Just how charged is the discourse around Tesla these days? Can a journalist criticize the company without being called a short or a pawn for Big Oil? Can they write something positive without being called a member of Elon Musk’s cult? Evidently not on both counts, if you’re the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Neil, who apparently deleted his personal Twitter account after facing blowback from a review of a Tesla Model 3.
On Friday, The WSJ published Neil’s review of the new Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Performance model. The review was short—more a first drive test than a full review—but a largely glowing take on the hottest Model 3 to date. To Neil’s credit, it also kept things balanced by pointing out some flaws in the Tesla facade. It is possible to have mixed feelings about Tesla, after all, and Neil is nothing if not professional.
The review was circulated widely by Tesla critics and lovers alike, and it didn’t take long for the @ replies to start piling in. Before the account was deleted, some screencaps were taken by the website Tire Meets Road:
Neil spent apparently much of his Friday and Saturday defending his admiration for the new Tesla on social media against the likes of vocal critics like capital manager Mark Spiegel and hedge fund manager Montana Skeptic, among others.
A small handful of Twitter users sent a barrage of accusations his way, including claims that Dan owns Tesla stock and was trying to manipulate its price, and that he deliberately declined to drive the new electric Jaguar I-Pace in an effort to make Elon Musk’s company look better.
Neil isn’t the kind of person to shy away from a controversial topic, and he’s certainly eloquent enough to take on “haters” and skeptics with a few deft words. Possibly in an effort to silence his smart phone from buzzing at him every 10 seconds, or perhaps because the level of harassment leveled at him was too much for him to handle, Neil chose the nuclear option and deleted his Twitter account.
We reached out to Neil for comment via email and will update if we hear back.
I can’t say I blame him for quitting. Twitter is hell on a good day, especially if you work in media, and even more so if you cross paths with the Tesla cult or its most adamant critics. (Though Musk’s Twitter mob definitely saves the worst of the vitriol for women journalists.)
The topic of Tesla can get quite heated, with one side of the argument seemingly fawning over Elon Musk as their new god, and the other condemning everything the company—and sometimes even EVs in general—stand for. Those who worship at the temple of Musk call any negative press the work of people who want to short its stock. Those who actively want to see Tesla fail view everything positive as shilling. Even if a lot of criticisms of the company are valid, as is the fact that the cars it makes are usually pretty impressive to drive, there is seemingly no nuance to either argument, and nobody wants to fall in the middle ground. Bull or Bear, you have to pick a side, according to them.
A few of Neil’s more vocal critics on this topic, including the handful that repeatedly tweeted their way into his mentions folder over the last two days, have seemingly heralded his abandoning of the social media platform as a victory.
I’d implore everyone here to just try and get along with each other more online, but since I know that’s not gonna happen, maybe we should all just delete Twitter. That might be the best option.