Dec 04 2017

What I Mean When Discuss The “Cult Of SpaceX”

Here we go, the beginning of the articles I’ve been dreading writing for probably a year now. These are things I feel need to be said and no, I don’t think I’m wrong in what I say – opinions can neither be right nor wrong, after all, but I do feel the concept presented – the description and analogy presented here is valid and acceptable. The reason I’ve been dreading it is for the same reason anyone expressing anything online is a problem – people who disagree with what you say often want to turn things into arguments, and I’m tired of dealing with that – I’ve already had it happen enough times on Facebook and YouTube to have already heard all the “points” and been insulted in every way possible regarding this.

Of course, I’m also not going to let that somehow silence or censor me, so basically, if what I’m about to say here, or in other upcoming articles ticks you off, I don’t care. Perhaps some reflection on what is said here is in order, rather than getting mad at someone for expressing their opinion on their own space.

As I’ve said, I’ll never stop sharing this image.

With that out of the way, let me set up an example that I think most anyone will remember. About a decade ago, and up into the 2010’s, there was a trend people called the “Cult of Apple.” This was a rather sudden, growing trend of people who, about the same time as the release of the original iPhone, suddenly began obsessing over Apple products – namely, again, the iPhone, but also the iPod touch, which was also new at that time, and inevitably they may reject a Windows based PC for a Macbook or an iMac.

While fine choices on their own for products, these people spoke of them constantly, regardless of context beyond general relation – if you were discussing your phone, they would brag about all the stuff their iPhone could do. If you had a PC issue, or were just discussing them, there was a chance you would have someone say their Mac was better. If you (like me) had a Zune media player, oh boy, were you stupid! (I actually loved the Zune and did think, in use, it was a better media player at the time, but that’s besides the point.)

SpaceX – the new Apple.

What I’m getting at here is an attitude that purveyed that Apple was supreme, and nothing was better, and that everyone must know this. If you dare to speak up against them, even simply expressing that you prefer something else, you are wrong to a point of something similar blasphemy and must be scorned. This sounds extreme, but honestly that’s the attitude that was present for many years. It’s of course died down now and honestly it seems trendy to mock or otherwise be honestly critical about what Apple does, but for a while such was anathema.

An old image, from when I really was a hyper fan of SpaceX. My launch articles went into quite a bit of detail…

These are the fans who take things too far. The ones who feel their opinion is absolute fact, and that whatever group they associate with can do no wrong, will accomplish every goal they have, produces items or does services that are flawless, or otherwise, to sum it up, are perfect – or they at least speak of them like they are.

You can’t criticize what they defend at all. You can’t point out flaws in planning, execution, or other ideas ever. You can’t think differently from them or, more correctly express a different thought, lest you be told repeatedly just how wrong you are, often times on something that is not what you actually said (in other words, they set up a typical straw man and attack it, since that’s generally easier.)

To put it simply, a very vocal portion of the SpaceX fanbase fits this mentality – they behave the same way the “Cult of Apple” did in the last decade, reacting with hostility to any thought that doesn’t fit their established idea of “SpaceX is perfect, they are the future, they are beyond criticism or objection. Who are you to say what they can or cannot do? Who are you to express doubt? You aren’t an expert, so you know nothing and can have no opinion, unlike me” and on and on. This may not be what they actually think but it’s sure what it all sounds like.

Secondarily, you have time, after time, after time (that even you can easily look up) of SpaceX fans commenting on content that is unrelated to the company with snide comments about landing rockets and re-usability. Incidentally, up until just a few years ago this never happened – the moment SpaceX landed a rocket, suddenly it’s all anyone cares about. I’m absolutely serious, though, if you go to some more high profile United Launch Alliance Facebook posts or YouTube videos, there is almost always a set of comments from SpaceX fans with some kind of snark attack that has no other purpose.

A pristine example, one of many, on the kinds of comments regularly left on things that have nothing to do with SpaceX beyond being rocket related.

You may think I’m exaggerating with this, but honestly, I’m not. This really is how it all comes off. I’ve been called a troll for expressing this opinion (more correctly for using the phrase “cultist” to describe people doing the above) but I feel it’s an appropriate  title for the behaviour, or those who behave like this.

I don’t use the phrase as an insult, only to catch they eye and bring attention to the phenomena. This isn’t directed at every fan of the company – far from it, as I still, as much as it sounds like I’m not, am still a “fan” of SpaceX. I do however know enough, and care enough about the subject of rocketry and space travel, as well as am a reserved enough person to know when something doesn’t set right with me, and why I feel that way.

I’ll always admit when I’m proven wrong on something. The same can’t be said for others. People like the above will always make excuses, or find an apologetic for whatever is seen as an issue. I don’t accept that at all. Ever.  Some people seem to almost treat SpaceX like one would a religion, which is just insane to me on more fronts than I can count.

Sometimes parody and reality are one in the same…

This. All of this is what I mean when I say the “Cult of SpaceX.” I mean a set of people who are fans to the extreme and throw out normal behaviours for what amounts to a religious-cult like loyalty and obsession. If you have a problem with that comparison, you are either not part of the problem, or should assess your social media posts regarding the company to see if you’re crossing the line between a fan making a proper discussion and someone just being obnoxious.

If you still, honestly, can’t see where the above is an issue, that’s your problem – not mine, and no, I don’t *at all* want to hear your complaints about it.

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