Electrek’s take-out: A reshuffling of the sycophants

According to persistent whisper among automotive propaganda operatives, the formerly way too symbiotic relationship between Californian carmaker Tesla and the Canadian-registered, but U.S. hosted Electrek.co website is on the rocks. Meanwhile, greentech website Cleantechnica.com and EV-specialist site Insideevs.com are said to be vying for a spot by the feet of God Elon.

People who read the tea-leaves of Twitter have noticed that @elonmusk unfollowed Electrek a few days ago. Monitoring Musk’s list is made simple by the fact that the CEO follows only 69 people, vs. the 22.6 million people who (allegedly) follow him. One less follower does not necessarily mean a digital divorce. Musk allegedly also unfollowed his girlfriend Grimes, but there she is, on top of the list of the 69 deemed worthy of HIS followership. Large parts of that list are a family affair anyway. Musk follows his mother and model Maye, his sister Tosca, and his brother Kimbal. The rest of the list is more eclectic than electric, ranging from Mark Andreessen to (cover your eyes) the Internet of Shit. As far as EV-obsessed media go, Musk follows only Teslarati, Cleantechnica, and InsideEVs, and we’ll get to the latter two in a minute.

In the past, Electrek could be relied upon as being the most shameless and Kool-Aid binge-drinking Musk fanzine in the greater universe, but apparently, Electrek has been put on the Kool-Aid wagon. From what we are hearing from the famous people familiar with the matter, Tesla indeed has unfriended Electrek. The current spin is that Tesla got mad at Electrek after it had done serious reporting (for once) and published production numbers allegedly obtained from an inside source at Tesla, along with a top-secret picture of a Model S interior refresh so mild that only the most rabid Tesla devotee would notice.

Whether that’s the real reason is anyone’s guess. In the sub-rosa parts of automotive propaganda, joined-at-the-hip relationships usually aren’t severed over such bupkis. Usually, specialized PR agencies are under contract to allegedly ”leak” alleged “spy” photographs, and while automakers officially may be “shocked, SHOCKED to find there’s publishing going on,” privately, it’s another lift of the KPI. But then, Tesla is a most unusual automaker.

Months earlier, someone with an ear on the ground could hear rumblings that Tesla was still unhappy about Electrek’s flagrant flogging of Tesla referral codes, a sordid matter that has gone on for years. I also wouldn’t be surprised that with the SEC and the DOJ looking into Tesla, one would want to clean up things a bit. Meanwhile, Electrek is seeking new OEMs to befriend. It has begun to suddenly sing the praise of electric vehicles by (OMG) OEMs like Volkswagen and Audi, without the usual “Electrek’s take” that the vehicles are failing quota cars, and their makers targets of assured disruption.

After this deft change of tack at Electrek, its readers now can gasp at comments that Audi’s new e-tron has “a lot to be excited about for EV enthusiasts. From a technology standpoint, it looks like a solid new all-electric vehicle from a legacy automaker.” And the reader is shocked, SHOCKED to read Electrek headlines that previously would have caused an instant crash of the site’s WordPress server (“Tesla (TSLA) now reportedly under a criminal probe over Elon Musk’s take-private comments.”) 

Electrec’s readers, mostly dyed-in-the-wool Elon-lovers, are unsurprisingly unhappy over Electrec’s treasonous pandering to the legacy antielon, and they are letting Fred have it in the comments. Fred’s trying valiantly to serve up the usual fare (“Tesla Gigafactory 1 new drone flyover shows latest massive solar array progress”) but his heart seems no longer in it. Poor man’s getting it from all sides now.

Who is going to take Electrek’s place at the foot of the throne? The competition appears to be between the aforementioned latter outlets, namely Cleantechnica, and InsideEVs. My bets would be on Cleantechnica. InsideEVs has a solid track record of quality reporting, along with meticulously kept and widely quoted stats on EV sales. Their estimates of Tesla sales consistently are better than all others. (Tesla does not break out sales by month and region, saying that reporters and analysts are too stupid to read them.) I am betting on Cleantechnica to inherit Electrek’s vacated spot in Musk’s graces, mainly because Cleantechnica’s leader Zach Shahan used to be a close second to Electrek’s Fred Lambert in terms of overall shamelessness, and he has not changed.  

A few days ago, Cleantechnica boldly begun to do Tesla’s bidding, picking up on one of Musk’s most moronic missions in recent history, his Pravduh media critic site. In an apparent episode of persecutory delusion (and/or recreational substances) Musk tweeted last May that he was “going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda … “

No unsurprisingly, this idea did not go over too well with a media that did not want to be rated by a man with a consistently very elastic definition of “core truth.” The project was panned mercilessly, and if you go to http://pravduh.com/ (Pravda.com was already taken, beginner’s mistake in this biz) you get a page as empty as Musk’s threat against the fourth estate.

Musk wisely shied away from the wretched project, but he found someone with lesser qualms and morals. Last week, Cleantechnica made Pravduh a permanent fixture of its alleged reporting. So now, yelp!, media outlets from Bloomberg to Reuters get rated in Pravduh by Cleantechnica. Moronic as the project remains, Cleantechnica is only able to (subjectively) tag stories as neutral, negative, or positive, with the expected effect that if bad things happen around Tesla (such as, for instance, “Tesla Criminal Probe Into Musk Tweet Seen Opening Pandora’s Box”) the “negative” ratings skyrocket. Duh.

Two days ago, Pravduh by Cleantechnica had a headline “Bloomberg On Tesla — #Pravduh Gone Wild,” fingering, of all media outlets, Bloomberg as Tesla enemy #1. If Cleantechnica wouldn’t be sufficiently deluded to succeed Electrek, they would know that Bloomberg in the past has been solidly on the side of Tesla, and that at Bloomberg, positive articles about Tesla were rumored to be career-enhancing if they reached the desk of Michael B.

If the perceived sentiment goes deep red even at Bloomberg, then this should be a sign of things going down the tubes at Tesla, and not as an indicator that the media is suddenly out to get Tesla, after having been fawning for all those years.

I was unable to reach @FredricLambert for comment. He blocked me on Twitter, but wasn’t missed.

P.S.: A (way too) early version of this article had “Greencarreports.com” instead of “Cleantechnica.com” in the first para. It has been promptly fixed. Greencarreports are the good guys. Refresh your page if it’s still in error. But then you can’t read this either.