Venture Capital vs Journalism. The feud that just won't end.
My thoughts on the VC-Tech journalist feud.
Photo by Hidde Rensink on Unsplash
It’s tiring being on twitter.
There’s conflict everywhere!
I for one find myself at the intersection of many different niche groups.
I roam Econ twitter by day and scour Anime Twitter and Yang Gang Twitter by night.
But two of these particular groups can’t stop getting at each other.
Every single fucking month a tech journalist is feuding with a VC somewhere for some reason. Two of these feuds have involved the same VC these past 5 months.
The most recent started a while ago when the New York Times tech and culture reporter Taylor Lorenz responded to an Instagram story by the former Away CEO.
The following tweet can be seen here:
Now, I honestly don’t see how Taylor could see this as incoherent. This was clearly a well-thought-out piece of writing on Korey’s part.
I mean it’s obvious most News Media generate most of their traffic through social media.
It’s obvious that certain pieces do better than other’s primarily because they have some social perception of being “juicy”. A piece on the corruption of Trump is bound to perform way better than let’s say hot dogs. It’s why we see a shit ton of book “Best Sellers” be primarily about Trump.
Now I may disagree with Korey’s belief that women are explicitly targetted. But even then again her opinion was far from incoherent.
Subsequently, Balaji Srinivasan responded to Taylor’s tweet using her own words:
Again, these were her own words thrown back at her.
This lead Taylor on a twitter tirade, claiming that she had been blocked by Balaji and despite her best attempts at reconciliation, has been denied access to the man.
This particular tweet had several reporters coming to Taylor’s defense while several VCs came to Balaji’s defense.
For nearly a week we’ve had back and forths between these two groups.
That said, the VC-Media dispute isn’t anything new.
Media has been covering tech in a somewhat peculiar light for some time.
While there does seem to be an obvious attempt to cover tech’s abuses, there’s also the monetization of the peculiarity of SV culture.
In short, sensationalism.
For this very reason, VCs want to hold media accountable. They feel like journalists hold too much power and have subsequently brought down various ventures.
But I’ve honestly seen this entire dispute differently.
What’s going on is a reinforcing cycle. A sort of feedback loop. One that bears the mark of disappointment, ego, and apathy.
It’s been known to a lot of us that Silicon Valley hasn’t held up to its virtues. I mean Google changed their “Don’t be the evil” motto. And tech VCs and crypto ventures that speak grandly about decentralization, were shown to have received government handouts. Handouts that could have benefitted smaller businesses.
A lot of VCs brag about changing the world when in reality it’s mostly an attempt at earning them some extra buck.
There’s an outright denial in their space of the fact that wealth being generated today… is indeed mostly zero-sum.
You’ll see tweets like the one below, ignorant of the fact that while we see more Billionaires and trillion-dollar companies, we do not see a growth in GDP. We don’t even see an increase in living conditions. All we see is enhanced social disorder.
Subsequently, we’re witnessing dramatic wealth transfer from the very poorest to the richest amongst us.
There’s sadly however, this perception that the tech elites aren’t hard-working, which isn’t true.
A lot of elite meritocracies consist of unfulfilling drudgery. It’s a dog-eat-dog sort of world. And many of these people do their best to indeed live up to their own standards.
Even Stephanie Korey, who Lorenz bashes, was known by her own employees to be the hardest worker in the room.
But there’s also negligence of the surreal power they hold. There’s a negligence of the fact that people are working far more than they do, but far poorer than they are. People who regardless of their efforts will never attain wealth. For we know that its easier to build wealth when one possesses some already. So while this may be the case for many of those who are VCs, it certainly isn’t the case for the average individual.
The elitism the average person sees in VC culture comes from the fact that they see people, who are very much escapist. People who many times can’t understand the plight of the working person.
A lot of the great innovations that we could see manifest in the world today, will never be accessible to the average person. A lot of these great innovations, won’t create a massive impact in the nation of their origin, let alone their world. And yet, we see VCs tout these innovations as ways to “change the world”.
They speak of charter cities, and digital migration(Things I admittedly am extremely fascinated about) when they forget the class divide let alone the geographical divide that exists.
I’m a great admirer of these people (especially Balaji) for their ability to think and imagine a world far more wonderous than the one we live in. But I’m also very much cognizant of the fact that a lot of these innovations they tout as inevitable are simply endeavors they have a stake in.
This very vulnerability is something tech journalists exploit.
I mean you could remove as many of the inaccuracies in news reporting and you’d still have an element of hard-hitting truth.
And THIS is what drives the tech journalist sensationalism.
That said, I’m also very concerned about the gamification observed in this kind of journalism. It appeals primarily to a certain group of woke Twitterati who rarely if ever delve deeper than what they are told about the subject. And usually, after these stories are shared, there’s a weird pattern.
The stories tech journalists put out there change in narrative. Contents are extracted and an abstraction of the actuality of the issue is taken. This happens so severely that the mainstream narrative no longer resembles the story reported. And the News Media knows this. Heck many of the articles shared, have never actually been read. It’s why Twitter briefly prompted to make sure that people who share articles read them first.
There’s always this attempt to deny that there is clickbait involved on the side of the media… but if we’re being honest one can observe the number of times News Media flood Social Media with especially divisive content.
News Media’s disgust for the elites has also meant that they rarely if ever, observe critically for themselves.
The best example of this was when Kara Swisher bashed Balaji for calling her out on her pandemic denialism. An issue I briefly covered in my post about Base Raters and Growther’s.
Either way, she never really followed up on her response to Balaji. She never even advocated the retraction of the sensationalist piece.
Well, to her defense she hadn’t written it.
But what was clear was that this particular story, this story that gave the public the presumption that the pandemic wasn’t something to be feared, had all the hallmarks of sensationalism. And this almost certainly gave some people in the public a sense of comfort that wasn’t warranted.
As I stated before, SV and VC culture can be very obtuse to the plight of the average person. Andrew Yang called it the bubble. A culture of people who while academically smart with credentials to match have no perception of the plight of the average person.
However, what was going on here, wasn’t a bunch of people affording the luxury of being able to “LARP” apocalyptic scenarios. It was risk aversion incarnate. It was action and precaution by people who understood the power of compounding numbers.
It was a group of people who had seen China’s response to the initial outbreak and tried warning the world about it. It was a group of people trying their best to avert a crisis.
And when it came down to it, they were right!
We find out even later that there may have been cases of the Covid19 pandemic on American soil way before it was first reported by mainstream media.
Now, you may say “Kara was just following the advice of experts”. Well, it could also very much be the fact that she simply thought it wasn’t that big a deal.
Sam🧢 @OnlySams69@fmbutt @jhamby @karaswisher @shiringhaffary @balajis The issue however, happens to be that his claims are extremely well sourced. The title doesn't do the article justice. There's also this feeling that the author is trying to persuade the reader that even though there are valid concerns, the reactions aren't necessary.
Now I admire Kara’s work honestly. My issue here happens to be the fact that, she’s also consciously internalized a hatred towards SV and every aspect of its culture. This hatred is so strong that she’s incapable of seeing instances where it is unwarranted.
This particular instance is what we see in a lot of tech journalism today.
As I noted in the introduction of this piece, what we observe isn’t new.
Tech and Media are symbiotes. Who do you think, VCs rely on to spread the word for the most part? The average American doesn’t use Twitter let alone Substack. But on the other hand, Media has made use of Tech’s ventures to drive clicks.
What’s going on here is a reckoning on both sides. A realization or much more accurately, an attempt to flee the fact that they are both deeply hypocritical communities.
On the other hand, as days have passed by this conversation is driving something more revolutionary.
It’s putting into focus the concept of Accountability.
“Who watches the watchmen?” as has been said. For while VCs seek some privacy in their investments, there is a true concern to be had over the power journalists wield.
The ability of journalists to shape the narrative is very dangerous.
Even more dangerous is the fact that a lot of these journalists openly advocate the censorship of dissent while advocating voices they much rather value. Journalism has become an ideological battleground.
At the core of the “Accountability” debate is an attempt to create a Rule of Law. One in which hierarchy is very much reduced. One in which there is dispassionate governance by an impartial entity.
One in which truth may be verified on the blockchain.
While most media openly advocated ideological conformity, most of them have forgotten the fact that August Ames was bullied to death.
Cancel Culture is indeed a great sign of authoritarian insurgency. Hayek made a special note of this in his book The Road To Serfdom. It’s truly a book that highlights the intellectual climate of our time.
So while this stupid ass dispute takes place. Forget not the fact that many of these people on both sides have the privilege of resting home and working at full capacity.
We’re seeing the dawn of a severe global recession and in the US a probable deep depression. Many of the jobs lost from this pandemic will not return. We see the supposed "leader of the Free World” be so negligent, one of his most ardent supporters doesn’t want to be associated with him. We see the resurgence of state surveillance with dictators making use of this crisis to enhance their power. We see automation speeding up and yet, no infrastructure to make sure that the average citizen benefits from this advance.
As all this takes place, let’s be cognizant of the fact that the world is almost certainly going to be a different place.
To the VC reading this? What exactly do you have in store to help people go through this time, besides your belief that the Fed is dangerous or that bitcoin will change the world? It sure may, but most people can barely afford an unexpected bill let alone invest in Bitcoin.
What do you have to offer the person who permanently lost their job? What do you have to offer to the student, who may have to drop out and can barely afford even the most basic online courses? Some of them don’t even have internet access in their homes.
And no, believe it or not, many cannot afford coding boot camps like Lambda School.
As we go through this time, ask yourself why a world, saturated with software—consumed by it— has done LITTLE to tackle this pandemic?
And to the journalist/ reporter reading this? What do you have to say about the culture shift? Many of your organizations find themselves on the precipice of eliminating voices of dissent. Voices that while I truly detest, are still being muzzled in a liberal society.
In a world that was any different, imagine a scenario in which the NY Times was run by people who had been wary of the political and social justice, and who would have denied Angela Davis a platform to speak, merely because her words “puts their safety at risk”.
Where would the Chomskys of our world be today without the ability to express themselves? Is this a topic you consciously think about? Would you be cognizant of the impact of manufactured consent? Heck, are you aware that with your conscious decision to drive the narrative, you are indeed participating in Manufactured Consent?
What about your thoughts on inane language change? Has it occurred to many of you that the words “Master and Slave” literally have alternatives in different languages? Or the fact that the language you use in writing is colonial by nature?
What about the belief that we should not judge the ancients by modern standards? While I have no problem with the tossing down of statues everywhere, one needs to ask themselves deeply if they realize that no person’s history is free of blame.
What happens to the many African cultures that themselves had been slave owners. What about the history of many Arabs, or Asians?
I have yet to see a single reflection on the uncomfortable fact.
The fact that every civilization was built on slave labor, and that our purpose should be to make sure that our future never looks like the past.
And yet, this sort of controversial thought is the very thing you abstain from. And yet, you seek to “de-anonymize” voices like Scott Alexander, who do have something to offer that you don’t.
What about the fact that although you constantly rant about the lack of diversity in tech, your various organizations show the same sort of lack of diversity?
I see no contemplation over the fact that media had gotten the dawn of the COVID19 pandemic so fucking wrong.
Instead what we see is a general attempt by organizations like the NYT and the Washington Post to redefine their niche. Why?
Because it’s become apparent that they can make more money by targeting a specific audience.
We cannot go on like this. In the face of what may come to be the single most disruptive era in modern history, the various industries involved in this spat must ask themselves why the fuck they haven’t contributed as greatly to the solution of this pandemic and subsequent social ills.
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