Elon Musk, according to Walter Isaacson's new biography, shut down Ukraine's access to the Starlink network to protect Russian warships from a counterattack: to quote, he "secretly told his engineers to turn off coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast" during the operation. After this turned out to be controversial and make Musk look bad, Isaacson is changing the story–repeatedly, live, on Twitter.
Media are caught between a rock and a hard place.
The correction has cast a pall over the biography from Isaacson, a highly respected author who has written acclaimed biographies on historic visionaries, including Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane University and former head of CNN, has for years enjoyed such a sterling reputation in the media industry that newsrooms have often taken his reporting to be fact.
Now, Isaacson is having to grapple with an embarrassing problem. A spokesperson for his publisher Simon & Schuster told me on Monday that "future editions of the book will be updated" to no longer include the error.
Newsrooms, meanwhile, are updating their stories in the wake of the mischaracterization. Over the weekend, The Post updated the excerpt it had published and offered a correction to its readers.
The original version is likely more true than Elon would prefer, but who knows? Isaacson doesn't, he's just saying what he's told. The whole "no! you weren't supposed to react like that, he was being brilliant! wait, he didn't do it!" Schrodinger's Genius tone of his fawning is funny, but a grim reminder of the basic problem of writing "great man" hagiographies.
People trying to get Simon & Schuster to pulp the book over this should get real, though. They know what it is: a biography of a living, litigious celebrity by a courtier content to be seen as the least-necessary mouthpiece in the history of celebrity biographies.