Monday, August 3, 2020

Cancel Elon Musk?

Yesterday, a SpaceX rocket capsule, carrying two astronauts splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico. Owner Elon Musk was elated, as were many Americans. 


And yet, Musk created some serious controversy when he lit out against American complacency a few days ago. Speaking on the “Daily Drive” podcast Musk called out the citizens on America’s coasts for their indolence, their complacency and their sense of entitlement. 


After all, he is building a new Tesla plant in Austin, Texas and is building another plant in Shanghai. So he was explaining why he wants to reduce manufacturing on the coasts.


In his words:


… I see in the United States increasingly much more complacency and entitlement especially in places like the Bay Area, and L.A. and New York.”


America’s problem, Musk continues, is that it no longer knows how to win.Where have we heard that before?


He then compared the U.S. to losing sports teams: “When you’ve been winning for too long you sort of take things for granted. The United States, and especially like California and New York, you’ve been winning for too long. When you’ve been winning too long you take things for granted. So, just like some pro sports team they win a championship you know a bunch of times in a row, they get complacent and they start losing.”


You would think that these remarks were a simple observation of the state of culture of deep blue America. But, you would be wrong. The Zero Hedge blog read these remarks and practically accused Musk of treason. Keep in mind, this is a conservative or libertarian blog, one that has at times been blocked by Twitter. We often have occasion to link its articles.


So, what did Musk do to incite the ire of Zero Hedge. Why, he made a couple of positive observations about Chinese workers. You would think that it is a reason to get him canceled.


Zero Hedge reports:


On the podcast, reported by CNBC, he called the people of China “smart” and “hard working” while at the same time calling U.S. citizens "entitled" and "complacent". 


As though that were not bad enough Musk went on to praise the cultural environment in China:


When asked about China as an EV strategy leader worldwide, Musk responded:  “China rocks in my opinion. The energy in China is great. People there – there’s like a lot of smart, hard working people. And they’re really -- they’re not entitled, they’re not complacent,


Musk’s advice, roundly rejected by Zero Hedge, is that American manufacturers should worry less about marketing and public relations. They should work to engineer better products. Zero Hedge dismisses Musk’s advice, on the grounds that bumpers are falling off Tesla Model 3s, at this very moment.


Musk then, seemingly unaware that bumpers are falling off of Model 3s as we speak, encouraged entrepreneurs to "focus on the product" when making something new: “My advice, you know, to corporate America or companies worldwide is spend less time on marketing presentations and more time on your product. Honestly that should be the number one thing taught in business schools. Put down that spreadsheet and that PowerPoint presentation and go and make your product better.”


The problem is, Musk is probably right. True enough, we have a more diverse workforce. And our workforce seems to think that marketing and PR are the way to go-- after all, isn’t it all about manipulating minds? In order to engineer better manufacturing you need armies of engineers. And America does not have armies of engineers. It has armies of social justice warriors, lawyers and bureaucrats. 


The shocking point is that Zero Hedge, in full Cold War mode, dismisses some sane advice, from someone who has some skin in the manufacturing game, because saying anything good about China these days should get you canceled, and tried for treason. Or maybe the blog is a stealth supporter of California politics and wants to punish Musk for moving Tesla manufacturing to... Texas. OMG.


So, don’t think that cancel culture is limited to the radical left.

7 comments:

David Foster said...

"Musk’s advice, roundly rejected by Zero Hedge, is that American manufacturers should worry less about marketing and public relations."

If there is anyone who is good at marketing and PR, it is Elon Musk.

Sam L. said...

"Musk’s advice, roundly rejected by Zero Hedge, is that American manufacturers should worry less about marketing and public relations. They should work to engineer better products. Zero Hedge dismisses Musk’s advice, on the grounds that bumpers are falling off Tesla Model 3s, at this very moment."
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Maybe it's my eyes, but the Teslas I've seen, I haven't seen bumpers. ZH may well be right!

Unknown said...

At first I was angry at Musk for his insults. And then I realized that he is trying to warn us. He would so like to see us turn it around and get better.

Giordano Bruno said...

I knew Musk was going to land on that list. Too white, too irascible, too insolent. He's dying to mock cancel culture and they know it. Left hates him. I think electric cars are stupid.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree with Unknown... clearly Musk is trying to warn us.

David Foster said...

Good manufacturing does not only require engineers, it also requires skilled workers...and unskilled workers who care about their work. One of the causes of the US auto industry's decline was the virtual war between management and labor, which in some cases resulted in outright worker sabotage.

Also very important in manufacturing is the efficient arrangement of work, which does not always require engineering degrees. During WWII, the US had a program called 'training within industry', which among other things helped people learn how to improve work processes.

Speaking of work processes, here is an interesting story from GE about the turbine plant in Greenville, South Carolina. Considerable improvements were made by doing such things as getting rid of obsolete machines that were just sitting there, and restructuring the flow of parts to eliminate batching and its consequent delays.

https://www.ge.com/news/reports/untangled-how-lean-management-helped-a-huge-ge-turbine-factory-find-its-mojo

Not addressed by the story is this question: GE has been making turbines for over a century, and has been making them in Greenville for 50 years. The company has had a 'Lean Six Sigma' program since the early Welch era. Why on earth weren't these problems addressed earlier?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

No one suggested that good engineers were enough. Musk was saying that without engineers, you are going to have problems. And certainly, hostility between management and labor undermines performance-- see the movie American Factory.