Pando

You don’t get to be "shocked"

By Sarah Lacy , written on October 6, 2017

From The Gender Wars Desk

It pales compared to all the other atrocities, but 2017 has been the year of the “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” conversation in tech.

The conversation I’ve had with Uber investors: “It just wasn’t clear until Susan Fowler that the company was this bad…”

Yes it was. They responded to reports that women were sexual assaulted using their service by saying it didn’t happen or telling reporters they were dressed too provocatively. They threatened to go after reporters’ families, something even Travis Kalanick said was “inhuman.” They were caught employing those same threatened tactics by a judge who called the behavior “possibly criminal.” UN Women dropped them like a hot potato, the optics around Uber’s treatment of women were so bad. This was all years ago.

You knew.

The conversation I’ve had with VCs all summer as allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct destroyed firms and careers: “I just didn’t believe this was that widespread…”

You’re lying. I know you are, because in many cases, you were at that same conference, when someone made a remark like this. You’ve been in the room. I know you are lying because nearly every female entrepreneur I know has faced at least a mild version of this. It happens too often for you to believe -- honestly-- that it doesn’t.

And in the case of Justin Caldbeck-- you really knew. Lightspeed was removed from Stitch Fix’s board because of Caldbeck’s behavior towards its CEO Katerina Lake. His partner Jonathan Teo admitted he knew, but just hoped Caldbeck had changed. In the case of Dave McClure too, the other folks at 500Startups knew.

The conversation I’ve witnessed all over social media in the wake of Buzzfeed’s bombshell of a story about the inner workings of Breitbart: “WHAT? DAN LYONS?”

No, no no. You all knew. Dan Lyons has published deeply misogynistic attacks and “satire” about women for more than a decade. We have chronicled this at length

Truth is, Lyons really, really hates outspoken women. Whether writing as "Fake Steve" or Real Dan, nothing gets his goat more than uppity dames, particularly those who dare to question "nice, pleasant" male CEOs.

That history makes it all the more odd that Nick Denton, who boasts of being a long-time Lyons reader, would hire him to take over from Sam Biddle, who famously lost Gawker $1m in advertisers after he attacked the sexists of Gamergate.

I won’t repeat again the disgusting things Lyons has written about women, even me. It’s on the Web. It’s out there. In fact, he was lauded and got a book deal after writing this kind of stuff. This did not take a Buzzfeed expose.

Even Pando alum Erin Griffith noted the sexist undertones in Lyons’ book while at Fortune:

Lyons fears, in one scene, that “he’ll risk looking like a classic middle-aged male chauvinist.” When I read him describing a woman’s laughter as “braying like a donkey,” and a critique of another’s “vocal fry,” I imagine it was probably too late to avert that risk. Lyons even gets reported by his female co-workers for making them uncomfortable after he discusses the issues he and his wife encountered while a “19-year-old German girl” live in his house as nanny. It drove his wife nuts, he said, even though “nothing inappropriate ever happened.” Later, writing for ValleyWag, Lyons called a woman a “shrill harpy,” and was surprised when people found it sexist.

And yet women like Kara Swisher wrote glowing blurbs for his book; HBO’s Silicon Valley had no problem employing him as a writer. You knew, you just didn’t care.

And now, we are seeing even more revelations: That alt-right sympathizers lurk inside Google and Twitter. That Facebook played a larger role in the election than it let on. And you don’t get to be shocked about this either. As we wrote a few months ago:

Turns out the nazis were calling from inside the house.

This is a problem. Replacing a toxic founder or partner is easy compared to rooting out thousands of toxic bros in an organization.

It’s another major revelation in the summer of “holy shit, we really should have been hiring women all this time.” Fairness didn’t convince anyone. Data that companies with gender balanced teams didn’t either. Perhaps tech leaders suddenly finding the alt right is firmly rooted inside their organizations they thought were so liberal, progressive and well-meaning might be.

This is a consequence everyone should have seen coming.

When you shrug at bad behavior and say “Worked for Steve Jobs,” you enable assholes.

When you fund and hire people expressly because they like to break laws, you get…. People who break lots of laws, whether harassing and discriminating against women and people of color or actually stealing trade secrets.

When you breed a cult of the founder culture where founders don’t think they should have to answer to a board or shareholders, you get founders and wanna be founders who continually thumb their nose at any accountability.

This should surprise no one.

You knew, you enabled it, and you treated the rare people (frequently women, and even more frequently women of color) who called it out like pariahs for years. You banned us from your events. You launched smear campaigns behind our backs.

In the case of powerful gatekeepers like Y-Combinator, you literally employed the same tactics Trump uses against women and the press.

Even grossier: Once the outrage glare is gone, there are those of you help rehabilitate them. Teo is suing to get back into running Binary Capital, having blamed the “corrupt media” for his ouster. The New York Times’ Mike Isaac last week lamented that Gawker archives were being taken down, calling it the home of “real news.”

Uh, ok. But remember during that same trial where editor A.J. Daulerio made “quips” about a child’s rape tape being newsworthy? The same Gawker that “gay shamed” a media executive? The same Gawker that… well, hired Dan Lyons to appeal to the Gamergate bros they’d accidentally alienated?

James Damore and his racist, misogynistic views were recently glorified -- complete with a soulful airbrushed glamour-shot of Damore-- in the New York Times. Missing from the story was easy data-driven, proven rebuttals to claims made in it. The piece even ends with a nod to the age old and thoroughly debunked “pipeline excuse” for why more women can’t be hired, presented as fact, with no rebuttal whatsoever. So much for the outrage!

None of this is about politics, or living on a coast, or economic “anxiety” or any of that. It’s about hate. From a Stranger story today called, “We Snuck into Seattle’s Super Secret White Nationalist Convention”:

White nationalists generally don’t want to look like characters out of American History X anymore. Fashion choices at the convention ranged from Ruby Ridge to Mad Men, but most of the people there looked like you might run into them on Capitol Hill or in the U-District. That said, there is a type. According to my observations, the standard Seattle Nazi is a white male under 30 who either works in the tech industry or is going to school to work in the tech industry. “You’re also a coder? Do you mind if I send you something I’ve been working on?” I heard that more than once.

And later in the piece…

When not fighting for the white ethno-state, Dr. Johnson lives an extremely NPR lifestyle filled with world travel, visits to art galleries, and opera. Talking to him, his college philosophy professor background comes out. He even recommended a better translation of Giambattista Vico’s New Science to me, and discussed Vico’s influence on James Joyce. If not for sprinkles of racial and anti-semitic slurs, he looks and acts exactly like someone you would run into at the Hugo House. While most white nationalists think Johnson keeps his identity secret because they think he is gay, he probably just doesn’t want to be recognized during intermission at the Seattle Symphony.

Spare me your outrage, tech world. This isn’t some hillbilly “other” you’ve been railing about with your anti-Trump rhetoric and your shock over Charlottesville. This is an “us.” These same people are in our ranks, and looking away or trying to “assume the best in people” or throw up your hands and say “I’m just an optimist! I believe the best in people!” won’t root them out.

The biggest red flag in the tech world has become the words: “But he’s a good guy!”

Your outrage about Trump, about Steve Bannon, about James Damore, about Travis Kalanick, about it all… it disrespects the actual victims here. You don’t get the right to outrage when the tech world routinely hires, funds, enables and rehabilitates these same bad actors.