Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media
Gideon Lewis-Kraus in The New Yorker:
But the rationalists, despite their fixation with cognitive bias, read into the contingencies a darkly meaningful pattern. Alexander, whose role has been to help explain Silicon Valley to itself, was taken up as a mascot and a martyr in a struggle against the Times, which, in the tweets of Srinivasan, Graham, and others, was enlisted as a proxy for all of the gatekeepers—the arbiters of what it is and is not O.K. to say, and who is allowed, by virtue of their identity, to say it. As Eric Weinstein, a podcast host and managing director at Peter Thiel’s investment firm, tweeted, “I believe that activism has taken over.” Here was the first great salvo in a new front in the culture wars.
The temperature of the reaction only seemed to climb as rumors spread that Metz’s interest in Slate Star Codex might not be limited to Alexander’s early warnings about the coronavirus. Messages from Metz, published on Twitter and Reddit, revealed that his overtures to S.S.C. figures had referred to the blog’s readership with such adjectives as “powerful” and “interesting,” and noted that S.S.C. was a “hugely influential voice, not only with the tight-knit community in the comments, but with some very influential figures in Silicon Valley and beyond.” These neutral, noncommittal words were ominously interpreted, taken as a clue that the reporter might be working on something other than a light, flattering story.
This reminds me awfully of QAnon, and the tendency to look for confirmation bias to prove your
point conspiracy theory. (And I’m sorry, “rationalists”?)
As Paul Graham pointed out, in a 2017 tweet, it was unfair to condemn the entirety of the tech sector based on a few bad actors. “Criticizing Juicero is fine,” he wrote. “What’s intellectually dishonest is criticizing SV by claiming Juicero is typical of it.” (The obvious irony—that people like Graham nevertheless feel free to write off the entirety of “the media” on a similarly invidious basis—seems lost on many of them.)
Alexander goes on, in the post, to allow that Silicon Valley is not above reproach, acknowledging that “anything remotely good in the world gets invaded by rent-seeking parasites and empty suits,” but argues that journalists at publications such as the former Deadspin do not understand that the “spirit of Silicon Valley” is “a precious thing that needs to be protected.” (Deadspin, in its original form, did not survive the aftermath of Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against its former parent company, Gawker Media; the lawsuit was underwritten by Peter Thiel, which complicates the issue of who, exactly, needs protection from whom.)
The victim complex amongst the elite of Silicon Valley extends far beyond the geography of the Valley. The rich have never liked accountability, especially amongst the technocrats who are never taught how to handle real-world criticism. For years, I believe, media was easy on tech companies and people. They were coddled; now we’re in a big mess.
I personally despise these “thought leaders” who think they are experts on everything just because they are rich or famous. They think they are entitled to an audience, and that their veil of jargon and pseudo-philosophy will shield them from any consequences. The dangerous thing however is the sheer size of the mob of blind defenders they cultivate (Paul Graham has over 1 million Twitter followers).
So much for “radical transparency” and “continuous self iteration”. The whole piece is worth a read.