Opinion Privilege and Ventilator Rage
Because it might save lives, when hospitals and the Governor of New York asked Elon Musk for help in getting ventilators, he moved too quickly — for the Financial Times fact-checker.
The Twittersphere lit up with trolls angry at Elon Musk for sending the wrong ventilators to hospitals.
The problem with social media is it gives everyone a voice but not a brain. But you might be surprised to learn this is true of once well-regarded newspapers?
The Financial Times alleged that Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, delivered the wrong ventilators for COVID 29 sufferers. The Twitterverse lit up with trolls saying musk had put innocent people in harms way. They even accused him of grandstanding for public relations purposes. I wondered about the tech wunderkind making such a colossal error, so I did some fact-checking on the Financial Times story.
The day the boxes of ventilators arrived in Elmhurst Queens, the hospital doctors and staff thanked Musk profusely in a Tweet. It turned out they were exactly what the hospital and the Governor of New York had requested.
The same machines were also sent to UCLA Health. The institution was “in conversation with Tesla representatives about a donation of BIPAP/CPAP devices used for respiratory care of less-critical patients, which would free up ventilators best reserved for patients requiring more intensive treatment.”
On March 26, the Financial Times fact checker must have had a day off: the FDA authorized a wide-ranging emergency policy that allowed alternative devices to be used as potentially lifesaving ventilators as a result of shortages. BiPAP machines (the ones Tesla delivered) could now be used as an alternative to traditional life-support ventilators, as hospitals face shortages of the devices. As a result, when Musk made his offer, hospitals asked for both types, according to Interesting Engineer. Conveniently, China had an oversupply, and Musk bought them to distribute to hospitals in the U.S. at no cost.
New York State officials also issued a statement Thursday saying: ‘ New York Governor Andre Cuomo revealed Friday that the state will begin repurposing BiPAP machines to sustain severely ill coronavirus patients.’
The Financial Times wrote a flamboyantly inaccurate article in the hopes to land a few more clicks by having Musk in a shameful headline. They never bothered to check the facts or question sources like New York’s governor, who said, “We are scouring the globe for ventilators.”
I would add, we should be scouring the globe for better journalists.