He needs to set aside his greed for one minute, and consider the fact that we all need him to STFU
On March 6, 2020, Tesla CEO and Grimes' baby daddy Elon Musk tweeted, "The coronavirus panic is dumb."
One month later, the novel coronavirus was the number one cause of death in the US, as it remains to this day. Whatever you can say about people's various responses to the virus, some level of panic was clearly warranted.
Since then Musk's message on the pandemic has shifted—and Tesla's New York plant has begun manufacturing ventilators—but he has maintained a certain level of skepticism around the preventative measures that are (incidentally) negatively affecting his business. Whatever his motivations, a reasonable dose of skepticism can be healthy, but then in the early hours of Wednesday morning, he tweeted a link to a Wall Street Journal op-ed with the accompanying text, "Give people their freedom back!" Shortly followed by "FREE AMERICA NOW."
Give people their freedom back! https://t.co/iG8OYGaVZ0— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1588140232.0
Since being acquired by right-wing media magnate Rupert Murdoch, the Wall Street Journal—especially in its editorial and opinion pieces—isn't exactly known for unbiased journalism. It almost always sides with moneyed interests and the business class, so it's no surprise that an opinion piece on the question "Do Lockdowns Save Lives?" would come down firmly on the side of "No." Nor is it a surprise that such a piece would be written by the founder of a multi-billion-dollar business, or that another weird billionaire would agree with its sentiment—though it's doubtful that Musk would have tweeted a link if the author hadn't mentioned the shutdown of Tesla's Fremont, California plant...
Still, it would be nice if Elon Musk took the horrifying stupidity of his previous comments on the subject as a reason to stop running his mouth about the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, no. Humility is just not in his makeup, and just as with that rescue worker in Thailand—whom Musk would not stop baselessly accusing of pedophilia—Elon has decided to double down.
Should we all give up on him, and just start pretending that Grimes is single, or should we break down for him why his latest tweets on the coronavirus are nearly as stupid as his March 6th declaration? Just for fun, let's run through that Wall Street Journal piece.
Pictured: Elon Musk doubling down
The author, one T.J. Rodgers, does at least have a science background, but perhaps his massive wealth is clogging up the part of his brain responsible for logic—as seems to happen with Elon—because his methodology in the piece is lacking. His main method is to compare the death toll in various states (based on when they instituted shutdown orders) along with the death toll in Sweden—whose relatively lax preventative measures he prefers.
While he found only a weak correlation between a delayed shutdown and a higher death toll, "so low that the engineers I used to employ would have summarized it as 'no correlation,'" the sample size really isn't large enough to make a definitive ruling, and there's no indication that he took into account factors like climate, or age demographics—the average age in Utah, for instance, is more than a decade younger than several other states.
Rodgers did note that population density is an important factor—and thankfully didn't suggest that places like New York City should consider reopening, but he suggested that the shutdowns in more suburban and rural areas were likely "mistakes." That is patently untrue. When a stranger points a gun at you, it is never a mistake to duck for cover. Even if you scrape your knee, and even if that gun turns out to have been a BB gun, it's still not a mistake.
There was so much we didn't yet know about the threat of COVID-19, and there is still so much that we still don't know about treating and containing it—rushing to restart the economy now would be playing with fire. Does it have serious long-term effects? How long will an effective vaccine take to develop? And how much should we worry about the strange inflammatory symptoms that seem to be manifesting in young children? Certainly more than Rodgers seems to, as he praises the fact that Sweden kept its schools open, only requiring seniors to shelter in place.
Rodgers' article also fails to mention that—unlike American workers—Swedes have guaranteed government healthcare, or the fact that the nation's relatively low death rate (Sweden has registered around 2,500 deaths at the time of writing) is still between three and six times higher than its nearest neighbors. Does that mean that if American states had adopted similarly lax policies, the death rate would have been three to six times higher? Nope. We have no idea what the difference would have been, and the only real information T.J. Rodgers and Elon Musk are adding to the situation is that they think the risk (to your life and lives of your loved ones) is worth it if it means a boost to their stock portfolios.
So, to sum up: Shut the f*** up, Elon.
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