2013 LIEBERMAN AWARD WINNER: SILICON VALLEY D-BAG GUY

(Editor's note: The Lieberman Award is given annually to the worst example of a human being over a twelve month period. Click the tag at the end of the post to review past winners.)

medalFor years now the internet has been blanketed with Ruin Porn and other voyeuristic stories about the decline of cities like Detroit. Anyone who follows the news even superficially or spends a good amount of time on the internet can probably draw Detroit's abandoned train station and Packard plants from memory by now, so frequently do they appear in the news and in films. Like any kind of human misery, comfortable people are fascinated by decay.

In 2013 we were introduced to a new phenomenon that offers a refreshing change of pace to Rust Belt tales of woe: the "What the hell happened to San Francisco and why is everything there awful now?" segment. In many ways it is the polar opposite of Detroit but the train wreck is just as compelling to journalists looking for an easy yarn. Detroit brought us the $100 two-story house; San Francisco countered with the $5000 one-bedroom apartment.

We've been reading paeans to Silicon Valley for nearly two decades now, originally confined to tech media outlets like Wired and Fast Company (the official scribes of record for the Breathless Bullshit industry) but by now it is quite mainstream and uncontroversial to proclaim that Google or Apple or venture capital or "tech" or innovation or "thought leaders" or some other thing nobody quite understands (but knows innately that "Silicon Valley types" do) is going to solve all of the world's problems. We've drowned in TED talks – like watching somebody masturbate on stage, only less pleasant and without the satisfaction of a definitive ending – by Valley guys who believe that because they have made a billion dollars by engineering better ways to harvest personal data online or make Mashable sidebar ads more clickable they are qualified to solve all of the world's problems. While hunger and economic inequality have yet to be tamed, oddly enough The Valley has been remarkably successful of solving all of the problems inherent to being a twentysomething Valley Guy with tons of disposable income.

While the rest of us can safely roll our eyes and ignore them – assuming we can put the frightening amount of political influence these mavens of Creative Destruction are wielding – but San Francisco has to live with them. Literally. We had the pleasure of watching the ugliness of elitism and classism unfolding during the BART strikes, when Valley Guys were loudly outraged that transit employees had the temerity to demand $60,000 salaries in an attempt to be able to continue living indoors in the city thanks to Chad and the other New Millionaires driving monthly rents into the thousands. Having turned entire neighborhoods into literal frathouses they're none too happy when the lower class people who serve them remain visible among the organic dog treat bakeries and various retailers of high-end craft cocktails.

While bashing TED talks is now quite in vogue – I like to think I was ahead of the curve by several years on that one – it was in 2013 that we began to see the Silicon Valley Douchebag for what and who he really is. So ubiquitous is the problem of rampant assholery in the industry that tech media outlets and blogs are now regularly running content about how San Franciscans are suffering plagues of "Startup Douchebags" pricing them out of, well, everything. Like any gold rush, the tech boom of the last 20 years has attracted the brilliant and innovative…and hordes of fad-following, trend-hopping. buzzword-spewing bullshitters. In true gee-whiz New Economy fashion, a self-help industry will probably appear to give Webinars and Corporate Retreats to explain to the Apple folks how not to be such raging dickwads.

Aside from complaining bitterly about the homeless and inventing myriad ways to sell us expensive gadgets and harvest our personal data, what has Silicon Valley actually accomplished thus far? For all the grand ideas and self-congratulatory, attention seeking behaviors, how have they "changed the world" as they so often and loudly claim to be doing? They've repackaged neoliberal economic wisdom for the umpteenth time. It's nothing but the latest coat of paint on the "privatize it, outsource it, focus on costs" mantra we've been hearing since the Seventies. Indeed, there is nothing revolutionary about "Find someone to do it for less, piecemeal and without benefits." It's another version of the glorious future in which the rich can hold onto all of their money with the added allure of replacing even the unwashed plebeians who serve them with apps and robots. For now we can develop a web-based platform to farm out to The Cloud the tasks of an Executive Assistant, but just imagine a dazzling techno-future of automation in which the elite don't need to pay anyone at all.

God help the normal people trying to live in the Bay Area, and congratulations to all the Silicon Valley Guys. Their actions are in keeping with the smug, self-satisfied, and unctuous tradition of Joe Lieberman himself. Truly they are assholes of year-defining proportions.

42 thoughts on “2013 LIEBERMAN AWARD WINNER: SILICON VALLEY D-BAG GUY”

  • Huh. I really would have put my money on Ted Cruz. Or Ben Carson. Or any of the talking heads who scolded the fast food workers for striking because "you're not supposed to make a living at those jobs," as if they were quoting a fucking rule book that only they had access to.

  • middle seaman says:

    I am kind of lost. True, there are plenty of bullshitters in the Valley. But, can you imagine a week without Google Maps? Tweeter looks gossipy, but it's my main source of news. The Valley did and does contribute a lot. The compensation for most Google or Facebook workers is way above similar jobs in Chicago or DC.

    There are consequences when a 20+ kid makes $200K+ a year. Real estate prices skyrocket and enough assholes thinks that they deserve everything and everyone else deserves zilch. Modern Liberalism has long abandoned the working stiffs. Liberalism today is Eisenhower Republicans.

  • Living in Silicon Valley for a handful of years gave me a slightly different take. The douchebaggery of these folks is so much deeper and uglier than you've described. It first hit me when I moved there and was standing in line for movies with families whose toddlers all had the same brand-new iPads the parents did, sporting $100 haircuts and $500 outfits they'll outgrow in ten minutes, hearing them speak rudely and imperiously to theater staff. That was the pattern for my years there.

    Hearing nonstop rabid sexist bushwa from geeks who are now at the top of the social food chain but felt entitled to their sexism because they were pissed on in junior high — this was also common.

    Seeing highly compensated engineers throw hissy fits because they had to walk their recycling to the hallway instead of having it picked up at their desks — "Is it worth the $5000 it will cost you to have me do that?" — because janitorial staff were fired to boost profits from that expense bucket. More than the janitorial salaries was spent supplying free beer for the engineers at the no-pay food trucks outside, but pfffft. Priorities?

    There is no way to document all the godawful egomania and entitlement I saw in Silicon Valley. They all need to go fuck themselves right now. (I mean, "get professional help in cultivating empathy and a sense of community and one's place in it", of course.)

    But I think it's a mistake to get worked up about their self-congratulatory egocentrism. Every industry I've ever run across has exactly the same attitude, and lifers all think their own special gig is far-reaching and vital and significant. There's a little truth and a lot of tunnel vision involved for all of them.

  • Speaking of harvesting personal data…my Walkman (yes, Walkman) from the 1980s has finally died. I still had a good dozen cassettes to play in it, or I could listen to the radio. Looking at the kids' iPods, I see that you need an account to download and store music (in case the iPod has some sort of memory failure; you have to reboot and re-download), which means it's collecting your personal information and preferences.

    I miss my Walkman already. It had no idea what you were listening to.

  • At our friends' house for New Years Eve, their son–a pre-med student at the local urban Ivy League school–said that his roommate was dropping out of school (pulling a Bill Gates was how he put it) to head west and seek his fortune in The Valley. So this year's Lieberman made me laugh. Will have to pass it along to my friends; maybe they will get a chuckle too.

  • @Anonymouse: I remember one afternoon about 15 years ago I was mowing my lawn while listening to a David Bromberg Band concert that I had painstakingly downloaded track by track using Napster over a dial up modem (about 20 minutes per track) and reconstituted on a CD that I burned on my PC and thinking how great technological advancements were. 15 years later and I am a member on a half dozen taper sites where I can download entire shows in lossless format (all the taping and sharing is done with artist permission) in about 90 seconds, reconvert back to AAC or mp3 and transfer it to my iPod in about another 45 seconds. And then I can enjoy concerts I've attended (or not attended) over and over. And this can be done without opening an account anywhere (other than on the music sharing sites which are typically user run). Embrace change, it's not all bad!

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I think it's time we apply some old "apps," since they'd be "app"ropriate.

    The first one is the "tumbrel," the second is the "guillotine," and the final one, is called "head-on-a-stick."

    Make some rich fucking dickwads watch a few of those "apps" "app"lied to their buddies, and I'd be that would knock several layers of rick fucking dickwadishness right off of them.

    It's way passed time to either tax-'em, or hack-'em!

  • I can't fault your choice, but as has been pointed out above, it's only a variation on an old elitist theme. Perhaps they're looking to starve their competitors of customers by beggaring the working class, maybe they remember their parents inflation horror stories. Or they're just enormous throbbing members. Trivia: I'm typing this on a G3 iMac, obsolete for over a decade, The Steve wouldn't tolerate junk, so the products of his minions is a good value proposition, expensive, but somewhat longer lasting, usually.

  • I was watching an episode of House Hunters on HGTV and there was a 20 something Silicone Valley couple looking for their first house with a budget of around $600,000 and *whining* about well, pretty much everything, up to an including a ten minute commute vs their current five minute one.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Major Kong,
    They're waiting for more plastic bags and garbage to accumulate, so that that near continent-sized mass of rubbish and waste in the Pacific Ocean will be able to support their Galtian Sky-domes, mansions, and palaces.

    And that's why so many Conservatives are against recycling.

  • Hmmm…I don't see these guys, though maybe I'm too far outside of the city. (Whether that city is SF or one in the Silicon Valley makes no difference. I'm 25+ miles from either of them. But you are mashing two things up…)

    Like J. Dryden, my money was on Ted Cruz. Or possibly someone at Fox.

    Major Kong, that's a decent guess, except that—outside of the movies—these guys aren't Libertarians. At least, none of the startup guys I know or have known have been.

  • @Kathy K; House Hunters can be pretty infuriating. Recently they showed a Utah couple; the wife was 20 with 2 kids, and they Must! Have! a 4-bedroom home with room for the husband's various motorized toys.

  • That was Google's mystery barge? Or however it was called?

    19 years ago I was offered an engineering job in Santa Clara. Although the salary was excellent compared to what I was making back in Dallas, the housing and taxes were so expensive that I ended up not accepting it.

    That was back then, I imagine it is far worse now.

  • @Rosie'sDad: thanks for the tip!
    @ Fernando_g: I spent a summer working on loan to my company's San Jose office branch, 20 years ago. I loved the area but like you, couldn't have afforded to live there. I don't remember my temporary co-workers being insufferable, but that was a whole generation ago and things might have changed.

  • a-fucking-men! I went down to the valley (should that be capitalized? Fuck those assholes) for a big technology summit last summer, and I was completely floored by the self-congratulatory atmosphere. They really think they are the best and the brightest, making the world a better place every, day, "disrupting the dominant paradigm," or whatever load of bullshit is currently in vogue, when they're mostly making it easier for marketers (and the cops and NSA, but shhh! They don't like talking about that) to compile every personal detail about everyone, or maybe well-off white people to share car rides to the Dark Star Orchestra show.

    I told my boss it's just a huge dutch oven down there– they're pulling the blankets over their heads, congratulating themselves on how awesome their farts smell.

    And ladiesbane, this: "Hearing nonstop rabid sexist bushwa from geeks who are now at the top of the social food chain but felt entitled to their sexism because they were pissed on in junior high — this was also common."

    That's probably the thing that horrified me the most when I got out of college into the tech industry. Those quiet, gentle geeks from high school got a little power and turned into the most awful, sexist, misogynist predators imaginable. They were cheating on their wives, taking advantage of confused young receptionists and interns. Ugh. It's horrifying, and I'm surprised we don't hear more about it in the media.

  • Here's a parable. The great American (global) locomotive has jumped the track. Its steel wheels still spin and shoot screaming sparks. The behemoth even lurches forward the occasional inch or three – at great cost to the wheels, gears and undercarriage. But don't look there, look at the pretty dog-cart, with the costumed dandy holding a toy whip. Isn't he smart not to be on those broken rails like the locomotive? Isn't he clever to have a dog pull his cart? Ooh look, that one tied tin cans to the back! That one has a bell! We should all get dog-carts! Screw those guys in the locomotive. They made too much noise anyway.

    As long as the spectacle of Progress has nothing to parade except for consumer-tech gewgaws – (space race anyone?) these folks will be fawned over and paid as princes and paragons. It's either them or Detroit, right?

  • Tripping my way through Oligarchy, your Lieberman Award is dead on the money.

    Aristotle had these guys figured out B.C. – or B.C.E., if you wanna get academic about it.

    And mining J.K. Galbraith is always good for a quick hit:

    Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence.

    People who are in a fortunate position always attribute virtue to what makes them so happy.

    People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason.

  • One for you, Major:

    The privileged have regularly invited their own destruction with their greed.

    Question is, what's the digital equivalent of a tumbrel and public humiliation and execution?

  • But, can you imagine a week without Google Maps?

    Why, yes, yes I can. Pretty much live every week of my life without Google Maps. Shit, I'll even use…..a PAPER MAP!!!! Aiyeeeeeeeeeeee!

    Seriously, Google Maps and Google Earth, while cool and stuff is not exactly saving the world or even making our lives better.

  • Since I live in Oakland and work in Berkeley – in the nonprofit sector, no less – I had been insulated from this for a while. I'd even scoffed at it, at the people holding the Google bus hostage in SF. The Valley's been like this for years, I thought, so why is 2013 suddenly the year of Down With Valley Assholes?

    But I've slowly started realizing how bad it's gotten. The past few times I've ventured into the Mission, I've eaten my cheap dinner next to Valley workers talking about investments and how great working at Oracle is. The Mission used to be intolerable because it was full of obnoxious hipsters with parents willing to support their $2000 studios. Now it's intolerable because it's full of obnoxious tech workers willing to pay $1M ($1M!!!) for a condo on 16th & Valencia.

    And now it's affecting the East Bay too. SF has become so ridiculously expensive that everyone is moving to Oakland. In my neighborhood – which is not great and is about 3 blocks from areas where even I don't walk at night – you're lucky to find a studio for less than $1000. Other neighborhoods are much worse.

  • I think another reason why the young asshole ratio might be so high among tech workers this time is that there seems to be rampant age discrimination in Silicon Valley. That means that a lot of the 40 or 50 somethings who have seen tech booms and busts before and could bring some perspective are for the most part unemployable. That leaves a bunch of 20 somethings who think that the current good times will last forever and that they are going to be top of the heap forever.

  • Not to take away from the overweening douchebaggery of the valley-technie set, but Rebecca Solnit is a twit.

    (WiFi doesn't work like that. The same tech companies in New York happily use mass transit. If you constrain the growth of housing stock, rents are going to go up when people move in, regardless of how mustache-twirly the landlords are. And so on.)

    The problem is her beloved San Francisco, damn it. The sloppy lust for car culture, the rampant NIMBYism and the fuck-you-I-got-mine housing policies were all there before the current boom. As much as she may want to swoon over the activists and hippies, that's all part of San Francisco's heritage too.

  • Someone sounds jealous that they don’t live in the Bay Area. Most of this rant about the Bay Area is totally narrow-minded and full of gross generalizations. Some of the people in the area are very respectful and hardworking.

  • Oh, Chris. It's true that absurd rents can be charged in the Bay Area because it's so beautiful and exciting to live there. It really is. And living in beautiful, exciting places tends to engender a teensy bit of smugness in the inhabitants. You might also be in junior high, which is the other reason people think "you're just jealous" is a valid rebuttal.

    Calling out a strain of self-fancying d-bags based on their elitist, classist behavior does not imply that there are none among them who are respectful, hardworking, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. I met many guys (especially in the gaming industry) who were princes among men.

    But for every such prince there were dozens of dudes who were voracious consumers, egomaniacs, competitive with their peers and contemptuous of all others — particularly women. If Patrick Bateman wore Fluevogs, went to Stanford, and couldn't stop talking about his start-ups, he'd blend right in.

  • I just want to point out that if you're an educator, you have to go to mandatory teaching workshops run by Silicon Valey D-bags.

    Typically they hop around stage screaming that you're incompetent because you're not using enough widgets in your class, or because you use email instead of an animated Charlie Sheen to communicate with the class. (I am not joking.) And, of course, they tell us about how the thought leaders have all embraced disruptive technology 2.0 or some such bullshit.

    Bear in mind that sometimes the speaker is a grad student working towards a PhD in "educational leadership." Objectively, every single person in the audience is more qualified than the speaker.

    It's like a TED talk, but your boss forces you to go to it, and the exciting, inspiring message from the "thought leader" is "I have a dream… a dream of a bright and shining future… IN WHICH YOU HAVE ALL BEEN FIRED because using a MOOC we only need one of you to set up a class, and then we can run it with grad students for 50 years after you're gone." (Again, I am not exaggerating- we had to go to a mandatory MOTIVATIONAL TALK whose message was that we should get excited about a future in which we would all be disposable.)

    And God, I am sick to death of the baby-talk these idiots spout. "Google" was cute at the time, but now I'm constantly being told I'm incompetent because I'm not using the latest goo-goo-gah-gah.

  • It reminds me of when my former brother in law was a construction engineer in the Aspen & Vail, CO area. A very long commute for him. He would describe how it was hard to get Medical Doctors, let alone plumbers, electricians, cooks and wait staff, to work there due to lack of affordable housing and affordable infrastructure.

    Probably no improvement in those areas since.

  • It's going to be great when the California drought goes into its tenth year and Silicon Valley is beggin' for water. Real World: 1 SV: 0

  • I saw this tragicomic opera last time (been living in the Bay Area since 1961) and the last batch of Masters of the Universe were clotpolls of the first water. I expect the current crop will fade away to who knows where within five to seven years, leaving behind a scorched earth. At least Oakland is getting an influx of talented and ambitious young people who can no longer survive in San Francisco.

    I especially remember a good friend who had hitched his wagon to a dotcom star, and lived on hope and promises for far too long. He's finally paid off his debts from that era, but had to move back to Colorado to do it. There are worse fates, I suppose, but it makes my steady and stolidy civil service job look like a really good deal by comparison.

  • OperationEnduringEmployment says:

    This article, and the chorus of hatred and word vomit that has followed, further confirm what some may consider the banal assertion that hatred and ignorance are inseparable bedfellows.
    All this talk of guillotines and docuhebags…And I thought liberals were supposed to be enlightened. Speaking as someone who lives in the bay area, I can say that the contempt for the unions' attempted shakedown of Bay Area taxpayers does not break down along class lines. That $60,000 a year salary moves into the six figure range when you include fixed benefits and overtime. And the majority of those jobs, unlike being a "douchebag" software engineer who can perform back-end miracles with Java, require little skill, and a minimal amount of brainpower. It's not as easy as getting an A in sociology, but "driving" a BART train is not exactly a high skill job.

    "Typically they hop around stage screaming that you're incompetent because you're not using enough widgets in your class, or because you use email instead of an animated Charlie Sheen to communicate with the class. (I am not joking.)"

    Really, you are not joking? Provide me with evidence of someone being berated because they were not using an animated Charlie Sheen to communicate with students. There is more to be said, but all I can hope is that in the future you approach my home silicon valley and the start-up world with less vitriol and left-wing cliche and more open-mindedness and curiosity.

  • I just want to say that this isn't addressed to OperationEnduringEmployment, because there is no point in even trying to communicate with him. He has already decided to simply dismiss everything I say. What can I do? It's not like I'm allowed to videotape these mandatory teaching seminars.

    For the rest of you, I just want to clarify that yes, I have been berated as incompetent for using email rather than an animated Charlie Sheen. I have also been called an incompetent dinosaur for having students raise their hands in class, rather than have them Tweet the questions to me using their phones.

    That's just scratching the surface. Silicon Valley is trying to reinvent education. Based on the talks I've been forced to sit through, they are very open about wanting to replace education with job training. I have openly been told by these people that critical thinking and the liberal arts have no place in a university.

  • Operationenduringemployment, we've your bs before. It was called the Tower of Babel. Your post just adds to the confusion.

  • Operationenduringemployment, I get it. You need to see only "data driven" responses so as to "internalize" the concept of a "guilliotine based corrective paradigm" "moving forward".

  • You left out the "best" part of the Silicon Valley Head-Up-Rectum Oroboros-of-Bullshit: "neo-reaction." Because the logical conclusion of the Valley lifestyle is honest-to-God, old-school feudalist fantasizing.

    http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/22/geeks-for-monarchy/

    It pays to be breathtakingly ignorant of history when you're daydreaming about how it'd all be better if you were Emperor. When I read about guys like this, I'm not sure whether to be glad I'm not that rich, or furious that they're the one's who are rich and doing jack shit eusocial with their fortunes.

  • I had offers to work in Silicon Valley back when I was working, but it was too expensive and too boring. On the other hand, compared with Los Angeles, Silicon Valley is a socialist paradise. If nothing else, the SV rule was not to make enemies, because you might be boss this start up, but next start up you'll be a drone. In LA, it was f-u straight down the line, and what can you do for me lately. I know people who've had successful careers in LA, but it's nasty. Still, at least the folks in SV have gotten us a lot of shiny new toys and a major new piece of infrastructure, thanks to all the money Uncle Sam pumped into the computer business. At least Los Angeles cranks out crap entertainment that now and then goes past crap to something pretty amazing, or perhaps at least crap, but great crap. The financial sector in NYC, in contrast, has spit out nothing but problems that everyone else has had to pay to fix.

    San Francisco has serious problems. If nothing else, it needs to up-zone a bit. There are surprisingly few apartment buildings and even fewer high rise apartment buildings. To a New York City boy, it's almost weird. They also need to rethink their awful bus system. The disabled advocates have every bus stopping every three blocks. There are no express buses which makes going cross town an hour long commute. It's been a long time since Telegraph Hill was a working class neighborhood, and it wasn't the Silicon Valley mutants who changed it either. Radio killed the "telegraph" and container ships killed SF as a port. They need to move on and figure out how to keep the good stuff and move into the new century.

  • Horace Boothroyd III says:

    It seems to me that the world wide economic slow down, the Great Recession if you will, plays a huge role in promoting these obscene levels of douchebaggery. Investors are a notoriously cowardly lot, but somehow the herd has decided that Silicon Valley is an acceptable place to park your cash. The hot money has poured in and, just like South East Asia in 1997, a fair number of people have been able to score a fair amount of wealth without demonstrating any particular talent or virtue. Which, of course, was hardly the way operators on the make told the story in Singapore and Bangkok and is hardly the way operators on the make tell the story today. They genuinely believe that the creation of toys for cool kidz is a radical new business model that will transform the way everyone lives. When the hot money pours out again to circle the globe and land upon another safe spot, the Silicon Valley goobers will be caught with their pants down: shocked an amazed to find themselves so exposed, and scrambling to make up excuses about why it's not their fault.

    This has all happened before, and it will all happen again.

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