In the failed attempts leading up to powered flight, jumping off the roof with a cape was still whacko because of a lack of a sound scientific basis. Roof jumping is not made otherwise, i.e. sound, because mainstream attempts failed.It's rather unfair for him to label alternative approaches as 'whacko'. The simple fact is that the mainstream fusion research community has been promising results for six decades now and their approach just isn't working thus the ongoing joke. The Lockheed approach may not work but I'm glad they and others are trying.
The failure of mainstream fusion is nonetheless based on what is known, though much remains unknown. Trying something else based on known flaws or ignorance deserves the term whacko, especially given the money spent. * I don't know enough about the field to know if the particular alt-fusion attempts are necessarily flawed or random, but Cowley does.
And I'm not aware of any "promises" about early fusion attempts from scientists involved, though the pop science media consistently over hyped. Those projects usually state i) theoretical potential, ii) time to complete the experiment. ITER for instance clearly states that the project is not suitable for a commercial fusion reactor.