The Pro-Asshole Rule

Electric Vehicle Farm 3A: Exposing a Bro Culture in prosocial clothing

There was a business book a few years back called The No-Asshole Rule. It sold well, and why wouldn’t it? It said companies should turf jerks and bullies because they hold those companies back. It was practically “Chicken Soup for the Team-building Soul”.

Of course, most of the world works by The Pro-Asshole Rule

As long as someone’s on “our side” we’ll overlook almost anything. Yes, it’s an “ends justify the means” logic, but most of the time it’s only a minor moral shortcut. 

And then there’s Tesla. 

Figure 3A is a timeline of how Tesla treated some of its female employees.

In a just world Tesla fans could print it up, show it to their partners, daughters, nieces, and female friends, and decide if they want to proclaim, “I’m proud to Stan for this standard. If this had happened to you, I’d still support Tesla all the way.”

And then do it all over again with the allegations of systemic racism, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and other behaviors clay-fired into Tesla’s corporate culture, once I get the next Figures finished.

To be fair, harassment and mistreatment probably do happen at all large companies (but hopefully only very, very infrequently). Some bad apples will make it through. We wouldn’t condemn all of Weyland-Yutani Corporation if a rogue middle manager kept sending ships to find Alien Xenomorphs on the sly.

But these cases are different. They’re different because Elon Musk is personally involved in each of them, and for all purposes he is Tesla. It was Elon Musk who chose to go after the female engineer, in writing, after she was terminated. It was immediately after the victim of alleged sexual assault contacted Elon Musk, that she was fired. And after Steve Jurvetson was thrown out of his own company for sexual misconduct, it would’ve been Elon Musk who made the call to make Jurvetson feel right at home.

The “few bad apples” argument doesn’t work here, because the Big Apple himself is the problem. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor. I’m sure New York City is lovely.)

And remember, there are probably more cases we don’t know about.

Not that you’d know this in the Teslasphere. I’m guessing there’s a Yezhov-shaped hole in fan community coverage on these issues. Nor would you have noticed this as a casual or industry observer. You don’t realize there’s a bigger pattern, until you realize there’s a bigger pattern

Tesla’s Temptation

Wikipedia says trading morals for power was the last temptation of Christ. It’s the first temptation of the Tesla fan and goes something like this:

“You can save the climate! You can be a leader, a part of the vanguard. And all it’ll cost is hurt feelings from a few people who neither look nor think like you. People you’ll never meet, you’ll never need to see, about whom you’ll never need to read.” 

The temptation is that since you care about the climate, you’ll let it slide. You’ll keep quiet, or gloss it over. Not everyone can be “hardcore”, not everyone can be elite. The people who couldn’t make the cut might be whiners; complainers. Dead-enders trying to squeeze a greedy settlement. They were never really part of the team.

And hey, why make the perfect the enemy of the good? All of these separate and isolated cases of mistreatment of women, ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, and others, can be fixed later. But the climate can’t afford to wait!

Besides, who’s digging up all this dirt? A bunch of Protestants and Jews with an axe to gri — sorry, that was the Catholic playbook. A bunch of haters and short-sellers. Dumdums who don’t understand The Mission.

It’s seductive. Temptations always are, for the desperate -- and the climate crisis has created a huge pool of liberals (like me!) desperate for climate solutions. Some seek heroes, and it’s a good thing hero-worship never attracts villains. Others search for a crusade, and those always end well.

The problem is, if you put climate justice first, you’ll postpone social justice forever. It’ll be a decades-long process to decarbonize the economy. That’s a long time to ask others to wait, and  who knows what new crises will have erupted by then. There’s a reason Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t talk about the “fierce urgency of later”. Dignity shouldn’t have to wait. 

To dismiss the clearly-real moral warts that infect Tesla -- to airbrush them away -- is to invoke the Pro-Asshole Rule. Fans, supporters, employees, customers, and we the public all deserve better. 

If this information and Figure could be of value to friends, please forward it along. Without public pressure there won’t be change -- and without change, things only ever get worse. And silence implies the situation’s okay; that’s it’s not a big enough deal to make a fuss about.

If you haven’t done so yet, sign up to EV Farm to explore Tesla’s arc of darkness. You can also follow me on the Twitter

Next up, for real this time, will be “The Three Strikes Rule”.