, Elon Musk, has garnered some unfavorable attention due to his reactions to reports about his automotive company, Tesla, Inc. as well as other efforts the philanthropist has engaged in.

An editorial regarding one particular issue that Musk has had with the media that appeared on questioned the billionaire’s statements, casting doubt about their veracity. It alleged Musk used his Twitter account as a “…pulpit to bully female journalists.” It further alleged Musk encouraged his “fanboys” to attack Linette Lopez, a journalist with Business Insider who has been critical of Tesla

The recent activity on Twitter helps highlight a pattern of behavior whenever questions are raised about Musk’s efforts. This was detailed by the The Daily Beast’s Erin Biba in a editorial posted earlier this year. The comments submitted by Musk’s fans – were less than civil and some were not suitable for print

The Op-Ed noted that Milo Yiannopoulos, a British political commentator, was banned from Twitter for aiming his supporters in the direction of his critics. TechCrunch furthered these concerns by contacting SpaceX directly and asked them if his statements violated Twitter’s terms of service against defamatory content and harassment (these questions pertain to another series of Musk’s posts on Twitter highlighted later in this article), and were told that “Tweets and accounts are reviewed against the Twitter Rules and if a violation is found, action is taken.”


Image Courtesy:

Pravda – grading journalists the Soviet Union way

In a May 23, 2018 post CNN journalist Seth Fiegerman noted Musk had gone “on the attack,” and that the billionaire had essentially accused the media of being dishonest. Musk went on to suggest journalists be “rated” by the public on a site called “Pravda.” Pravda was the leading  newspaper of the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union. The choice of name is troubling – given the volume of journalists who have been killed in Russia by violent means.

Pravda could be used as a tool to potentially destroy the credibility of journalists who question the CEO. As noted, Musk has an extensive following of fans who have savaged journalists online. This raises concerns Musk’s ranking system could be misused to ruin the careers of members of the media who report anything negative about the CEO. Fans would simply have to “down vote” those deemed critical of Musk. With his 22 million followers in tow, fears have already been raised that this could be Pravda’s purpose.

Reporters Without Borders stated they were “disturbed” by Musk’s plans for media relations. “He is prone to unhinged Twitter eruptions. He can’t handle criticism. He scolds the news media for its purported dishonesty,” the article goes on to site several reports that provide additional data concerning the billionaire’s conflicts with the media.

This alleged “war on the media” was prefaced by the word “silly” on an article appearing on The Atlantic. However, it did not appear to have deemed that those who judged it so were incorrect. The outlet highlighted how Donald Trump Jr. came to the billionaire’s defense. In fact, Musk’s use of the social media platform Twitter has drawn comparisons to President Donald Trump .

Inverse, cited Musk’s comments on his experience with journalism, tweeting that he “Spent years in newsrooms starting 23 years ago, back when some reporters were still babies w poopy diapers, but hey def lecture me on what a newsroom is like.” A May 17 report on CNNTech states Musk’s treatment of the media has eroded the “hero status” he enjoyed. 

The internet age has seen the proliferation of blogs. These privately-owned sites generally have some degree of bias. Some SpaceX employees themselves even operate blogs which question programs considered to be competition for dollars SpaceX would prefer go to them. As noted, SpaceX has developed an extensive fanbase. The company’s supporters who operate these blogs promote what they refer to as “brand stands” – a bias meant to promote an individual or organization. The Atlantic noted that Musk, in at least one instance, brushed off actual members of the media, yet provided an extensive interview with a fan. 

This is minor when compared to recent statements and decisions made by the NewSpace pioneer.

Elon Musk unveils SpaceX's updated Mars plans at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. Image Credit: SpaceX

Elon Musk unveils SpaceX’s updated Mars plans at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. Image Credit: SpaceX

Elon Musk suggested a diver who rescued children was a pedophile

In June of 2018 a junior team of soccer players, along with their coach, were trapped inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. Some twelve boys ranging in age between 12 and 17, and their coach were trapped in the cave which had become flooded during severe rains. 

Musk had a Falcon 9 liquid oxygen transfer tube converted into a mini “submarine.” He then personally delivered the device to safely retrieve the trapped boys.

Vernon Unsworth, one of the divers who rescued the trapped children, stated conditions within the cave and the “submarine’s” size made the vehicle impractical. Musk had noted that the submarine could be used for a variety of purposes. Unsworth stated the submarine had no chance of working and that Musk’s efforts amounted to a “PR stunt” and went on to state that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

Unsworth’s vulgar commetns initiated an unusual response from a billionaire.

The president of SpaceX referred to the British diver as “pedo guy.” Musk, who is worth an estimated $20 billion, went on to state Unsworth “really did ask for it.” A July 15 tweet reinforced this opinion when he stated: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true” 

The now-deleted tweets suggest Unsworth was a pedophile, something that has prompted the diver to consider legal action. While Musk eventually issued somewhat of an apology, sources including Gizmodo were less than receptive.

Musk also questioned the professional acumen of another of the personnel involved in the rescue, Narongsak Osatanakorn. The billionaire stated Osatanakorn was not “a subject matter expert.” Osatanakorn, holds a Master’s degree from Ohio State University, where he studied geodetic engineering and surveying, was the acting governor of the province where the submerged cave is located and served as the lead of the joint command center that coordinated the operation. 

Musk’s efforts were, however, praised by Richard Stanton, who the entrepreneur did acknowledge as a subject matter expert. Stanton was one of the first people to discover the plight of the soccer team.

SpaceX and the media

While recent events have centered on Tesla, SpaceX has not been immune to confrontations with journalists. 

SpaceX representatives have entered into contentious verbal sparring matches with members of the media several times in the past few years in full view of colleagues. 

After two of the Falcon Heavy’s three first stages touched down at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1 on February 6, 2018, a press conference was held which apparently only some members of the press were informed of.

SpaceX media relations personnel also have directed SpaceX representatives to not speak to members of the press who had been critical of the company – in front of the journalists in question. 

Positive and negative perceptions

It is unclear why the CEO of several major corporations would enter into Twitter debates with the media, or make accusations of aberrant sexual behavior of those who question his actions. Perhaps most troubling is his decision to create a site to “rank” journalists. Ordinarily, public affairs officers handle communications between the media and public. SpaceX appears to have difficulty keeping professionals trained in this field in its employ. No fewer than four have joined and left the company within the past eight years. 

Most of the recent negative press has dealt with Tesla and industry experts noted that when it comes to SpaceX, the end result, payloads being successfully placed on orbit, should be the most important consideration to be made.

“I have known Elon Musk since a four hour meeting with him as he was founding SpaceX. He has kept every promise from that discussion and has accomplished far more than I thought he would,” Dennis Ray Wingo, the CEO of Skycorp Incorporated and the author of books and articles regarding space development told SpaceFlight Insider.

This sentiment is shared with other journalists who have actively covered SpaceX. Some have noted that while what Musk says might not be well-received – he still has the right to express himself.

“Anytime you have a prominent international figure like Elon, there will be positives and negatives. His work to bring commercial space to the forefront is nearly unmatched. It’s brought praise and criticism. On a local level, I haven’t seen the negative. Our focus is the launches from the Space Coast, and the dawn of a new era of exploration. Plus the economic impact of hundreds of new SpaceX jobs. In my opinion, someone at his level is entitled to say what he wants, when he wants,” Greg Pallone a journalist with Spectrum News 13, a Space Coast television station, told SpaceFlight Insider.

Video courtesy CBC News




Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

“@Vernon Unsworth, one of the divers who rescued the trapped children”. Really Jason Rhian, he’s a diver, and personally rescued the trapped children?

“Musk’s efforts were, however, praised by Richard Stanton, who Musk did acknowledge as a subject matter expert. Stanton was one of the first people to discover the plight of the soccer team.”

Oh yes, weird that. Fascinating why you didn’t delve into that a little further and just leave your audience to speculate? Richard Stanton was one of the two people leading the rescue mission. Musk was in conversation with him, so of course he would praise and acknowledge him.

Not being funny, but this article is messed up. Anyone can do a few minutes research to determine who Vernon Unsworth is (a retired British caver, not a diver or rescuer, living on a Thai city popular for sex tourism). Similarly it’s not hard to see why Richard William Stanton MBE would receive praise (A British diver specializing in cave rescue operations).

But I get it, weirdo Vern’s words hold more weight than the actual MBE decorated cave rescuer who led the operation’s advice to Elon Musk about building the sub.

Sorry, but you may be right about some things, but this article has really made me lose faith in this site.


It doesn’t say he personally rescued the children it says he was part of the team who did {“one of the divers who rescued the trapped children”} (you can’t read). The writer showed both sides of the story. Not sure how you can miss(ignore)that. The story notes Unsworth started this mess (you ignored that too). The only thing messed up are fanboys who slam anything that doesn’t just sing Musk’s praises. The story also notes Musk went after another member of the rescue team (something else you ignored). The highlighted words are links and there’s like 50 of them. Unlike you I clicked on the links and got the info you mentioned. The story is pretty long and that prolly had something to do with some info being left out. Your main complaint is “He said mean things about Musk and therefore the article is bad!” Since I disagree with you, does that mean I can call you a pedophile? That essentially is what youre saying, that its ok to post slander. As the story mentions, theres tons of fanboy blogs that pander to your kind. Why don’t you go there? Reinforcing Musk’s Trump-like disgusting tweets says everything anyone needs to know about you and frankly this community is better off without you.

Alan Gilbreath

I’ve never seen an article source everything it says. I know why Mr. Rhian did so. He knew people would try to shame him. Disappointed only shamed/ disappointed his/her self.
Since Musk is white and was born in South Africa, does that automatically make him a supporter of Apartheid? If Musk said all Muslims were terrorists, would his saying so make it true? Your comments run lockstep with Musk’s bigotry. If a Brit lives in Thailand they’re not automatically a pedophile. Without even knowing them, you’re backing Musk in suggesting they are.
You go on to suggest the only way someone can be a professional is if Musk deems them so. Reviewing your comments I came to the conclusion that your parents failed you. You appear to have no thoughts of your own except that which is provided by Elon Musk.
Musk is worth 20 billion but throws tantrums whenever anyone disagrees with him. I looked at what the story called “not suitable for print”. SpaceFlight Insider was being kind. The comments Muskvichs made were filled with expletives and personal attacks.
Musk and his followers have disgraced themselves and I’ve lost faith in the lot of you. I wanted to be polite when replying, but then I thought about it and realized you didn’t even pause and think before making a racist comment. Bigots don’t deserve being treated with courtesy or respect.

There are published email records that show that Richard William Stanton MBE co-lead on the rescue effort was in conversation with Musk, and told him to continue working on the sub. So don’t you find it a little odd that the Thai governor, and Vernon Unsworth would suggest that this was not true. That Musk was not being encouraged to work on this, that Musk’s sub would not work. I think this amounts to slander. It’s purpose clearly to cause doubt in Musk’s engineering capabilities in other ventures, questioning whether they’re also just PR stunts.

So who’s lying? Elon Musk & Richard Stanton, or Vernon Unsworth and the Thai governor.

Narongsak Osatanakorn is not the subject matter expert, any more than Elon Musk or any other person with a degree in engineering would be. The subject matter is cave rescue, not engineering, and here the decorated cave rescuer Richard William Stanton MBE is the subject matter expert duh.

Vernon Unsworth, was not “one of the divers who rescued the trapped children”. He is not a diver, and his role in the cave rescue was in identifying where he thought the boys were. That doesn’t place him among the heroic divers who rescued the trapped team.


I’m looking at Narongsak Osatanakorn’s bio. Hes more of an SME than Musk. Below are several sources stating Unsworth is a diver and that he was involved with the rescue. You’re saying we should ignore all these sources and only believe you? You need to peruse more than pro-Musk blogs. You mentioned the writer left readers to speculate. You mean he didn’t inject his opinions on the matter and let readers make up their own minds. It’s called journalism. You want to choose Musk’s expert over another because Musk tells you to? You’re parsing words to defend Musk’s mess. He called the guy a pedophile and you’re sticking up for him? You’re a fanboy trying to raise his stock after his disgusting comments caused it to fall. Ignoring everything else said just proves my point. I don’t like what you say Dissapointed, that must mean you’re a pedophile. That’s you’re logic and shows Musk’s true colors. You’re telling folks to ignore all the facts and only believe what fanboys say. Leave.Those of us who want to hear both sides of the story want you to go.

If anything is responsible for this incident, it is the extreme information war campaign on Tesla (a similar campaign targeted SpaceX but it failed miserably due to the very weak position of the perpetrators). That obviously doesn’t excuse calling someone names, for whatever reason, but it is the source of all this drama. If there is a war, Elon Musk didn’t start it based on what I have seen (unless pushing for technological advances others are unwilling to undertake is considered starting a war). There is simply so much at stake here that the affected parties are indiscriminately attacking the businesses that threaten them by means of techniques usually reserved for war time efforts and in the hopes of bringing the companies down by any means possible. The interests that are engaging in this insanity (like children that have just discovered matchsticks) need to check themselves because their actions are damaging society in general, nobody, regardless of their financial standing, will be spared from such damage and these interests will still lose the overall confrontation as they did with SpaceX because their preferred technological direction is simply inferior and unsustainable.

James Lunar Miner

As Joseph P. Kennedy noted: “‘In this time of great crisis all Americans are with you. Name the battle post. I am yours to command.’ –Telegram to President Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 1941” ‘

And Joseph P. Kennedy also noted in 1960, “There are no accidents in politics.”

From: “Joseph P. Kennedy Selected Quotations”

Mr. Elon Musk exemplifies an American government supported crude and foolish national cult of the personality. Answers to which individuals in our government supported the building of the Musk cult and why was he selected and supported by those individuals in government and which government insiders and their friends have financially or politically benefitted from the Musk cult and his businesses might someday make for some interesting reading.

None-the-less, Mr. Elon Musk was apparently selected by government insiders in 2002 to help cost effectively enable the space transportation of Prompt Global Strike precision hypersonic glide warheads and National missile defense (NMD) satellites and weapons probably due in part to the events of 9/11/2001, our cancellation of the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty, and our renewed Cold War or slide into Cold War II.

SpaceX apparently received military Fast Response or Prompt Global Strike money almost from its beginning. Currently, SpaceX is appears to be building the world’s largest Prompt Global Strike reusable robotic space bomber that will be capable launching 150 tons of tactical nuclear and nonnuclear warheads and many military or dual use satellites.


It is interesting that you provide reference for quotes of little argumentative importance to the discussion at hand while offering no reference for your other assertions in respect to the person and company in question which is actually necessary. Your use of quotes in an attempt to appeal to the demographic in question, as well as the concurrent lack of said quotes relevant to your assertive attack are particularly interwsting. It is of course hard to tell who one is dealing with on the net but if you are somehow related to a specific national interest currently in the news, I suggest you relay my message above to whoever it may concern. It is worth repeating this in detail: no country, person or entity, whatever the financial position, nationality or political standing, will be spared from the fallout of the actions I mentioned above if they continue. All sides engaging in this, whatever their nationality may be, need to stop doing so. In short, the entities and people involved do not seem to understand what they are playing with.

James Lunar Miner

“Bezos: For me again, this is one of those things where I focus on and ask our teams to focus on what we can control, and I expect – whether it’s the current US administration or any other government agency around the world – Amazon is now a large corporation and I expect us to be scrutinized. We should be scrutinized. I think all large institutions should be scrutinized and examined. It’s reasonable.”
“And I know we should be scrutinized and I think it’s true that big government institutions should be scrutinized, big non-profit institutions should be scrutinized, big universities should be scrutinized. It just makes sense. And that’s, by the way, why the work at the ‘Washington Post’ and all other great newspapers around the world do is so important.”
“It’s healthy, because they’re big, powerful institutions – the police, the military, or whatever it is. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust them, or that they’re bad or evil or anything like that. It’s just that they have a lot of power and control, and so you want to inspect them. Maybe that’s a better word. You kind of want to always be inspecting them.”
From: ‘Jeff Bezos reveals what it’s like to build an empire and become the richest man in the world — and why he’s willing to spend $1 billion a year to fund the most important mission of his life’
By Mathias Döpfner

Jeff Bezos, a billionaire rocket building business person, seems to understand the basic critical thinking and public questioning foundation of America. Some cult promoting folks sometimes get very confused about that foundation.

To put it another way, ‘To whomever much taxpayer money or political power is given, much critical public scrutiny and inspection is needed and should be expected.’

James Lunar Miner

If Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, NASA, and a whole lot of other American space cadets and other space folks around the world are serious about establishing permanent bases on the Moon, asteroids, and Mars in the 2030s, 2040s, and 2050s, we need to quit talking foolish nonsense and instead design and build a sustainable Cislunar Space transportation system that directly feeds into and reduces the risks and costs for our future human asteroid and Mars missions.

Our Cislunar Space Transportation System’s reusable space tugs could have 2,800 to 14,000+ Isp solar electric propulsion systems.

If Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, NASA, and the ESA would each put a reusable 150 ton 5,000 Isp solar electric propulsion system powered space tug into LEO, we would have the solid beginning of an efficient Cislunar Transportation System.

Russia, Japan, China, India, and Korea could each build a large reusable Lunar/asteroid/Mars lander with 900+ Isp nuclear thermal rocket engines.

High Isp reusable spacecraft with efficient space propulsion systems could cost effectively move cargo and people between LEO and the Moon and begin to satisfy some of our most basic and critical transportation requirements for sustainable future human Beyond Cislunar Space missions.

Or instead, we can all talk trash about each other and build hundreds of 150 ton payload reusable Space Bombers and destroy lots more of our Ozone Layer and blow up large parts of our Home Planet during our Cold War II or World War III.

James Lunar Miner

Folks need to clearly understand:

“The exhaust velocity of conventional rockets is limited by the chemical energy stored in the fuel’s molecular bonds, which limits the thrust to about 5km/s. Ion engines are in principle limited only by the electrical power available on the spacecraft, but typically the exhaust speed of the charged particles range from 15km/s to 35km/s.”

“What this means in practice is that electrically powered thrusters are much more fuel efficient than chemical ones, so an enormous amount of mass can be saved through the need for less fuel onboard.”

“But electrical power is here to stay, and over the longer term, space tugs and even manned missions to Mars based on nuclear electric propulsion will be the next on the drawing board.”

From: “Dawn of a new era: the revolutionary ion engine that took spacecraft to Ceres” By Steve Gabriel 3/7/2015

“Eutelsat will replace a trio of satellites with two larger all-electric satellites from Airbus Defence and Space, company officials said Wednesday.”

And, “Yohann Leroy, Eutelsat’s chief technical officer and a deputy CEO, said the two greatest cost savers on the new Hotbird satellites are electric propulsion and Airbus’ new Eurostar NEO platform.”

From: “Eutelsat to buy two all-electric satellites from Airbus to replace Hotbird constellation”
By Caleb Henry 8/1/2018

Abigail Henderson

Rather than accept the unacceptable nature of Musk’s disgusting comments, you try (pathetically) to nitpick minutiae? You also post a bunch of bullshit anyone with Google can destroy. What about all the OTHER information in this story? The only thing you should be DISAPPOINTED in is yourself jackass. BTW here’s the latest fiasco Muskrat has created.

James Lunar Miner

Abigail Henderson:

If your rude comment is directed at me, in the last eight years I have posted far too many highly critical comments concerning Mr. Elon Musk’s unacceptable behavior than I want to think about.

However, previous to today, I haven’t ever noticed you or any of your critical comments concerning Mr. Elon Musk’s unacceptable behavior.

Mr. Elon Musk is responsible for his crude mouth and foolish lies and you are responsible for your crude mouth.

Now, let’s focus on getting cargo, robots, and people safely and cost efficiently to the Moon, asteroids, and Mars. Maybe Mr. Elon Musk can help with those difficult tasks or maybe he cannot. Time, and not you or me, will decide.

Have a great day!

Abigail Henderson

My use of the word “DISAPPOINTED” should have made it clear who my “rude comment”was directed at. There are more people on this thread than you. Have a great day!

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