ZDF Info, a German public-service television broadcasting network, shared a tweet by Elon Musk in its documentary Turbo, Speed, Tesla Elon Musk in Brandenburg. The tweet that was shared was determined to be a fake tweet.
Whether or not ZDF Info created the tweet translation itself or someone created it and shared it with them isn’t known. But one would think that an editor of such a documentary would double-check something like this. It is pretty easy to do on Twitter.
The brilliant Alex Voigt was the one who discovered the fake tweet and shared his thoughts about it on Twitter. It doesn’t look good for ZDF Info.
ZDFinfo seriously doctored an Elon Musk Tweet!
Is there any journalistic ethic left?
How could an editor ever approve this film?
Shame on @ZDFinfo
ZDF Info & die gesamte Redation sollte sich schämen eine Bericht zu veröffentlichen der von ZDF manipulierte Tweets beinhaltet pic.twitter.com/3zPiy33rIz
— Alex (@alex_avoigt) March 19, 2021
Alex shared the translation of the tweet with me: “Sounds like we have to clear up a few things. Tesla won’t need that much water on a daily basis.”
Jim Hall shared the actual tweet from Elon.
Shame on them! and for non German speakers here is the full tweet pic.twitter.com/LFUjGZmV4m
— Jim Hall (@jhall) March 19, 2021
So, in essence, ZDF Info used an altered tweet of Elon Musk to make it look like he was dismissing the water problems when Elon wasn’t. Elon was explaining why Tesla won’t use that much water and pointed out that Tesla would not use that much water on a daily basis. He also mentioned that the forest (remember the trees that the “evil” Tesla is tearing down?) was planted for use as cardboard.
Alex asked some very critical questions in his tweet: 1. Is there any journalistic ethic left? And 2. How could an editor ever approve of this film? In German, Alex said (tweet translated by Twitter) “ZDF Info & the entire editorial team should be ashamed to publish a report containing tweets manipulated by ZDF.”
Alex also shared a couple of screenshots and quotes from the documentary and debunks them with the truth. In the quotes below, Alex’s words are italicized.
“… at the beginning of ’23 the quantities needed there for production will exceed what we can provide. The consequences are that there must be restrictions somewhere for the consumers”
Truth: This supplier is based on today’s plan, not the Phase 2 water supply in ’23.
Unions Head Hoffmann “(..) he (Musk) on the one hand gladly takes public money but on the other hand does everything to employ the employees with low wages & bad working conditions”
Truth: The 🇩🇪 federal agency for work confirmed Tesla pays salaries over average in Brandenburg.
Unions Head Hoffmann
"(..) he (Musk) on the one hand gladly takes public money but on the other hand does everything to employ the employees with low wages & bad working conditions"
Truth: The 🇩🇪 federal agency for work confirmed Tesla pays salaries over average in Brandenburg pic.twitter.com/BHqKpJdtve
— Alex (@alex_avoigt) March 19, 2021
ZDF Info also provided a summary of the documentary and mentioned Frontal21, which followed the construction of Giga Berlin for months. ZDF Info emphasized in the written summary that Tesla is causing drinking water problems with its headline “Drinking water problems because of Tesla.” From the summary:
“The head of the Strausberg-Erkner water association, André Bähler, fears that the Tesla production in Grünheide in Brandenburg will lead to restrictions on drinking water. ‘The drinking water supply is sacrificed on the table of gifts of economic policy,’ said Bähler to Frontal21. According to research by the magazine, the planned factory of the US electric car manufacturer will consume around 3.6 million cubic meters of water per year with the next expansion stages. That would be around 30 percent of the total water volume in the region. This means that there is not enough water.”
The article goes on to point out that Elon Musk denied water problems, saying, “Basically, we are not in a very dry region. Trees would not grow if there was no water. I mean, we’re not in the desert here.”
When I researched that quote, I only found a reference from Torque News, which referred to Frontal21. From Torque News:
“However, Musk doesn’t believe fears over water shortage are well-founded. In a statement to Frontal21 Musk said ‘Basically, we are not in a very dry region. Trees would not grow if there was no water. I mean, we’re not in the desert here.’
“Brandenburg’s Environment Minister Axel Vogel also seems to agree with Musk’s sentiment. In an interview with Frontal21 Vogel said ‘capacity limit does not mean that the capacity limit has currently been exceeded.'”
ZDF Info also claimed that according to Frontal21‘s research, the employees of the State Office for Environment in Brandenburg were feeling pressured due to the approval process for Tesla. Apparently, there’s a mention of “stress factor Tesla” in the agency’s documents but no proof of this has surfaced. According to ZDF Info, the protocols read:
“Criticism is made of the procedural practice around Tesla (tight deadlines, time pressure for employees).”
At the very end of the summary, ZDF Info points to the English version and more on the subject, including links to very clickbaity articles with titles such as “Erratic Tweets Investor Sues Musk and SpaceX rocket explodes on the ground.” I’m not sure what SpaceX has to do with Giga Berlin or the water there.
It’s clear that the documentary and the articles by ZDF Info are written by people who do not like Elon Musk — you can feel the disdain in the very writing. However, this is a public broadcasting service. This means that this is an actual network and they need to be held accountable for the fake Elon Musk tweet featured in the documentary.