Elon Musk is tendering an interesting defense as cave diver Vernon Unsworth pushes forward with a defamation lawsuit against the Tesla founder. Unsworth was involved in the rescue of a boys football team trapped in Tham Luang cave in Thailand. Musk was also involved for a short time, designing a mini submarine that he said could be used to shuttle the boys out of the cave. His offer was declined, and Unsworth proceeded to deride it as a publicity stunt. Musk responded by calling Unsworth a “pedo guy” on Twitter. The insult backfired and Musk later deleted the tweet.
Unsworth has since sued Musk for defamation. Last year Musk’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to have the suit dismissed on the grounds that Musk’s comments were clearly “over-the-top” and delivered via the “rough-and-tumble” medium of Twitter. In other words, Musk’s defense is that remarks made on Twitter, or at least on his Twitter, are some kind of digital performance art and that that inoculates him from any liability his words might otherwise carry. It’s similar to Infowars’ Alex Jones’ defense when he was sued by the family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, which Jones repeatedly characterized as a hoax. It didn’t work for Jones and it doesn’t look like it’s going to work for Musk, who has been told by a judge that he must stand trial.
Lawyers for Unsworth have countered by citing the legal penalties arising from another Musk tweet, when he claimed he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private. The statement was false and Musk was fined $40 million by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
But Musk’s legal team are sticking to their guns. They recently provided four examples of outlandish things the Tesla CEO has said on Twitter, according to Entrepreneur:
“An impending zombie apocalypse and a money-back guarantee on flamethrowers to fight them.”
“Rumors that he is a Martian.”
“Building a volcano lair like Dr. Evil, the villain in the ‘Austin Powers’ movies.”
“Launching SpaceX rockets at night because they are easier to fake in the dark.”
Those are clearly not meant to be taken seriously, nor do they have the potential harm or cause damage to another person. Publicly calling someone a pedophile with no evidence, however, doesn’t seem to be in the same ballpark. It ain’t even the same fuckin’ sport, to quote Jules from Pulp Fiction.