Elon Musk and “pedo guy”

I was shocked and horrified when Elon Musk called a young brave Thai cave rescuer “pedo guy” for no apparent reason. Why would someone who’d volunteered to fly from his comfortable and safe British home to risk his own life to save Thai teenagers be subject to any kind of criticism?

Elon Musk, the book, sheds some light on this topic. First, Musk was goaded into helping and then told to continue working on a mini-sub:

“I suspect that the Thai govt has this under control, but I’m happy to help if there is a way to do so,” Musk tweeted. Then his action-hero impulse kicked in. Working with engineers at SpaceX and The Boring Company, he began building a pod-like mini-submarine that, he thought, could be sent into the flooded cave to rescue the boys. Sam Teller got a friend to let them use a school swimming pool for testing that weekend, and Musk began tweeting pictures of the device. The saga became a global news story, some criticizing Musk for grandstanding. Early on Sunday morning, July 8, he checked with a leader of the rescue team in Thailand to make sure that what he was building might be useful. “I have one of the world’s best engineering teams who usually design spaceships and spacesuits working on this thing 24 hours a day,” he emailed. “If it isn’t needed or won’t help, that would be great to know.” The rescue team leader replied, “It is absolutely worth continuing.”

Of course, the mini-sub wasn’t needed after all.

There the story would have ended, except that a sixty-three-year-old English cave explorer named Vernon Unsworth, who had advised Thai rescuers on the scene, gave an interview to CNN dissing Musk’s efforts as “just a PR stunt” that “had absolutely no chance of working.” Unsworth suggested, with a giggle, that “he can stick his submarine where it hurts.” Trolls and detractors fling insults at Musk every hour, and occasionally one sends him into orbit. He responded with a barrage of tweets attacking Unsworth, concluding one of them with “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.” When another user asked Musk if he was calling Unsworth a pedophile, he responded, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

Musk sent an “off-the-record” email that BuzzFeed made public:

“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you fucking asshole,” Musk began. “He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time. There’s only one reason people go to Pattaya Beach. It isn’t where you’d go for caves, but it is where you’d go for something else. Chiang Rai is renowned for child sex-trafficking.”

My impressions from following the headlines were, of course, wrong. The guy with whom Musk had traded insults was not one of the actual cave rescuers who’d left a comfortable English home. He was an old British guy living in Thailand who had a lot of experience exploring the cave, but his main role in the rescue was providing phone numbers for British cave rescue experts. Unsworth did not bring out any teenagers himself. Musk was simply guessing that Unsworth was a sexpat rather than merely an expat who loved Thai culture. The guess was not supported by tabloid investigation. Daily Mail found the 63-year-old Unsworth living with a 40-year-old girlfriend:


9 thoughts on “Elon Musk and “pedo guy”

  1. Unsworth made a rookie mistake in suing in a US court. UK libel law has no First Amendment protections (no Bill of Rights or codified Constitution either, for that matter), and the burden of proof is on the defendent. He would have taken Musk to the cleaners if he had sued in his home country, and Elon dodged a serious bullet there.

    • No, UK liable judgments are not enforceable in the US so the plaintiff would not have been able to collect in the US on a UK judgment.

  2. Poor mans version of Ghislaine Maxwell?

    For defamation don’t you need:
    ¹ to prove it’s not true.
    ² to prove reputational damage.

    If you are going to take pot shots at the world richest and smartest man when he’s trying to help, best to stay very high in the debate pyramid.

    Drop to ad hominem, expect and homonym or worse in return.

  3. Any comment on the air traffic controller situation (assuming you’re not involved as an expert witness)?

    Executive summary:

    — Obama administration began DEI program at FAA

    — Blacks and women were scoring low on the initial qualifying test

    — Test was dropped and replaced by an online “personality test”

    — Test contents were leaked to black employees union and then to tests takers

    — Black candidates subsequently flunked out of FAA-run air traffic controller academy disproportionately

    — Now there’s a shortage, and controllers are overworked, NY Times reporting on lots of near misses

    — A class action lawsuit based on racial discrimination has been filed, lead plaintiff a white guy who has aced the original rigorous test, 2,000 potential plaintiffs in the class

    • Barry: I haven’t looked into this in any detail. I believe that there is a shortage! You do have to be smart to be a controller. And the government gleefully practices age discrimination in hiring, training, and forced retirement. Safety shouldn’t be compromised if mediocre people get into the system because there are a lot of controller jobs that aren’t challenging. One could work the Hilo Tower, for example, with 129 operations per day (see https://www.airnav.com/airport/ITO ). Vectoring the evening international push out of New York is challenging, but a controller needs to work his/her/zir/their way into that position.

      (I wonder if the least busy towered airport is close to our house: https://www.airnav.com/airport/KTTS (66 operations per WEEK))

    • This bird brain knows someone, a white ATC controller that was caught up in this mess. He joined a class action lawsuit and was quietly offered an ATC job while the lawsuit is pending. He was a current instrument rated pilot and scored poorly on the personality test. He is a great controller, unlike most of the stupid black people that barack obama hired.

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