Elon Musk, Meet the Twitter Vigilantes

Photograph by Paul Sakuma/AP Photo

We’ve long criticized the pathetic practice of “net pricing”—quoting a price that doesn’t reflect the cash a buyer must spend out-of-pocket, but instead nets out a federal income-tax credit that not all buyers qualify for and that can take up to 15 months to be realized.

—John Voelcker, “Oh, Tesla: Your ‘Lease’ Is Smart, but That Calculator Wasn’t,” Green Car Reports, April 3, 2013.

As much as we love the Tesla Model S, and trust us, we do—it’s a hoot to drive, gorgeous to look at, and surprisingly practical—we just can’t help feeling like Tesla is out to pull the wool over our eyes at every opportunity.

—Nelson Ireson, “Tesla Model S for $500 Per Month? No. Just No,” Motor Authority, April 2, 2013.

Much has been made of the new media. It is one part the edited and careful excellence of old media combined with the speed and less-edited terseness, the immediacy, of Twitter.

The sequence of analysis after yesterday’s “mystery announcement” by Tesla, and their prime backer Elon Musk, put on full display the new rules of engagement.

The announcement was made.

Bloomberg News followed with a smart set of headlines that hit the highlights of Muskian spin and began to touch on select items of “interest.”

Business Insider, and others at the speed of Twitter, weighed in with an initial set of questions pushing back on the spin. Alan Ohnsman, of Bloomberg News, dropped in early with the small matter of residual value.

Tom Gara, at the Wall Street Journal, was out quickly with a blog post that worked the true lease of about $1,199 back to $910, far higher than Musk’s $500 to $600 spin.

My colleague Betty Liu asked the right questions to Mr. Musk on Bloomberg West. He went for T-shirted laughter. Ms. Liu fought back, graciously.

And then like a biblical wave, Mashable, Wired, and others of the Less-Edited sent out cascades of paragraphs ridiculing the announced too-good-to-be-true perfection.

Then the adult showed up.

I urge any and all of old and new media to read the entirety of Nelson Ireson’s “No. Just No.” His show-don’t-tell math was devastating. His complete authority written, edited, and linked, destroyed the Mystery.

Others followed. All of this spirited output flying around the new digital space linked to tweets with display ads fluttering in the background.

John Voelcker, the green grownup, weighed in today with finality.

The new media, including Bloomberg’s famed headline speed, makes news given world events: Cyprus, Egypt, and the Arab Spring, the Japanese earthquake, and various stress tests.

Just as important is how the new speed and fierce, collegial, and smart competition is working to defeat more minor acts of spin.

Elon Musk, meet the Twitter Vigilantes. Discuss.