The big names in the world of tech and startup reporting aren't backing down from their latest war of words about who is doing the best job ruining their industry. In fact, they're turning up the vitriol.
A quick recap: This weekend, The New York Times' Nick Bilton went after Path over a security/privacy issue. Michael Arrington and MG Siegler — both investors in Path via their venture capital firm CrunchFund — went after Bilton. Everybody else went after Arrington and Siegler. Then Newsweek's Dan Lyons (better known as "Fake Steve Jobs") piled on with his own rant headlined, "Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool."
The post is basically an all-out assault on CrunchFund, which Lyons calls a racket that bullies start ups into letting them invest money in exchange for favorable coverage from "influencers" who can make or break companies on their widely-read blogs. More than just a rant against the culture of favor trading, however, Lyons gets personal, particularly against Siegler, who he calls at various times "Matty the Angry Chihuahua," "a nasty little ankle-biter", a "click-whore," and "a mean-spirited, egomaniacal buffoon." Then he got mean:
Arrington and Siegler can try to play journalism police all they want, but the fact is they have turned themselves into hacks for hire and as such have lost all credibility. They’re not the only ones working this racket. Now we have PandoDaily, a new tech blog crated by their TechCrunch pal Sarah Lacy and funded by CrunchFund and a bunch of other VCs and angels whose companies PandoDaily aims to cover.
This is what now passes for “journalism” in Silicon Valley: hired guns and reformed click-whores who have found a way to grab some of the loot for themselves. This is perhaps not surprising. Silicon Valley once was home to scientists and engineers — people who wanted to build things. Then it became a casino. Now it is being turned into a silicon cesspool, an upside-down world filled with spammers, liars, flippers, privacy invaders, information stealers — and their grubby cadre of paid apologists and pygmy hangers-on.
It didn't take long for both Arrington and Siegler to respond, mostly by explaining why Dan Lyons is irrelevant, lazy, jealous, a "joke", and "bat shit crazy." Arrington defends his defenses of Path as just the rantings of a guy speaking his mind and insists that his financial investments don't affect his writing. Both rail against the personal attacks with ... more personal attacks.
To those who are outsiders in the tech world — but love a good blogger fight — this looks more and more like one of those battles that everyone loses. Siegler isn't wrong about much of the state of tech journalism, but (as he admits) he played a pretty big hand in perfecting its current model. Lyons' beef with him is clearly personal (emotional conflicts can be just as important as financial ones), but it's hard not to see how anyone can write about a company they have a financial stake in and not appear to be biased. All journalists become intimately entwined with the companies and people they cover, but in the tech space — where funding rounds, celebrity venture capitalists, and big splashy "exits" that make everyone rich are a central part of the game — things do seem to be uncomfortably cozy for a lot of the biggest journalists and companies. It's not just a CrunchFund problem.
As this latest round of mudslinging shows, it's also place where people aren't afraid to air their dirty laundry ... or make it personal.