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Sep 14 2013

When Anil met Pax

You remember how that went, right? Anil Dash tweeted

Wow, didn’t realize @businessinsider had hired such an asshole in @paxdickinson. Getting memcache to build made him an expert on misogyny!

Pax responded with the inevitable “you gonna say that to my face?” so Anil said sure, so they met. Anil tells us about it.

People who know me know that my offer was sincere, because while I was not trying to get Pax fired (though I certainly am not sorry that he was, and everyone including Pax agrees it was the right decision), I was definitely trying to find some way to understand if a constructive form of accountability could be attached to this incredibly shitty circumstance. I would still like to see Business Insider’s management explain how they’re structurally addressing their failures that allow a toxic culture to thrive for years with no accountability.

Does that sound familiar? Yes, it does.

Pax showed up about 10 minutes late, having been busy with the latest stop on his press tour, and as I had agreed, I called him an asshole to his face and paid for his coffee. We talked for about 20 minutes. He offered up a pretty boringly conventional defense of male privilege, and when I described the role of actual satire and comedy in punching up instead of punching down, he revealed that he sees attacking feminists and equality activists as punching up. There was some pointless bickering from me about the inanity of that perspective, but overall things were fairly civil; I’ve met guys like this before and I didn’t have any illusion that I was going to dissuade him from a perspective which his social group rewards with attention and the perverse impression that acting like an asshole is somehow being brave. There were the obligatory mentions of how his wife and some of his coworkers are women, so obviously he can’t be sexist. And there was a philosophical underpinning to his provocation, that Pax is trying to broaden the definition of what constitutes acceptable debate or discussion. That left me a bit amused, as I can’t think of a more self-defeating way to try to accomplish that goal.

Really? Being a determined noisy asshole isn’t the way to accomplish the goal of broadening the definition of what constitutes acceptable debate or discussion? That must be so frustrating to people whose idea of broadening the definition of what constitutes acceptable debate or discussion is, precisely, making noisy assholitude acceptable debate or discussion.

There was also a pretty dogged pitch for his startup, which will get all kinds of warm huzzahs from the intersection of MRAs, Bitcoin fans, NSA critics and Redditors. I was pretty amazed that he went for it. He flat out said that he wants his startup to be funded and wasn’t sure if it’d be possible after all of his, and I replied that it realistically wasn’t going to happen without the say-so of someone like me, and I wasn’t inclined to give some VC the nod on this. On reflection, I’ll be explicit: If you’re a venture capitalist, and you invest in Pax’s startup without a profound, meaningful and years-long demonstration of responsibility from Pax beforehand, you’re complicit in extending the tech industry’s awful track record of exclusion, and it’s unacceptable.

Good. More of that kind of thing, please. Less of the Pax kind and more of that kind.

 

26 comments

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  1. 1
    wtfwhateverd00d

    It was a bullshit meeting.

    If you read it again, you will see there was absolutely nothing pax could have done to have supplicated anil. That’s not dialogue. That’s not respect.

    Then anil states bluntly that as big important vc that hates pax he will do what he can to make sure pax cannot fund his company. Not because pax’s idea sucks, and not because pax doesn’t have the credentials to pull it off, but because anil dislikes what pax tweeted and so anil will abuse his privilege to fuck pax over.

    “He flat out said that he wants his startup to be funded and wasn’t sure if it’d be possible after all of his, and I replied that it realistically wasn’t going to happen without the say-so of someone like me, and I wasn’t inclined to give some VC the nod on this. On reflection, I’ll be explicit: If you’re a venture capitalist, and you invest in Pax’s startup without a profound, meaningful and years-long demonstration of responsibility from Pax beforehand, you’re complicit in extending the tech industry’s awful track record of exclusion, and it’s unacceptable.”

    All of this over pax’s “speech” with nothing said about pax’s actual real life behavior which seems to what anil tells us, completely reasonable.

    anil here shows us what a conceited privileged silicon valley asshole looks like.

    You won’t publish this Ophelia, because you are also an asshole.

  2. 2
    Nepenthe

    All of this over pax’s “speech” with nothing said about pax’s actual real life behavior which seems to what anil tells us, completely reasonable.

    What world does Twitter exist in if not the real one? Dreamtime? The Astral Plane? The Summerland?

  3. 3
    danzig

    All of this over pax’s “speech” with nothing said about pax’s actual real life behavior

    Twitter is not part of real life?

    You won’t publish this Ophelia, because you are also an asshole.

    Haha, and yet here you are.

  4. 4
    SallyStrange

    If you read it again, you will see there was absolutely nothing pax could have done to have supplicated anil. That’s not dialogue. That’s not respect.

    So? Nobody owes Pax respect. Anil correctly estimated that the chance of Pax acting in a way that indicated that Pax was capable of respecting other people was slim to none. Pax could have apologized for being a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic asswipe, but he didn’t. Why should anyone show him respect?

  5. 5
    screechymonkey

    If you read it again, you will see there was absolutely nothing pax could have done to have supplicated anil. That’s not dialogue. That’s not respect.

    Bullshit.

    First of all, what’s this nonsense about “supplicating” Anil? It was Pax who was so eager for a face-to-face meeting; that wasn’t anything Anil demanded. So Anil gave him the requested meeting, and heard him out. That is dialogue and respect — frankly, more respect than I think Pax deserved.

    It’s probably true that there was nothing Pax could have said to change Anil’s mind, but so what? Why should Anil disregard Pax’s persistent record of bad behavior just because of something he says in a meeting where he’s anxious to secure VC funding for his new venture? Even if Pax had apologized abjectly and sworn that he would mend his ways, Anil would be a sucker to believe it.

    You won’t publish this Ophelia, because you are also an asshole.

    Yes, you’re quite the expert on respectful dialogue, aren’t you?

  6. 6
    wtfwhateverd00d

    “Haha, and yet here you are.”

    How else can you goad Ophelia who places everything else you write into forever moderation to even possibly publish it.

  7. 7
    wtfwhateverd00d

    Atheists prior to the Feminist takeover:

    I am afraid to tell people I am atheist, I might get fired.

    Free Thought Blogs:

    FREEZE PEACH. Speech has consequences!

  8. 8
    quixote

    “supplicated” Pax? Perhaps he means “placated”? Then again, chances are good that wtf-etc-dood generally has a hard time knowing what he’s saying.

  9. 9
    Jacob Schmidt

    Atheists prior to the Feminist takeover:

    I am afraid to tell people I am atheist, I might get fired.

    Free Thought Blogs:

    FREEZE PEACH. Speech has consequences!

    Oh, that’s cute. You think there’s a contradiction.

    (Hint: in the comparison, Pax is the potentially discriminatory Christian)

  10. 10
    Al Dente

    FREEZE PEACH. Speech has consequences!

    It certainly does. That’s why Pax is having trouble getting capitalization. People have seen him speak and were not impressed.

  11. 11
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    @ wtfwhateverd00d #7

    Atheists prior to the Feminist takeover:

    I am afraid to tell people I am atheist, I might get fired.

    Free Thought Blogs:

    FREEZE PEACH. Speech has consequences!

    Hmmm. No. It’s more like:

    Atheists prior to the MRA takeover:

    “How dare an alt-med practitioner try to sue a blogger for documenting the problems with naturopathy/chiropractic/homeopathy/etc.? Let’s raise money and attention to help the blogger and protect FREE SPEECH!”

    Atheists post MRA takeover:

    “OMG a blogger said something mean about someone/something I like! Let’s raise money for our (already wealthy) hero to shut down the blog and sue the pants off the blogger, and lets harass individual bloggers on twitter, youtube, and our own forums to the point that many of them finally quit because they can’t handle the emotional strain of constant insults, rape threats, hate mail, and violent fantasies that fill their inbox daily. Free speech? Who gives a fuck! You said something that made me have a sad.”

    Fixed that for you. The idea that it’s the feminist/atheism+/FTB contingent of atheism who are restricting free-speech is…um…I’m looking for a word that’s stronger than wrong

  12. 12
    Al Dente

    I’m looking for a word that’s stronger than wrong

    My suggestion is dishonest.

  13. 13
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    Then anil states bluntly that as big important vc that hates pax he will do what he can to make sure pax cannot fund his company. Not because pax’s idea sucks, and not because pax doesn’t have the credentials to pull it off

    Howabout “Pax has repeatedly announced over Twitter that he regularly violates employment law by discriminating against women in his hiring practices, and is therefore a huge lawsuit risk and only a complete idiot would invest in him”? Is that a good enough reason?

  14. 14
    hjhornbeck

    wtfwhateverd00d @6:

    How else can you goad Ophelia who places everything else you write into forever moderation to even possibly publish it.

    Benson is obligated to post anything you write? That is a breath-taking display of arrogance and privilege.

    wtfwhateverd00d @1:

    If you read it again, you will see there was absolutely nothing pax could have done to have supplicated anil.

    Er:

    But I am an optimist, and always try to find some opportunity for at least a tiny positive outcome in a shitty situation, so I asked if there was anything productive that could come out of our talking. He seemed pretty skeptical, and the first idea I had was that some of his technical skills were valuable enough that documenting them in a way that could be useful to others might be worthwhile.

    Anil was the one willing to look for middle ground, while Pax was the one who didn’t think it was possible. And yet you think the opposite was true!

    All of this over pax’s “speech” with nothing said about pax’s actual real life behavior which seems to what anil tells us, completely reasonable.

    So Twitter isn’t real, and everything said there should never be taken seriously? You might want to tell the people using it to share news and information about natural disasters.

  15. 15
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    It’s amazing to me how people can quite literally switch the rolls of the people in a narrative in order to bolster their own delusions.

    wtfwhateverd00d… you’ve confused Pax with Anil. Pax was the one who instigated the meeting. Pax was the one who expected nothing to come of it. Anil was the one looking for a middle ground.

    Also, Ophelia published your comment. I mean, I know you know that, but I wanted to beat it in… just because…

  16. 16
    johnwalkr

    Anil Dash is really great, and I’m so glad he has a voice here because the bro startup culture can be really awful. He really nailed with the intersection of startup bros, redditors, MRAs (PUAs have been the biggest Pax apologists actually) etc. You’ll find that lots of the Pax defenders are familiar names to us.

    You say you want more Anil Dash?

    There was a great recent exchange he was involved with via twitter:
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2013/02/how-white-male-tech-writers-feed-silicon-valley-myth-meritocracy/61821/

    And directly via comments on the author’s blog: http://blog.launch.co/blog/doing-the-right-things.html?fb_comment_id=fbc_445280928877048_3821917_445293385542469

    The discussion will look really familiar:

    Let’s look critically at your advice:

    a) post highly intelligent comments — not about yourself — on those blogs 2-5x a day for three years.

    To do this, a woman would have to be willing to endure a non-stop barrage of sexist and degrading comments that no man in the comment section would ever face. Even someone as privileged and fortunate as I’ve been earns a racist comment about my background every other time I comment on most of these sites. It’s totally sane to not want to spend *years* in those kinds of conditions, and it’s a barrier that the dominant cultures of the valley don’t have to endure.

  17. 17
    Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

    Also, Ophelia published your comment. I mean, I know you know that, but I wanted to beat it in… just because…

    B-b-b-ut clearly she only did that because he goaded her. Because, you know, those words are actually a magic spell which forced her to put it through moderation. Because, you know, she couldn’t have just left it in moderation anyway with nobody the wiser because the comment was, you know, in moderation and not visible to anyone. But wtfwhateverd00d would know and, obviously, that would mean Ophelia would have to publish it for her own peace of mind because, you know, what’s worse than wtfwhateverd00d knowing* that you keep his comments in perma-moderation because you’re afraid of The Truth he brings? Best to publish it and rely on the hive mind to come bully the poor Brave Hero into silence.

    Or something.

    * for values of “knowing” equivalent to “fantasizing”

  18. 18
    reinderdijkhuis

    WTFwhateverdood: you should be honoured and thankful that Ophelia still bothers with moderating your crap. If it was me, it’d have gone into the bit bucket unseen.

  19. 19
    sailor1031

    MRAs, Bitcoin fans, NSA critics and Redditors

    WTF? Is there a common denominator here that I don’t see? Or is Anil just using too broad a brush? If I don’t like what NSA is doing that equates me to an MRA? Or worse a redditor? Fuck you Anil.

    OTOH when did one’s public speech, in whatever format, stop being part of one’s public behaviour?

  20. 20
    Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

    @17 sailor1031

    intersection of MRAs, Bitcoin fans, NSA critics and Redditors

    There’s a difference between saying “some people are all four of these things” and saying “each of these things entails all of the others.” Anil is pretty clearly (IMO) saying the former, not the latter.

  21. 21
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @sailor1031 You missed the “the intersection of ” at the start of that phrase. In other words, Anil is suggesting that Pax only has appeal for MRAs who are also Bitcoin fans, NSA critics, and Redditors (I.e. not MRAs who support the NSA, nor NSA critics who aren’t MRAs).

  22. 22
    Great American Satan

    According to Stephanie, wtfwhatevershite is a sock puppet of a sock puppet of a slyme pitter. Why hasn’t he had this shit-stinking sock knocked the fuck off yet?

  23. 23
    sailor1031

    Read it again. You guys are right. Sorry Anil!

  24. 24
    Anil Dash

    No worries; These topics make lots of people passionate enough to not always give their thoughts full time to mature. Appreciate the apology.

  25. 25
    Ophelia Benson

    Heh. I bet you weren’t expecting that, sailor.

  26. 26
    Bri

    So? Nobody owes Pax respect. Anil correctly estimated that the chance of Pax acting in a way that indicated that Pax was capable of respecting other people was slim to none. Pax could have apologized for being a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic asswipe, but he didn’t. Why should anyone show him respect?

    There is certain work to be done, to keep the mechanics of civilization running and advancing, and they do not depend a whit on whether someone is transphobic, racist, or any of the rest. Pax, whatever else he may be, is a smart guy and contributes to this civilization. Are you going to give the Wright Brothers a postmortem liberal purity test? Your women’s studies degree with a minor in African poetry isn’t going to keep the electricity on, snowflake.

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