★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ Three Red Stars – Recommended
“Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors”
by Edward Niedermeyer
Published 2019 by Ben Bella Books, Dallas TX
275 pages, Hardcover
Review by Iwpchi
We were pleased to see at our local library what – so far as we know – is the first critical look at Tesla Motors and its truly “ludicrous” billionaire “visionary genius(TM)”-in-chief Elon Musk. Edward Niedermeyer’s new book is a brief overview of the trials and tribulations of Tesla Motors from its founding in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning right up until 2018. Written in an easily-accessible journalistic prose, it’s a quick read – we knocked it off easily in a few hours without skipping through it and enjoyed every bit of it. Unfortunately, for those of us who have been following the Tesla saga in real-time the past several years, the book has little that is new beyond what will be familiar to the thriving, well-informed and highly critical online #TSLAQ community. For the Teslarati, who have been drinking the Kool-Aid spewing forth from Tesla’s well-organized and effective public relations office (via Reddit, Twitter, Tesla Motors Club and quasi-official Tesla fanzines like Electrek) the book will provide perhaps the first eye-opening glimpse of the grim reality behind the carefully stage-managed dog- and-pony-shows endlessly being presented to the public by Tesla and its P.T. Barnum-like con-man CEO Elon Musk.
Though the book is an entertaining read, it does have its shortcomings: first of all, it is not an exhaustive study of the company at all, either from an economics or any other standpoint. Those books will undoubtedly be coming along later (we’re looking at you, Charley Grant lol!); this one is merely an introduction for the curious layman who wants a look behind the shaky walls and flimsy tents of Elon Musk’s Potemkin auto manufacturing debacle. For instance: very little is said about the very poor and unsafe working conditions at Tesla’s various factories that were the direct result of billionaire Musk’s vast ignorance of and contempt for standard safety practices in modern manufacturing facilities. Even the well-known and confirmed story that Musk would not allow the typical “safety yellow” paint to be used as warning markings for dangerous areas in his factories (which is the standard practice in factories throughout the USA and the world) “because he doesn’t like the color yellow” was left out – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The book also does not give us any hard data on the human cost of Musk’s disregard for safe workplace practices in terms of actual injuries and/or fatalities at his various manufacturing facilities – data that we imagine the United Auto Workers Union – busy trying to unionize Musk’s factories – would be only too happy to have provided.
We would also have liked to have seen a chapter on the other even more egregious examples of Musk’s much ballyhooed (and basically non-existent) “Visionary Genius(TM)”: his many silly projects and other corporate entities, like his asinine “Hyperloop” and his ridiculous “Boring Co.” boondoggle. They’re mentioned, but only in passing. Musk creates these phony companies and then promotes them in the manner of a classic American huckster whenever there is a need to distract the public from the latest torrent of bad publicity threatening to topple his rickety Rube Goldberg-like pyramid of financially co-dependent companies. To the general public, poorly-educated as it is by the vastly underfunded US capitalist public school system, these laughably improbable corporations and their idiotic and non-existent products – like Solar City’s fake “Solar Roof tiles” – seem like the products of a God-like visionary who thinks big and whose amazing scientific knowledge and engineering prowess will usher in the 22nd century 80 years early. To actual scientists and engineers, (and to us), all that Musk has demonstrated to the world is that he is – like almost all of his top capitalist class brethren – a personal-greed-motivated ass-clown who has *no* engineering experience or skills, a superficial understanding of basic scientific and engineering concepts (at best) and who just goes around making absurd shit up all the time – like his laughable, impractical and (at this time) technologically impossible plans to “colonize” and even “terraform” Mars. Elon Musk is nothing but a con man who has erected one of the world’s greatest Ponzi schemes nakedly in front of the eviscerated US government agencies charged with enforcing laws against corporate fraud and the entire world; Musk’s bald stupidity when it comes to the brutal fundamental realities of basic capitalist economics will undoubtedly lead to the spectacular collapse of his cockamamie empire – including his one viable company, SpaceX. Musk will probably walk away from the collapse of his empire with enough of his ill-gotten gains to maintain quite a luxurious lifestyle for the rest of his life; but the tens of thousands of workers whose hard labor under brutal conditions actually made him all his billions will be thrown out of work and their lives irreparably damaged because they had faith in this billionaire asshat to provide them and their families with long-term financial stability. This we do not find to be the least bit amusing. It is why we say that the capitalist system must be overthrown and replaced with a planned socialist economic system if the working class wants to be able to provide for their families for the long term – or even to survive at all, as the “visionary geniuses” of the capitalist class intend to replace as many workers with robots as possible the minute the technology comes available (which will begin to happen in earnest within our lifetimes).
Edward Niedermeyer was not out to bring down Elon Musk and his Chaplinesque car company when he wrote this book, although he tells us that as soon as he began writing critical articles about Tesla and Musk he came under a company-directed smear campaign orchestrated by Tesla and Musk (which is the standard operating procedure for that shameless “visionary genius(TM)” Musk and his co-conspirators). And his book fails to utilize all the currently available material that could bring Musk’s phony empire crashing down to Earth, or to develop any new material that is unknown to the well-informed #tslaq-ers. But for the general reader who has yet to explore the tawdry shucking-and-jiving going on behind the curtain at P.T. Musk’s sleazy corporate chicanery-factories, it will be a very informative and enjoyable read.
If the workers of the world want to find heroes, they need to look elsewhere than among the world’s greedhead capitalist classes, who are only out to rob the working classes of the world blind. The heroes of the future who will save the workers from being phased-out entirely will either come from within the working class or they will not come at all. Elon Musk is just the latest example of the tired cliche of the wealthy hero who so loves mankind that he utilizes all his wealth to bring about positive change for the entire human race. That has always been a capitalist myth and will always be a capitalist myth; and it will continue to fool the gullible until the working class realizes that only we the workers ourselves have a vested interest in creating a better future for the entire human race.