This series was produced over a long period of time. We opted to finally run it after we were told we should separate commercial space efforts from the NewSpace trolls. The problem is that trolls are embedded in these companies and they have done nothing over the course of years to engender any feelings of good will. In fact, they’ve done their level best, even after NASA went “commercial crazy,” to make enemies out of people who could have been valuable allies. Now that the political winds are blowing the stench of their behavior back into their faces, they want those people they’ve consistently disrespected to come to their aid. They even tried to shame those of us they’ve attacked over the years into supporting them. One of AmericaSpace’s key principles is that we hold people accountable for their actions. This series was posted for that reason.
Shoot the Messenger: Perhaps one of the most nauseating tactics trolls employ is to attack those that report on the problems within their movement. AmericaSpace became the target of just such a tactic when we posted an article detailing the Cal/OSHA findings about the 2007 Scaled Composites accident.
The article detailed the accident and Cal/OSHA’s findings and provided some background. One NewSpace troll, rather than take a look at how Scaled Composites’ safety failures caused the death of three and injuries to three others, lashed out at us for even mentioning it. His comments are below:
“Are you saying that there should be no new start-up companies and all new stuff should be done by the fat cats? Are you saying that accidents don’t happen? Are you suggesting that in the succeeding years, nothing has been done to remedy the safety shortcomings? Are you subsidized by a Virgin competitor?”
Anyone that reads the article will note it is rather sterile (unlike AmericaSpace’s opinion pieces); this article was a straight news piece. However, the troll in question reacted as if the safety concerns raised were all of our own making, and our highlighting them was just a smear campaign. Sorry, but the problems were noted by Cal/OSHA; we just reported the agency’s findings. Note how the troll asks if we are funded by a Scaled competitor. How low can these people sink? Rather than accept any personal responsibility for the apparent lack of adequate safety standards, they lash out at those that bring the root causes behind the deaths to light. The reason behind this is simple.
Trolls seek to cow those that detail flaws within NewSpace firms into silence. This should serve as a wake-up call for NASA—and the public. Many NewSpace trolls are deeply involved with the movement itself. Why are they so determined to silence those that report on these issues? What else are they trying to cover up? If anything, this tactic should force a closer inspection of NewSpace’s standards.
Another NewSpace troll commented that one should not get too “melodramatic,” and that he was confident that companies that have deadly accidents would correct them of their own accord. How does one get too melodramatic when three people die due to lack of safety precautions? Worse, how naive do you have to be to think that, without oversight, NewSpace companies will naturally do the right thing? (One would be correct in assuming this generous policy does not extend to OldSpace companies.) This conversation went on a bit further and provided more insight into the mentality of these people. His next post included the following:
“You seem really fired up! Don’t quite understand why exactly?
“You know, the chances are that Scaled worked out where they went wrong well before the investigating committee did, and implemented the necessary changes.
“You know, as an observation, the U.S. of America seem to be a land of considerable contradiction. You put up with or ignore so much that seems incredibly important and yet get fired up over something that, in the scheme of things seems pretty small by comparison. That’s not meant as an ‘attack’ incidentally, just an observation, wondering why sort of? It’s definitely noticable to many non-Americans and a friend of mine from Viginia, who’s lived in Australia for quite a while, agrees. Perhaps we’re just a bit more laid back over here. Oh well!“
I’ve tried not to get upset when dealing with these people, but this time I blew a fuse. This person could not understand why I was bothered by trolls trying to downplay or cover up the findings behind an accident that killed three. NASA had been excoriated when it lost Challenger and Columbia—and rightfully so. Scaled deserves no better. But here this person was saying that it was a “small” matter. That he didn’t understand why anyone would get worked up over it and that he naively believed that Scaled would’ve handled it on their own. Do you think he’d have given NASA such a pass? Of course not. This person’s insensitive comments garnered him what he deemed “abuse.” It never occurred to him he might have said something offensive and that he earned that abuse. Rather, his reply was that it was everyone else who needed to gain perspective—because he most certainly didn’t. This is NewSpace.
Choke Them with Spam: Think about this for a second: If NewSpace is truly the future of space exploration, are we in good hands? Would the followers of this brave new era handle websites who question their methods with adult conversation? We wish. Rather, whenever a piece critical of NewSpace is posted I brace myself for the barrage of spam which I know will follow. Links to porn websites, Cialis offers, and flat-out cyber attacks are the norm. Again, anything to silence the messenger.
This is not the methods of clear-thinking, rational adults working to build a better future—these are the actions of a petulant child. Anyone reviewing the type of behavior listed in this series should be hard-pressed to consider those that behave this way the leaders of anything. Sadly, some have already tried to do just that. These people are not ready to have such a grave responsibility in their care. Until they grow up, they need to be kept in reserve. They need to show that they can be trusted first. Before you say this is harsh, AmericaSpace recently was the victim of a cyber attack. Again, this occurred after a report critical of NewSpace was posted. It could be a coincidence. However, review some of the nonsense we’ve been subjected to and ask yourself, after experiencing all of that, “Do I think it was a coincidence?” This is NewSpace.
I don’t want to waste time, which I could use to produce articles and features, on people who pull stunts like this. So, instead of waging a constant back-and-forth “war” with a troll who will never see anyone’s point of view other than their own, I wrote this. Not in a day or a week, but over time. I went back and looked at the patterns of behavior fans of NewSpace displayed. It is sickening. To sum up what NewSpace is? It’s arrogant, condescending, inexperienced, and self-destructive. It’s willing to avoid inconvenient truths, make up facts, distort reality, and, as I discovered yesterday, flat out lie. It reinvents facts to turn failure into triumph, it has been given a free pass on this sort of behavior by many within the established and new media, and it is the darling of social media.
NewSpace has yet to fulfill its promise. Its accomplishments in no way entitle its fanbase to act the way that they have. The near-constant, shrill vitriol that these individuals employ has some calling them “howler monkeys.” While this might be apt, for the time being we will stick with calling them what they are—trolls.
The initial reception to the first two segments of this opinion piece saw people speaking to each other civilly. However, one individual attempt to distort what is said. In his mind, “Be nice” apparently means “bribery.” No I’m not joking, review the comments for yourself.
You are probably asking yourself (ironically, as did a NewSpace troll), “Wow, they touched a nerve didn’t they?” Yes, they did. To me, space is all about the best that humanity has to offer. To hear NewSpace tell it, they are the future of space exploration. Take a good, hard look at how these people are acting. If this is the “future of space exploration,” then we are in serious trouble.
NewSpace trolls (mistakenly) believe that acting snarky is cool. They think they need not present real facts to cover the gaping holes in their movement’s experience; all they need to do is talk down to those and that will suffice. They believe acting this way is cool, and therefore anyone who opposes the opinion they are pushing is automatically uncool. Top it off with a helpful heaping pile of condescension and you have won the argument. Correct? Not so much.
Sooner or later, these people will have to pay the tab that these antics are accumulating. I’m willing to bet it will come due when someone is killed on one of the new spacecraft that have yet to carry an astronaut. When that happens these people will attempt to get help or assistance in their darkest hour. By then? It will be far too late. These folks need to be building bridges instead of burning them. However, as highlighted above, there is precious little construction going on—but there is a massive amount of smoke.
People remember when they have been disrespected, and NASA is comprised of people. Currently, the administration and its surrogates are making sure that NewSpace gets its shot. In return, this movement is displaying some of the most repellent behavior imaginable. They are, as stated before, biting the hand that funds them.
(In a twist of fate, during the period that this op-ed was being produced, sequestration took place and the plug was pulled on Commercial Crew. It is unclear if this will be a long-term situation or not. However, one has to wonder if NewSpacers’ rampant lack of respect and lack of progress caused Congress to cut the program’s funding.)
I see great potential and merit in what NewSpace is doing. I want them to join the space industry. Given the extremely offensive and tasteless behavior they display, however, it does not appear they are ready. They still need to grow up and learn to treat others with respect and to value the experience and opinions of others.
Until recently, NewSpace was riding high. They have an administration and deputy administrator at NASA that support them. Rather than use this as a chance to build inroads and strengthen relationships, they are using this time to insult what they view as “the opposition.” Presidents and policies come and go; today’s SpaceX is tomorrow’s Constellation Program. The illusion of NewSpace’s moral authority is just that—an illusion.
My supervisor at another website once warned me away from being too harsh on these people. “Don’t alienate them,” he said. AmericaSpace is founded on principles, such as courtesy and respect. If this is the standard operating procedure for the “new” movement, then we don’t want it here. Moreover, their delusional self-appointed status as NewSpace’s Grand Poobah doesn’t carry any weight here. If you act like a troll, then you’re going to get called on it. It’s not “abuse”; it’s you getting what you deserve.
Talk about the points, and debate the facts. I’ve seen a lot of cowardice in the media when it comes to these companies. One “editor” went so far as to tell me not to make a certain CEO angry. Sorry, our job isn’t to placate these people; it’s to report on what is happening. If showing how something failed, is substandard, or outright dangerous—we’re going to report on it. It doesn’t matter how angry it makes the CEOs, and it doesn’t matter which companies they represent.
NewSpace trolls “hope” that these companies will be accountable; AmericaSpace will hold them accountable. When these companies experience successes, you can read about it here. When they fail, you can read that here, too—no matter how some might wish it will be all of the former and none of the latter. Some within the media have asked that I ignore the past and defend NewSpace to Congress. Sorry, these people have done nothing to warrant any preferential treatment. They bit the hand that funded them, and now it’s coming back to haunt them. This op-ed was produced over months as we went back and monitored how NewSpace behaves and the tactics they use. Some who find the facts above inconvenient and embarrassing will call it a rant. What they won’t do is see how awful this makes them look and make changes. Others might suggest that we’re painting the movement with too broad a brush. There is some merit in that; however, there is an old saying about how it only takes one rotten apple. …
NewSpacers tell us the reason they haven’t accomplished much is because NASA was “in their way.” NASA hasn’t been in their way for the last few years, and these people haven’t cleaned up their act. While I personally hope the effects of sequestration will serve as a reminder that NewSpacers’ statements that they are funding their own way are a fantasy—and get their mind right and become the NewSpace industry we need them to be—history tells me that one should never expect a troll to behave like a person.
One of the reasons I penned this Op-Ed was to stop doing what I spent all day yesterday doing. Getting bogged down in arguments with people who, bully, insult, distract from the topic at hand, drag people into never-ending back and forths, lie and attack others for doing what they themselves are guilty of. So, if you see me not responding to these people – it isn’t because they are correct, it isn’t because they are wrong it’s because I could write an article detailing how a NewSpace offering saves orphans in Uganda and these people will complain about my use of punctuation. So, no it’s not me avoiding what they have to say because I’m trying to push an agenda – it’s me avoiding them because they are pushing one and no matter what I say – they will find fault in it. They believe that winning some argument with me they’re proving their moral and intellectual superiority. In reality, they’re doing the opposite. I realized that in one sense they had succeeded. Rather than explain why those who support NewSpace act this way, they projected these issues onto the person who brought this problem into the light. I realized how bad the situation was when, after stating numerous times that it isn’t about what you say – but how you say it, that you get more flies with honey than vinegar – one person actually thought I meant bribery. This is NewSpace.