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"Hit men, click whores, and paid apologists: Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool"

There is some super sleazy stuff going down in Silicon Valley. Real Dan Lyons Web Site -- Hit men, click whores, and paid apologists: Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool -- Real Dan Lyons Web Site
But how do you make gobs of money when your only marketable skill involves writing blog posts? This is the conundrum, but lately I’ve been thinking of a business plan that sounds like it could work. First you establish yourself as an “influencer” by posting a lot of noisy stuff on a blog and building an audience. Then you need to “monetize” your influence. You tell all the VCs in the Valley that you are starting an “angel fund,” and you ask each one to give you, say, $500,000. They go along because (a) $500,000 is pocket change to these guys — so small, in fact, that they don’t care if they lose every penny of it; and (b) you’re an influential hack and they don’t want to piss you off; and (c) they figure you can maybe write nice things about their portfolio companies, which would be especially useful if/when one of their portfolio companies gets caught up in some scandal; and (d) if any independent journalists write something critical about one of the VC’s portfolio companies, you can can use your influential personal blog to savagely attack those journalists and try to discredit them. So you raise $10 million or $20 million, and now you’re an “angel investor.” Step two is you go around to startups and tell them you’d really like to invest in their companies. Not big investments — maybe $100,000. They don’t need your money; they can raise money from anyone, and usually you’re one of 10 or 20 small investors in a round. But the value you add is that you’re an “influencer” and can be helpful when it comes to getting good press or offsetting bad press. (See paragraph above.) You might think of this as a new kind of PR, only you’re way meaner and more effective than a PR flack, and instead of getting paid in billable hours, you’re taking payment in angel-round equity, which in a few years should be worth 10-100x whatever those billable hours would have been worth. In fact this is a new version of an old racket that used to be practiced in the tech space by guys who called themselves “independent analysts.” Their deal, back in the day, was this: “Pay seven figures a year to buy a corporate subscription to my newsletter and I’ll say nice things about your company, and when the press needs a quote, I’ll be there to puff you up. Or, don’t buy a subscription and I will bash you relentlessly.” Most big companies paid up and considered it a cost of doing business.

February 13, 2012

Vigilantes v. Anti-Heroes: Why Do Conservatives Love One, Liberals the Other?

Alyssa Rosenberg tackles another thorny issue. Vigilantes v. Anti-Heroes: Why Do Conservatives Love One, Liberals the Other? | ThinkProgress
I do think that the liberal and conservative approaches to criminal justice are different. But artistically, there’s something else going on here. Vigilante movies and television shows tend to lay out a solution to a problem: criminals are punks who need executing or something short of it, and if only our police officers could act in accordance with our emotional revulsion, we’d clean up our streets in a hurry; or, if only men were men, punks who want to rape and torture women would get a nasty surprise; or whatever variant of the week you prefer. Such a worldview seems to assume that crime is inevitable and can only be dealt with after the fact and through deterrence. Anti-hero stories tend to be ways of explicating problems, rather than offering solutions. Futzing around with criminals’ backstories is an act of sympathy, but it’s also an attempt to figure out why crime happens in the first place and to consider whether we could have prevented it. Breaking Bad isn’t an argument that we should tolerate Walter White being a dreadful human being who sells drugs, watches people die of overdoses, misleads his family, and induces old men to act as suicide bombers. It’s a question about whether if Walter White had adequate health care coverage, a decent pension, and life insurance, he’d have done terrible things anyway, or if he’s a small, angry man who turns to evil because he wants to be recognized by the universe. The Wire isn’t a story about how we should substitute Inspectors General for putting Omar Little in the witness stand and being generally amusing. It’s an explication of how ridiculously difficult it is to build a safety net and put the right incentives in place to help people keep from using drugs and to encourage them to work legitimate but less-remunerative and less-reliable jobs and to build legitimate businesses. It’s a simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic perspective on crime: a belief that we can stop it before it starts, but that it’s very, very hard to do so and requires considerable investment.

I was *just* citing this as a story I was glad to have not written . . .

. . . but now I see that it's got...