"A trench of jostling anglerfish, gaping and preening and starving for lack of prey"

There's too much to quote here; this is brutal: Burning Down The House:

The overheated register in which Silicon Valley types have tended to talk about Twitter -- as The Global Town Square, a horizonless agora in which all of humanity can meet to uh engage in free speech together or whatever -- is how they always talk about whatever they are selling, right before they move on to selling something else. For better and worse, these people like Twitter -- many people do -- but they can't say why, or call it what it is. And so it has to bring people together, for the future's sake.

You can see the problem. It is a miraculous thing, or anyway an impressive one, to invent a platform on which anyone can speak to anyone/everyone else, about anything. But because these people don't really value people or togetherness very highly, or have much to say, or consider the future as anything but a place where they will become richer, they don't really know what to do with that. "Bringing people together" is a value-neutral thing, and a mass of humanity does not become a community -- and is not prevented from becoming a mob -- simply because they're all in the same place. Silicon Valley types want whatever's next big because there might be money in it, but also they are fundamentally not very interested in inhabiting or maintaining the new realities they shape; it's too much like work. Maintaining things is hard, and requires much more care than making things does.

Over and over again, this limitation reveals itself. The capitalists forever engineering the future declare victory before the work is done, or even meaningfully begun, because they are bored and would like to cash out. It is bleakly funny to watch these recklessly wrought futures rise amid acclaim and then recede and recede to the size of their imagineers' actual vision. It's also a colossal waste. [...]

The various scammers and hustlers and aspiring drop-shipping magnates and inexplicably self-assured freelance life-coach types are all there, of course. They are drawn to Musk because they aspire to be rich and epic themselves, and post as if their livelihoods depend upon it, holding forth at great length and with little depth on whatever they think might redound to their benefit. As in all the worst online spaces, there is a sense that the hucksters outnumber the marks; a trench of jostling anglerfish, gaping and preening and starving for lack of prey.

Which is remarkable, actually, considering that the largest percentage of Twitter Blue subscribers are people whose identity as howlingly obvious marks seems to have supplanted virtually everything else about them. They are drawn to Elon for the same reason that moths crisp themselves on lightbulbs. It is difficult to imagine what kind of person would give money to the richest man in the world on pure servile principle, but observing them only confuses things more. [...]

It makes sense that these users would be drawn to Musk, even to the point of posting like him, because he resembles them in his sour incuriosity, and is aspirational in his impunity and wealth. As it happens, that type of rich authoritarian -- distractible, idly vicious, relatable in his proud pissy cretinousness -- already has an avatar in American politics. Musk sought out this population of blowhards and temporarily embarrassed grand inquisitors and armchair genocidaires, and they invariably found him, but this is a tough crowd. Where Musk has struggled to keep that constituency happy, it reflects less on his seemingly sincere receptiveness to their hair-trigger credulity, bigotry, and vengefulness and more on the fact that these people are fundamentally unappeasable, and fundamentally opposed to being appeased.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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10 Responses:

  1. CSL3 says:
    17

    Every person I've heard ask "What would we do without Twitter?" has, more often than not, been the same person to ask "Who will we call if we defund the police?"

  2. "armchair genocidaires" has to be one of my new favorite (and most horrifying) turns of phrase to describe a certain subset of Twitter-types.

  3. Edwin Young says:

    thanks for the link, that's fantastic

  4. eevee 🦊 says:

    wow. this is so blazing that reading it gave me sunburn.

  5. Mozai says:
    12

    "Maintaining things is hard, and requires much more care than making things does.".  

    I'm reminded how often I saw dot-com companies where the business plan was "get bought-out by someone else," and actually accomplishing the stated mission / building the product / providing the service wasn't merely irrelevant, it was detrimental.  This actually happened: the boss called an all-hands meeting to yell and scream at me in front of everyone else because I delivered a working prototype of client software, functional but it did not look like the secret Adobe Flash cartoons he was showing people he hoped would buy him out.

  6. tjex says:
    2

    The capitalists forever engineering the future declare victory before the work is done, or even meaningfully begun, because they are bored and would like to cash out.

    This is spot on. Reminds me of something Cory Doctorow says (along the lines of) utopia not looking like an immortal success, but rather something that when it breaks, it does so gracefully.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think the quote makes a mistake lumping Musk in with the other group, missing that his trolling differs from their pursuit of wealth.

    “Where Musk has struggled to keep that constituency happy, it reflects less on his seemingly sincere receptiveness”

    The above sentence captures it.
    Musk struggling to keep that constituency happy? I think don’t think he does or cares. He plays with his toy with happiness a second thought.
    Seemingly sincere? Musk seems sincere to this author? I can’t imagine how.

    The article is spot on about those silicon valley types, but it doesn’t see that Musk is not like them. Doesn’t make him better or even ok, but he’s a different type of jerk.

  8. Chris W says:

    As a Defector subscriber, I never thought I would see a post from the site on jwz.

    I want you all to know that I am *extremely* here for it.

    • jwz says:
      2

      I think I speak for everyone, including myself, when I say that I have no idea why you are excited about this or what you think it implies one way or another.

  9. Steen says:

    “temporarily embarrassed grand inquisitors and armchair genocidaires” is _definitely_ going in my notes for trying to explain San Francisco to people outside San Francisco.

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