Two stories are circulating about what Elon actually did:
- The Ukrainian military wanted to mount an underwater drone strike against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and asked Elon to turn on Starlink to guide the drones. After consulting with Russian officials, Elon said no.
- The Ukrainian military mounted an underwater drone strike against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, using Starlink to guide the drones. After consulting with Russian officials, Elon turned off Starlink in that area, and the drones drifted ashore.
As of yesterday, Elon presented the first version, but his biographer, Walter Isaacson, with whom Elon also consulted as to what to do, presented a version of the second. Intermediate versions exist in various news outlets. Today Isaacson turned and said he agreed with Elon.
Elon’s reasoning for both scenarios was that he didn’t want Starlink to be used for an act of war that might escalate to nuclear war.
All this has to do with Elon’s trying to preserve his image of himself as a brilliant and compassionate humanitarian. Unfortunately, there is no way he can maintain that.
The United States Congress, back around 1980, decreed that industry can do everything better than government and has been doing what they can to sell the government off to private industry. This has a number of downsides, particularly in regard to governmental functions that involve life and death, like war and prisons. But it makes great profits for Republican fat cats, so the balance is obvious!
What nobody seems to have anticipated was that one of those private corporations might be under the personal control of an addled, ignorant, and self-important manbaby. Wo here we are.
Whichever scenario actually happened, Elon is culpable. He is culpable of conducting foreign governmental affairs without consulting the US government. He is culpable of extreme manipulability by Russian officials. He is culpable of trying to shake down the US government for additional payments for Starlink. He is probably culpable of inappropriate handling of classified material. And that’s just for this incident.
New York Times explainer gift link