My name is Omar Qazi, and I called Frederic Lambert a “complete piece of shit”. Do I regret my choice of words and choice of venue? Yes, very much so. I apologize sincerely to Frederic, and to my podcast team. But what can I say? At the time, it came from the heart. I own up to what I said, and I alone am responsible for it.
Today, I wanted to respond the way I should have to an op-ed published by Frederic Lambert on Electrek, where he called out Vincent, the Third Row Twitter account, 28delayslater and others Tesla customers that have criticized his writing. He accused his critics of “toxic spreading of misinformation” and “superfandom that is negative for the electric revolution”.
li We’ll go through the piece line by line together so I can share my thoughts. Frederic didn’t let us know about the piece in advance or give us a chance to respond before publishing it, even though he said he worked on it for a while. If he had, we would have corrected all inaccuracies before publication.
Background on Twitter
To understand this week’s drama, you really need to know the backstory with me and Twitter.
Nothing interesting happened in my first 10 years on Twitter. Then in April 2018 I got the Tesla Model 3 that I had pre-ordered 2 years earlier, and tweeted about it.
What happened next surprised me. A swarm of anonymous troll accounts started commenting on my post making fun of me and replying with false negative information about Tesla. They assured me that Tesla was about to file for bankruptcy, and that Elon Musk was a criminal fraud. I decided to follow them, and try and talk to them. What they were saying didn’t at all match the experiences I was having with my new car.
Trying to talk to them didn’t help –– they just laughed. I quickly realized that these anonymous accounts weren’t on Twitter to discuss Tesla, they were there to push a disinformation campaign against the company, and harass Tesla CEO Elon Musk through a campaign of provocation and psychological warfare designed to turn the media and the public against him. It went beyond just tweets and news articles –– they would chase Tesla employees in their cars, and manipulate courts, financial markets, regulators, or any other means available to do damage to Tesla.
The volume of false and misleading tweets they put out about Tesla was insane. They made use of social media well, creating memes and jokes reinforcing their narrative that were honestly kind of funny, but didn’t end up being true. Their message was catching on and gaining wide acceptance, which frustrated me because I could clearly see from using the product that what they were saying wasn’t true. I realized I couldn’t provide an adequate rebuttal for massive amounts of misinformation through my personal @omarqazi account. I would feel bad about spamming everyone who wanted to follow me personally with constant responses to false negative info about Tesla. I realized to fight the trolls, I had to become a troll myself.
So I created a new account called @tesla_truth. To parody the ridiculousness of trusting something written by an anonymous online account, I decided to make the display name for the account “Steve Jobs”.
The strategy for the account was to overpower TSLAQ with an absurd number of tweets showing the other side of what was happening at Tesla. All day every day, Tesla short-sellers would try and push their narrative that Tesla was about to go bankrupt any minute. By pushing this narrative, they hoped to create a “self fulfilling prophecy” where a falling stock price, loss of confidence from consumers and suppliers, and loss of confidence in Musk would actually push the company further to the brink or even (they hoped) over the edge. This would allow them to make money betting against the company’s stock. The group called themselves “$TSLAQ”, referring to the Q that is appended to a stock ticker symbol when the company goes bankrupt.
Besides posting about the positives, the account also refuted the negative narrative pushed in TSLAQ tweets, as well as by journalists who worked closely and became friendly with TSLAQ members as sources for their articles in publications like the LA Times, New York Times, CNBC, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. The mainstream view at the time was that Tesla would never be profitable, and short sellers were considered the primary experts on the company.
Before long, the account really got on TSLAQ’s nerves. My view was that what I was doing would help them avoid huge losses, even if they didn’t want to hear it. The TSLAQ community put together a “block list” of accounts that were starting to see through what they were doing. This list of thousands of Twitter accounts that had ever said anything positive about Tesla helped them create Twitter conversation threads that appeared unanimously negative. Even TSLAQ members who started to express concern about what was happening were added to the block list, forcing conformity of opinion on the threat of exile.
I started the @tesla_truth account in November, and it didn’t take long before some short sellers started getting pissed off about what I said about them. On my birthday in January, I did some googling and realized that a TSLAQ account called “Plainsite” posing as a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt charity was run guy a guy named Aaron Greenspan. Greenspan had attended Harvard with Mark Zuckerburg, and turned down the chance to start Facebook with Zuck because he “already had a lot going on” with the computer repair business he started in high school, Think Computer.
After Facebook made it big, Aaron Greenspan took legal action against Zuckerburg for supposedly “stealing the idea for Facebook” from him, aiming to block Facebook from getting a trademark on the name. He later sued the makers of the movie “The Social Network” for not putting him in the movie. After that, he also sued Jack Dorsey and Square, claiming the idea for “Square Cash” was stolen from his failed app “FaceCash” (Pay with your face!). I personally thought it was hilarious that he claimed he invented Facebook, and posted some tweets making fun of that fact. Greenspan didn’t think it was funny. Shortly after the tweets were posted, he sent a series of threatening direct messages to the account:
Greenspan threatened to sue me unless I deleted the tweets making fun of him. I refused, as he chose to do it in a rude and threatening way rather than trying to reason with me politely. Greenspan was enraged, and decided to “Doxx” me for my 25th birthday. “Doxxing” is when you post someones name and private info online for the purpose of directing harassment towards them. My identity was no secret to anyone who asked politely, but by posting my private info to the TSLAQ community Greenspan hoped I would feel unsafe and uneasy and avoid looking further into him or criticizing him in the future.
While most of the TSLAQ community initially criticized Greenspan for the retaliatory doxxing, they started to support his harassment efforts as the @tesla_truth account started making fun of them too. Greenspan was enraged and escalated his attacks on me and my credibility.
In July, Greenspan again threatened to sue me and accused me of illegally raising capital online. Although his false accusations didn’t bother me, since I knew he was grasping at straws, I was disturbed by the effort he was putting in to stalk me and put out false information designed to damage my credibility and reputation. For the moment, I shrugged it off and moved on.
The next month, as I was preparing to be interviewed by Bloomberg journalist Zach Mider for a Businessweek feature on Autopilot, I noticed Greenspan post this video on his “charity” Plainsite’s YouTube channel:
This perplexed me, as Plainsite was supposed to be a charity. What was Greenspan trying to do? Get me a ticket? In the video he posted, I wasn’t even driving. Using the brand of a tax-exempt organization to push false negative information solely to inure private benefit to Greenspan through his stock market short selling bets seemed like a clear case of tax fraud.
I did some research and realized when Zuckerburg paid Greenspan $250,000 to settle the trademark dispute, Greenspan “donated” it to his “charity” Plainsite, avoiding a $50k – $100k tax bill. Greenspan then set up an “investment management” company called Turing Feynman, which I suspect is used to short the stocks of companies like Facebook and Tesla that he holds personal grudges against.
As time went on, Greenspan became more and more enraged, and also became worried about my allegations of his tax fraud and misconduct. On the day Bloomberg came to interview me, he published a series of tweets and wrote an email to the entire Tesla board of directors, and a group of journalists covering Tesla where he accused me of “harboring child pornography”. He did not mention his earlier accusations about running a red light or committing securities fraud. Because he included Bloomberg in the list of journalists, a copy of the email found its way to me which made Greenspan very upset when I tweeted about it, exposing his conduct.
The next day Zach Mider called me on the phone “So, you don’t really have kiddie porn do you?”. I said no and explained the background with Greenspan going after me. Thankfully, he understood and believed me. What are the chances this would happen the same day I was getting interviewed by Bloomberg? It must have been an amazing coincidence.
I wish I could tell you the story ends there, but it got worse when the feature in Bloomberg Businessweek was finally published. Greenspan reveres influence with the media, and often praises journalists in a thinly veiled attempt to gain favor with them. The idea that I, the guy he had been trying so hard to discredit, would be featured in Bloomberg? Greenspan was livid.
On October 9, 2019 the story went out:
Right on cue that afternoon, Greenspan came out accusing me of being secretly paid by Tesla. He threatened to sue Elon Musk, Tesla, and myself unless I immediately deleted my Twitter account.
Elon and I laughed at the time when he threatened the lawsuit, but before the end of October he had succeeded in removing my account from Twitter completely. Not just my Steve Jobs account, but my personal account as well.
The account suspension was a trying experience. Immediately, TSLAQ went wild spreading malicious rumors that I was unable to refute because I couldn’t get into my account. They said that I had been suspended for posting child pornography online, or that I had been suspended for harassment, abuse, or just being a rude person.
Some people believed this narrative because my tweets were often rude, but this was a complete lie. I’m not a convicted felon, and have never served time in jail. The reasons that Twitter communicated to me for the suspension were not abuse, harassment, or pornography of any kind. Saying otherwise is a demonstrably false lie. If you see someone saying this, it’s a good tip-off that they’re lying or don’t check their facts.
Twitter will actually tell you the reasons why you’re being suspended. If you get suspended for harassment that will be listed as the reason, like when ZeroHedge got suspended:
Reasons Provided for Suspension
On Halloween 2019, Steve Jobs Ghost officially died. Twitter cited “multiple or repeat violations of their rules”, referencing multiple suspensions that had occurred as a result of reports sent by TSLAQ.
The first suspension was on November 30, 2018 –– around the same time I created the account.
The second suspension was for “impersonating” Steve Jobs. I personally thought this was a little bit ridiculous, as Steve Jobs had passed away many years ago at that point. I was warned I could be permanently suspended unless I changed the account name to “Steve Jobs Ghost” and changed the bio to say that it was a “parody”.
The next day, I was suspended for impersonation and trademark infringement again, after another report.
After that, I started tweeting more about Greenspan’s attempts to harass, stalk and smear Tesla owners like me. In one of the tweets, I included a photo of Greenspan wearing a purple shirt to show my followers who it was who was going after me. Greenspan responded by sending a DMCA takedown complaint to Twitter, requesting they suspend both my Steve Jobs account and my personal account. Twitter complied, and suspended me again.
I appealed to Twitter, telling them that the person complaining had been going after me and harassing me incessantly, and I shouldn’t be suspended for posting a photo of them. Twitter initially agreed, and unsuspended my account.
Shortly after, I received a call from the San Francisco Police Department Special Victims Unit, in regards to Greenspan. Although Greenspan claimed to have evidence I was a child rapist, securities fraudster, and red light runner the Sergeant accused me of no crimes, and did not say he was going to arrest me. Instead he just asked me to leave Greenspan alone on Twitter. I explained that I felt Greenspan had been harassing me relentlessly, and the sergeant asked “Do you work for Tesla?”. I told him I did not, and he thanked me and said goodbye after warning me to “watch it” before things got “a lot worse”. I don’t know what Greenspan told the police, but providing false information to law enforcement is a crime.
Then, one day later I was suspended again for “Spam”. I certainly wouldn’t categorize my tweets as spam, so this confused me.
Another anti-Tesla account, “Bertel Schmitt” likely coordinated with Greenspan on this final suspension after becoming upset that I had revealed his ties to Volkswagen, calling the credibility of all his anti-Tesla tweets into question. I was just watching a documentary on Netflix about the Volkswagen diesel fraud, and he was being interviewed for it as a “Former VW Advertising Exec”. I recognized him from Twitter and posted “a picture saying “Wow look its Bertel”, but this made him very angry for some reason. He said “I was never a Volkswagen exec, they were my client” and took several retaliatory actions against me. Twitter rules state that verified accounts that engage in retaliatory harassment will have their verification removed, but so far Twitter hasn’t taken action.
Aftermath of Suspension
Things were tough after that. I missed my friends on Twitter, and I could still see people in my notifications posting absurd lies and misinformation about me. The worst part was that it felt like Twitter and Jack Dorsey, heroes of Silicon Valley that I had looked up to, had decided to side with my enemies against me. They would be allowed to continue posting lies about me and Tesla, and I would be forced into silence.
Many Tesla customers and fans were not happy about what they saw as Aaron Greenspan’s aggressive attempt to silence criticism about himself by sending frivolous complaints. Sofiaan’s wife Shelly had the idea of copy and pasting “toots” I wrote on Mastodon and posting them on her Twitter account with an Apple emoji afterwards, so people would know it was coming from me.
My heart goes out to Shelly for helping at a very tough time. It was really sweet of her. Twitter could suspend my account, but there was no way they could suspend everyone who shared my words on their platform –– no matter how much the shorts hated it. They tried though: Fake reports were sent that resulted in Shelly’s account being locked at least once, believe it or not.
Why not create a new account?
Others who had their Twitter accounts suspended ended up creating new Twitter accounts –– both on the pro-Tesla and anti-Tesla side. Why didn’t I just do the same?
I was still still too wounded to try and get back on Twiter again. Having the account taken away and seeing lies and racist hatred spread against me was tough, but there was more to it than that. The attacks from Greenspan (which continued after the suspension) were only the half of it. I mention them because thats how I got suspended, but by doxxing me Greenspan directed a huge hate mob against me who all believed I was the devil, based on completely false or misleading information. I received threats, including violent threats, and death threats. They harassed not only me but my friends, parents, and other members of my family. They targeted my parents business, looking up employees of their company and replying to all their tweets encouraging customers to boycott their products. Naturally, I received questions and concern from my family about what was going on, and they encouraged me to stop. But I was stubborn –– I wasn’t going to stop saying what I thought was right just because of their bullying tactics.
At one point I remember my Dad shouting at me to stop writing about Tesla short sellers, screaming “One day you’re going to walk outside and they’re going to pull out a gun and shoot you!”. I didn’t think Tesla short sellers would try and have me killed, but it did make me upset to think that my parents were worried about me to that extent just because I was writing about short sellers.
Ultimately with time I realized that Twitter drama wasn’t real life, and I moved on. But I decided to stay off Twitter since I had been humiliated so publicly and I wanted to take a break from all the harassment. In a way, it was a relief –– in the final weeks of the @tesla_truth account things got extremely heated. Twitter can be a dark place, where the worst impulses of humanity take hold. It can also be a great place sometimes.
Third Row Tesla
A few months later in November, Sofiaan, Vincent, Kristen, Viv, Gali and myself attended the Tesla Cybertruck reveal. Afterwards, we decided to record a podcast about it the weekend before Thanksgiving and just push it out. We didn’t think much of it –– we aren’t professional journalists or podcasters, just Tesla owners and fans. I didn’t really imagine much coming out of our shitty little podcast.
But after a few episodes Elon decided to come on the podcast and talk with us, which surprisingly drove a lot of hate to the group from both the anti-Tesla and pro-Tesla camps. We just wanted to put out some real information from real customers to balance out all the nonsense written in the media that tends to be driven more by short-seller narratives than actual Tesla products or customer experiences.
Sofiaan created the @thirdrowtesla Twitter account when we met in person for the first time at the Tesla shareholder meeting in June 2019. The account lay unused for while, but when we started the podcast in November, we decided to use this as a group Twitter account, and to share episode links and news about the podcast and Tesla.
Everyone in the group had the password, as did Sofiaan’s wife Shelly. Gali and Vincent didn’t ever really post anything on the account though. They each already had two accounts to manage: Gali has @Gfilche and @HyperchangeTV and Vincent has his personal account and Tesmanian. They could have accessed the account any time they felt like it, but they didn’t. Sofiaan, Viv, and Kristen only had their personal accounts, so they started writing some content for the Third Row account as well occasionally.
After a month or two, Sofiaan encouraged me to write some content for the Third Row account too. At first I said no, I didn’t want to get on Twitter. But he said look, if you think of something or make a video just send it to one of us and we’ll post it for you –– just like Shelly was doing before, but on the Third Row account.
People who have been around the Tesla community for a while figured out what was happening pretty quickly, but others were confused. Who is writing these Third Row tweets? Why won’t they list their names?
Some people recognized my writing and said “this is Omar’s account”, he’s writing all the tweets. But it’s not my account, and I didn’t write all the tweets. If you DM or interact with the account you should expect that anyone on the podcast could see your message or respond to you. Another theory I’ve heard is that we started the podcast to get around the Twitter suspension. That’s also not the case, we started the podcast because we had the idea to do a podcast.
Some people have asked “Why not sign each tweet”, such as the way Shelly added an Apple emoji on things I had written before she posted them. Why not say who it was when Frederic got upset?
Essentially, my friends on the podcast were taking a bullet for me. They knew about the issues that made me not want to create a new personal Twitter account. They knew about the harassment and attacks, and the Third Row Twitter account provided a shield for that. It was no secret that some of the tweets sounded like me –– many people who followed me before recognized that, and if anyone ever DM’d Third Row asking who wrote a certain tweet we would gladly tell them. But we didn’t want to broadcast the fact that Sofiaan and Shelly were posting content I had written, because there didn’t seem to be anything to gain from it.
Some have said “they are hiding that it’s Omar because they are violating Twitter’s rules and would get suspended if they were discovered. But that’s not the case either. Twitter simply said the following:
The Third Row Twitter account was created by Sofiaan and is under Sofiaan’s email and phone number, so it is not a new account I created. Furthermore, it was created well before my account was suspended.
This isn’t about being a “coward” or “hiding behind anonymity”. I wish I could have told you this sooner, but not having my own Twitter account makes it harder. Everyone who is on the podcast shows their face, and stands behind their comments. It’s no secret that some of the tweets sound like me, and others don’t. We just didn’t see the need to go into detail about how the account worked because it seemed like it would only attract unneeded harassment to the podcast and the team with little benefit.
So the Third Row team stayed mostly silent about who wrote the tweets, to protect me. But now I have to speak up and tell my story to protect them, because people have been targeting other members of the group for comments that I wrote and want to take responsibility for.
It’s wrong to go after my friends because of something I wrote. I own those tweets alone. Six people can’t write one tweet, nor does every group member approve each tweet that’s going out. That would make for a very boring infrequently updated page. So to try and attack Vincent or Gali or Sofiaan or Kristen or Viv for a comment they had no idea about is unfair, and makes absolutely no sense.
We don’t all live in some big house together. We’re friends who met because of Tesla but we have our own lives, families, and jobs. We all live in different cities. The other members of the Third Row Podcast have had to take an extreme amount of heat for tweets they had absolutely no part in, and were deleted just a few hours later.
In response to Fred’s “call out” op-ed and all of the hate the podcast has been getting, Vincent and Gali decided to leave the podcast.
I feel extremely sad that other members of the podcast are taking so much heat for something I said that they had absolutely no part in. It has weighed on every member of the group immensely. It got to such a crazy level that they left Third Row. Please stop harassing them –– if you have any problem with my comments, take it up with me, not them.
To my good friends Vincent and Gali, and the rest of the Third Row team I can’t apologize enough for the stress I’ve put you through. They took bullets for me time and time again so I could have an outlet to express my thoughts on the Third Row Twitter account, and kept quiet about it even when it hurt their personal reputation to allow me to do so.
The intention was never to make rude comments anonymously –– we were just trying to protect the account and team from further harassment. But now that Frederic has attacked the credibility of my friends and Third Row, it’s time to come clean and respond to him the way I should have originally. I can’t stand for people going after my friends any longer, even if it means Frederic and Electrek are going to retaliate against me next or try and smear me like they did Vincent.
So now you know some of the background needed for me to talk about Frederic’s post on Electrek, and why I angrily lashed out at him calling him a piece of shit, among other things. This was the wrong response and really turned a lot of people against me and the team. I regret that I didn’t choose my words more carefully and submit a much more reasoned rebuttal of the piece. But I was angry –– I’m still new to this, and haven’t had to deal with that many negative pieces in major media outlets. It felt just like a TSLAQ attack. Let he or she who was never gotten mad on the internet cast the first stone. My reaction didn’t help our case, but it was my honest immediate reaction. Now, hopefully I can give more color on why I felt that way.
An Old Grudge
Frederic was provoked to take revenge on Third Row after a tweet I authored last week where I said he “has the dumbest takes sometimes”. Frederic had written that since Elon Musk had qualified for a performance award stock option grant, he was about to sell his Tesla stock to pay for the taxes on that grant. My first thought after reading his article was that this was a dumb takeaway –– it didn’t appear that Musk was liable for any taxes due to simply qualifying for the performance award, and while it was always possible he could sell some stock to pay taxes or other bills after he exercised the options I didn’t think it seemed like a sure thing for the immediate future. The award apparently restricted him from selling any of the shares for five years, and any taxes for this year would not be due until April of the next year anyway.
Commenting on articles we disagree with is something we’ve always done with any journalist, and is not a personal at all. In my view, if you are a journalist and write something you need to be prepared for people to criticize it, and can’t always expect them to do it in the nicest way. People criticize us every day. Considering some of the language I had used in the past, I considered “dumbest takes sometimes” to be a mild insult.
Nevertheless, Frederic was very upset about the tweet. He replied and later direct messaged us angrily about the comment.
I didn’t think much of the disagreement at the time, as I’ve had many disagreements with people who didn’t like being criticized. But Frederic attacked the account for being “cowardly” and criticizing him anonymously.
To understand this story you have to understand the history of Frederic attacking Vincent’s credibility. Frederic has held a grudge against Vincent, one of the now former members of our podcast who runs a competing blog called Tesmanian, for several years. When I called Frederic’s take dumb, Frederic and Electrek site owner Seth Weintraub incorrectly assumed that Vincent had written the tweet and was behind the criticism. This was completely false –– as far as I know, Vincent has never posted anything from the Third Row account. If he did, it would be very easy to spot through stylography as he is originally from Hong Kong, and has a distinctive writing style.
Based on this incorrect assumption, Frederic than decided to retaliate against Vincent with an Electrek Op-Ed going after him, the Third Row Twitter account, and others as “toxic liars”. I feel extremely guilty that Vincent had to endure so much heat and hatred after Fred’s retaliation, when I was the one who called Frederic dumb. I can apologize, and Frederic could even apologize, but the attack on Vincent’s reputation can’t be undone. This is why real journalists make sure to get their facts right before publishing.
When I was interviewed by Bloomberg, they took a lot of care to make sure everything written was accurate. I guess that’s what real journalists do. They asked “Was that girl an ex?” for no other reason than to “keep [me] out of trouble”. Rather than seeking the truth and attempting to be fair to subjects, Electrek sought to push misinformation and irresponsibly smear subjects instead.
Gali and Vincent have businesses where their livelihood depends on support from the community. By attacking Vincent because of my tweets, Frederic wasn’t just going after Vincent’s credibility –– he was going after his livelihood, and his ability to support his family in tough economic times. All for something he didn’t even do! If you read this and care about these guys, go support Vincent at Tesmanian and Gali at Hyperchange.
Knowing the background of Frederic’s grudge against Vincent, we can finally take a look at the story he wrote with appropriate context. Below are just a few of the tweets I’ve found that haven’t been deleted yet where Frederic has gone after Vincent throughout the years:
Pretty crazy how long he’s been going after the guy, right? Reminds me of Aaron Greenspan. The piece he wrote this week was just the latest in a long line of attacks against Vincent, who is the literally the nicest guy you’ve ever met.
Here’s what Frederic wrote this week:
Frederic’s Call Out Op-Ederic
Tesla’s rise in popularity over the last decade created an incredible fanbase that would make Apple jealous. Just as the Cupertino, California, tech company made people fall in love with their phones, Tesla was able seduce their customers to fall in love with their cars.
However, some fringe groups have slipped into super fandom, which is becoming toxic due to slews of attacks against anything that can be perceived as negative toward Tesla.Electrek
It’s true, Tesla owners love their cars –– that’s a good thing. By establishing the derogatory term “super fandom”, Frederic implies that his disagreements with his critics stem from the fact that they like their cars too much, or are excessively positive beyond the point of reason.
That’s never been my impression. To me it always seemed like his problems stemmed from the way he interacted with the community.
Correcting false information has nothing to do with it simply being negative, it has to do with it being false. False information that is positive is also corrected. Tesla owners have a lot of negative things to say, and talk about suggestions for improvement every day. Let’s not get constructive criticism confused with misleading clickbait –– negative stories that are not true, but generate lots of advertising revenue.
Is Frederic really concerned with “super fandom”, or is he just angry that some of the criticism has been directed at him?
Let me preface this by making it clear that I consider myself a fan of Tesla, and it would be hard for anyone to dispute that. I am the happy owner of three Tesla cars (models S, 3, and X) and a satisfied shareholder, but more importantly, I am a believer in Tesla’s mission to accelerate the adoption of electric transport and renewable energy.
Over the last five years, I’ve written over 7,000 articles about electric vehicles. About 6,000 of them were about Tesla, and I’d estimate that about 95% of them offer a positive look at the company.
Now, I am not blind to the fact that I contributed to creating this super fandom around Tesla. I was an early influencer in the Tesla community as Electrek quickly became the biggest electric vehicle publication in the world, with now 10 million monthly readers.Electrek
Frederic was the original Tesla super fan, and also endured harassment for his positive views on the company before he caved and started going negative. That bears the question: Is he really morally opposed to liking Tesla? Or does he just not like the specific people he is targeting here that have criticized his writing?
I still stand by those articles, which again are mostly positive, but I can also admit that Tesla is not a perfect company and not beyond criticism. That’s why I also wrote several articles criticizing it.
It led to Elon Musk calling me “anti-Tesla”:Electrek
Elon wasn’t alone in noticing that Fred’s writing had suddenly flipped negative. His stories were often sensationally negative with little basis in fact, rehashing TSLAQ talking points. After Elon criticized him, his unfair and misinformed articles on Tesla escalated. He continued to fight with Tesla owners and fans and blocked many of them on Twitter, causing further animosity between Electrek and Tesla owners on Twitter. By the time Elon said “everyone noticed”, Frederic caving to pressure from short sellers was old news.
Why did Frederic cave? Well, as a Tesla supporter he received much of the same attacks and criminal accusations from many of the same people who have attacked me, other Third Row members, @28delayslater and more.
By harassing Frederic and accusing him of insider trading and other crimes, he hoped to unnerve Frederic into writing more negative articles about Tesla. He and his co-conspirators succeeded. When you’re in a business that depends on your credibility, short sellers attacking that credibility can quickly influence you to change your tune. Frederic is hardly the only journalist that has been influenced to take a more negative view on Tesla through TSLAQ’s cyberbullying campaign.
Frederic makes a good point though –– nobody is above criticism. Just as he choses to criticize Tesla and Third Row, others should be free to criticize his work without retaliation as well.
Obviously, it’s ridiculous for Musk to call someone who is a Tesla investor and who wrote thousands of articles about Tesla’s positive impact on the world “anti-Tesla” simply because he didn’t like a few of my articles during a time when the company was making some very questionable moves.Electrek
That it’s “ridiculous” for Elon, or anybody else, to criticize Frederic’s writing is not “obvious” at all. Frederic’s often misinformed criticism of Tesla and his fights with community members were widely discussed long before Elon’s comments. Nobody is right 100% of the time.
Not only did it make no sense, but it was also personally hurtful, since Musk is a hero of mine and I admire a lot of what he has been doing with Tesla, SpaceX, and his other companies.Electrek
Here we gain a little more insight into Frederic’s feelings and why he has turned negative on Tesla and many of its customers. Frederic feels betrayed by Musk, and just as he’s held a grudge against Vincent and others he holds a grudge against Musk too. Frederic was Elon’s first girlfriend, and now Elon left him for his worst enemies, Vincent and Third Row. Is it any surprise he thinks Elon’s new girl is a trashy whore?
All that aside, he brings up an interesting point about “social media trolls.” He believes that the Tesla naysayers and shorts who have been attacking me on social media for years have gotten to me, and pushed me to start being negative on Tesla.
Again, that’s not true. I was more negative about Tesla around that time because I disagree with several of its moves related to closing stores and slashing employee compensation — not because of trolls.Electrek
Many people were hoping Tesla wouldn’t close stores, including many of us on the podcast. That’s not why people disagreed with Frederic.
Frederic claims the harassment and trolls didn’t influence his decision to start criticizing Tesla after years of “super fandom” at all. Is it possible he just started to agree with them coincidentally, at the same time they were attempting to pressure and manipulate him? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Humans don’t always understand the factors that influence them.
But the trolls have indeed created a landscape in the Tesla community that is worth exploring.
There’s no doubt that they exist, and they have been extremely vocal over the years. In order to counter them, some Tesla fans have been appropriately fighting back. However, other Tesla fans have stooped to their level in what I’d consider an inappropriate way.Electrek
Frederic acknowledges that there is a reason for Tesla fans to rebuttal clearly false information and agrees it is “appropriate” given the situation. If he understands that, why write the hit piece? Because “Tesla fans have stooped to their level”? At what point did they cross the line? After he acted like a big bully, attacking Vincent’s credibility? Or when they started writing casual rebuttals to his work?
Personally, I have had plenty of bad experiences with these people. They have sent me insults and even threats at times as they see me as a shill for Tesla. One time, I even received a death threat from an anonymous Tesla short.
It got resolved after an anonymous hacker friend of Electrek revealed the identity of the individual making the threat, and I called the harassing party to express that I don’t take physical threats of violence lightly. He apologized and agreed that it went too far.
Obviously, this is an extreme example. For the most part, they stick to insults, spreading rumors and bad information about Tesla.Electrek
It’s makes me really sad to hear that Frederic has received the same threats of violence that many other Tesla owners have. The two of us have both often been the brunt of their attacks.
Given that, shouldn’t we be standing up together against TSLAQ rather than fighting against each other? Turning against each other is exactly what TSLAQ wants, and they were overjoyed to see Frederic publish this article going after “toxic Tesla super fans” –– an age old TSLAQ talking point crafted to discredit positive opinions on Tesla. Essentially, the article is attempting to shame people for holding positive views on Tesla. Is that how you help the EV revolution? If so, why are all the enemies of the revolution cheering?
There’s a breed of Tesla superfans who believe that the company can do no wrong, and they attack anyone who says anything that can be perceived as negative about the company. They also spread misinformation about Tesla, like the TSLA shorts.Electrek
Nobody believes Tesla can do no wrong, nor do Tesla owners have universally positive opinions. Some Tesla owners like the Cybertruck, and some hate it. Some love Autopilot & FSD and others would never try it. There are no unacceptable opinions in the Tesla community.
If Third Row truly “believe[s] the company can do no wrong, and attack[s] anyone who says anything that can be perceived as negative”… we’d have to attack ourselves too. We’re all generally very positive on Tesla, but that’s just our honest opinion. When our honest opinion is negative, we share that too:
It’s true that Tesla owners can have strong feelings, but it’s an exaggeration to say “anything that can be perceived as negative” is unacceptable. Frederic implies he’s never done anything wrong in his life, and the only reason he’s criticized is because of his opinion. The reality is that many Tesla owners saw Frederic’s attacks on Vincent’s credibility and fights with other Tesla owners as unprofessional for the editor of “biggest electric vehicle publication in the world”.
Frederic’s criticism applies just as well to himself as anyone else. As the “original Tesla super fan”, he has also often criticized people for making negative statements about Tesla:
Frederic has also published false and misleading misinformation on Electrek, such as his story 1 year ago where he said Tesla couldn’t afford toilet paper implying it was on the verge of bankruptcy. That turned out to be false:
In the latest episode of the Electrek podcast where Frederic and Seth repeated their attacks on Vincent and Third Row, the two admitted that the article was “clickbaity” but that it was okay because it was “entertaining” and “made people click on the article”, bringing in advertising revenue. In other words, spreading misinformation about Tesla is okay if you make money doing it. This is why Third Row doesn’t monetize our YouTube channel or use advertising to generate revenue at all. We try and keep it real, and give only our honest opinion with no need to sensationalize.
To be clear, the vast majority of Tesla fans are still acting perfectly fine. They just love the products, the mission, and Elon Musk, and love talking about those things in a positive way. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But a fringe group has been giving a bad reputation to the less vocal majority.
One of the best examples is a guy going by “Vincent” on Twitter.Electrek
Does “Frederic” not believe his name is really Vincent?
It turns out this piece isn’t about “toxic Tesla super fandom” at all. It’s about specific people who are part of a “fringe group” that he doesn’t like. Conveniently enough, this “fringe group” is all people who have criticized his writing. And although he may try and dismiss Vincent and Third Row as some kind of fanatic “fringe”, the hard truth is that he may be getting uneasy that this “fringe” could grow larger than him.
Again, Vincent is the nicest guy ever. Frederic is going after him because he thought that Vincent wrote the tweet calling his takes “dumb sometimes”. Imagine writing a whole attack piece on someone because of something they didn’t even do. This is not cool, it’s not acceptable journalism, and it made me mad. That’s one of the reasons why I said Frederic was “a complete piece of shit”. As I said earlier, I should have chosen my words better but that was what I was thinking at the time. I felt really guilty that Vincent had to endure so much hate and blame because of something I wrote.
I told Vincent about this and suggested that he should take down the information because he was basically promoting fraud, but he wasn’t concerned about it:Electrek
I won’t go into Frederic’s attack on Vincent other than to say this: Frederic posted a screenshot of a private conversation with Vincent without his knowledge or permission. This not only goes against widely accepted journalistic standards, it is also likely illegal.
Why is Frederic digging up some old stuff from 2 years ago to slander Vincent, when he’s already spread the same message attacking Vincent’s credibility repeatedly in the past? Was it because he suddenly became concerned that Vincent was a fraud this week? Or was it because he mistakenly thought Vincent called his take dumb, when it was really me?
I don’t know what you call that kind of mistake, but I call it toxic. And pretending to be calling out toxic behavior when you’re actually trying to get back at someone for something they didn’t do is about as toxic as you can get, in my humble opinion.
He wasn’t a reliable source, so I stopped following him and I thought that would be the end of my interactions with him.
As for him, he kept sharing information and praising Tesla on Twitter — gaining a following of Tesla superfans.
Half a year later, I start getting a flurry of insults on Twitter from Tesla superfans following Vincent. I come to find out that Vincent was falsely accusing me of using information he tweeted without crediting him.Electrek
It’s an open secret in the Tesla community that Frederic avoids crediting his sources whenever possible. Personally, I’ve had experiences where I’ve seen Third Row share something with just a few likes and after it gets attention Frederic writes about it without giving any credit to Third Row. Several others have reported similar experiences too, including Frederic using photos of their cars without credit or permission. The likely reason for this is that Frederic doesn’t like to credit people who he holds a grudge against.
Whether Vincent was right about him stealing that particular piece of info or not is besides the point. Everyone makes mistakes. The reason people started lashing out against Frederic is because he is a jerk –– not because they feel strongly about the issue with the source. At that point, people had had enough of his attacks on Vincent, who is loved by Tesla Twitter.
Some went as far as reaching out to my publisher and trying to have me fired:Electrek
Frederic then goes on to attack Earl of Frunkpuppy, another one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He is known for posting pictures of cute puppies sitting inside the frunk (front trunk) of a Tesla. Earl couldn’t have seriously expected Frederic to get fired –– he was just defending his friend Vincent.
I find Frederic’s attempts to take Earl’s comments out of context, without showing what Frederic himself wrote to provoke the criticism, extremely toxic and dishonest. You might even call it misinformation.
This makes me mad, because in addition to being a great guy Earl is an active service member with a family and two daughters. I understand he was recently deployed abroad to help serve our country –– sacrificing time with his family and Tesla. Like other Tesla owners, he has been attacked in ways that have gone way over the line, including threats and attempts to have him fired:
Would it surprise you to learn that Greenspan’s accusations of Earl “Attacking disabled people” was completely made up, and had no basis in reality at all? Greenspan simply saw Earl following an account, and assumed he created it. He then wrote the attack thread tagging his employer under that false assumption. It’s part of a pattern of Aaron Greenspan pushing false and damaging allegations on Twitter that end up being completely untrue. Why Twitter has not yet taken action is beyond me.
You would think that having experienced constant harassment and threats from the same group of short sellers, Frederic would side with Earl rather than inciting further hatred upon him. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong. With Earl taken out of context, many people were mislead to believe that Earl –– one of the nicest people on Twitter –– was “toxic”:
Frederic thinks that “toxic Tesla superfans” who criticize him are the same as TSLAQ. Meanwhile –– Tesla owners think that Frederic’s attacks on Tesla and Tesla owners are the same as TSLAQ. Demanding my identity so he can retaliate? Directing a hate mob against us based on false information? Rehashing TSLAQ talking points? He may be pro-EV, but my heart and body reacted the same way as when I was attacked by TSLAQ.
When will we realize that there is no TSLAQ except TSLAQ? We should be on the same side, but we’re fighting each other instead of uniting against the enemy. And TSLAQ is laughing, watching with popcorn. This needs to change.
It’s something that Elon Musk has often highlighted as one of Tesla’s biggest advantages — maintaining a short feedback loop, which often consists of him responding directly to people on Twitter.
But when Musk only relies on these super fans for the feedback, he is doing himself and Tesla a disservice.Electrek
Translation: Wahhh why won’t Elon reply to me anymore now that I’m posting false negative stories about him 😢
Trying to blame us for who Elon choses to engage with on Twitter is not only nonsensical, but also petty. Elon gets lots of feedback from a lot of people, most of whom love their cars. To me it looks like Frederic is less concerned with Elon receiving constructive feedback, and more just incensed that Elon will no longer respond to his feedback. Take it up with Elon, not us.
After Musk threatened to move Tesla’s California operations, which employs tens of thousands of people, it unsurprisingly didn’t sit well with many people, including state representative Lorena Gonzalez:
While we obviously don’t endorse this type of language, it then led to a good example of a Tesla superfan feeding misinformation to Elon Musk, corrupting his feedback loop. The Tesla superfans quickly went on the offensive and tried to paint her as an oil industry shill.Electrek
Look, if you’re going to sympathize with and apologize for a California politician that said “Fuck Elon Musk”, you can’t wonder why people think you’ve turned against Tesla.
After Sofiaan called Frederic to tell him Vincent hadn’t been the one tweeting, Electrek published this update:
Update: Below I refer the Third Row Podcast Twitter account as being “run by Vincent and the same previously mentioned group of Tesla superfans”. They wanted me to “correct” saying that Vincent is not running the account and that another podcast member, Sofiaan Fraval, is running the account. However, on the same day and after this article was published, the account claimed to be talking for all members of the podcast including Vincent:Electrek
As we said previously, Vincent was not running the account and as far as I know never posted anything from the account. His writing would be pretty easy to spot if he had.
Despite us conveying this information to Frederic after he published the incorrect story, he put “correct” in quotes and insists through the above screenshot that Vincent was indeed running the account.
This screen-shotted tweet, taken out of context, lists the people who appear on the podcast –– NOT the people who are posting the tweet. Think about it, how can six people write one tweet? Everybody takes turns hitting letters on the keyboard? Again, none of us even live in the same city.
Fred’s stubborn insistence that Vincent was indeed behind the account says a lot about his relationship with the truth. His accusations against Vincent are clearly and demonstrably false. Yet he refused to correct his mistakes, and insists on pushing false and defamatory information about him. If it is true that Vincent wasn’t behind the tweets, he would look pretty foolish for launching a misinformed attack piece against him wouldn’t he?
Well, that’s exactly what he did. You know now that the tweets that provoked him were authored by me, not Vincent. If anyone should take the blame and respond to them it’s me. Not anyone else.
Trying to put the blame on Vincent just because you have a grudge against him is wrong. It’s just plain wrong, inaccurate, and bad bad journalism.
Twitter account “Third Row Tesla Podcast,” which is run by Vincent and the same previously mentioned group of Tesla superfans, posted a series of tweets read by Musk in which they imply that she got paid by the oil industry to push some pro-fossil fuel legislations:Electrek
Frederic appears to be reading further into the tweets than is supported by evidence. The tweet by Third Row reads, and I quote, “Here’s Lorena Golzalez’s voting record on oil and gas”. Elon then replied “Interesting”. There’s no claim that every one of these bills are “pro fossil fuels”, or that we’ve read and understood all of them.
Frederic says this is misinformation, but it seems to be a fairly clear factual statement to me. Here is her voting record on oil & gas. The reader can draw their own conclusions, and all Musk said is that it was “interesting”.
Let me try and explain the Lorena tweets. The first thing you have to understand is that most of these tweets are not supposed to be as serious as some kind of major journalistic exposé. It’s just Twitter.
What does “Fuck Elon Musk” mean, coming from a California politician at a time when Elon is trying to reopen the Tesla factory? It means Fuck Tesla, fuck Tesla’s product roadmap, and fuck Tesla’s workers. It means fuck a zero emissions future, and fuck Tesla existing long into the future. The longer the shutdown of Tesla’s main factory lasts, the greater the chances the company could go under. The implications for the future of Tesla and EVs in general could not be more serious. On top of that, Lorena followed up with several more tweets going after Tesla, and also appeared on CNN and other media outlets to speak out against the company.
Pushing back against the “Fuck Elon Musk” tweet, and a series of other tweets and interviews by the California politician is not toxic in my view. It is an important part of the political process. Lorena’s tweet got over 200,000 likes as it was pushed by Tesla’s enemies, who replied warmly encouraging Lorena to go hard after the company.
If Lorena hadn’t heard anyone speak up from the other side –– anyone who believes that Tesla’s mission is good for the world, and that the company should be supported –– it would have appeared that the public was unanimously against Tesla. That could impact policy and legislation that affects the company nationwide. Remember, Lorena Gonzalez isn’t the only one paying attention to Twitter. Speaking out is now (as always) an important part of the political process, no matter how educated your views are.
Nobody denies that Lorena Gonzalez has received donations from oil companies, including Assemblywoman Gonzalez herself. Oil companies donate to lots of politicians. Asking why they donated to Lorena is hardly “toxic misinformation”. In our view, it’s completely fair. You wouldn’t donate to someone who is a big threat to your business, would you? You’d donate to try and elect their opponent.
Although some or all of the Oil & Gas bills may appear to be positive examples of regulating the industry, the devil is in the details.
When Nalleli Cobo, a young girl who had health complications after growing up next to an active oil well, campaigned for AB 345 –– a bill designed to make it illegal to operate an oil well near schools, day care centers, residences, or hospitals –– Lorena Gonzelz was personally responsible for shelving the bill at the committee level.
Why shelve a bill that helps prevent children from getting sick, when the only people who stand to lose are the oil companies that have been donating to Lorena Gonzalez? Could the thought of losing their support in the next election have ever crossed her mind? It’s not a sure thing but it’s certainly a possibility, isn’t it? Watch the video and see what you think for yourself.
Tesla’s CEO found their misrepresentation of Gonzalez as an oil shill “interesting,” and he often retweets their congratulatory comments.Electrek
Translation: Why doesn’t Elon Musk think I’m pretty anymore?
He found her voting record interesting. There was no misrepresentation, except for Frederic’s misrepresentation of the tweet you can see right in front of you.
They specifically mentioned her delaying a bill about preventing oil drilling next to schools, but Gonzalez used the delay to make amendments and later voted for the bill.
While there’s little to no evidence that she pushed pro-oil legislature, she did receive some money from the oil industry, which The Third Row Podcast made sound like a big deal.
It was really the first time that Gonzalez, who is endorsed by the popular climate group Sierra Club, has been described as an oil industry shill, and it’s obviously erroneous.Electrek
She made amendments to the bill and then later voted for it, yes. I wonder what the amendments she made to the bill were?
Looking at a diff of the original version of the bill and the version that passed, you can see that Lorena Gonzalez changed the language from “require by ordinance that new oil and gas developments […] be located a larger distance away from residence, school, childcare facility, playground, hospital, or health clinic than 2,500 feet” to “require the department to consider a setback distance of 2,500 feet at schools, playgrounds, and public facilities where children are present”.
Now this is quite astounding. Here is a bill that protects the health of children. Nobody has anything to lose but the oil companies. But instead of “requiring” them to not drill in sensitive areas, the department must simply “consider” not putting them in sensitive areas.
Imagine if all laws were written this way. Thou shalt not kill. Well, actually let’s make it thou shalt consider not killing. The mafia is a donor of mine, and it would seriously hurt their business if murder was always illegal.
They also pushed the start date from 2020 to 2022, giving the oil companies time to lobby for the legislation to be replaced, removed, further weakened, or even forgotten. Keep in mind this is just for new oil wells, not existing ones.
Once the bill passed the activists stopped campaigning, and the politicians could claim they went and regulated the oil industry and get their good rating. But someone went ahead and made sure that the bill was carved out to work well for the oil companies. Nobody ever said she was corrupt –– it’s just not clear she’s fighting against the oil & gas companies as hard as she’s fighting against Tesla.
This brings us back to why Elon thought the list of votes was interesting. Why does she always vote yes on everything? When she noticed that the bill was changed to be a lot weaker than the original version, shouldn’t she have voted no in protest? She was the one who shelved the original bill, so it’s not like she was unaware. For whatever reason, she didn’t.
If you simply looked at the list of bills and thought the titles sounded positive, you may be a little bit naive about politics. Bills are often written to do the exact opposite of what their title claims (It’s not surveillance, it’s “The Patriot Act!”). I’m not saying thats the case here, as I didn’t read any of these bills except AB 345.
Frederic called this incident “good example of a Tesla superfan feeding misinformation to Elon Musk, corrupting his feedback loop”. It turns out it wasn’t misinformation at all –– Frederic just failed to read all the tweets in the thread, let alone ask us for a comment before publishing an article attacking our credibility like any respectable journalist would.
Besides, this misses the point: We never claimed this was some incredibly well researched find. It was just something tweeted out off the cuff as we saw it mentioned by others, parodying the congresswoman’s attacks. She said Tesla was funded by subsidies, which is false. We said she was funded by Big Oil. We’re not the New York Times, we’re an amateur podcast that’s less than 6 months old. When we get any new info, we always correct quickly. You shouldn’t believe everything you read online. Far from being misinformation, digging into the assemblywoman’s motivations ended up being much more interesting than expected.
Is this an example of misinformation pushed by Third Row? Or yet another example of Frederic pushing misinformation designed to discredit his competition? We expected better from Electrek.
Tesla superfans, who have Musk’s ear, pushed misinformation about her being a shill for the oil industry to explain her problem with Musk.
To be clear, it doesn’t excuse Gonzalez’s comment, but I think this is evidence of Elon Musk’s feedback loop being corrupted by this increasingly cult-like following.Electrek
“Tesla is a cult” is another classic TSLAQ line.
Far from being misinformation, the tweets raise interesting questions. We don’t “have Elon’s ear” nor do we tell him what to reply to. That’s his decision, and blaming us is silly. You’re underestimating Elon if you think he’s getting confused by random tweets.
What standard are you trying to hold us to anyway? Let’s go back to Gonzalez’s comment, which Frederic says “isn’t excused”. The conversation was started with “Fuck Elon Musk” and misinformation that Tesla is funded by government subsidies. Before that, nobody had never heard of the assemblywoman. Calling her oil donations into question was a fair jab back, and was far less misinformed that Gonzalez’s comments. You expect us to respond to “Fuck Elon Musk and Tesla” with a well reasoned dissertation, where all the facts are properly researched? It was a diss to respond to a diss, not some kind of dramatic exposé that’s going to win a Pulitzer. We saw lots of Tesla owners tweeting about it, and thought it was interesting enough to mention.
Call me crazy, but it seems like Frederic was more upset about Elon replying to his perceived enemies than “misinformation”. Does anyone seriously believe this tweet was the most dangerous piece of misinformation on Twitter this week? Or was it just the worst looking tweet Frederic could find for someone he didn’t like, because they had just called some of his takes dumb?
It’s far from the only time that the Tesla superfan behind this Twitter account also pushed misinformation related to Elon Musk.
Earlier this month, I posted an article about how all the requirements for the first tranche of Musk’s stock compensation plan have been fulfilled, and in the opinion section of the article, I introduced the possibility of Musk selling some shares to cover his tax obligations.
The Third Row Tesla Podcast took offense to that and issued a series of tweets that turned Tesla superfans against me again:Electrek
This was Frederic’s provocation for writing the article. To be clear, nobody took offense to Frederic’s prediction. The “dumb takes” tweet only questioned whether it was as certain as Frederic made it sound. He cries foul on “A series of tweets that turned people against me”, in an article designed to direct hate towards Vincent for something he didn’t even do, and to Third Row for criticizing his writing.
The criticism wasn’t personal, like “George is a short tempered jerk who retaliates against anyone who criticizes him”. The tweet simply questioned the assumption that Elon was about to sell his Tesla stock. He very well might sell Tesla stock to pay taxes at some point, maybe even today. But it’s not the sure thing Frederic painted it as, and he’s restricted from selling any of the shares granted for five years.
I tried to explain to Frederic that the tweet was just a comment on his article, not a personal attack on him, but he was furious. Writing that Elon Musk is going to sell his Tesla stock on Electrek –– a site with headlines that appear on the Bloomberg Terminal –– is quite a significant statement. Just like every other article that’s published, it deserves scrutiny and comment from the public. That discussion may lead to people agreeing it is true, or that it is false.
I didn’t write that “Frederic Lambert is dumb”. I just wrote that sometimes his takes are dumb. I was surprised by how angry that made him. Sure, you would expect anyone to be annoyed, maybe even to respond –– but he got very upset. This whole article, what Vincent has had to endure for no reason, and the departure of two of our members all stemmed from this incident. No real journalist would act like this, or use their writing to act on personal vendettas and direct hatred towards their competitors.
What does someone who decries “tweets to turn others against me”, think about the way his misleading article directed hate and pressure towards Vincent, Third Row, and others? Does he feel guilty, or satisfied? The answer to that question might reveal if his article was sincere or an attempt to manipulate readers. Is breaking up a rival podcast because they criticized you positive for the EV revolution? Or is it negative? Either way, Frederic seems happy about what he did:
In fact, they were the clueless ones and spreading misinformation in the process.
At first, they claimed “incentive stock options don’t get taxed,” which is plain wrong.
After it was pointed out to them that it’s not the case, they tried to lie about me by saying that taxes were due when the shares are vested:Electrek
Yet again, Frederic published a private conversation he had with Third Row without asking permission. This is contrary to commonly accepted journalistic standards and again, likely illegal. This is disappointing because we tried to talk to Frederic in good faith to hear out his concerns, and he went around and shared an excerpt of the conversation taken out of context to try and make us look bad. It’s not clear what we were talking about from the screenshot –– Frederic had shared a different article about stock options, not the one he had written.
He misquoted us as saying “incentive stock options don’t get taxed”, but as you can see in the screenshot he left out “when they vest”. It’s true that stock options are not taxed when they vest. Incentive stock options are not taxed when they are exercised either –– only when the shares obtained are sold. Non-qualified stock options are also taxed on exercise, I believe.
He then said “they tried to lie about me saying taxes were due when the shares vested”. What we said was that since the options had just vested and had not been exercised yet, there was no tax liability at the moment.
We never claimed to be right 100% of the time. We are just some random Twitter account with our own opinions. But so far Elon hasn’t sold any stock. Again maybe he will soon, who knows.
If we were “trying to lie” about Frederic rather than simply disagreeing with his prediction about Elon selling Tesla stock this year, why would we have tried to talk to him and listen to what he had to say? Why did we then follow up with additional information based on Frederic’s request? Why would we apologize to him for calling him dumb after he got upset?
Naturally, Frederic left out our correction and apology out of the article to try and make us look as bad as possible. I guess it doesn’t really support your claims of “pushing misinformation” when tweets are quickly being updated with clarifying information. Omitting critical information that contradicts your narrative is how you push misinformation, not do journalism.
In short, Third Row Tesla Podcast shared misinformation about Musk not having to pay taxes on his stock options, and in the process, they called my opinion “dumb” and “clueless” — sending their army of Tesla superfans to insult me.Electrek
When we comment on a news article, our comment may or may not be correct. But that’s just what we do –– we comment on news people are writing. I doubt we would have called Frederic’s opinion dumb, or that other people would have poked fun at him, if it weren’t for his history fighting with and attacking the credibility of Vincent, Elon, and others in the community.
The intention was not to “send an army to insult” anyone. We just simply wanted to express our opinion that it was far from certain that Elon was about to sell a massive amount of Tesla stock due to a tax bill.
The negative perception of Frederic by many Tesla owners is far less about what he writes than how he treats the community. If mobilizing your audience to attack someone unfairly is such a moral abomination, will Frederic apologize to Vincent and retract the story? If not, his criticisms seem a bit self-serving and hypocritical from my perspective, with all due respect to Frederic.
Are these the comments of a level headed journalist, who can easily take criticism of his work?
To me, it doesn’t seem so. The very same day, we tweeted out criticizing Russ Mitchell, an LA Times journalist who is very friendly with TSLAQ –– they’re the only people he follows on Twitter. Here’s how he responded:
This was the same day Frederic’s hit piece was published. Even though he was attacking Tesla, we conversed in a way that was polite and cordial. The two of us should hate each other: No journalist is closer to TSLAQ than Russ, and he even donated his own money to Plainsite, Aaron Greenspan’s fake charity that has been harassing me for over a year.
This “journalist” is literally funding the people who are harassing and attacking me and my friends. And yet Third Row is still able to have a cordial conversation with him online. Certainly doesn’t fit with the narrative that crazed Tesla superfans personally attack anyone who says anything “even slightly negative”, does it? Russ is as negative as it gets! I’ve criticized Russ’s writing and tweets many times, but that doesn’t mean I have anything against him personally.
Again, the community’s dislike of Frederic is a lot less about his writing than the way he interacts with Tesla owners and fans. Many love his site, but those who have had talked with him have noticed he can be a jerk with very thin skin. He is stubborn and demands apologies rather than offering an olive branch. Many people in the EV community were upset with us calling Frederic names, because of how much he’s done for the EV movement. But let’s run a little thought experiment here: What if Russ had sent us the same messages Frederic had? Does this look reasonable?
Should a journalist react this way when someone critiques their writing? No? Then why is it ok for Frederic? Because he’s a blogger? Or because he writes about EVs?
There’s a lot of things you could say about Russ, but even the most TSLAQ of the TSLAQ journalists is able to keep his cool when Tesla fans criticize him. Is it too much to ask for Tesla owners to treat each other the same way?
Despite the fact that I am arguably one of Tesla’s and Elon Musk’s biggest fans, some people will continue to see me as an enemy and ignore all the facts laid out in this article about the misinformation spread by this fringe group of Tesla superfans. It’s easy to sling mud anonymously on Twitter.Electrek
Again, it’s not about how big of a fan you are –– there are all kinds of viewpoints in the Tesla community: some positive and some negative.
If we are really just “a fringe group spreading misinformation”, why does he need to “sling mud” at us? Frederic isn’t the enemy, he’s on our side of the EV revolution. But what he did in this piece was spiteful, vindictive, and wrong. That shouldn’t be what the EV community stands for. This is a sad an embarrassing moment for all of us, make no mistake about it.
But for those who want to improve communication around Tesla and elevate the community, I have a few suggestions.
First off, we should clean up our ways to communicate, and for that, I think Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements are a good starting point:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions
4. Always do your best.
If we can follow those principles, and by “we” I mean myself, too, I think we are going to be in a much better place to communicate.
I know I am not without blame in this whole thing, because I often break some of those principles, like the second one. It’s hard not to take things personally when you are so invested in something.
How about this, Tesla superfans? I promise to be better at following those principles, and you do the same. Tesla and the entire EV community are going to be better for it.Electrek
Here, we couldn’t agree with Frederic more. If we had all not taken things personally, not made assumptions, and done our best this piece would have never been written. It’s great that he acknowledges his own mistakes –– we’re aware of our own flaws too. Ironically, the entire attack piece seems to violate his own advice.
Publishing private conversations without permission was not impeccable to his word. Writing an attack article and mobilizing his audience because someone said his takes were dumb was taking things far too personally. Assuming Vincent was behind the tweets just because of a past grudge was a very bad assumption. And if this is Frederic at his best, I’d hate to see him at his worst.
If Frederic really wants to follow these principles, and pledges not to retaliate against people who he feels have slighted him again, the community is already on the road to a brighter future. So far, that remains to be seen.
The piece was quite insidious and well executed. It simplified the issue as a “good group” (Frederic) vs a “toxic group” (Frederic’s critics). In doing so, it directed a lot of hate towards our podcast and other Tesla owners mentioned in the article. People were highly motivated to lash out against “the toxic group”, lest they appear to be “toxic” themselves, in which case they would be shunned and denigrated.
But let’s be real. This isn’t as simple as good vs evil. Yes, I can be a toxic asshole. But Frederic writing a retaliatory piece to turn his audience against Vincent and Third Row based on incorrect assumptions was toxic too. Let’s not kid ourselves about what’s going on here.
And you, the reader –– you’re toxic too. Everyone who read the article and went out attacking others for being “toxic” based on bad information –– that’s toxic too. I’m toxic, you’re toxic… we’re all a little toxic. Rather than pointing fingers at each other, let’s take a good hard look in the mirror and try and be better.
No message spreads alone. We all decide who to follow, what to like, and what to retweet. Rather than virtue signaling, be the change you want to see in the world. What we see on Twitter is just a reflection of ourselves.
If you want to fight misinformation, start thinking for yourself. Don’t believe everything you read online, especially not on social media or some dude’s blog. Don’t run and join the mob when they’re going after someone –– try and talk the mob down. Be a voice of reason in a mad world. One person can make a big difference. That advice stands no matter who is calling you to attack.
Aaron Greenspan might look bad for attacking Tesla fans, but did you consider what I might have tweeted about him that provoked him? I don’t think that excuses his behavior, but there are two sides to every story and I left that out. This is what thinking for yourself means.
My Initial Reaction
Our response to the article –– specifically the tweets authored by me –– was extremely poor. Part of the problem was that I didn’t actually read the article before responding to it, and neither did Sofiaan (he asked me to send him a PDF so he wouldn’t have to visit the site). I knew the piece was going to stress me out and make me upset, so I avoided reading it which was a big mistake –– I fell right into the trap.
When I first opened the article, I just skimmed it and saw Frederic going after Vincent and Third Row, featuring private conversations and without comment from any of us. That made me upset and angry, and I took it personally. A lot of negative stuff has been written about me on Twitter, but it’s never really happened on a major blog or news outlet. I handled it reflexively, by lashing out at Frederic, calling him names, and cursing at him. I apologize to Frederic for reacting that way and should have read the article first –– maybe then our tweets wouldn’t have sounded so tone deaf in relation to the ostensible call for peace being made.
When Frederic saw the Third Row Tesla tweet calling him a “complete piece of shit”, he called out the entire group on Twitter. He took a tweet from a different thread, and used it to imply that everyone was saying he was a complete piece of shit. This drew an extremely negative reaction from the community, who saw it as a Third Row doing exactly was Frederic was ostensibly speaking out against rather than just an early reaction to a “call out” piece on the group that none of us had read yet.
Yes, calling Frederic a “complete piece of shit” was kind of toxic. But was it any less toxic when Electrek owner Seth Weintraub called Tesla owners “pieces of shit” himself? Let’s not rush to pass judgement before reflecting on our own behavior first.
As you can see in the above screenshot, Frederic and Seth have been using the TSLAQ talking point of “toxic Tesla fanbois” well before the Third Row Twitter account was created. How could Third Row be responsible for creating this “toxic culture” before it was formed?
Following the anger and blowback from the above tweet, Vincent and Gali announced that they would be leaving Third Row. Can anyone really claim attacking rival publications to the point where team members leave is positive for the EV revolution? Or is it just positive for Frederic?
It was I, and I alone who wrote that Frederic was a “complete piece of shit”. Please don’t blame any other members of my group for what I did. They were kind enough to let me have an outlet through the group’s Twitter account, and because we didn’t want to say it was me it blew up in their faces. Other members of Third Row shouldn’t have to pay for my careless actions. I take the blame alone, and would much rather leave Third Row myself than have Gali or Vincent leave.
Rather than furiously demanding the person who called him a “complete piece of shit” reveal themselves, perhaps Frederic should reflect on what conduct and behavior caused so many Tesla owners to like such a hateful tweet in the first place, to the point where it spread far enough for him to see it? For every person who liked it, I’m sure there was at least one who didn’t because they thought it was too rude. The reactions were not shown in Fred’s tweet attacking the group, because he cropped them out.
My teammates have suffered a lot, and that’s not fair. Leave them alone –– if you have a problem with what I said, take it up with me.
Look, I never said I was a perfect person. I’m an asshole, and a troll. I don’t deny that. But there’s more to me than just that. People who have actually gotten to know me would also tell you that I can be caring, insightful, and a good friend. Frederic isn’t one dimensional either, nor do I claim to know him. Some old habits die hard, and with the account less than 6 months old we’re still trying to figure out what kind of content people want to see on Twitter. Please try and forgive us for the times where we’ve struck the wrong chord. This whole writing and interacting with people thing is new to me –– I’m a computer programmer. I’m still trying to figure it out.
We’re still learning how to do this, and what our place in the community is. You have to understand, this really came out of nowhere for us. Just 5 months ago, we had 420 followers. Now we have over 25,000. We’re still getting used to the responsibility that comes with that. The idea that people are reading our tweets or caring about what we say is entirely new to us, and to me in particular.
I’m just another idiot sharing their opinion. You might think “why are so many people listening to this stupid asshole”? Honestly, I ask myself the same thing. I don’t know how we got here. All this attention –– the positive and the negative –– has caught me completely by surprise. It’s clear from this experience that there’s a lot of growing I need to do if I want to be more than just a huge troll.
When you’re in the public eye, a certain number of people are going to hate you. I know that, and I accept that. If you hate me or my friends from the podcast, that’s ok –– I hate the shirt you’re wearing. You might say I don’t know what shirt you’re wearing, and that’s true –– but you don’t know me and my friends either. The Third Row account isn’t mine, so I can’t say everything I really think. If you think you know who I am because you’ve read my tweets or watched our podcast, you’re oversimplifying me just a bit too much. If I had something very negative to say about Tesla, having someone post it on the Third Row account wouldn’t make much sense. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any opinions other than what’s tweeted.
It’s frustrating not having a Twitter account and being able to respond to people myself or say what I think, so I ask that you not try and judge me too harshly based on misinformation you read online. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve become disconnected from people I used to talk to every day just because I lost my @tesla_truth account. It’s sad to see some of those familiar faces going after me based on a lot of BS.
Some people are upset with us, and for good reason. But for those who know that people make mistakes, and want to stick around and give us another chance, we promise we’ll make you proud and try and do better.
With great power comes great responsibility
We may not have adjusted quickly enough to the growing voice Third Row had in the Tesla community. We understand now that with more power, we have more responsibility to do the right thing. That doesn’t just go for us, but for other publications too.
Using one of the biggest EV blogs to go after a 6 month old podcast you don’t like isn’t heroic. It’s petty, and beneath a publication like Electrek. Had I been in Frederic’s shoes I would have reached out and tried to offer mentorship instead. “Hey look, I was a super fan in the past. You have to be willing to criticize Tesla too. This might not be accurate”. We may not have agreed with his advice, but we would have listened. A larger publication attacking a new entrant feels like bullying to me, not justice. Since Frederic published his criticism of Third Row, we’ve heard a lot of people tell us that a toxic publication shouldn’t have a voice or support from readers. I agree with this strongly, as long as it applies to everyone equally and not just us.
What do I want out of this now? What do I want to happen next?
Well, for starters please leave my friends on the podcast alone, including the two who left. Don’t make them suffer or give them heat for something I did that they had no clue about. Reach out to them and tell them you love them. The mistake and wrong reaction were mine and mine alone. What can I say? I can be an asshole. My friends were kind enough to let me have a voice even though I already lost my Twitter account once. Don’t make them suffer for their kindness, or hold them accountable for my actions. I own my words completely and always have, and will deal with the repercussions myself.
I never intended to hide, or refuse to admit that it was me who called Frederic a complete piece of shit. It was just my background with Twitter that created an awkward situation.
One possibility is that I’ll see retaliation from Frederic and Electrek now that he knows it was me. But if Frederic was sincere about what he said in the article, I hope he won’t. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I don’t actually hate Frederic and Electrek –– I actually kind of like their site. I probably read the site at least once a month, and they often break stories that I find interesting. I’m glad they’re there and wouldn’t be happy to see them shut down. Frederic deserves credit for what he’s done. I just naturally sided with Vincent when Frederic started questioning Vincent’s credibility. What choice did I have? Vincent is my friend, and he was hurt after getting picked on by a bully who was much bigger than him at the time. Frederic probably never imagined that guy he went after would grow to rival him in influence, or start a competing blog. He thought he would just “unfollow, and that was it”.
Wouldn’t it be great if Frederic stayed true to his word –– one of the four rules he mentioned? If we both followed those rules? When we first started the account and shared stories from Electrek, many Tesla owners got upset. They told us “I never read Electrek, please don’t link to them”. So we didn’t. Well Electrek covers some interesting topics sometimes. We would be a much stronger community if Third Row could share content from Electrek, Electrek could share content from Third Row (as they have in the past), and we could all get along without worrying about some stupid fight ruining everyone’s week. That might be easier said than done, but I hope we can at least say “whatever” and move on. I don’t have anything against Electrek or Frederic. I don’t even hate Aaron Greenspan or Keith Watson, and would talk to them if they ever reached out to me. Life is too short to hold stupid grudges. Let’s unite against whats really toxic –– polluting gas cars. Not turn against each other.
If Frederic really wants to heal the divide between himself and so many Tesla owners, it starts with mutual respect. Don’t dismiss Tesla owners as “toxic super fans” just because they disagree with you or you think their opinion is “too” positive. Apologize to Vincent and the community, and start unblocking Tesla owners who were just trying to defend their friends. Frederic should retract the misleading op-ed as a show of good faith, or at the very least replace Vincent’s name with mine and apologize to him. When one is kind, kindness tends to return to them.
I also hope Vincent and Gali will decide to return to the podcast. I would much rather leave the podcast than see them leave. After all the hate, I’m not really all that sure what I get out of doing this. I guess your internet friends aren’t your real friends, but Gali and Vincent and I and the rest of the group have been through a lot together. They’ve come and stayed at my house when we attended events or interviewed Elon together, and those were great experiences I won’t forget easily. I understand that they need to protect their own businesses and are tired of putting out fires I started, so I don’t hold anything against them. But it’s definitely sad to see them go, knowing it’s all my fault. The remaining Third Row members aren’t posting anything I’ve written on Twitter, and Sofiaan has changed his Twitter password and not shared it with the rest of the group as we decide how to move forward. The community has spoken, and they don’t want me on Twitter –– so that’s not a place where I will be.
Let’s not kid ourselves. This was no cry for justice. This was some dirty, dirty business. It’s a truly embarrassing moment, not just for Frederic and his critics, but for the entire Tesla community. I hope we can look back at it as a turning point in discourse, but we won’t be able to make that happen alone.
The Day the War is Over
Someday soon the war against EVs will be over, and we will have won. As that day approaches, we’ll all need to re-examine ourselves. Our actions in wartime will make little sense in peacetime. Will Tesla fans keep annoying journalists covering the company forever? Who do you want to be, and how will you change once the war is over? Where will you go?
We fought this war for a world that’s less toxic, in a literal sense. For less air pollution, and less needless lives lost in car crashes every single day. In championing that future, maybe we all become a little toxic ourselves (in the metaphorical sense). You can see the scars of our past in the way Fredric and Third Row treated each other.
The EV community is a small little bubble. When the war is over, everyone will drive EVs. Talk to the thousands of new Tesla owners around the world, and most of them have never heard of Electrek or Third Row. Many of them don’t even know much about Elon Musk. This revolution is for everyone –– every man, woman, and child on Earth –– so let’s not aggrandize or demonize ourselves so much that we believe one person can singlehandedly bring forth or stop the transition that’s already in full swing. Electric autonomous vehicles are coming, whether you want them or not.
Don’t ever be ashamed to say you love your EV, or correct misinformation –– no matter how hard the powers that be push back against you. I promise I won’t either. I won’t be needlessly rude to Frederic or hold a grudge against him, but I’m not going to stop criticizing him or anyone else because they tried to bully me to stop. Calling out bullies is what I do. And if I have to die for saying what I believe, so be it. I will never cave to pressure, as long as I’m still breathing.
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Shoutout to all the people who still keep a ghost emoji in their display name or bio, or have Steve Jobs as their profile picture. I see you out there keeping the memory alive, and I love you.
To those who have supported us in spite of attacks on our character and credibility, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s been a rough week, and your support means everything to us. Can we all try and make the next week better?
P.S. If you know anybody at Twitter who might be able to help me, or have any legal advice on how to deal with the issues described in this post, there’s a contact button on this page.