Discover more from Molly Wood Media
I'm a refugee from the information wars
Once I was a journalist, then a VC. When the cold war between the two sides went nuclear on Twitter, I finally had to find a new home. On Substack, of course!
Mommy and daddy are bombing each other
The war between journalism and Silicon Valley has been at a low simmer for a long time now. You can trace its origins to the first glimmers of critical reporting that started to emerge in the early 2010s (although I’ll take some credit for asking whether Facebook was evil as early as 2009). The industry did not respond well, and hostilities hit their full stride round about the time Uber’s Emil Michael suggested digging up dirt on journalists who had been digging up dirt on Uber.
Tech, once a weird little side beat at most mainstream publications, had become Big Tech, with excesses and scandals and privacy abuses and misconduct and it was suddenly a beat, and that beat was highly critical, and the more Big Tech responded with derision and competing, friendlier publications, the more critical the coverage and the more resentful the Valley and the uglier the whole relationship became. And of course, yes, Craigslist at first, and then Facebook and Google and Twitter with a vengeance started hollowing out the news business and that created ugly consolidation, desperation for readers and subscriptions, and an unquestioning resentment on the part of the longtime gatekeepers of information.
And then Elon Musk bought Twitter. Bought it.* Just literally decided to own the printing press and gleefully fire thousands of people and start ranting about citizen journalism. VCs smugly declared that the elite media would do everything they could to destroy the voice of the people and by god, the Revenge of the Nerds had arrived. Journalists went apeshit, too. And while Elon and compatriots from my new life most certainly do not have my sympathies in this particular conflagration, it’s equally clear that some of the journos from my old life are seizing the opportunity to try to become equally and oppositely famous by casting themselves as the Enemies of Elon.
So the information cold war has become a hot war, and Twitter is the battleground of choice. I don’t know how it ends, but I do think it’s a turning point, somehow. Journalism hasn’t been popular for a while — a couple of years ago I told an IT guy at Verizon that I was a journalist and he told me to be careful out there because “people don’t like your kind these days.” Big Tech also hasn’t been popular for a while, as it happens. Both sides have done things to deserve their scorn and scrutiny. I left journalism for good reason, and I also dodged VC for a long time out of concern for the people I’d find on the other side.
And, as it turns out, few people are acquitting themselves well on the battleground of Twitter at the moment. The site is just about as toxic as I’ve ever seen it. I don’t want to go there. I don’t even want to drop by to post a link, because I’ll see the trending topics (which are pretty uniformly the worst shit in the world, at least on my homepage), or I’ll see 15 awful things in a row about awfulness, or the Unbearable Rightness of Everyone’s Riposte Against the Other Guy. It’s just grim, and terrible, and I hate it. I haven’t spent more than a few minutes a day on Twitter in more than two weeks and I’m not kidding when I say the improvement in my mental health is palpable. But in the meantime, I don’t know where else to post, so I guess old school is new-school all over again. Let’s ride out the war together over here in the blogging bunker, shall we? It’ll be like the 90s all over again. I’ll write more than 280 characters about tech and climate solutions (I’ve got a good post coming about something like my investing thesis) and we’ll all just try to be civil until someone yells at me in the comments and the cycle starts all over again. Plus ça change, I suppose.
*Ah yes, right, the thing where he owns it. Here’s what else has been bugging me. It’s nice when a company runs a platform and that company has like, a board, or a normal corporate structure, or HR, or a nominally workable business plan, or basic rules of engagement, or whatever. Layers of diffusion between you and the ego at the top, if you will. There’s something about posting on Twitter that all of a sudden feels way too personal, like pooping at someone else’s dinner party. Twitter is Elon now. Elon is Twitter. I can no longer imagine trying to just have a random thought there, or an opinion, or trying to build a brand or promote a thing or do anything without feeling like he’s right outside the door, listening. It’s quite literally his own personal playground now and damned if you won’t get kicked out on a whim when he’s feeling tired and crabby and needs a nap. And there is nothing comfortable about that, at all. Hard pass. So, anyway, I’m over here now! Hello, world!
Thanks for reading Mollywood! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.