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Nov 17, 2022 69 tweets 29 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Someone has to say it: Elon Musk has lied for 27 years about his credentials. He does not have a BS in Physics, or any technical field. Did not get into a PhD program. Dropped out in 1995 & was illegal. Later, investors quietly arranged a diploma - but not in science. 🧵1/ ImageImageImage
This thread will be long. Finding the key contradictions took just a few hours, back in May, but it’s important to be complete. So I’ll go through it all, and why it’s dangerous for the US.

Please retweet. Sunshine disinfects. All sources are at
2/ Image
Catching Elon in a lie isn’t hard. In 2013: “I had to [stay in school]..otherwise I’d get kicked out of the country.” (This is correct.) Then “since I already had my undergrad, I could..get an H1-B visa” (That’s a lie). In 1995 he had no degree, so no visa. He was illegal. 3/
To be clear: no one cares about the degree; the immigration violation is history. What matters is Elon’s Big Lie, pretending to be what he isn’t. The academic “stolen valor” subverts judgment (“but he’s a genius!”). And it opens him to influence. It makes him a security risk. 4/
Elon’s key influences are the “PayPal Mafia” capos, Peter Thiel & David Sacks. They urged him to buy Twitter, advise him on running it. Both with childhoods in apartheid S. Africa, angry culture wars at Stanford, now working on Thiel’s ‘political project’ to upend democracy. 5/ Image
So Elon matters, & people around him are not America’s friends. Someone has to call out the secrets. Many people know - Elon’s been sued over the fake degree - but even as Twitter tanks, no one has the guts to talk. Silicon Valley’s the last place to lecture us on free speech. 6/ ImageImageImage
@TwitterSafety (if anyone’s left): this thread describes public evidence about a public figure; it’s not a violation. It’s citizen journalism. Also remember the “Streisand Effect”: suspending this account would make the story go bigger. I would go public. It would be news. 7/ Image
A. Review: from college to Zip2 (9-12)
B. No visa (13-16)
C. No Physics degree (17-30)
D. No PhD acceptance (31-44)
E. Quitting Twitter’s board (45-48)
F. Why it matters: national security (49-52)
G. Things to do (53-60)
H. Thoughts (61-67)
PART A - REVIEW. Elon Musk moved from South Africa to Canada in 1989, did odd jobs for a year, then enrolled at Queen’s Univ., where he wore logos from the business program: “QC” = “Queen’s Commerce”. After 2 years, he transferred to Penn. At this point he’d be on an F-1 visa. 9/ Image
His bio describes Elon’s college years. Queens: “went to the least number of classes possible.” Penn: ”video game binges that went on for days.” He lived in a party house with glow-in-the-dark decor, 500-person ragers. But “it's difficult to find..students who remember him” 10/ ImageImageImage
After 3 years at Penn, Elon left for CA with brother Kimbal, tried to catch the internet wave. They rented a Palo Alto office, slept in it when not coding. By Nov 3, 1995, Elon filed to incorporate “Global Link Information Network Inc.”, a kind of online business directory. 11/ ImageImageImage
In the go-go 1990s, the internet was new & investors moved fast. In 1996 Mohr Davidow Ventures offered $3M for Global Link. On Aug 15, just 8 months after its startup, the change was official: Rich Sorkin was named CEO, and Elon became Secretary. They renamed it Zip2.
12/ Image
PART B - THE VISA. Mohr Davidow now had a problem: Elon was undocumented. This is indisputable. If he’d finished a degree, he could have gone on OPT - starting a business counts as “practical training”. But as a dropout, there’s no legal path to stay. 13/ Image
Nowadays a 1-year overstay means you’d be deported, could be barred for 3 years. In the 1990s, there might be workarounds. But what were Mohr Davidow’s options? Elon wouldn’t qualify for an EB-1 “genius” visa: 8 months of “hairball” code doesn’t prove “extraordinary ability” 14/ ImageImage
Elon mentions the H1-B “specialty occupations” visa many times. Those were easier to get in the 1990s than now, but still had a hard criterion: you need an undergrad degree. And Elon didn’t have one. He couldn’t even apply til he somehow managed to get a diploma. 15/ ImageImage
Elon didn’t have the $1M in non-US money he’d need for an EB-5 “immigrant investor” visa. Mohr Davidow could quietly stake him some, but that’s not legal. Of course, hiring an undocumented worker isn’t legal either. So dodgy things happened in 1996. By 1997, a path was found. 16/
PART C - DEGREES. Again, we care about Elon’s degrees because HE cares - a lot. He’s made Physics part of his identity. He talks about it so much there’s a highlight reel. The 27-year lie is his persona. 17/
Why the lie? A Physics degree isn’t even that useful for Elon’s career. Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, founders of Tesla Motors, have what you’d actually want: CS and Electrical Engineering. But “Physics” does that to some people. It’s a kind of status worship. 18/ Image
So let’s walk through the evidence on his degrees carefully: 1) evidence from lawsuits (subpoenas and depositions), 2) Elon’s coursework, 3) statements from Penn, 4) false statements to his biographer. 19/ Image
1 - Lawsuits. Here’s the story of how we have Elon’s diplomas. In 1995, Elon interviewed at a startup, then ghosted them, started Global Link instead. The owner sued, alleging Elon swiped his business plan. The case hinged on deception, since borrowing ideas is legal. 20/ ImageImage
To get the interview, Elon said he was a Stanford PhD student, with degrees in Computational Physics & Finance. The plaintiff called that fraud & subpoenaed Penn. It seems Elon was indeed given two diplomas, but only in 1997, and the 2nd one has no department. 21/ ImageImage
Note that pulling strings at Penn’s Wharton School is not that big a scandal. Credentialing unstudious elites is part of Wharton’s game: Trump & Trump Jr are grads too. But Penn Physics is small, just a handful of graduates, and holding their reputation requires standards. 22/ ImageImageImage
Elon had to sit for a deposition as part of the 2007 lawsuit. He was grilled about saying “Computational Physics”, which doesn’t exist at Penn. When asked about the blank diploma, he evaded. Elon’s been talking his way out of situations for a long time. He won the suit. 23/ ImageImageImage
In 2009, ousted Tesla Motors founder Martin Eberhard also sued, & again attacked Elon’s Physics degree claim. Eberhard reused material from the earlier suit, and added lies found in official SEC filings. This time it seems it was successful, since Elon settled out of court. 24/ Image
2 - Coursework. We know Elon did try Physics, but was academically behind. That’s clear from homework he posted: he’s a 3rd-year in 2nd-year Mechanics. It’s a red flag for someone who skips a lot of class. Some prodigies can ace tests without classes - but they aren’t behind. 25/ Image
3 - Penn statements: Penn’s Wharton School regularly claims Elon, world’s richest man, as an alumnus, but the Physics Dept. seems never to have done so. In their congrats to 1997 graduates, there’s no Elon. 26/ Image
Penn Arts & Sciences (which includes Physics), HAS called Elon a Physics alum, in one context: a bio for the “Elon Musk Public Lecture, made possible through a generous endowment gifted to the Center for Particle Cosmology in 2009”. Gifted the year of Elon’s deposition. 27/ Image
3 - False statements to his biographer. In 2015, Ashlee Vance put out a gushing bio of Elon. At some point he noticed that Elon’s degrees came 2 years late and asked about it, but then just accepted Elon’s strange answers, & shoved them in an appendix. They don’t hold up. 28/ ImageImage
Elon explained his delayed diplomas by saying he had a minor problem at Penn: he hadn’t fulfilled his Language and History requirements, and when those were later dropped he got the degrees. But Penn has not dropped its Language and History requirements. 29/ Image
Elon also said he got so tied up in coding he “forgot” he hadn’t graduated. Just - no. No foreign student “forgets” about their visa status. (Note how Elon glides over being undocumented).

Even without the diploma, the inconsistencies should have tipped reporters off. 30/ Image
PART D - STANFORD. Lots more contradictions about Elon’s supposed acceptance to Stanford, so here’s the summary as a reminder. 31/ Image
In 1995, Elon claimed to be a Stanford PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering, but his story has morphed over time. Stories put him in any of 3 different departments at Stanford – MSE, or Applied Physics, or Physics - and sometimes even combine them. 32/ Image
For example, here Elon says “Applied Physics and Materials Science”. Again, no one forgets what they applied for. If a football player is drafted by the LA Rams, he doesn’t later say he was going to join the LA Lakers, or the LA Dodgers, or the “Ram Dodgers”. 33/
Somehow, faced with Elon’s wealth, no one flags the contradictions. In 2015, Stanford’s former president John Hennessy introduced Elon with “He arrived at Stanford to pursue his PhD In Physics, but left after two days”. Elon didn’t correct him. 34/
Elon’s deposition makes it clear he was not accepted to ANY department. He dodges saying which (“I spoke to…the Chairman of Science”), then talks about when he would pay tuition. But no science PhD student at Stanford pays tuition. Elon never saw an offer letter. 35/ Image
Everyone should have had questions from the start. How could Elon start a PhD if he hadn’t graduated? He had 2 fantastical explanations. In 2009, he said Stanford had agreed he could do the PhD anyway, then go back and finish undergrad AFTER. Unheard of. 36/ Image
In 2015 he told Vance a different story: that Penn and Stanford had made a special arrangement for him, and he would finish his undergrad WHILE doing his PhD. Also unheard of. And Elon was a nobody at that point. No investors to smooth his path. 37/ Image
What happens in real life, is: if a student doesn’t finish his undergrad, his graduate admission is rescinded. In June. He’s done; he doesn’t set foot on campus. And if he’s on an F-1, he cannot work in the US and has to leave the country. Elon knows this. 38/
The lawsuits forced Stanford to make a formal comment on Elon’s PhD stories. In Dec. 2008, Stanford’s Dean of Graduate Admissions, Judith Haccou, answered a subpoena with a terse response “...we are unable to locate a record in our office for Elon Musk”. 39/ Image
The story now gets disturbing. When Vance asked questions, Elon gave him a letter purportedly sent by Haccou in June 2009 attesting personally “you applied and were admitted to the graduate program in Material Science Engineering [sic]” It reads like a hostage video.. 40/ Image strained it’s not believable. It made me feel ill: did someone pressure her to write that, to appease Elon? But maybe.. it’s a fake. A 30-year employee wouldn’t misspell the department. 41/…
Bizarrely, Vance didn’t call Haccou to confirm. She died in 2019.

Most likely, Elon never applied to grad school. The 2007 lawsuit quotes an article saying he moved to CA on the advice of Queen’s U. business professor, to meet investors. Elon was in business, not science. 42/ Image
Last item to cover: this year Elon posted a gushing letter from Bill Nix, former chair of Stanford MSE “who would have been my professor.” This means less than it might seem. Nix doesn’t remember him from 1995. He’s reaching out to a potential donor after Elon mentioned him..43/ Image an interview shortly before. No surprise: if you’re the richest man in the world, people say nice things about you.

Note: Elon says his PhD topic was “advanced capacitors and batteries to improve the energy density for electric vehicles”. Nix worked on neither in 1995. 44/
PART E - QUITTING TWITTER’S BOARD. Given how many secrets Elon has, it was a surprise when he agreed to join Twitter’s board. The letter he signed on April 4 2022 agreed to a background check. Anything about degrees and visas was going to come out. 45/ Image
The board idea cratered fast - you can see it unravel. Apr. 5-7 Elon & CEO Parag are cheerfully planning. Apr. 8,10:11 PM Elon suddenly sends Parag a screenshot from 1 min before & “I’m so sick of this”. That’s it. By 3:20 AM he is texting Kimbal about creating a new Twitter. 46/ Image
The next morning, Apr. 9, he tells Twitter: “expect a take private offer” - a hostile takeover. The screenshot seems like Elon’s “Rosebud” moment. Of course he’s impulsive, could be random, but later events do suggest hidden secrets, since in August…47/ Image
…as Twitter fought to make Elon pay up, he subpoenaed Stanford to ask if they’d talked to Twitter. What was he looking for? We may never know. In September, Twitter made his texts public. Elon caved within a week & agreed to buy, ending the lawsuit. 48/…
PART F - NATL. SECURITY. A Twitter owner can do a lot of damage. By spreading disinfo if Twitter survives. Or by letting it die to stifle speech. By getting the personal info of journalists and activists. By pulling down info stored on Twitter, or even archived Tweets. 49/
Trump should have taught us that an impulsive, insecure oligarch with dark secrets and poor judgment, who barely scraped through Wharton and talks too much with Russians, is a security risk. People with secrets can be used. 50/ Image
The people whispering to Elon now - Peter Thiel and David Sacks - are not friends of free speech. Thiel has deliberately destroyed one media outlet already. He calls journalists “terrorists”. He may not care if Elon loses his fortune. 51/
Thiel and Sacks are openly authoritarian, dislike democracy, and push disinfo. Read linked thread to understand. Thiel courts extremists on the right; Sacks befriends the left. Sacks spreads Putin’s propaganda overtly; Thiel more discreetly. 52/
PART G - THINGS TO DO. Call your Rep. or Senator. Much of Elon’s revenue is your tax dollars, paying for SpaceX launches. That can stop. Tesla is already under investigation for safety concerns. Twitter may be. Our astronauts need safety too. 53/ Image
Demand changes to our immigration policy. Foreigners rightly can’t fund US political campaigns. Thiel, a naturalized citizen, spent $30M buying US Senators while also shopping for “golden passports”: he’s got his escape plan ready . Revise the rules to cut off that option. 54/ ImageImage
For journalists, you can ask questions. Even if people say “no comment”, it’s useful.
* Larry Davidow. Ask how Elon got paid in 1996 with no work permit. Ask him how the visa got arranged.
* Parag Agarwal. What did Elon show him the night he decided to buy Twitter? 55/
* Penn - ask for Physics students & faculty there ‘93-95. Does anyone remember Elon? Why the blank degree?
* Stanford legal: does the letter from Judith Haccou contradict their filing? Why was Stanford subpoenaed? What did they talk to Twitter about? 56/
Elon & Kimbal
* Kimbal: what visa did you enter the US with in 1995?
* Both: what was your visa status 1995–1997? When & how did you get work authorization?
* Elon: why did you say your degree was in 1995 in SEC filings?
* Elon: which Physics classes have you taken? 57/
Thiel’s neo-fascist set
How does your anti-elite pose square with your pathetic degree-grubbing? Thiel’s lapdog JD Vance cried: “we have to attack..universities in this country..they pursue deceit and lies.” Should he give back his Yale degree? 58/…
These guys don’t hate “The Cathedral”; they grovel to it. Look at Thiel’s pet politicians: Sacks, Cruz, Hawley, Masters, Vance have degrees from Stanford (4), UChicago (1), Princeton (1), Harvard (1), Yale (2). Elon’s made-up Physics degree gave him status too. 59/
Tom Nichols called it: they’re “insecure rich boys” “who wanted to burn everything down just to squelch that nose-to-the-glass feeling of resentment at those who never accepted them.” Journalists can push on that - speak the truth of who they are. 60/
PART H - THOUGHTS. We need to ask, given so much evidence, why Musk didn’t get more scrutiny. Rolling Stone called him a “naturally gifted engineer”. NYT: a “great inventor”. How did they know that? Journalists repeated the story til it seemed impossible to question. 61/ Image
Ashlee Vance’s 2015 book is another level. Vance is not an impartial biographer but a full-on fan. Look at his Twitter feed: furiously defending Elon, criticizing his rivals. Vance is also S. African, by the way, like Elon & many in the PayPal Mafia (4 total counting Thiel). 62/ ImageImageImage
Consider: sophisticated pundits laughed at how Trump fooled his naive supporters. They called him “a poor person’s idea of a rich businessman”. Well, Elon was a non-techie’s idea of a science genius. Transcribe his interviews - they’re word salad. You got fooled too. 63/ Image
It’s more disturbing that scientists were silent, who shouldn’t be fooled. Elon’s interviews about physics are… painful. Did people really not see? Or is this the devil’s bargain for elite universities, sucking up to potential donors? How much integrity can they give up? 64/
Of course I’ve been silent too, sitting on this since May. This account reports out on the Jan 6 Capitol attack; it serves law enforcement. Commenting on Elon might jeopardize that. Posting this makes me feel sick. But serving truth means calling out the Big Lies. 65/
I stand by what’s in this thread. If Elon wants to sue for defamation, I’ll meet at the courthouse. But Elon, there’s an offramp. You can be a hero - stand up for America. Talk about what happened. Who pushed you to buy, and why? People may forgive. 66/
If this is the end, incredible props to all who worked on the Capitol attack. The #SeditionHunters were one of the largest crowdsourced efforts in history, and withstood efforts to disrupt it. Twitter was invaluable, awful, & amazing all at once. Next version can be better. 67/
Minor additions: it's been pointed out that Elon's degrees DO have a date, in Latin: May 19th, 1997 (Maii XIX Anno Salutis MCMXCVII) h/t @DailyPedantry 68/
And, an archived version of the thread is now at 69/

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